Politics

The struggle is real.

American Nazi organization rally at Madison Square Garden, 1939

American Nazi organization rally at Madison Square Garden, 1939

One of the best minds of the Roosevelt administration outlining fascism in a way that holds up scarily well.

 

The Danger of American Fascism

Henry A. Wallace

An article in the New York Times, April 9, 1944.
From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 259.

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A sixteen minute video on the devastation caused by income inequality probably won’t excite anyone. But this is really clear, concise, even heartbreaking information about the damage it does. I’m not sharing it in a “Let’s all say the usual things” way but because it shocked me. It’s like a clear accounting of the cost. 

 

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Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-14381,_Berlin,_Polizeipatrouille_am_Wahltag

Germany was a new and very weak democracy. The country was utterly broken due to ruinous reparations for WW1, catastrophic inflation and the worldwide depression.

Hitler was a violent ideologue. He was obsessed with the strong defeating the weak and already part of a group that used shocking political violence. Irene von Goetz writes about the run-up to the 1933 election, “With an army of thugs terrorizing the streets. Brownshirts and SS patrolled and marched menacingly through the streets of cities and towns. A combination of terror, repression, and propaganda was mobilized in every… community, large and small, across the land.”  In a decree issued on 17 February 1933, Göring ordered the Prussian police force to make unrestrained use of firearms in operations against political opponents (the so-called Schießerlass)” or shooting decree.” He had also already attempted a Coup D’État.

Trump is a demagogue, an opportunistic infection of American stupidity. He is a swaggering physical coward and a very shallow narcissist. Here is William F. Buckley writing about Trump during an earlier flirtation with running for president.

Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents—midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War—had little to do with a bottom line.”

Intellectually all he has is the equivalent of pocket lint and a nickel, he is impervious to exciting ideas…ideas cannot be exciting or important to Trump, he only recognizes their importance to other people and waves them around like a torch when he needs support.

None of this means he isn’t potentially dangerous, demagogues are dangerous. But can’t we see the difference between a hellbent ideological thug and a self-obsessed boob who lets his unconscious speak for him all the time?

Trump is the white Kanye West. He has no introspective function in his personality. Truth is something that doesn’t worry him because he can’t imagine being held responsible for anything…I mean he is incapable of imagining it! Long term consistency or even coherence do not exist for him except as a branding issue. Past and future is just Trump branding and denying anything bad. I believe he exists only in a teeming bubble of the moment filled with unconscious psychological motivations. Even to himself, he is no deeper than his brand. He is what poor, lower-class Americans imagine “High Class” means. There must be profound internal poverty inside Donald Trump to make him devote every waking moment of his one and only life to making other people think of him as someone important.

Objectively Trump is a proto-fascist, summoning that same authority loving crowd energy that is the foundation of fascism everywhere. It’s dangerous stuff. Possibly more dangerous is what will be brought out in Trump himself if placed in a position of REAL power. That mind and that “soul” could be energized in unpredictable ways. I suspect the biggest danger that would arise from President Trump would be repeated challenges to the rule of law. I believe that he would go to war with restrictions on his power and it would be a critical thing for everyone to take it seriously and fight back from the very beginning. When demagogues gain power the country is lucky to escape ruin.

He will do anything to protect himself but one fail-safe limitation exists in him, the desire to appear “classy” and the desire to be “liked”. Essentially a psychologically broken and unlovable man who cannot bear guilt, blame or the smallest weakness developed a bunch of ugly emotional coping strategies and snowballed them right up to the door of the white house.

For the republican party, the chickens have come home to roost. After decades of pushing their electorate to make ridiculous, terrible decisions, that electorate has undertaken to do it independently for the real candidate of their choice.

 

 

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Meep America Meep again! Meep meep, meep. Meeeeeeeeep! Meep meep. Meep meep, meep. Meeeeeeeeep! Meep meep. Meep meep, meep. Meeeeeeeeep! Meep meep. Meep meep, meep. Meeeeeeeeep! Meep meep. 

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Tension Force: Cohesion from Opposition

The tension force is the force that is transmitted through a string, rope, cable or wire when it is pulled tight by forces acting from opposite ends. The tension force is directed along the length of the wire and pulls equally on the objects on the opposite ends of the wire.  –Physics Classroom

Imagine American politics. Not just the official representatives, but all the voices contributing viewpoints: From right wing 1% super-PACs down to organic coops. Now assign all those people to one of two categories: Conservative or Progressive. Imagine the sum total of conservative opinion vs the sum total of progressive opinion. As they struggle against each other imagine the area between them vibrating with the force of their resistance.

