Archive for February, 2018

Deconstructing Democracy

Here is how it’s done. Deny and Destroy reality then, moving right along, construct a new reality that suits your purposes. Hitler was a Grand Master of the technique as he constructed the Third Reich, the “Deutschland über alles” meme that is neither symbolically nor emotionally different from, “Make America Great Again”. Mussolini was not far behind in his similar accomplishments. Be the populist who gives the audience the binary world they so desperately want: Right or Wrong, Us or Them, Populists recognize the reality that their audience, their followers, don’t just want things to be simple, they are desperate for it! They want to believe because something is better than nothing, better than a complicated nuanced truth. The repetition of simplistic meaningless slogans, “Lock Her Up”, and “Make America Great Again”, binds them to you. Outright lies also bind your followers to an identity they can understand, embrace, and chant. It is these methods with their racist subtexts that inspire and normalize behavior thus far regarded as socially unacceptable.

Be sure to order ball caps and paraphernalia with your vacuous slogans prominently displayed. Identify groups of “others” and isolate them with racist subtext and degrading inference. Vilify and reject those groups as being illegitimate members of your society taking what is rightfully yours including jobs you won’t take. Demean immigrants and the countries they come from. Openly suggest your women and children are not safe with undocumented criminals lurking in the bushes. Create an energetic, irrational, but useful, distrust of “fake news”. Your sympathetic news outlets will repeat and validate the rant spreading it far and wide.

Once you have sufficiently vilified the “others” the next step is to attack familiar and foundational institutions. Call into question the integrity of the FBI, the CIA, public education, even the military as you undermine public faith and confidence in government itself. Also, mock and alienate foreign countries and their leaders. Use obfuscation and emotion to create mass cognitive dissonance to divert attention from what you and your colleagues are really up to. Keep repeating the lies. Discard the rules of civil discourse. Keep stirring the pot. Everything is in flux, dangerous, and vulnerable.

This is what we as a country have come to – not a celebration of Democracy but the destruction of Democracy. We are in the midst of an ongoing massive case of political propaganda that exploits “ressentiment”, a French word  that “expresses a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration and anger”, an anger and ressentiment that can thus be easily directed and exploited.

My dictionary describes a demagogue as someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator in a society enlisting them to attack and resist those they are conditioned to believe are responsible for whatever reality they have been forced to live in. Demagogues don’t even spare children. With an ongoing all out attack on public education and children in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, nothing is safe, no one and nothing is sacred. Repeat after me the demagogue says, “USA, USA”, shouts the crowd until they are hoarse. Perhaps even delirious. It’s mind numbing manufactured cognitive dissonance and that, my friends, is the point. That is always the aim and purpose of deliberate manufactured anarchy out of which social control has historically emerged.

This is not Democracy. This is the destruction of Democracy.

What’s Justice Got To Do With It?

The problem with lawyers can be expressed in three words – Truth, Justice, and Winning. Simple sounding words alright but words that govern a great deal of what transpires in this American society in the guise of civility. The three words and their opposites follow us through life like a pack of hounds. Winning has become all in this competitive American society. Whatever it takes to win is the battle cry. Children are conditioned almost from birth to compete at whatever activity they engage in and to achieve it at whatever cost. We have popular sayings to characterize both poles of the dynamic – winners and losers. Champs and chumps. And as the memorable Vince Lombardi put it, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

When lawyers convene in a courtroom the word Winning looms like a scimitar. Forget about Justice – it’s all about winning. If lawyers don’t win they will soon be out of work not unlike coaches of losing professional sports teams. In fact, court trials are not unlike sports events as each side competes for the same trophy – not always Justice but, always and ever, Winning. Are there two or more truths in these matters? Truth is irrelevant.

