Historians have demonstrated that poetry originated as an oral tradition designed to transmit history and customs. Over time, it developed more and more structure, specifically after the advent of literacy. At that point, people wrote down their stories, rather than simply recited them, allowing more than stories to be recorded because their minds were free to roam since their memory wasn't hogging all the neural CPU. In short, when people began writing, poetry became less a cultural transmitter and more an artistic medium.
But culture can be artistic, since the most powerful art reflects culture in a way that gets the people to see a different aspect, right? Sure, however the form and function of poetry changed once people no longer were dependent upon oral recitation. Whereas the initial structure was designed to be conducive to verbalization so more people could pass on the history and values, the entailment of writing poetry allowed it to change its form merely to suit aesthetics, and be more about the experience of reading and writing it rather than actually transmitting information the society deemed valuable or necessary.
Think of it like this: If written word were abolished today, or even drastically reduced, think of how we'd have to adjust. One, we'd be forced to verbally or physically communicate with another in the moment; and two, the type of information we'd communicate would be starkly re-prioritized because there'd be no external stimuli to physically catalogue thoughts. So we'd deal with the most important, pressing things first, addressing and resolving what we can. That's what it was like before literacy was created; poetry was a practical tool used to pass information along, helping the people keep highly-prioritized information fresh through bundling and grouping it into easily recallable clusters.
With the advent of written word, the behaviors surrounding poetry immediately changed. Since written word transformed poetry from a practical tool into an aesthetic art form, deeper, more rich types of poetry were enabled, mainly in the form of lyric poetry and music. Imagine how some of your favorite songs would sound nowadays if the artist didn't have the ability to write them down and tinker with them, at least a little bit. Rarely any great piece of art that you see is the first draft, since 'draft' indicates a intentionally recorded point in a sequence. Writing and recording allow the artist to look at their creation, to further adapt it, to change it into more of itself. What the written word did for poetry and music cannot be understated.
Even though poetry is no longer exclusively a practical tool doesn't mean it served its purpose as the pre-dater of the era of literary awesomeness. It's only modern civilization that has marginalized poetry, since the pre-Industrial world culture lacked a propensity for production, self-assessment via money, and an addiction for leisure-based technology. Due to this, the art of poetry was viewed as honorable and a sign of enlightenment in pre-Industrial times. It allowed (and still allows) people to access a world beyond the senses, using metaphor, idiom, and other cultural devices to enrich experience and imagination. It's true that other forms of art do this as well, however, it's a fair concern why poetry in this day is singled out from the crowd.
Ever reflect on why thinking or talking about prejudice can be so uncomfortable? I'm not talking about merely wondering why we become apprehensive and anxious visiting certain topics, but actually reflecting about what actions we chose to cause us to sink into apprehension and anxiety. This is the difference between true reflection and mere wonderment; reflection puts us right in the middle of the mud, whereas wonderment simply gazes in the direction of something, many times simply for entertainment.
There are many exercises to turn wonderment into reflection, and here is one: Each time you use the third person plural 'they', define who 'they' are. The exercise doesn't require an audience, though another person willing to engage the exercise can make for a good discussion. Defining what you individually mean by 'they' temporarily without judgment, allows more of you to come forward, because much of our inhibitions, fears, and challenges in life are based out of fear of judgment, especially self-judgment. Temporarily delaying judgment thus allows the self to observe itself simultaneously from a distance and much closer. Once the raw thought is revealed, then judge it. The point of the exercise is not to scold yourself or prove yourself right or justify why the unfortunate descriptor is necessary, but to incise your language and expose your thought processes. After all, we have many of them throughout the day.
Discomfort of saying certain things displays the lack of the self's acceptance with certain premises. It indicates a lack of conviction, which is ironically what bigots, zealots and really any operator of generality has, because their words unabashedly represent what's in their thoughts. Whether or not you agree with the substance of their conviction is irrelevant, the point is that they say exactly what they think, and they're comfortable with it. There's no moral dissonance in their beliefs and their actions, despite the dissonance between their assumptions and reality.
Whenever moral dissonance is present, it indicates how the self hasn't chosen whether or not they want to take on social values, or develop their own. One can surely have individual values that are in alignment with social values, however those values won't change or take on other premises in the privacy of their own solitude. Hence, solitude is the greatest gift any person can give to themselves, which is reflected in the question by modern philosopher Kristhoffer; "Who are you at 3 in the morning, alone, cold, and in the dark?"
The 'they' analytical exercise above is actually one part of a three part self-observation exercise. The second part of this exercise is observing and recording what you think and say when you are mad or frustrated. For example, I have the habit of blaming the concrete object when I fail at an activity involving one, showing a lack of willingness to accept my own incompetence, insufficiency, or laziness. The key factor is that once you accept the reason for an irrational lashing-out, you can forgive yourself and fix the initial problem.
