HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » rrneck » Journal
Page: 1


Profile Information

Member since: Sat Nov 29, 2008, 02:55 PM
Number of posts: 17,671

Journal Archives

Thank you.

I tend to agree.

It seems people seem to commit atrocities out of passionate attachment for something be it a deity or a nation state. I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to consider atrocities either on a small scale or a large scale crimes of passion. Since religion is a function of emotional expression it's not too difficult for unscrupulous individuals to push people to commit atrocities in the name of religion.

And indeed, since atheism is, by definition, a lack of belief in a deity it follows that there is no emotional attachment to inflame that which might result in such crimes. And yet, every atheist I have ever met or heard about, including myself, is human. And humans have emotions. I find it difficult to believe that atheists are so perfectly rational and atheism such a panacea for the extremes of human nature that it would be impossible for an atheist to engage in an atrocity in the name of atheism. Theoretically, if enough atheists cared enough about atheism they might be driven to do some pretty horrible things in the name of that ideology.

Of course after the fight starts it doesn't matter who's right, only who's left. So if atheists respond in kind to the assaults of those whose ideologies differ from their own, I don't really consider that so much a defense of atheism but simply defense. Any atrocities committed for any reason are wrong, no matter the ideology in question. A more interesting paradox is the possibility of a group of atheists initiating violence in the name of atheism.

It is possible to have a religion without a deity. As long as a group feels the same way about something and possibly conducts some sort of organized ritual to share that feeling, you've got yourself a religion. Such activities could include anything from a Pentecostal revival to a baseball game. In fact, the greatest threat to religion today isn't atheism, but professional sports.

So the question might be how do we take the emotional involvement of atheists and direct it in some other way than toward something they do not believe in? Well, most of the time your average atheist values reason and science. This might be a popular response to the common disregard of of same by most religious institutions throughout history who had a tendency to barbecue people who disagreed with them on rational grounds. Be that as it may, it might be a good place to start to look for such an impetus.

There has been an ongoing controversy regarding whether Communism was atheistic or religious. I consider it a religion built on a cult of personality. But Communism purported itself to be scientific and rational in nature, based on the inevitability of historical materialism. If any religion could be grounded in the stuff of reality, communism was the largest scale attempt to do so. It seems to me that if one wanted atheists to commit atrocities one would have to channel their emotional attachment to rationality and empirical evidence to give them something to fight for. But that's the catch - communism wasn't just a religion devoted to rationality, but a cult of personality centered around Marx and Lenin and whoever else would do at the time. It seems that, in a way, it might start out as atheism but become something else before the fighting started. Of course there is nothing to keep atheists from committing atrocities in the name of nationalism. Who knows how many atheists participated in the My Lai massacre for instance.

It seems to me that when it comes to matters of faith atheists are cultural anarchists. They seem to be against everything everybody else seems to be for. While there seems to have always been some sort of religion, there have always been a few atheists causing existential problems, and usually getting burned alive for their trouble. Given the trajectory of human cultural development, not believing means not cooperating. And cooperation is essential for the creation of a numerically significant group of people to perpetrate an atrocity of any consequence. So while it is theoretically possible that atheists, being human, are capable of committing atrocities, atheism by its very nature does not lend itself to the kind of cohesion required to generate sufficient focused passion for the ideology to commit such offenses. But that could change.

Religion, as we currently understand it, is on the wane. As societies become more advanced, religion seems to become redundant. But the human tendency toward emotional attachment shows no sign of waning any time soon. In fact, we produce so many sources for emotional attachment now that one of the greatest problems of our modern culture is not a lack of faith, but anomie from an excessive dispersion of faith. Our technological culture can produce and put into motion systems of thought and action just like any other widget. Such man made systems could possibly be ripe ground for the flowering of a sort of atheism not unlike the explosion of transcendence in the axial age two thousand years ago. Maybe. If that's the case, those who believe in the guy with the white beard in the sky may have good reason to cuss us for the next few thousand years.

It's also possible that I'm completely full of shit.

I don't think so, but it's happened before and it will happen again. Also, I'm not trained as a writer, and the idea itself is rather abstract and not completely formed in my own mind. I think I could have done a better job of writing it. Not only that, but in a place like this if a post runs much over two or three hundred words nobody reads it. That was about as much as I could compress it and even hope to make any sense at all and have anybody notice it. So don't think for a minute there's any rust in yer noggin'.

