Outside the Asylum

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Capitalism's Report Card

Part One: Basic Principles

Anyone looking at the politics of the English-speaking world would be struck by the amount of resources spent on blame. I don’t mean to suggest that these expenditures are always inappropriate. Blame, or its more positive valence, moral accountability, has been a more or less constant concern of humanity throughout recorded history; it’s nearly impossible to conceive of a morality without it. That begs the question of whether or not morality is a good thing for humanity to have; unlike Nietzsche, I tend to think it is, not only because it makes life more pleasant, but because it makes survival more likely. Probably this is the reason humanity invented morality (and blame) in the first place; like manners, it maximizes the survival chances of a social species. Morality is a way of attempting to limit risk and damage. (Nietzsche and I agree on that; he just doesn’t like the fact that humanity is, for the most part, a social species.)

Over the past few hundred years, those humans who live in Europe or its (erstwhile) colonies, have focused their attention on morality with increasing anxiety. There are many reasons for this. The Protestant Reformation and the secularization of the modern era, each of which complicated morality both in conception and practice, are among them. However, I think our recent preoccupation with morality—and anxiety over it—has increased mainly because we have, over the last five hundred years or so, repeatedly indulged our penchant for inventing dangerous and damaging things with the potential for getting badly out of hand. Since morality is a way of limiting risk and damage, it’s not much of a leap to imagine that the advent of world-destroying technologies in the 20th century—both nuclear weapons technology, whose destructive potential immediately struck even its inventors, and energy technologies, both nuclear and fossil-fuel based, whose risks were not so immediately apparent, but became more visible over time—would increase both a focus on morality and profound anxiety about it.

I’d argue that the global quarrel over European imperialism and colonialism also served to increase the focus on, and anxiety over, morality. This quarrel, which arguably began in the 1400s, reached its fever pitch in the twentieth century, at the same time that those extremely dangerous weapons technologies and energy technologies emerged and achieved global dominance. By then, two world wars had happened,

and the United States had stepped into the shoes of its colonial parent, Britain, and had taken over Britain’s colonial project, creating a two-way imperial competition between the English-speaking world and the Soviet Union. The continuing quarrel over colonialism and imperialism was, at its heart, a question of moral accountability, if only because there were a lot more countries and people deprived of agency and political autonomy by the imperial competition than those who benefited from it.

As the dangers presented by imperialism and colonialism increased, in scope if not in intensity (I’m sure African slaves felt those dangers were quite sufficient in the 1500s, but the dangers did not then have the capacity to destroy life on earth) people turned to morality, with increasing anxiety, to limit the dangers and mitigate the harm—or at least to make sense out of them.

Much criticism arose from the developing world, as well as from smaller first world countries drawn inexorably into the wake of the two imperial behemoths whether they would or no. Even within the two dominant imperial cultures, large numbers of people questioned the moral validity of the competition itself, demanding moral accountability from those in power. No good answers were provided to their questions and objections; those defending the imperial project on both sides merely attempted to heap blame on the other empire without addressing the immorality of either imperialism itself or the competition between the two imperial forces.

So it’s not that there is no place for blame in politics; blame is a near-inescapable part of human morality, which is a vital contributor to human survival. In fact, those who suggest that politics should not include blame tend to be extraordinarily untrustworthy types often found in the CIA, political consulting firms, and big banks. And it’s not that the twentieth century was wrong in its moralistic focus—having recently suffered the Great War, the Holocaust, and World War II, confronting the A-bomb and the Cold War, the denizens of that century were more than justified in their (or, rather, our) concern with moral accountability—and even with revisiting past cultural crimes such as slavery and genocide. It’s not even that such concerns are outdated in the 21st century. In fact we are, paradoxically, in an era where it has never been more appropriate to ask who’s to blame—and also in an era where blame as a concept and an organizing feature of politics is constantly misused. Scapegoating, of both people and ideas, has become the primary currency of the political system (especially the political press), and those wielding the hatchet usually do so on behalf of the most powerful, regardless of circumstances or consequences.

It’s time that we examine how we allocate blame.