That area is expressing the Tension Force of their opposition to each other. It describes the range of political reality for this community, in this time and place. The issues of the day are all in this area: Immigration, economic policy, male/female roles, war, etc. Now, imagine some quick snapshots of other countries contending against each other in the same way.  Picture Sweden, Mexico, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Each has their version of these opposing forces. The area of tension force (TF) contains the questions that are being struggled over and the possible policies that might result. Economic equality and justice TF in Sweden and Mexico are wildly different. Sexual politics TF in America and Saudi Arabia also have a stark contrast. TF = the local reality that is up for discussion. Progressive and conservative are the internal states of the ones pulling the rope. In all these cultures the issues are radically different but those pulling the rope are the same.

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  • Genotype: The genes present in an organism, potential or expressed.
  • Phenotype: The genes the organism is expressing.
  • Epigenetics: the turning on or off of gene expression via environmental events…”nurture”.
  • Behavioral Epigenetics: The study of how these events in the environment trigger molecular biological changes in our brains. These include: social experience; nutrition; hormones; and toxicological exposures that occur prenatally, postnatally, and in adulthood. 

A common example is the way that twins, born with basically identical phenotypes, vary as individuals in behavior, appearance and health. Nurture, experience and behavior drive the expression of different genes, leading to generally larger changes over the course of their lives. 

The study of epigenetics is a tiny new branch off the tree of molecular biology and behavioral epigenetics is a bud on that branch. Yet it is already a vast and exciting field. Excitement and ferment in science can be measured partly by how many new questions are bubbling up in that area. Most experiments in this area are yielding more questions than answers but that in a sense describes how deep and rich a mine this is for scientists to explore.  The field is seen as holding the potential to explain and perhaps even solve medical troubles, such as mental retardation, autism, schizophrenia, and neurodegenerative disorders, and even social issues, such as aging, addiction, suicide, child abuse, and child neglect. 

 

Food for thought: 

  • This totally relates to my earlier post “Epigenetics changes everything” The idea that a fear could be passed epigenetically three generations forward with no reinforcement still absolutely boggles my mind. It hints at some of the complexity within this system. 
  • In relation to Darwinism – It doesn’t exactly invalidate Darwinism because at its root, Darwinism is a small group of simple truisms that explain very little. But it further reveals how much more elegant and sophisticated life is than explained in classical Darwinism. Not that Darwin himself can be faulted for not have more advanced knowledge. Interestingly, two of Darwin’s losing rivals for a theory of inheritance, Alfred Russell Wallace and Jean Baptiste Lamarck continue to be redeemed by our advancing knowledge. Wallace saw a potential for improving the lot of the poor through this knowledge and Lamarck believed the experiences of  an organism could cause changes inherited by later generations. Darwin himself favored the idea of harsh competition as the driving force. The importance of Darwinism has always been drawing a hard line between nature and theology. The continued social disputes over Darwinism VS creationism just show how hard it is to make any intellectual advances culturally on hot button issues. 
  • If the experience of gruelling poverty causes measurable impact on children (and thus, their entire lives and descendents) couldn’t this be considered cultural child abuse or at least neglect? 
  • A related but separate issue. Darwin was personally a mild and retiring character but he was wealthy and privileged. In his own mind his theory was also a justification for rich vs poor, upper class vs lower class. EG: We are rich and well because because we are fitter. You are poor and sick because you are less fit. H.G. Wells sketched a nightmare projection of this into the future in his book: The Time Machine with the two branches of the human race, the Eloi (rich) and the Morlock (poor). Although Wells was a socialist, Darwin must have had a somewhat similar picture of the future except for him it would have been acceptable. 
  • I’d like to reference my earlier post “The Neuromechanics of Cruelty” for a number of examples of how Darwin was simply acting out the familiar human traits of rationalizing his privilege and seeing it as based on personal merit. As were all the harsher “social darwinists” who followed. 
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In this post I’m bringing together some diverse psychological research. The idea I want to support is that human beings have strong and predictable reactions to power and weakness. Each of these videos alone makes an interesting (and often disturbing) point but together they show what happens to people given “the upper hand” and some of what happens to the people they hold it over. It’s important to me as a foundation for some of the next ideas I’m going to be laying out. This is difficult collection. They are worse together than alone. It feels like a damning indictment of the human race but I’m not looking to scold so much as to understand . The important thing is establishing a clear picture of our native relationship to power and privilege. I think of this post a bit like evidence before the court. I’m going to cite this post in later articles.

There are fascinating and dark things here, but many of these videos are too long for casual viewing. The exception might be the last one, “Money on the mind” which is also very interesting and much cheerier than the rest.