It occurred to me a while back that there is an inexhaustible natural resource in existence. It's extremely powerful, completely free, inexpensive to exploit and transport, and if you need a spike in supply it can be ginned up with little effort: human emotion.

I'm actually trained as an artist. You know how to make art that sells? Tell people what they want to hear. Thomas Kincaid is a millionaire. The best art creates an existential dilemma in the viewer. It demands to be accepted on it's own terms and have the viewer evaluate what they think or believe in relation to those terms. Good art demands a relationship. Truly great art can have millions of people do that for hundreds of years, much like a marriage that lasts a lifetime. Bad art merely presents a container for the viewer into which they can pour whatever they want and offers only a reflection of what they already want to believe.

I think it's fair to say that the "ideology industry" to which I refer is basically making bad art. I see no difference between Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow, Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann. As far as I'm concerned they are just disaster capitalists cashing in on partisan politics. It's easy to sell people on themselves. Motivational speakers, prosperity gospel preachers and other assorted new age gurus have proven that selling people's own hopes and dreams back to them can make you a pile of money. Barbara Ehrenriech in Bright Sided describes the process brilliantly.

But hopes and dreams aren't the only things that can be sold back to people. Fear is a hot commodity as well. Make people afraid and they will do what most herd animals do, cluster in a group and maybe even stampede. The action of clustering and moving is otherwise known in MBA circles as a market. When we apply the idea of market exploitation related to fear to liberal politics I think we can see that various groups of people who have for one reason or another been abused present a ripe market for anyone who wants to exploit their fear of, ironically, exploitation.

Misogyny and homophobia, racism and gun slinging mass murder, religious fundamentalism and an amorphous patriarchy are all out there somewhere. We know they exist and we are brutalized by them every day, but if we ever won the battle against them the market for hating and fearing them will disappear. And the manufacturers of ideology have rent to pay. So we buy their books, listen to their lectures, attend their seminars, and watch their broadcasts forever searching for the next outrage perpetrated by what amounts to a concept instead of an actual person or institution. We've always been at war with Eastasia.

Ideologies and isms are powerful, and important, things. They make people cooperate to survive. Feeling strongly enough about the same thing can make devotees of an ideology fight or even die for others that feel the same way. But what if a group is riven by conflicting ideologies? The richest one percent doesn't suffer from that problem. We know what they want because it's what they have - money. And as long as they can lie to or bribe enough people into supporting them they will always win because they got all that money by being the best capitalists in the country. Democrats on the other hand are like herding cats. We are an eclectic group of 99% of the rest of the population. And we all have axes to grind, which makes us ripe targets for the divisive effect of devotion to conflicting ideologies that have been sold to us. And that, I think, is how the other side wins - by selling us our own ideologies back to us and making us loyal to them rather than each other.

The only way I know of to escape that trap is to stop behaving like consumers and buying our own ideologies back from others and cooperate to take what we all know we really need - money. Humans have struggled for resources for millenia, and these days resources equals money. They stole it, and we need it. That, to my mind is what will unify us. Anything else is just playing the other guy's game, and you always lose when you try that.

On conflicts of interest. It's hard to do two things at once.

This is an interesting place to watch. I enjoy the mix of ideas and opinions that get offered here every day. I’m old enough to remember when a place like this would not have even been possible, (which is to say I’m more than fifteen years old). Democratic Underground is especially interesting because of its political orientation. But there seems to be a conflict of objectives related to the operation of this place that probably makes the administrators feel as if they are riding a unicycle on a tightrope.

On the one hand, “Democratic Underground is an online community for politically liberal people who understand the importance of working within the system to elect more Democrats and fewer Republicans to all levels of political office.”{1} The election of any public official requires the cooperation of large groups of people working together for a common cause. Political success is impossible without a majority of voters. The assembly of such a majority requires the members of the group to relinquish some measure of personal benefit for the common good. Money has to be contributed, egos must be put aside, personal crusades must be ignored and individual desires must be forgotten in the spirit of cooperation to elect officials who will exercise power to our collective benefit. If we seek the most fundamental common ground among the most people by compromising our personal interest, we can collectively wield tremendous power.