The third part of the exercise is observing yourself when you are sad. There are many manifestations of sadness, and most of the time sadness only lasts in adults a short amount of time, save for a tragedy or crisis. Sadness shows what we truly value, what we take pride in, our expectations, loves, level of self-confidence, and priorities. It just indicates what is special to us, which is what makes it an excellent tool of self-observation.
Prejudice is a primitive Us-Them group distinction which assumes that in order to preserve associations, dissociations must be made. This is why it operates with generalities rather than specifics. Domestic prejudice (racism, sexism, etc.) is sustained through reacting to potentially threatening Thems, protecting oneself through either mental/verbal, or physical separation. Reverting to the beginning of the essay, when we're uncomfortable, anxious or apprehensive visiting certain topics, it's because we're mentally sensing that some kind of enemy or threatening force is nearby that will expose our dissonance, and threaten our power. Discomfort reveals a lack of conviction, and thus, a lack of reflection.
Thus, understanding prejudices doesn't start with historical investigations or where others made assumptions, but--and it's here I agree 100% with both Orwell and Kristhoffer-- it starts with asking the self: "Why does this -ism appeal to me? What is there about it that I feel to be true?" (856) This question activates self-revelation and judgment, through letting us observe ourselves without creating or perpetuating obstacles.
Ever since 9/11, the conversation of beneficial domestic surveillance has become common. In 2001, the conversation originated with Who did it?, then onto Why'd they do it?, then onto How do we track them? The last question was What do we do with them once we have them?, which is still in process of being answered acceptably because our government decided to revisit the definition of torture, and where to detain criminals who aren't even American. This one event changed our purview and attitude toward surveillance, because we turned our suspicious gaze away from the Them, and toward the Us.
Beneficial domestic surveillance was to the new millennia what the assembly line was the 20th century. The pre-9/11 world certainly had surveillance, since espionage itself dates back to ancient Greek warfare. As John Gilliom and Torin Monahan point out in their book SuperVision: An Introduction to the Surveillance Society, "If you have a phone, drive a car, have a job, or go to school, then you're under surveillance." (1) Ultimately, everyone is. However, observation is starkly different than surveillance, because the latter is the "systematic monitoring, gathering, and analysis of information in order to make decisions, minimize risk, sort populations, and exercise power." (2)
It's implausible for any country to wholly agree or disagree on an issue, but that's not as important as the behavioral implications of harvesting widespread fear. The more fearful of infiltration the public and officials are, the more arguments will be made in favor of domestic surveillance, because the public will only see prevention of attack, not loss of freedom. And once you lose freedoms, it's difficult to get them back. It's like policy develops a new muscle-memory.
Further, as Foucault argues, this protection from infiltration is a very dangerous aversion because if even the most peaceful person disagrees with the power structure's ideal of order, law, and power, then they are either viewed as mad (insane), or physically dangerous to others and the society-in-general. So tucked within this anti-infiltration paradigm is the premise that those doing the surveillance are more competent and ethical than the citizens.
In terms of costs and rewards, let's look at the PATRIOT Act. First and foremost, we need to be on the same page that it wasn't a set of procedures and governmental rights created out of thin air. It was a bundle of amendments to current American policies. Citing Wikipedia, "Key acts changed were the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which thereby allowed the government to wiretap domestically without a warrant; the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, thereby allowing the government to wiretap any media--verbal, written, recorded, electronic--and have access to your electronic funds transfer information; the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 and the Bank Secrecy Act, thereby giving the government more access to your financial accounts and history; and the Immigration and Nationality Act, thereby allowing the government more power to root out suspected terrorists within America, expanding domestic interrogation procedures. We lost all these freedoms--which we'll probably never get back--for a concept of a safer world.
The over aching theme of this enhanced domestic surveillance is safety, however the concept of safety can justify any behavior if it's believed a worse outcome will be avoided. Thus, within one month after 9/11, four significant Acts were amended, trouncing on Americans' basic freedoms. The War on Terror didn't sit on the shoulders of Americans for a clearer view of the enemy, but instead stepped on their heads and charged into battle after wire-, phone-, bank-account-, and email-tapping their own citizens. You think that technology and intra-suspicion was hung up after Bin Laden was killed? In 2011 Obama extended it another four years. It is the new normal.
To begin at the end, humankind has made a vocation of evicting other species.
Three separate times over the past month has biologist Jonas Salk been mentioned in talks I've watched online. One was made by author and environmentalist Derrick Jensen, another made by author and international adviser on education Ken Robinson, and the third by author and environmentalist Lierre Keith. Salk's quote reads: If all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish."
