Sunday, February 17, 2008

Individualism and Collectivism Examined

The Left/Right Jingoism of Political Gibber Jabber

I hear people separating "left" and "right" by saying things like, the political "Left" believes collective rights supersede the rights of an individual, and the political "Right" believes an individual's rights are greater than the collective. From that they conclude something like: "individualism is the opposite of collectivism." What I see involved is a series of fallacious conclusions coming from careless thinking that brushes hastily over the possibilities of meaning in the terms in order to arrive a pre conceptual conclusion. Clearly, individualism is different from collectivism, but not necessarily opposite. Individualism is about things like individual rights with respect to a collective group working together. You don't push for one without something to do with the other.

Human beings tend to do better in their survival tactics as organized entities than they do as hermits. So we have these different strategies we can observe called societies with their collections of groupings.

This left/right rhetoric is just a bunch of bull shit to me. It's just a collection of idealistic, jingoistic statements. It falls apart when I start looking at what the words represent and the reality of what people are actually involved in.

Everyday most people go to a collective organization and do some tasks they are directed to do. Many of those collectives are private tyrannies when you get right down to it, so most people spend their days in an authoritarian atmosphere where they comply with the directives they have nothing to say about because they want to eat, and buy all these pretty gadgets, like the beads and blankets that carried small pox across this nation after Columbus floated up to it under sail. Most are trained for doing this from kindergarten, so they don't know any different. It's just the way it is for them. They may have some vague symbols that they see on TV and in the movies about individuals behaving in some free way, but it's not really about their life, it's just entertainment.

Right now we have what I perceive as a set of elites, I don't care what party you want to see them in, and they aren't interested in democracy or individual rights. They are interested in organizational management issues and strategies that amount to power with regard to those. That's simply the nature of that kind of organization of groups getting together and involving themselves in the institutions that are already pretty well structured to be what they are. The playing field is set, now we, the public, get to watch it play out. The Big Fight.

We have a population that's predominantly programmed to accept authorities telling them what to do, and most individuals lack any real voice in what each may want out of their lives in respect to the larger macro organizational characteristics we imagine to be The Nation.

Because of the way I look at things, my "The Nation" is so different from other people's I can't even communicate most of the time. Mostly I don't even talk. I just listen.

The rest of that jingoistic crap you presented is meaningless to me when I see what people are faced with.

I made my choice a long time ago. I don't work for anyone, I do things in a contractual exchange, and I am involved in writing the contract agreements. It's not always easy, but those are my standards. I figure if everyone was willing to live by those standards, corporations would collapse, because there wouldn't be any employees, there wouldn't be any hierarchy of command. But I'd be willing to wager that won't come about. So people will go on pretending something else is going on and argue about the fine details of the make up of their cage and the intricacies of the designs on their shackles.

Fascism is a corporation. It's a bundle that's all together for strength, all right, but the bundle doesn't collectively think, it's directed by an authority who "knows." Whether it's privately owned or a government. It's hierarchically ordered and authoritarian in its format. "My way or the highway." A corporation is a collective, a corporation is bureaucratic in its organization. It has a specific goal, make a profit, and it does that through what is now perceived as something like "scientifically engineered" management techniques, something our universities began creating towards the end of the last century.

If the Republicans have put a unifying theory into reorganizing the presidency so that the president is like a CEO (and they have), that's moving our presidential system in the direction of fascism. Same with Democrats, and FDR was an example of one who saw that as a good idea, I humbly suggest. I expect all parties to do the same as long as we have a federal government with the legal and national enforcement capabilities of the one we have. And thanks to a two hundred year series of working at the interpretation of the Constitution through our court system, the Federal Government powers over the states have expanded, as the states have expanded. This is like a disease, once it begins it's hard to stop if the immune system is not set up to stop it, and legally, ours isn't.

With big government the urge is going to be towards decomplexifying the management tasks, and the president's job is to manage the bureaucracy, so what does that suggest? The only really efficient decomplexifying option we have is hierarchy and a pyramid top down authority scheme. That's why militaries have all become similar in their organization.

That's how it is from what I can see. I think folks often don't see their own life circumstances for what they are or they would know what trying to be an individual, making individual choices in the midst of all these very real circumstances that restrict their choice-making amounts to, and the jingoistic generalizations would fall away to a critical examination of the meaning of the words they use. It's not some abstract idea, its about tough choices every day that take contemplation. And that's where one finds one's individuality, not in some idea. I think many are just living in a fantasy world of words, and don't even know what the words mean because they haven't really taken them apart.

I figure it's facetious to argue there's anything else going on, but it certainly keeps people entertained.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Eco sanity

I don't think of human beings as being in a position to save the world. It's more like, get out of the way so the world can take care of itself. So my vision doesn't include a 'humans saving the world' concept.