I’d consider it an axiom that the process of allocating blame should be based in historical fact. The subjective nature of history—the fact that you can tell a story many different ways, and that those tales are influenced by everything from personal self-interest to outright prejudice—does not invalidate the notion of being reality-based. Only an idiot, or someone acting in bad faith, would assert that one should abandon accuracy and fact because subjectivity makes establishing them complicated; only an idiot, or someone acting in bad faith, would assert that one should abandon the idea of morality because much of human existence is not governed by simple moral absolutes. These notions, facile and appealing though they may be to the military industrial complex and to those who like their intellectual meat cut up and pre-digested for them, appear nothing less than lazy and pathetic to anyone with aims larger than the protection of sociopaths for pay.

Since we are in the “No, We Can’t” era of American politics, in which it is considered a fact of life that no one can accomplish any large project not dedicated to reproducing the current social conditions, and because we have shifted, arguably, from being advocates of the Apollo Project, who use reason to explore new frontiers for humanity, to being inheritors of something which might be called the Hades Project--the support and coddling of powerful figures who sit in the shadows obsessing over riches and death—it’s perhaps sensible to give a few examples of what I mean by those larger aims. Primarily, I’m referring to the aim of human survival; secondarily, to the aim of perpetuating human civilization; thirdly, to the aim of minimizing human suffering. Additionally, I’d like to put in a word for seeing what humanity is capable of in areas other than torture, deception, war, and acquisition.

It’s instructive to note that all these aims used to be a common assumption. That is, it was assumed by just about everyone that most of the political spectrum, both leaders and voters, held these aims and merely disagreed about how to achieve them. We’ve left that particular Kansas behind, but without reaching anywhere as colorful or magical as Oz.

So first, blame should be based on historical fact, and while we might debate what those historical facts are, their debatable nature does not release us from the obligation to discover them to the best of our ability. At the very least, we should consider our current situation in light of the past fifty years of history, and try to form an accurate picture of where we just were, so that we can better understand where we are. Simultaneously, we will almost certainly re-interpret our past choices in light of their consequences, which we now inhabit. Without such analysis, well-grounded in evidence and logic, blame is insupportable, and turns to poison.

Secondly, I’d consider it axiomatic that blame goes hand in hand with power.

As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben states, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

greatpower.jpg

A friend of mine dislikes this statement, because he thinks it wrong to demand action of a person just because they can do it. When he said this, I realized that I had an entirely different understanding of the statement. To me, “with great power comes great responsibility” means “If you don’t have power, you can’t be responsible.”

That idea is important to me because one of the worst features of American politics, and American culture generally, is that we cling to the illusion that power is irrelevant here. We all have equal power (we call it “opportunity,” which in itself should tell you something). That assumption pervades our thinking. That’s why we spend so much time blaming the (other) American people, or blaming ourselves, and why we obsess about personal moral character. It’s because we assume a power-neutral world. Everyone gets a fair shake. We all pass go and collect the same $200.

We used to rely on those who had been abused by the system to provide analyses of power. Black people especially took on this role, joined by all the others who had been systematically abused. This abuse jettisoned them out of the illusion that we had, in the United States, comfortably resolved the problem of power, and they were able to see power, and analyze it, in a way that many Americans couldn’t. The entire culture leaned on their analyses, whether they knew it or not.

Unfortunately, over the past ten years, since we entered the “No We Can’t” era, large numbers of Black people, brown people, white women, and all those who have, in Killer Mike’s words, “been denied,” have been, in one way or another, either bought off or deceived by their leaders. After Obama, few people discuss power, few people believe in material change, and few people, even among those who adhere to “resistance” movements, talk about human rights. They talk instead of privilege, and what they mean by privilege has devolved quickly from the fact that Trayvon Martin could not walk to the corner store to get a Snapple without being killed to the fact that somebody said something mean on Twitter—or something they disagreed with. Their conception of power, if they have one at all, is skewed.

Blame without a foundation of fact, without an understanding of history, permeated by a denial of where power is and how it works: that is the mud our culture is stuck in, spinning its wheels and digging deeper. In order to make blame, or, if you prefer, moral accountability, serve the purposes we probably originally invented it for—maximizing survival chances—we must get out of the car. That is the great importance of the Sanders movement, for all its flaws. It enables people to get out of the ideological car. It is the great importance of indie media, and, despite *our* flaws, the great importance of this site.

Next week, I’ll write about what I see when I get out of the car and look around.

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QMS's picture

An important concept.
I remember as a youngster
the first time an adult admitted
having made a mistake and
shouldering the blame.
It made an impact on me.

No excuses or fabrications.
Just showing how to be responsible.

Thanks for the thread.