Lierre Keith is highly critical of of agriculture, stating in her book, The Vegetarian Myth: "The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems. The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you." So why is agriculture destructive? Because, as she points out, in order to cultivate human-centric crops, we need to clear the land-base down to dirt, and completely fabricate the biosystem in our favor. What this does is marginalize everything that was once there, either killing it due to malnourishment, killing it due to competition, killing it due to improper climate, or simply reducing its numbers (endangering them). Creating agriculture inadvertently caused an evolutionary shift in plants and animals, because the food we harvested for ourselves was also food for bugs and soil microbes, causing a shifting and stretching of natural organic habitats. Just like we never needed toilet paper before inventing toilets, we never needed pesticides before inventing agriculture.
Conservationists theorize that since the dinosaurs, more plant and animal species have been driven to extinction faster than new species can evolve, thanks to destruction of natural habitats, hunting, spread of disease, spread of alien predators, and climate change. Granted, it's difficult to isolate hard evidence showing exact rate of extinction across existent species,' however observable variables like habitat loss/destruction (via dams, malls, cities, oil refineries), climate change, and overall expansion of the human race support the case that plants and animals are being evicted and disappearing because they have no viable place to emigrate.
I watched an interesting Ted talk last night by Rose George named Inside the Shipping Industry, stating that although shipping giant Maersk is much less known than tech giant Microsoft, they have similar revenues. This simply boils down to the shipping industry getting away with maltreating its workers and the environment on a much wider level. As such, they're allowed to use very poor quality fuel--just slightly better quality than asphalt--because it's cheap and there's no humans around to complain about the pitch-black exhaust. Further, the underwater sounds produced by transnational shipping vessels project as far as whale mating songs--complicating the process--but that's allowed because there's no humans around to complain about the noise. Rose calls it "audible pollution," and she's on-point. Marine life is being stressed by manmade titans of the ocean, and that's not limited to whales. Evicting whales is as difficult as evicting coyotes; how far from their natural habitat can you move them, until they die off?
Whether it's Jensen, George, Salk, Robinson, or any other person willing to put humans on par with the rest of nature, nature is constantly demonstrating how and when civilization pushes too far. But there's no way to see that evidence if we only view the world through what we produce, rather than what we consume. We consume salmon habitats when we dam rivers, we consume bear habitats when we build mines, and we consume underwater habitats through trolling the ocean with lumbering, smoke-breathing giants. Salk's statement was chilling; nature would certain flourish shortly after our extinction because no longer would the Great Evictor be around.
In the last few months I've focused on Fascism, Socialism, and Communism, which have led me in the direction of Nationalism. The first three are forms of government, and despite their varying effectiveness and inconsistencies, are legitimate because they have social/civil policies, economic policies, and legal policies. However, Nationalism isn't a form of government, yet a psychological perspective developed from a collective of people establishing their "nation's" identity, protecting that identity by exerting power--either actively or passively--over other "nations." Nation is parenthesized to indicate it's a collective of people strung together by similar beliefs and customs, rather than actually bound by geography. As I said in the previous essay, this psychological perspective turns others into Others; or dissociative entities ultimately destructive to the home Nation.
Having followed Nationalism's psychological trail of bread crumbs, I was naturally led to one of modern America's most popular Nationalist groups--white supremacists. (Not capitalizing the 'W' would irritate the supremacists, but that's the point; it doesn't get capitalized.) White supremacism is based on the belief that Aryans--or non-Jewish Indo-European Caucasians--are the purest form of human, because they haven't been tainted by any of the other races identified by modern race theory. Archaic Aryan race theory--as opposed to modern--was created by polygenist and alleged philosopher Christoph Meiners in 1785, who separated humankind into two groups: Caucasians, or light-skinned and beautiful people; and Mongolians, or dark-skinned and ugly people. I don't exaggerate. Whether you invest in archaic or modern race theory is irrelevant, because both systems categorize "goodness" across two variants: skin color and amount of beauty. If you're light-skinned, you're inherently more beautiful (and better) than Native Americans, or Chinese, or Africans, whom all fall into the Mongolian category. If you're light-skinned and exceptionally beautiful, not only are you more beautiful than all Mongolians, but you're the archetype for all Caucasians.
I watched an interview from 1991 between Christopher Hitchens and John Metzger, at the time a budding white supremacist. John's father, Tom, was a popular and well-known white supremacist, Grand-Dragon of the KKK at that point, and creator of WAR--White Aryan Resistence. To frame this discussion, I won't be talking how racism or race supremacism is morally bad and destructive to future, or morally good or beneficial to our future. What I will be talking about are the tenets of Aryan Nationalism, and how it's developed over the past century.