On the other hand, Democraticunderground LLC is a profit making organization designed to deliver member generated content to consumers who are expected to pay for the privilege of interacting with their fellows either with monetary contributions or exposure to advertising. In a world where one can order a custom made tee shirt from a company in New York and have it delivered to your door in Los Angeles, such a content delivery system cannot survive in the marketplace without offering some sort of fairly sophisticated method of directing and restricting the content contributed by a diverse and minimally restricted membership and tailoring such content to conform to the individual desires of the consumer.

I think these conflicting objectives, depersonalized cooperation for the common good and personalized customer service, lie at the heart of many of the conflicts experienced here and in the country at large.

In DU2 the administrators and moderator volunteers were an important part of the distribution and restriction of content. They filtered content by removing it and redistributed content by moving it from forum to forum. More than once I have seen members refer to the activities of the moderators and administrators in the performance of their duties as “taking care of” problem members and content. With the advent of DU3, the members themselves have been handed the responsibilities of content control and redistribution. There have been uncounted suggestions regarding how we might tweak the software to better deliver and/or restrict content to better satisfy the personal proclivities of our members.

The net result seems to have been no real reduction in the number or nature of complaints regarding content or the other members posting it. The level of animosity and suspicion reserved for management has now been directed, by virtue of delegation of power to members, at other members and has resulted in at least one ugly turf war between and within groups.

Since this is a virtual community and membership is largely anonymous, our content is us. It seems to me that DU has become increasingly designed to allow us to separate our content to better suit our personal proclivities, which is to say it has been designed to better separate us. Such are the requirements of the marketplace. If the administrators want to continue to make money from their considerable effort to provide content without working themselves to death, they have been required to bow to the demands of the marketplace and give people what they want. As the political climate has evolved and the Democratic Party is required to actually put up a big tent to win elections, DU has had to evolve to appeal to a much more diverse clientele to survive.

And that is how the other side beats us.

Not long ago I read about the irony of a market that had sprung up to provide products directed at the “hipsters”, a movement of people who had ostensibly chosen a lifestyle to deny the oppression of those who would dictate personal taste through the marketplace. Our opinions, beliefs, personal expressions, individual personas, and self image can be chosen from a wide selection of options provided by the ideology industry. If you want to believe in something, think something, follow something, or fit in anywhere, our economy has an easy drop down menu for lifestyle selections that seems to grow larger every day.

Liberals instinctively go to bat for the oppressed. It’s what we do. But we are also human, and being human we want to belong to a group and define ourselves within that group. Thus, even the most noble ideals and objectives can become, without our realizing it, affectations we use to define ourselves. And within those affectations there lies a market ripe for exploitation. That’s how the ideology industry turns the most noble of ideals into the source of a revenue stream. Oceans of ink, mountains of books and interminable hours of broadcasting are tasked to distribute ideologies produced by foundations, think tanks, and university departments of every political persuasion.

It seems to me that the more we demand to be treated like ideological consumers, the more separated we become by our own affectations.

We have already seen the creation of a war built of lies for profit, restrictions of our civil liberties based on those same lies and the destruction of our economy to enrich the liars. The previous administration indulged in levels of political chicanery and outright theft that if such people are allowed back in power, I fear we will be banished to the political wilderness forever. Between our economic, environmental, and energy difficulties, it won’t take much to tip the United States into a fascist state given the kind of potential leadership willing to exploit such circumstances.

The bigots, racists, homophobes, sexists, thieves and liars that are able to hurt us all have one thing in common – power backed by money. If we take their money, we take their power. It’s that simple. But before we can do that, we have to decide whether we are demanding to get what we pay for, or demanding to get paid for what we do. We cannot consume our way to political victory. We have to work together for a common goal, and the one thing we all have in common is that we have been robbed, and we want our fucking money back.

How else to explain

a large chunk of our industrialized economy? Do you really think that there was some sort of patriarchal conspiracy to dupe women into wanting a selection of doorknobs and fabric patterns? If that's the case women are simply too stupid to run anything more complicated than a vacuum cleaner. But I don't believe that. Right along with all the "woman" stores there are plenty of "man" stores. It's capitalism in action and the result of the exploitation of resources - and people - of both genders.