The Earth's biosphere, best we can tell with our crude abilities to find things out, is an interconnection of living systems that will maintain their own ongoing, life sustaining balance without the guidance of human beings. The earth has never needed human beings to maintain its life forces. Instead, what human beings may have become, actually very probably have, is now a potential danger to the complex living systems that make up the total biosphere, and ironically, in pursuit of our own aggrandizement, we have devised some clandestine adaptation strategies that appear capable of unbalancing all the self sustaining processes of the earth, much as a cancer unbalances the self sustaining process of an individual organism by its own, myopic focus on what cancer cells are genetically designed to do to survive.

The difference between human beings and cancer is we have the potential to make a choice about what we do. ...Well, that's hypothetical, I guess. Maybe cancer does have a choice and we don't, or both, or neither.

Western globalized culture has become like what we call in ecology, an r-selected species. Because of what humans can do as a group with their unique abilities to create cultures as an interface with their environment, we have cleverly devised culture based systems that act as our own, evolutionary eco niche adaptation process, only with ours, we can take over just about any niche. It's a unique process we can use without changing our biology, as many other species must do to adapt. Such normally biologically based species (cancer being one, lemmings another) are adapted to low succession ecosystems. Examples of low succession ecosystems are fields of corn, where much external energy is required to till, plant, fertilize and keep out various forms of species that would also like to populate the field where the corn grows, until finally the crop can be harvested.

Human beings have for some time transformed environments with their built places and their agriculture. Now with increasing speed, thanks to the cheap and abundant energy discovered under the surface of the earth, humans continue to raze the many precious and irreplaceable complex ecosystems of the planet, destroying in the process species that will never be seen again, and could take millions of years to regenerate in some comparable ecologically adapted form, so that those areas can be turned into low succession, high yield "resources" for human beings, who themselves now number 6.6 billion in number, but much more than that when the factors of eco foot print is taken into consideration for the more highly technologized societies. This population growth over the last 150 years has roughly the same curve on a graph as any r-selected species.

So human beings, through their cultural adaptations, have made themselves (a species that otherwise has all the characteristics of a K-selected species) into an r-selected species, and with that, they have employed the traits built into their gene pool that allows them to transform their environment, and hence all the environments of the planet that they can, into low succession, low speciated environments. The loss of genetic material in the process may very well completely transform the life of the biosphere to one that does not support most of the life we see around us now.

The solution I see is for humans to recognize what they are doing, and reorient their cultural adaptation away from control oriented technologies and more towards ecologically reflexive, sustainable ones. One of the ways to do that is for each human to begin to reawaken their deep connection to the earth, the one that is part of our evolution, and begin a renewing of the old ways of seeing and interacting with our environment, combined with the knowledge we have developed through the cultural devices of our ecological sciences. If any of our sciences can guide us, those would be the ones.

We need to rediscover the "ways," as in the "cultural ways," or the "Way of Zen," those kinds of ways that acknowledge the psychological unhealthiness of separating ourselves as we do in our isolating built environments. Environments of our own distorting creation that ignore natural needs of the living biosphere while we grow ever more dependent, in the process, on economic systems that are essentially cancerous. We need to "see" this and then renew, or invent ways that will reverse our progress on a path of destruction, and go in new directions with our adaptation strategies, based on a healthy and direct interaction with life processes, so that we are reminded by our daily existence of our connection to the planet's life. That reminder is the basis of individual sanity and psychological balance. An abstract idea about it is insufficient.

That recognition and societal redirection, of course, entails a dramatic rearrangement of whole systems of thought and ideas. A whole new mental paradigm must come about. That's what I'm working on, ideas combined with actions for what that might be, ways of becoming healthy and balanced with a new vision of who we are as living beings within a self sustaining biosphere, not controllers and guardians, as some Western religious doctrines would have us believe.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ideological Change of Shoes

Ideologies Discarded Like a Trail of Worn Shoes

At the risk of simplistic categorization, I'll point out that David Horowitz is an example of a number of liberal intellectuals -- a lesser number of whom were among the radical anti establishment intellectuals in the Sixties -- who later exchanged their ideology for something of a different design, like changing designer shoes. For most this change occurred sometime after the end of the Vietnam War, and into the Reagan years, as Horowitz did when he came out as a Reagan conservative during the Eighties. Like most of them, and a number of younger intellectuals who have since grouped together with these old Sixties lefty ideologues, today he is best described as a Neoconservative, according to SourceWatch.