Stanford prison experiment

Phillip Zimbardo’s famous Stanford Prison experiments shockingly revealed the flexible nature of our identity in regard to ingroups and outgroups. It showed how completely uncharacteristic behaviors can be evoked by placing ordinary people, randomly into the roles of Guards and Prisoners. The young men assigned the role of guards quickly fell into astonishingly cruel and harsh treatment of the “prisoners” even knowing perfectly well that they were just their fellow students and hadn’t done anything wrong. It was merely “staging the show” that transformed them into ugly, alien strangers. Meantime the “prisoners” quickly took on the helpless, angry, calculating roles typical of people in that situation. Perhaps our behaviors are almost all situational and generated by context:If so it may be that we gravitate to whatever context feels most natural to us and simply don’t notice behavior being evoked…we just see it as our behavior.
But I see what happened here as evidence of uninhibited “us and them” behavior in an uneven power balance.  People have wondered how nice young German men with no background in sadism or abuse could turn into the men machine gunning families in a ditch. Well this is that. This is the cruelty of ethnic cleansing but also of schoolyard bullies. Your childhood memories almost certainly contain a few of these dramas, whatever side you were on. Like all play, it’s practice for adult life.
We know that the roles played in this drama are the main evoker of this pattern, modulated by the level of demonizing toward the victims. It ought to be basic training for anyone headed for such a situation to be aware of this mechanism.

Blue eyes brown eyes

In the Blue eyes/ Brown eyes experiment – “racism” or “class privilege ” is evoked in children within hours…minutes even in this experiment. As one group embraces a sense of privilege and a convenient rationalization for it the other group immediately tastes the bitterness of insults and lower status. Humans like privilege and take to it like ducks to water. That means that they probably maintain an unconscious alertness for people who could be grouped beneath them because privilege rests on that foundation. Furthermore since we are discussing groups as well as individuals, consider how likely it is that “unconscious conspiracies” to pick pariah groups actually take place in cultures around the world.

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 Both parties are amalgams of various groups whose support they must retain to win an election.

Prior to Reagan the two parties both held a large moderate middle where people might usually vote one way, but decide in this case to vote for the other party.

The Reagan campaign began a new approach of reaching out to a demographic that had always been considered out of bounds crazy: Extreme Christians. Once this group was added to the mix they had to be pandered to in every election so it became a Republican requirement to profess not only piety but tacit support for related craziness like groups who who support Israel because they believe it will hasten the apocalypse.
 
Through this channel the flood gates opened to the extreme “John Birch” types who include a great many unstable characters who live in an intellectual world of paranoid fantasies and right wing utopian philosophies. As the standards for acceptable party voters dropped, potential candidates had to endorse ALL these beliefs at least in a kind of euphemistic code understood by each group. Since the candidates had to match all these different camps they became more and more bland and uniform. Nobody could break away from any of the support groups for fear of being seen as a “Republican in name only”. And as time passed, the Republicans elected to office were true believers, replacing the lip service politicians who thought they could ride this tiger.
 
Republicans have always been good at just lining up and doing what they are told. But at the center of this thimblerigged mass were the moderate republicans. The most moderate of them had been partially annexed by Bill Clinton who declared a sea change in democrats that effectively cut off any candidates who would govern to the left of Richard Nixon. In fact Nixon was easily left of Clinton.

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Using Seattle Central College as an example.

 
1. The Upper Class – Administrators, heads of departments, Deans
These are the aristocracy. They earn good salaries, experience comfort and respect and job security. Often they can be bad at their job and achieve nothing but remain in charge for years. Few in number. Often the President of the college is just a figurehead with enough political connections to get a high salary with not much responsability. The president is like a fancy hat: It may be on top, but it isn’t in charge. 
 
2. The Middle Class – receptionists, cashiers, office assistants, janitors, security. tenured faculty.
Generally their work is boring but it is utterly secure. In many cases they express a flat, slightly sad or even bitter quality because their jobs are pretty much just about remaining employed. It is the barnacle survival strategy. This group is maybe four or five times the size of the administrators.
 
3. The Oppressed Lower Class – Adjunct faculty
These are often 80% or more of the actual teachers. In any quarter the tenured faculty “feed” first, getting the classes they want. After them is a complicated ranking of seniority and hours worked in the last few quarters and so on. They are called “priority hires” and they are a hierarchy from high to low. The high ranking instructors are often most gifted at playing the internal political games of the department they belong to rather than based on any merit. Almost anyone who becomes tenured is from this group. If a high ranking PH loses a class to under-enrollment he can take a class from a lower PH.

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I believe attribution should go to Business Insider for these but I’m not certain if they generated them or just republished them. I think this is a nice summary of how and why human decision making sucks elephant butt. If you can remember these and filter your own thoughts for signs of them when they pop up you’ll develop better arguments and be a little more honest with yourself too. It’s not easy. From one angle it’s like a list things politicians do consciously and otherwise, often successfully.

I also find them interesting as a sociobiological thing, this is a list of mind behaviors that evolved with us and have stood the test of time. Somehow or other they may have held some survival or success value. Many feel like something I can see being either advantageous to the individual getting what they want or as socially unifying (and possibly dumb) behaviors. The rest are mostly stubbornness and wishful thinking.

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