When the Klan began, they were fundamentally vicious and malevolent. The hierarchy of Klansmen at that point excluded women, and chillingly reflected the hierarchy of normative society: doctors, lawyers, politicians, police, etc. It wasn't some messy back-water operation either--although it got messy at times--but was a well-collected and connected group of middle-aged white men with money and gall. It was nothing like the troubled youths you may hear about, stomping around in Doc Martens with red suspenders and shaved heads. Sure, those youths believe in white supremacy, but the original Klan killed your husband, hunted you down after they heard you disapproved, hung you upside down, lit you on fire, then cut open your pregnant belly and killed your eight-month old fetus as you burned. (This is 21 year old Mary Turner's story.) The original Klan was uncontrollably and viciously Nationalistic, manifesting their beliefs imperialistically, or through actively dominating and destroying whom they decided was their enemy. Their enemy, mind you, were non-whites living amidst the whites, poisoning the pure and beautiful genetic Aryan pool.
The Klan over time lost their ability to massacre other humans, due to murderous events like Mary Turner and her husband, Hayes. This mob-fueled racial vigilantism caused the Klan to restructure itself--there have been three "Klans" since they were conceived in 1865--because the United States government got more and more involved in putting a stop to their tactics. Since the Klan has been progressively identified as a terrorist organization detrimental to America, their Imperialistic Nationalism has morphed into something else to preserve itself; Separatist.
The difference between Imperialism and Separatism is stark. Where Imperialism actively dominates Others, Separatism merely drives to separate itself from the Others. This type of Nationalistic thinking was represented by John Metzger in his interview with Christopher Hitchens, in stating that it's a scientific fact that races exist, and that attitudes follow. Further, that Separatism isn't merely promixal, it's mentally apathetic and relativistic. When Hitchens asked Metzger to expound upon statements he made that either denied or reduced the Holocaust, Metzger answered that "since it was fifty years in the past, he didn't care if it happened or not." When Hitchens got Tom Metzger--John's father and Grand Dragon of the KKK--on the phone, he answered with the same candor. Neither one of them could bother to muster a shred of perspective or empathy to "care enough" to judge millions of people torn from their houses and killed. An Imperialist Nationalist would've cheered, however the Separatist shrugged his shoulders and focused on white unity.
Those two forms of Nationalism approach empathy similarly, but with one big difference. Whereas Separatism mutes empathy altogether because that's the best way to stay away from the human disease that "only exists because it's illegal to kill them," Imperialism doesn't ignore the Other because it needs to acknowledge them to identify how best to overtake them. This doesn't make them by definition empathic because they're quite delusional and self-interested, however to dominate you need to accept that the Other actually exists. So the progression of white supremacy has gone from brutal Imperialism to cold, disconnected separatism. Although there are less lynchings and more rights for non-whites, I'm not sure the main problem has been solved, just the symptoms.
Nationalism is at base a compulsion to dominate. We are expected to put forth its claims vehemently and without hesitation, because after all, the truths we spout are self-evident. However, since Nationalism is a general emotional perversion of power supported by a collective belief which people identify with, it--albeit strangely--doesn't just apply to actual nations.
Perversions of power can manifest in any number of ways--racism, sexism, to name a few--but as AC Grayling mentions in his essay about Nationalism, Get Rid of Those National Anthems, Nationalism indeed has a few worthy tenets; people want to represent themselves, and they want to share experiences with their fellow community members. However this ideal of community and in-group is where unworthy (negative, power-compulsed) mechanisms branch off from the worthy (interested in the development and clear intra-communication of in-group, not at the expense or cost of another group). This branching-off initiates a psychological change within the members of the in-group, developing and responding to a basic premise: Since we are a collective, others can hurt us, so others become Others. Members of a male collective become leery of females; members of the white collective become leery of non-whites; members of a production-based economy become leery of those who appreciate primitivism. The list goes on and on, with each of these collective in-groups thinking and behaving nationalistically due to their psychological power-perversion. It's important to keep in mind that for a nationalistic mindset to set in, another group (Other) doesn't have to pose an actual or even immediate threat. The in-group's attack-mechanism is thus perceived as a protective mechanism. Hence, nationalism is an ideal that can exist regardless of sample population size; White Nation, Black Nation, Chinese, Italian, Hispanic, Man, Woman, Athlete, Politician, so on and so forth. As long as an in-group psychologically convinces themselves their freedom is jeopardized by another group, the compulsions they create to "defend" it are nationalistic, or as Grayling says, "unworthy."
George Orwell writes an excellent essay on this topic, named Notes on Nationalism, where he sets out explaining Nationalism against the English backdrop of his day. Essentially, Nationalism is a feeling that thrives on competitive prestige, bundles individuals into collectives, and separates those collectives from Others whom threaten the Us' very existence. It's built upon the expectant-attack premise--which allow other axioms like kill or be killed and might is right easy to conclude--and thus creates a hunger for power. Nationalism and the dominance it exhibits is as stagnant as it is optimistic, despite displaying otherwise.