In the 1990s, Horowitz hosted several Second Thinkers conferences where ex-leftists who recanted or underwent epiphanies could network with fellow travelers. Several of these second thinkers are now neo-cons. Christopher Hitchens was a regular participant at these conferences, and today co-organizes events with Horowitz, e.g., tour of the UK where he features as a speaker.

In his book Radical Son Horowitz describes his turn from Marxist radical to Reagan Republican, but in lieu of reading and reviewing that, the following, from Wikipedia, gives a brief overview of Horowitz's trail of ideological shoes:

David Joel Horowitz (born January 10, 1939) is an American conservative writer and activist. The son of two life-long members of the Communist Party and once a prominent supporter of Marxism as well as a member of the New Left in the 1960s, Horowitz later rejected Leftism and is now a prominent advocate for right-wing causes. He is a founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center (formerly the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), and has served as president of that organization for many years. He is the editor of the conservative website FrontPage Magazine, and his writings can also be read on prominent news sites and publications, including the conservative magazine NewsMax.[1] He founded the activist group Students for Academic Freedom and is affiliated with Campus Watch. He occasionally appears on Fox News Channel as an analyst.

That he has identified that ignominious "urge" he left behind as leftist politics is interesting. I don't see it so much on any right left spectrum as a different ideological design for something which the wearer needs, no matter the design, and I'd like to discuss why for a moment.

I would say, for instance, that what he is talking about is something of the same coin with different sides. One side could be identified with something that was very conservative in the Fifties -- McCarthyism, for instance. I think that sort of idea-based behavior that occurred from McCarthyism has its roots in a kind of authoritarian group think that is the opposite pole of a highly evolved participatory democracy. But what that means itself would need to be described and considered with some care in order to identify what I mean by "highly evolved." The tendency might be to go through the historical evolution of ideas and attach it to movements in the Sixties that called themselves anti authoritarian and anti establishment, but in their own right were ideological and group think movements of their own, and as such subject to creating the very conditions they rebelled against.

That consideration about what it means to me would involve looking into human nature itself, and the structure of authoritarianism. I fully acknonowledge that exploration is not something I would see as possible here in this blog. So I admit to the problem of being clear and precise up front.


I've already introduced in previous blogs the notion that the Neoconservatives are "militaristic idealists." So I'd like to stick with that theme, particularly the emphasis on "idealists" -- with idealists as something that has its own unique structure and that an adjective of some sort can often be attached to it, "militarist," "leftist," whatever.

So, coming from that, I would identify McCarthyism as a code word for an ideological response to another ideology. So we have this "binariness" that comes up. An ideology can be codified with a name, and it can then be opposed to another codified ideology. So then we can identify them as right and left ideologies, but I'd rather just stick with the notion of ideology itself, rather than deflect it with direction pointing.

I would like to suggest something I cannot in any way back up with objective facts, but rather I must extrapolate from behavior. Thus it's purely in the theoretical abstract reasoning realm. It comes from my (and others) observation of behavior, thus very subject to doubt and criticism.

It appears to me that someone with an ideological bent to their way of organizing their mental world can be proselytized and converted to different ideologies, but what they tend to need to do is feel a belief in their ideology. Eric Hoffer wrote about this phenomenon years ago in a book he titled True Believers. I read it first in 1968 while in the military and trying to figure out what this institution was I was unable to leave at my own discretion. Meanwhile we were supposedly fighting something that to me was organized in the same way, only called by a different name. Both fit what I would call totalitarian organizations. And it seemed very odd to me that we had to be a totalitarian organization to defeat one. That was the kernel of an idea that has never really left my thinking, although it has evolved into many different forms since then.

So it seems to me that changing ideologies is merely a matter of paradigm shifting in the world view. It's therefore more or less (maybe more), a rational process, though once the "belief" aspect takes hold it's not so rational.

Now what I mean by "ideological bent" is a little harder to get at, because what ever it is, is inside the individual mind and that's a black box we can't really get into -- not others' but only the one we are in. Hence we end up with all these different fields like sociology, psychology, and so forth. They are all trying to figure out what's in the puzzling black box. Some perhaps trying to go further than that, i.e., how to program the box and make humans behave in certain ways.

This may be a little too glib in presentation, but basically, I tend to see McCarthyism as an ideological response to Communism, which was a code for an ideologically based authoritarian society that was by then called The Soviet Union. I would say McCarthyites probably didn't see themselves as true believers in an ideology. It's the other guy who's always the true believer. Communism, as envisioned by those who became part of what was called McCarthyism, was envisioned by them as a "leftist" ideology threatening American institutions. The "good/evil" binary paradigm hangs like a specter in the background.