Of course women are not only interested in consumption. I didn't say or imply anything of the sort. Nor did I say or imply that there was anything noble or desirable about using women to produce manpower to wage war or anything else. You seem to be displaying some interesting gender specific assumptions of your own.

What I did, and what I am willing to do one more time, it to tell you that women have been horribly abused by men for at least the last seven thousand years. I told you why I thought so in the previous post. Please note that I didn't simply refer you to scholarship elsewhere when the questions got too tough.

If gender is the primary driving force of injustice suffered by women in any meaningful way I would need to see evidence of it, or at least a rational argument to support the assertion. So far I have seen none. By my clock it is now, coincidentally, 5:16 pm and Mitt Romney just made another fifty seven thousand dollars. And that's a fact.

"Another fine mess..."

Thanks for the recommendation, already ordered. (Gotta love Amazon one-click). Thank you for that very kind offer to buy the book from me, but when I get non fiction I keep it. I still have every non fiction book I ever bought with the exception of one that I loaned out and never got back. I'm still looking for that guy. Books are one of my few guilty consumerist pleasures, and I ain't givin' it up.

Actually, I'm very interested in how various ideologies are practiced and understood by people "on the street". That's part of why I ask so many questions. So in terms of a distinction between gender specific domination, it seems to me that it should be pretty easy to define and recognize. While I am not familiar with feminist scholarship on the subject, surely somebody would have been able to say, "Aha! This is what's happening." Speaking from my own experience, I can't tell any difference between the two.

Although I haven't read the book you suggested yet, I have an alternate theory about the phenomenon. You are correct in that men project power. We're built for it and we're pretty good at it. There is little doubt that it has been a man's world since at least the second millennium bce and women have been oppressed in any number of different ways since then. The question to my mind is how did we get from a more or less egalitarian gender relationship to the patriarchal social organization we have today.

It's no secret that the development of agriculture changed the human race. More resources means more people and more of a need to develop, organize, control, define ownership and distribute those resources. That need resulted in a significant increase in the cognitive and communication requirements of humans. But if you wanted anything in the real world to actually happen, the only energy source available was human muscle power - or as they used to say in the office furniture business, "Put more ass on it". And the only way to develop those energy resources and define ownership of them from generation to generation was to turn women into baby factories. By turning women into production facilities the clan could develop energy resources and by making women property paternity could be established to determine who owns those resources. The sacred institution of marriage probably started around that time.

By faith and honour,
Our madams mock at us, and plainly say
Our mettle is bred out and they will give
Their bodies to the lust of English youth
To new-store France with bastard warriors.

Dauphin - Henry V

Rape as a weapon of war was originally a way to make more warriors. It's nature as a crime against women (and the entire human race) is a secondary effect. But why have wars? If we could improve our lives by more and better food that grows out of the ground, why fight? Because farming is hard work. Crops fail and mother nature doesn't didn't always cooperate before the development of the supermarket. When people get hungry enough, they fight. Plus, it's a lot easier to go across the hill and steal the other guys stuff than grow your own. Thus, for every male aggressor there was a male defender. And when the fight starts it doesn't matter who's who. That, in much too small a nutshell, is the story of the development of patriarchy. Empires full of people have been banging together ever since and the objective has always been resources.

So if we could change everything and create a matriarchal system of social organization, what would it look like? About the same as it does now. There is evidence all around you. If women had abundant resources at hand, upon what would they expend them? Just drive down the street and you will find Home Depot, Pottery Barn, The Container Store, Restoration Hardware, Williams-Sonoma, and any number of other stores devoted specifically to the desires of women. I can almost guarantee you won't find a camouflage clad redneck cruising the aisles of Bed Bath and Beyond looking for just the right duvet cover to match the curtains.

It's always been about resources, and like I said upthread resources equals money. I think the truth is that humans aren't very good at managing abundance. We spent about a million years struggling against scarcity and along comes millet, wheat, and corn. Seven thousand years is an eyeblink in evolutionary terms and the problem may solve itself anyway. We've gone through human power to wind, water, wood, coal, steam and now oil - and that's running short.