Many thinkers have gone into detail about Nationalism because in the moment its claims feel so good and so right. Every single President of the United States gives speeches about democracy and freedom, while earmarking billions of dollars in the budget to go overseas to "wage" democracy on other countries. I don't know if or how many WMD's Iraq had, but you're fooling yourself if you think America didn't/doesn't kill for oil. It's the most highly depended upon energy source of a powerful production-based nation; of course we kill for it. However, the Nationalistic premises given to us through the air waves and out of our televisions embody peace and liberty, representing "universal" human rights. Our American, media-spun Nationalism operates with such heavy sleight-of-hand that we don't even know when we're propagandizing those who live, love, and have families on the ground above "our" oil, or believe in different economic or political systems. As Derrick Jensen says, "How dare they live above our oil." The nerve to be different.
Nationalism thus hides its negativity through positivity, which is why there's a proportional relationship between Nationalism and propaganda. Think about the Nazis, one of the most fiercely Nationalistic groups in recent history. As National Socialists--which is a type of Fascism--they believed that "their race" was superior to others, which made them responsible for and entitled to wage war upon any other who didn't capitulate to their truth. If it was an absolute truth, then why did they rely so heavily on persuasive propaganda? Because at base the Nazi beliefs were not truths about humankind, and thus required constant hate-laced booster shots to mesmerize and energize the storm troopers to continue detaining, medically experimenting, and mass-murdering Others, instead of fellow human beings.
Does this mean individuals are less nationalistic than groups? No, because attaching oneself to an Us group doesn't require actual other Us.' We can self-associate with a collective ideal, and begin the power-perversion process of labeling Others that are destructive to our Us. As Orwell says in his essay, "Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening...Moreover, although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge, the Nationalist is often somewhat uninterested in what happens in the real world. What he wants is to feel that his own unit is getting the better of some other unit, and he can more easily do this by scoring off an adversary than by examining the facts to see whether they support him...The point is that as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, the sense of reality becomes unhinged. And as I have pointed out already, the sense of right and wrong becomes unhinged also." This brooding hatred, this compulsion for victory and phobia for defeat thus blinds us toward actual objective reflection which would temper our power perversions. And Nationalism in any form is certainly a perversion of power.
This distinction between Us and Other is indeed instinctual, but really all that means is it's immediate and responsive. We can rewrite our Us and Other distinctions willingly, so long as--to rely on Orwell again--we aren't indifferent to reality, preserving our mental processes so that we can make informed moral decisions, and not just power perversions out of fear and hatred. We'll still make mistakes, however we'll care about having made them, which is a care that will be extended toward Others, allowing them to become simply others, and quite possibly, Us.
I came across an article by journalist Stephen Gray titled, "The American Dream is Dying," and immediately recognized its utopic tone. He identifies Americans as having become "pessimistic despite being naturally optimistic", preventing them from obtaining the coveted American Dream. In short, he enlists feel-good general ideals, or reverse stereotypes.
Stating that Americans are inherently optimistic states that we have born in intellectual perspectives and belief systems. Because his statement affirms Americans, it's not viewed as a stereotype, yet as a valid evaluation of our capacity, proven by our history. Does history really have an owner, though? I didn't fight in the Civil War, neither did you. Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, not me or you. Henry Ford created the assembly line production method, not me or you. And the Pilgrims annihilated the Native Americans, that wasn't me or you. That's America's national history. But since it's our history, it somehow ascribes our national identity. In short, it's become mythologized.
If certain statements don't affirm common/popular beliefs, they're labelled as stereotypes. For example, since it's socially acceptable to say that the American Dream is to work hard and be rewarded with upward mobility, it's not a stereotype. But has every American throughout history believed this? No; many are happy being complacent and receiving entitlements. And many are happy living off the grid, having nothing to do with society. But this statement still seen as the current American Dream, and not at all a stereotype.
Now what about this statement: Blacks are violent and sexually aggressive. Offensive, absolutely. But why? Because it's uncomfortable to make such statements in public. Even though many Americans still believe these premises, their outward declaration gets outweighed by the detrimental social impact; a la, shame and humiliation--social values. Racism is now popularly seen as negative, which qualifies it for the stereotype label, unlike the American Dream, which, due to its utopic positivity, makes it viewed as a beacon of hope and national identity.
Mentally orienting ourselves toward utopias achieves nothing but get us in trouble. Gray goes on to say that, "It took a certain faith in the unseen to settle an untamed land, survive the Great Depression, and push through the Civil Rights Movement. We see ourselves as resilient, and despite the last decade's economic chaos, remain a formidable force in the world."