In looking at McCarthyism as a phenomenon, I see that it relied heavily on issues of "loyalty" to the United States, and "security matters" -- which of course implies a need for secrecy and protection of some kind. Both those issues, loyalty and security, imply something basic to the True Believer mind that Eric Hoffer wrote about. If a citizen is not allowed to know oneself what is behind the security wall, then one simply must believe it's important, take it on faith, and one must trust the authorities who are forced to hide it from everyone for the good of all. Subsequently one's loyalty to whatever this secret information is about then becomes an issue of patriotism to one's country, not an issue based on rational judgement. And one's country is, after all, an idea, though one can associate it with flags, mountains, eagles, statues holding torches, and so on.

So I'm raising a question at this point. Is it characteristic that an ideology will result in that sense of protection and group adherence to that ideology? Can we ever have a United States of America without a coordinated ideology that all will adhere to, for instance? These are issues that the founders raised at some level and attempted to safe guard individual choice by allowing for differences in various types of ideologies, including religious based ones. How do political actors with a "militaristic idealist" set of ideas fit with our own sense of government?

Monday, February 4, 2008

A History of "Militaristic Idealists" Known as Neocons

The Neocons: An Illustrated Progression
From exile to redemption to exile again: a history of "militaristic idealists" known as neocons. (Link to a larger version: The Neocons)

First, note that they are "idealists" and not "realists" (I will discuss the political realists elsewhere), so in that sense their version of international democracy promotion will have a different slant, one that we might call "Wilsonian" going back to President Woodrow Wilson. When the Bush administration's Middle East policy is referred to as Wilsonian, that's the connection.

Second, they are militarists. That's the connection to the Scoop Jackson Vietnam Hawks, the military industrial complex, and to the Cold War anti communist attitudes that carried over after the fall of the Soviet Union, with no target to pin it on.

This might be worth looking at: They are not so much about being against the idea of communism as a philosophy, since they once were once willing to wear the trappings of that ideology, but more anti the political existence of something identified as communism as a competing power entity in the world, and here we have the connection to a quote I've seen: " Ideology is the disease of the modern era." You might say they don't so much care what the idealism is, so long as they have one, and they wield it's abstract logical characteristics as a weapon of sorts. Perhaps a weapon of mass destruction?

That difference in their concern between political idealism and the meaning of political power itself is important distinguish, I believe, because it is also the basis for their anti terrorist concerns today, which for them are quite real, and helps to reveal their own urge for power. An urge that will be explained as an urge for the good of humanity, and necessary because there is this idea of "evil," evil is present in the world, (human beings are by nature evil and must be taught to be good) and it must be guarded against. The military is thus a necessary structure in society for the protection of good, and a price we must pay for our safety.

The underlying issue to explore here, I believe, is authoritarianism. Authoritarianism not so much as an ideal to be imposed, but as a philosophical and psychological structure that makes up a particular world view. Words like "individualism" and "freedom" can be used within this structure and the structure itself may turn out to negate the subjective sense of interpretation of what those words mean to each of us. This connects to the meanings we explore in propaganda, power, and the spectrum of power from hegemony to coercion.

I'd like to recall Stan Goff's simple but clear definition clarifying hegemony from coercion:

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” (Steven Beko)

It’s much easier to exercise control over a population whenever they consent to their own domination. They sort of accept the official story, accept the official ideology and then we all just sort of go around and cooperate. That kind of control, where we internalize the control, is hegemony. Where when I come up and hold a gun on you and you do it out of naked fear, that’s coercion. And the idea is you’ve got sort of hegemony on one pole, exercising ruling class power and coercion on the other pole and as hegemony fails then coercion becomes the more prominent instrument. (from a talk: Exterminism)

Neoconservatism, Past, Present, and Future, (cont'd)

Neoconservatives and Foreign Policy

I can recall in 2000 that nearly no one was using the term "Neoconservative." If I used the term in a discussion, I'd get a blank look.

Since then, the term has come to be used in many different ways, many applications are misconstrued, and inaccurate. In my view, it's very counterproductive to blur its meaning when one realizes that the Neoconservatives have not disappeared from politics, and the philosophy behind the term remains alive and well, and is being applied daily. These very well organized intellectuals with their own network of ideologically self substantiating publications continue to work for what they believe to be the "best" for the United States.

So it's perhaps worth some effort to find out what their version of "best" might be and to do an analytical exploration of who what the Neoconservatives are, what they have actually meant to the conservative movement since their voices became a major part of the current administration, and what the actual people identified with the movement will be doing during the election season, and afterwards, if they have anything to say about it.

I want to present, by way of seeing contrasting views of the US foreign policy, two different explanations for 911 with differing explanations for what the US is doing in Iraq, and what its purpose in the Middle East is about.

Neoconservative View of Foreign Policy

Blowback- Chalmers Johnson On Why We Really Fight