The sad truth to my mind is that if women were actually dominated because of differences in gender we might have a chance to solve the problem. But they aren't. You, as a woman, aren't even an object any more. You are obsolete as a production facility for energy resources, there are already too many people on the planet. You're barely a concept. You're more like a riff on the end of a bit of cultural graffiti. The concept of "female" is just the source of a revenue stream in an economy built on imaginary money. Advertisers use your form to get attention for their products. Pornographers use your sexuality for male fantasies that have deteriorated well beyond anything resembling actual human sexual relations. Romance novels and chic flicks are not far behind.

For my part, I don't see women. I see human beings. At issue are not concepts like gender equality or perceptions of female identity. That is just another example of disaster capitalism in action. The two most powerful words in advertising are "free" and "you", and an entire ideology industry has sprung up to fill a market that demands we be told what we want to hear. You and I can discuss the issue all day and at five o'clock we will probably will not have convinced each other of anything, but Mitt Romney will have made another fifty seven thousand dollars to contribute to his campaign fund to get the job of most powerful man on earth.

It's always about money.

I think I see your point there.

When I see terms like "consciousness", "perception" and "awareness" I always scratch my head. Not because I don't believe in the phenomena or recognize its cultural value. I'm trained to create existential dilemmas in people, and I know how hard it is to do. I also know that it's just about impossible to measure progress, much less success, when it comes to the achievement of cultural goals when they are expressed in terms of perceptions.

I think this might be the root of a lot of social problems in general and political problems for Democrats in particular. We seem to find ourselves rallying to one banner or another, following some charismatic personality in a charge against an injustice that touches us deeply. Unfortunately, actual progress is difficult to measure because some amorphous "they" has committed a new outrage. And success is impossible to define beyond some vague allusion to "unity of perception" or the elimination of some attitude or amorphous "climate of hostility".

Who are these people that are quick to produce reasons for umbrage but slow to produce results to alleviate it? Why do we concern ourselves with the defense of our feelings or defense against the feelings of others? Why do Christians worry about how Christmas is celebrated? Why do gun control activists worry about whether or not you can see a pistol on someone's belt? Why do atheists worry about whether or not atheism is a religion? Why do feminists worry about how women are perceived in the media? Because there is a pile of money to be made from stoking the umbrage of people to no real end other than the indulgence if indignation.

At the bottom of the culture wars lurk the purveyors of umbrage, men and women who get rich feeding off the discord of frightened, confused, and angry people. They are disaster capitalists, and they suck the life out of every popular movement in our culture.

The term "patriarchy" is a red herring. Gender has nothing to do with it. Nor do religion, race, sexual orientation, regional origin or shoe size. We are struggling for exactly the same thing we've always struggled for - resources. These days we call it money.

If we want to fix the problems of sexism, racism, homophobia, ignorance and hate in this country there is only one real solution - take our money back from those fuckers that stole it from us. Instead of squabbling over images, terminology, and perceptions we need clear goals and a way to measure progress. We need something real to work with to make our lives better so we have time and energy consider the finer things in life - things that can't be bought but must be grown within us.

That's the only common ground that matters, and if you fight For that allies will come out of the woodwork and line up across the street to help you.

Information is almost completely commodified.

When Mark Zukerberg can make money by knowing what kind of underwear you buy, I think the commidification of information is almost complete. And then along comes Twitter, a format that requires you to compress communication so it can more efficiently harvest "profitable terms" so now we don't just get logos projected at us, we make our own.

It seems that the ease with which information is transferred is inversely proportional to the quality of the ideas it represents. Information is not wisdom. Information is consumed, while wisdom is earned. Our approach to life has become that of a consumer shopping online for an ideology that fits. Important life decisions can be selected from a series of drop down menus. What you call a conference on religion I call a trade show. Those kids with computers are no different from someone at a car lot running vin numbers through Carfax.

Whether it's God or karma, the holy spirit or oneness with gaia, an electrochemical stew or an id or simply DNA, that something inside us is unique to each of us. And the only way we will understand it is to study it ourselves. Nobody else can do it for us. There is no easy way to get it done. And there is no "Swiss Army knife" cocktail of attitudes and practices that can do the job for you.

Given the state of the human race today and its recent history, self awareness certainly cannot be found through any technological, industrialized process. The more any ideology can be funnelled through such processes, the more inimical it will be to spiritual development.
Go to Page: 1