I think of this type of thinking as cotton candy thinking. It sounds so sweet and wholesome and give you that warm feeling...especially the part about "faith in the unseen." The faith-based rhetoric is argumentatively useless because it demonstrates no evidence, therefore gives no traction to the argument of whether or not utopias actually have a bearing on the human world. In terms of the actual facts mentioned, they are biased.
Yes, there was an element of optimism in settling the untamed land, surviving the Great Depression, and pushing through the Civil Rights Movement. However, the Native Americans lived in balance with the "untamed land" for tens of thousands of years, both sides proliferating peacefully. When the Pilgrims arrived, they--and it's been heavily documented--were so incompetent in shelter construction and food/water gathering that they had to enlist the help of the Native Americans to survive. Many accounts were made of the Natives teaching the Pilgrims how to rebuild shelters, because the Pilgrims either broke them or couldn't maintain them. After the Pilgrims had learned how to be relatively self-sufficient, they destroyed the Natives. Myself, and many before me, have made the observation that this was genocide, plain and simple.
Surviving the Great Depression was no doubt extremely difficult, but FDR's New Deal stimulated the economy. Geniuses like John Maynard Keynes wrote him letters to advise him. Many Americans were unemployed, but due to the preceding economic prosperity, government-subsidized relief was given. Do you know how many countries are reduced to leaving their citizens to live in dirt holes for decades? America was stressed for a period of time, however the intellectual and political landscape, both domestic and foreign, rushed to the aid. To the average American, their suffering was paramount, and I'm not dismissing their experience, however, it wasn't the average American who got us out of the Great Depression, nor was American survival really in jeopardy.
The Civil Rights Movement was necessary, which is why I think a more apt title should be Civil Rights Response. Response indicates a reaction to an one entity which acts upon another. It wasn't just a movement, a cause, or a noble belief. It was necessary to demonstrate how human beings born with the genetic accident of dark skin are still just as human as those born with the genetic accident of light skin. And the statement that the Americans are resilient because we pushed through the Civil Rights Movement? If we did, then why did President Truman write in Executive Order 9981 in 1948, stating that the office of the President was to ensure the equality and opportunity of all Americans, regardless of race, class, gender, religion, or origin? Because up to that point inter-American relations were brutal; where was the optimism in our fellow man/woman then? Gray's statement that we "pushed through the Civil Rights Movement" makes it sound like collective America dug deep to do the right thing. The Civil Rights Movement is thus not a testament of the quality of the human spirit, but the depravity of critical mass thinking, and how America will fight to preserve popular thought, no matter the quality of the thought.
This cotton candy utopic thinking is incredibly weak because it doesn't clearly interpret our past, nor does it predict our future. It just operates on unfounded ideals. Gray goes on to say: "The fundamental culprit for these [increasingly pessimistic] feelings is rising inequality. We all know that the very rich are getting wealthier, while much of what's left of the middle class is slipping into poverty." Do we all know that? Funny, because I thought he just reduced our pessimism to feelings of rising inequality. Is it a thought? Is it a feeling? This is what utopic thinking does to us; it muddies our analytical skills. It allows us to use such baseless, vague, and ambiguous terms as American Dream, without evaluating if our premises can objectively stand on their own or if they merely affirm our personal beliefs.
The American Dream has changed over time, and will keep changing according to majority/popular thought. What I find problematic is how the American Dream always represents the most popular ideal of American identity--the zeitgeist, the spirit of the time--not what Americans choose to be in the future. It's never about carving oneself out today to become the effective, desirable person of tomorrow. It's merely about observing popular trends and economic ebbs and flows, cross-referenced by the status of the most current social values and expectations.
Whether or not one has invested in Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism, or any other governmental structure that has existed since the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, the only real difference lies in policy, not principle. Each governmental structure has different premises to indicate boundaries and order, and have unique interpretations on the nature and consequence of human choice. However, modern government--which I lump all these into--operate on the assumption that production is better than non-production. Where the ideologies vary is in who does the producing, who regulates the producing, and what defines reward in each of these systems.
Speaking with a political scientist yesterday, I asked him whether Socialism was an economic structure or an social structure. He immediately brought Communism into the conversation, and it took me a bit of reflection and later research to figure out why. Socialism is a progeny of Communism (developed by Marx, therefore commonly known as Marxism), but Socialism attaches itself to the ideal of fairness. Fairness is a subjective component, which makes Socialism essentially a social theory rather than an economic theory. Socialism is wildly liberal and depends on government control to allot resources, wealth and education, remaining weary of individuals because they're seen as inherently exploitative and destructive to the mass' entitled stream of resources. It attempts to prevent a wide chasm from forming between classes of people, so that they can interact freer and less oppressed.