What this Sophistry does is reduce Justice to a very low status. Seeking Winning over Justice naturally demeans the legal processes and, even, worse destroys public belief and faith in the fairness of civil justice and civilized recourse. This is why we must have ACLU lawyers and the other exceptions who fight bravely and intelligently for social justice and a manifestation of Truth. On the other hand, those who vigorously oppose the ACLU and its lawyers are just as interested in defending a vision of society that does not necessarily include Truth or Justice but generally advantage and venality. Of course the irony is that those hired to oppose the ACLU are also lawyers.

According to social philosophers, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, “reality is socially constructed”, thus we find ourselves in courtrooms confronted with conflicting realities as constructed by the opposing sides. These combating realities are presented as Truth, so help us God. It is not as much legal philosophy being played out as it is a pathology. What we are witnessing is sociopathic behavior which destroys the social contract that has kept this country on a more-or-less even keel since the end of the “Great Depression”. I was recently informed by a lawyer that there is no Social Contract. I took it he meant that it’s, “everyone for themselves, it’s all “dog-eat-dog”. This is the socially constructed reality being played out in courtrooms today.

As the philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt so elegantly put it, “The most irreducibly bad thing about lies is that they contrive to interfere with, and to impair, our natural effort to apprehend the real state of affairs.” Absent Truth, the “real state of affairs” is rendered irrelevant. There cannot be Justice in this, and in the end the most serious moral flaw in the adversarial legal system is the making of Truth simply another victim. What kind of a world will we then have if the liars prevail?

A Piece of History – Roosevelt

When I was six years old I was taken by my mother to the Springfield, Massachusetts railway station. The station had a high overpass across which the passenger trains passed. On the street below was an enormous crowd packed elbow to elbow and stretching back for several blocks practically vibrating with anticipation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had confronted the “Great Depression” and created the “New Deal”, was loved by working people like my parents, who had suffered through the 1929 – 1939, “Great Depression”. At the rampart of the overpass the great man, by then afflicted with polio, appeared, he waved and was greeted by the crowd with the most tumultuous expression of respect I have ever experienced. There was no ressentiment, no anger only respect and gratitude for a better future. This was the America that defined my basic understanding of our social contract, my social reality. This was the America I grew up in. This was the country I joined the military to serve. It was a very different country from what we have become today, a country with a President, Masha Greene writing in the New Yorker, describes as a “foul mouthed vulgarian”. During Roosevelt’s terms of office programs such as Social Security, the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the National Labor Relations Act were created and implemented. Today all of these are under attack. To what end are ordinary working class people being manipulated to demand curtailing social programs that they and their families have benefitted from for generations? What kind of world do these Trump supporters imagine they are being led to? Are they ready to accept levels of poverty not seen since the dust bowl era, the soup lines of the depression? And, as jobs are shipped to low wage countries health care becomes out of reach for our own working class poor. All of this is happening while the accumulated wealth of a minuscule number of individuals grows even more enormous, becoming, “Rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”. What kind of society denies sustenance and health care to the disadvantaged and displaced by a political and economic system that denies them meaningful work? What ends are being served shipping entire factories abroad leaving thousands of Americans unemployed? To what ends are the foundation stones of an American belief system being attacked and destroyed? What of the common welfare of its’ citizens and taxpayers? Can a commons of any sort rise out of the rubble of playing every group of Americans against others? In the past, this kind of antisocial destruction has been an invitation to violence some of which we are already experiencing. The answer to all of these questions cannot be evermore attempts at social control, government propaganda, lies, or the kinds of police violence we have seen before and after this past election. We have not seen the end of groups like “Antifa” arising out of the ruins. People have understood the costs of social divisiveness as far into the past as one cares to look, as far back as the 6th B.C. when Aesop coined the phrase, “United we stand, divided we fall.” We are now divided. We must ask and demand answers to the question, Where is all of this going? “Where are you taking us?” The government cannot keep on locking up and silencing protesters. Plainly, todays’ Republican populist politics of destruction is evolving towards levels of social and economic inequity not felt since the Great Depression. Perhaps that’s the “Great America” Trump, the Republican Party, and the billionaires who sponsor them envision. Could be.

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