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14 users have voted.
Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@QMS

Nice to "see" you, QMS.

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8 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

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9 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Lookout's picture

So the question isn't "Why did $hillery lose, but whose fault is it that she lost?" Russia, Russia, Russia?

Another example is blaming Trump for almost everything. Someone yesterday was saying all these US wars are his fault? Whaaat? I think all recent administrations (esp Obombers and Bushies) are equally culpable.

So blame is a convenient distraction keeping people from looking at "how did we get here" and "how do we improve things".

Interesting topic.

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12 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Lookout

Of course, there's also ways that they avoid blame at all costs, like when they refuse to even investigate, much less prosecute, Wall St bankers.

Blame is only for little guys and those who want to change the power equation...

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5 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

snoopydawg's picture

@Lookout

The Russian puppet accusations goes back decades

All the way back to JFK and people in between. Even Obomber got smeared with it. Especially after his open mike announcement that after the election he could be more free with Russia. Oops.

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4 users have voted.

In a free country civil liberties are not only for certain groups.
So this is how liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause.
The donor class doesn’t want it, and Americans elect the bribed. So suck it up.

taken to its extreme, Ayn Rand's philosophy. "I owe nobody anything. I have no obligation to use my own capabilities on behalf of anyone else, ever, no matter how dire their circumstance nor how trivial might be the effort required on my part to lend assistance. To suggest that I do is to infringe on my freedom, and that's the horriblest thing any human can ever do. There's a toddler drowning, a throwable life preserver at hand, and I'm playing Candy Crush? Well, I guess the toddler's parent should have kept her away from the water. Not my problem." In her worst moments Rand asserted that helping other people was not only unnecessary, but immoral.

And your friend's interpretation is certainly correct, at least in the context of the story in which it appears. Uncle Ben is telling Peter that he doesn't get the choice: That since he is so uniquely empowered to help others, he must do so. We all bear an infinite assortment of "responsibilities" (mostly, but not always, of little magnitude or significance) for the moment-to-moment decisions we make about how we exercise our agency in this universe; but for one whose agency has at its disposal "great power", those responsibilities are correspondingly great in magnitude and significance. If you have the power to stop a school bus from plunging over a cliff, then the lives of those children are your responsibility, whether Ayn Rand likes it or not, and if you choose to let them die, then their deaths, and all the suffering of their families, must, should and will be set against your account.

And of course, Peter's disinclination to do so leads directly to his Uncle's death.

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11 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@UntimelyRippd

but I'm not going to be obnoxious in the grand internet tradition of "Well what about THIS unlikely combination of factors? Didn't think about THAT, did you? Ha ha ha! GOTCHA!"

I just found it interesting that I had been, actually, misinterpreting the line for so long, most likely because I really needed someone to say "Having no power precludes responsibility." For instance, I'm not responsible for George Bush stealing the election in 2004. I did what I could to fight it, but didn't have enough power to stop it. Am I responsible for the Iraq War? Well, yes, in the sense that there is *something* I could have done--I could have refused to pay my taxes. However, unlike in Thoreau's day, if I don't pay my taxes to support an unjust war, they just come after whatever money I do have. I end up in jail, they take the money anyway, and continue on their merry bloodstained way. So I can neither stop them from prosecuting that war nor seriously discommode them. Does that mean I hold *no* responsibility for the Iraq War? No. It means that I have a very small sliver of the loathsome pie that is American responsibility for what happened to Iraq. There was something I could have done; I didn't do it. I ain't gonna evade that. But the whole truth requires not only admitting that I could have done something and didn't. The whole truth requires also admitting that doing that thing would have had no material impact upon the bloodthirsty other than to present them with a small delay while they used their legal system to extract the money I wouldn't send to them willingly. I weighed the pros and cons and decided it wasn't worth getting a prison record for.

It's that kind of analysis that is massively lacking in our political culture. Rational analysis.

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9 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal
were held in opposition to the Iraq war. The media ignored them. The government ignored them. My aunt was visiting Manhattan at the time, and didn't even know it had happened.

Had "we the people" rioted in objection -- rioted for real, i mean, burning down government buildings and whatnot -- they would have shot us dead, called us traitors, and carried out the invasion regardless.

up
8 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@UntimelyRippd

It's one of the reasons I get pissed off when people say "Why don't you go into the streets? Why aren't the American people in the streets?" We have been in the streets--repeatedly. The last time we were "in the streets" in a persistent fashion, they removed us militarily. And then sued our asses.