Communism is much dryer and more ruthless than Socialism. Although production is centralized through the government, as it is through Socialism, production is only performed on a need basis, granting the individuals more free time to interact with each other, and allowing those who produce resources to directly obtain them, because acquisition is based on need, not want. Thus, Communism was created as a cure to the exploitative ills of Capitalism, which itself allows individuals to succeed in a myriad ways, due to a largely deregulated central government.
Communism and Socialism appear very valid on paper, and Capitalism does not. The reason I make such a claim is because the majority of humans are attracted to safety and security, which on paper, Socialism and Communism offer and Capitalism does not. In the former two, you'll always be taken care of and given your equal share, whatever that means. Capitalism adds risk to the equation in the form of individual prosperity and lack of government intervention. It's ironic that reality manifests inversely from the on-paper valuation: In Socialism and Communism, individuals who strive hard blow the mediocrity bell curve and are punished through surrendering and redistributing their resources. They're prevented from an incentive that would push them to shatter the glass ceiling and carve out their own identity. This is not the sole reason Communistic and Socialistic governments fail, though, and it's here I point to the end of the Cold War.
Gorbachov looked at how much the government had spent to keep up with America, and how badly the Russian economy had become, and eventually enlisted Reagan to help balance the budget. Thus, political policies that defer to strong governmental centralization inherently spend more because the government is involved both in legislature and in business. Capitalism allows the private sector to take care of business, allowing government to focus its resources on policy and legislature. Further, Capitalism's allowance and encouragement of individuals to constantly break the glass ceiling provides incentives for perpetual productive progress, favoring those who are more competitively productive over those who prefer entitlements. The political scientist told me that Socialism and Communism are more difficult to sustain because of this strong spending structure, and believed they have a higher potential of working longer if the people are less ethnically diverse. For exmaple, the Chinese deal with Communism better than Americans because the nation of China has less diversity than America, which according to him made America impossible to thrive as a Socialistic or Communistic nation. (Socialism requires the people to agree on the definition of "fairness," which is exceedingly difficult with a larger and more diverse sample population.) I find his theory of ethnicity and Socialism thin, however I appreciate him striving to connect government with people because just like corporations, governments reflect those who comprise the larger social body.
Although this information was fascinating to me, what I was struck most by was his theory of production; he indicated why it was much more expansive than I thought. Having grown up in Communist Romania, he witnessed many beautiful pieces of architecture and places of natural beauty bulldozed and covered with lumbering, rectangular concrete buildings. He said that Communism has a penchant for industrialization because (to paraphrase) the government is the hub of economic means and prosperity. If you held ALL the keys to economic success, wouldn't you indiscriminately and ruthlessly destroy nature and history, in favor of your future? These two types of governments are thus very sensitive to undulations in their power, because unlike Capitalism, their governmental power has two cogs: policy and economics. Capitalism--real Capitalism--allows the free market to function uninhibitedly, allowing businesses to fail and recessions to occur because the market will always swing them around, should it remain unfettered and unrestricted. But that doesn't make Capitalism less production-addicted than Socialism and Communism, it simply makes its techniques and methods different. Capitalism thrives on the individuals compulsively chasing material incentives and creative productive ideas, which allows the government to have a constant stream of taxable revenue.
The political scientist cynically romanticised the demise of civilization and return to primitivism due to how civilization's conflicting governments are all children of the same parent; production and industry. Remove production and none of these have any idea what to do, or what they represent.
Social power and organizational structures like Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism, etc., operate on certain maxims. For example, in Capitalism, it is believed that the individual pursuit of capital in the free market makes for a more balanced, active economy. In Socialism, it's believed that the redistribution of wealth makes for a fairer and more viable economy. So on and so forth. Social power and organizational structures are all siblings though, because they all exist somewhere along the same tether which spans from one extreme--absolute anarchy--to another--absolute egalitarian collectivism.
Anarchy by definition is disorder based on a lack of authority, which includes two distinct concepts: disorder and lack of authority. Order allows the existence of categories of behavior, power processes, and a general understanding of boundaries, so disorder thrives on the lack of these things, or chaos. Authority allows power to come to a focal point for allocation, delegation, and possible redirection, so a lack of authority is the absence of hierarchy. Anarchy thus entails the individual to act on whatever subjective self-interested or baseless whims (chaos) they predetermine, functioning as all shades of government (lack of authority).
Egalitarian collectivism is the other extreme. It posits that the group has priority over the individuals, with each person being given the same rights and opportunities regardless of natural inclination, desire, or hard work. The central government has all the authority. It's literally a collective of equal beings, barely viewed as human beings considering differences are viewed as potential disorders, therefore posited as unnecessary and only destructive to the collective. Think of Star Trek's Borg: each one's actions merely represent the collective Hive, with individual interest snuffed out of existence for the strength and subsistence of the collective. Granted, the Borg's rights consist exclusively to exercise the Hive's interest, and if they die no one cares. In the human theory of egalitarian collectivism, the collective will preserve their lives, but not because they're individually strong but because they're part of a strong collective.
It's thus impossible to think about social organizational structures without dealing with power. I'm not a master of the topic, however I have a base understanding that I think many share; power is a fluid mechanism that flows through people urging people to enter certain structures and practice certain processes, and suppressing people from entering other structures and practicing certain processes. Both anarchy and collective egalitarianism exist as responses to power; the former is based in I into I power, and the latter is based on We into We power. Most social structures exist nearer the center of the tether, in effort to include some proportion of both extremes. Capitalism is more individual than collective, Socialism is more collective than individual, and Communism is even more collective than Socialism. All forms of social governments can be mapped out along this tether, not because I say so, but because the tether is the embodiment of power in social organizational structures.
Since this topic is so close to home for humans because it pertains to our power, it's difficult for many to remain objective about understanding it, and some actually denounce objectivity because people's feelings are involved. (Ironically, that makes them thematically anarchists, no matter their conscious bias toward individuality.) Subjective qualifiers are thus often used to describe organizational systems--good, bad, nasty, ruthless, humane, inhumane--when in reality those are just perceived affects of the social system. They may be accurate descriptors, but it's fallacious when popular and common cultures thereupon define these system based on these subjective qualifiers, rather than by the actual (objective) theoretical tenets. Again, if power is the tether which causes all these organizational structures to manifest, then human emotion is separate category, and although linked as an effect, is not a primary cause, thus not essential for creating, understanding, or interpreting these social organizational structures.
Why is atrocity merely a descriptor for reprehensible human interactions?
When civilization blithely wipes out a natural habitat to further develop its economic and imperialistic interests--destroying rain forests, damming rivers, and spilling "necessary" toxic waste into the environment--it's not labelled atrocity. Rather, it's actually believed to be in our best collective interest because it supports production. This human-centric attitude self-relinquishes responsibility for waging natural genocide, unaware that the feverish quest for human Progress is driven by a violent pathology.
Let's look at hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In order to extract natural gas from wells deep within the earth, a mixture of water, toxic chemicals, and proppants--particles which keep the fractures open to allow natural gas to pass into the wells--are used to fracture the deep, dense shale. Good day for human ingenuity, right? Maybe not. Only a small amount of the toxic chemicals used to fracture the shale are recovered, leaving the rest in the earth. It's estimated between 20%-85% are left inside the earth, either trapped in rock or leeching throughout the earth at depths greater than 7,000 feet. Due to depth and dilution, it's difficult to locate chemicals currently leeching into our water supply, though deductive logic tells us that as long as 100% of them aren't immediately recovered, they'll one day poison the water supply of any creature that drinks water. This argument is still incomplete though, because say one year from now we somehow recover all the toxic chemicals we injected into the earth. Good day for human ingenuity, right? No, because we still had 365 days of poisoning the earth, which is why environmentalists don't care whether we extract all the toxic chemicals now or a year from now; the sheer presence of the toxins destroys the earth. Slow, painful genocide.
Is this process less atrocious because our economic civilization has deemed it an effective tool of industrial production? Mind you, other methods of fracking exist, though are less effective than the use of toxic fracking materials. Reports made by the Clean Water Action campaign show the fluid includes: Formaldehyde, acetic acids, citric acids, boric acids, and hundreds of other chemicals. This is like blowing bubbles into a glass of water through a straw, but starting with a mouthful of battery acid. Clearly depending upon the variable effective leaves the paradigm wanting.
The idea of fracking has existed for over a century, but only within the last few decades has humankind developed effective means. According to the Safe Drinking Water Act, as listed on the United States Environmental Protection Agency website, "Water is an integral component of the hydraulic fracturing process. The EPA Office of Water regulates waste disposal of flowback [return of fracking fluid] and sometimes the injection of fracturing fluids as authorized by the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act." It sometimes recovers the earth-killing poison? Apparently just because a federal Act is named Clean or Safe doesn't ensure the earth's water supply will actually remain clean or safe. How is that effective?
Since fracking has been around awhile and the topic of heated debates, the Underground Injection Control (UIC) was created to supervise the subsurface injection of fluids. However, since Congress oversees the UIC, it appended two exclusions to the UIC statutes:
"The term 'underground injection'--
(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and
(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and
(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities."
And once again we arrive at production. Fracking is known to be perilous to both the natural environment and humankind, but since we have the technology to extract deep pockets of natural gas, specific legislative measures were written in to exempt legal responsibility of the consequences. Apparently legal responsibility exempts humankind from moral responsibility.
In other words, we don't view genocide of nature as an atrocity, but as a means of propelling us further on the glorious quest of human Progress.
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