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8 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

we have shifted, arguably, from being advocates of the Apollo Project, who use reason to explore new frontiers for humanity, to being inheritors of something which might be called the Hades Project--the support and coddling of powerful figures who sit in the shadows obsessing over riches and death

is very nice. very, very nice. exquisite.

up
12 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@UntimelyRippd

I was glad, at the moment of writing that, to feel that I had finally put my finger on something that had really been bothering me for a long time.

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5 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal
"powerful figures who sit in the shadows obsessing over riches and death". Hades indeed.

up
4 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@UntimelyRippd

up
3 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

That's the big question. The morality of the individual, of the state , of a religion. How a nation in less than a generation pivots from run of the mill imperialist nation to Nazi Germany, or from the British Empire with its imposition of brutal colonial morality.

I think that morality is always fluid. It's something that in a generation can be entirely negated and replaced by something that advocates it's opposite.

The US, having laws in common with religion against theft, killing, and encouraging charity through non profits and tax laws, it attempted to mirror religious compassion without being tied to any religion. That left religion to mind itself in it's religious laws (morality). Which led religion to ally itself with politics to gain real power in the US.

A generation ago feeding hungry children was viewed positively by our nation. Today many think that just encourages dependency on the government, and actually harms the child, when they should be hungry and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or have better parents, or ally themselves with some religion to nourish the soul as well as the body.

It also seems that blame is the front sight of a gun loaded with anger. With enough anxiety, desperation and fear that anger can be steered by those we choose to lead us, as long as we can find a target to blame. Anger feels so crappy we must need to use blame to alleviate it. Or maybe blame comes first, then anger? Quick, choose thumbs up or thumbs down on something you know nothing about except what I tell you! Smiley or frownie?

And blame we do. A snippet of video by a political hack, within hours has the embarrassed president of the US forcing a civil servant of moral character to step down. All because the internet of the uninformed, or Twitter, is all ablaze in condemnation and outrage. Only to find after that Shirley Sherrod was speaking to something the opposite that was portrayed, something morally good.

But boy, the blaming felt good while it lasted.

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10 users have voted.
Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Snode

I thought I was gonna be writing about something a bit different--a moral analysis of capitalism based on the history of the past 45 years. Then I realized I needed to write about morality and blame itself first.

I really appreciate that you all are not the TLDR type of readers. Most people would not have waded through that much text.

So thank you all.

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4 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Snode

but I tend to see psy-ops a lot. And I can't even tell myself I need to stop doing that, because there is so much systemic propaganda that it's pretty likely that any given thing is a psy-op.

Scapegoating with a steadily eroding base of reasons why, until you basically just demonize people because the news says you should...or your political party says you should...or your leader says you should...

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5 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

enhydra lutris's picture

today, but I felt it necessary to note that the development or evolution of blame as a mechanism as you described very much worked to facilitate achievement of a common goal. Assignment of "moral" responsibility, isn't identical to causal responsibility, but all in all people could discern fault and learn processes and procedures to reduce the likelihood of further similar failures.

Though there were always outliers, I think that it is mostly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that this mechanism started to fail precisely because the common goal was abandoned by certain, often powerful, segments of the populace. This, in turn, was facilitated by the growth of ideologies which permitted and/or even mandated claims by persons or groups that they were, in fact, working for the common goal when their actions and activities were quite blatantly contrary to that goal and even interfered or blocked its achievement or attainment. These may have actually involved self deception and delusion on the parts of some of the actors involved, but more often and more likely were simply used as a smokescreen to gull those sharing the common goal into believing that these actors were also trying to achieve it even though they were actively undermining it.

have a good one.

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5 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@enhydra lutris

Assignment of "moral" responsibility, isn't identical to causal responsibility, but all in all people could discern fault and learn processes and procedures to reduce the likelihood of further similar failures.

That's one of the reasons morality helps increase survival chances. It's also one of the reasons to have academics or journalists or monks or whatever version of people vocationally dedicated to finding out the truth in your civilization, because having a set of people whose job it is to be truthful helps maximize survival chances. Because, like you mentioned, having these things helps minimize repeated critical failures.

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4 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

RantingRooster's picture

to talk about blame, morals, accountability, responsibility and such notions of the human condition.

How can one assign blame or even discuss anything, when one starts the "thinking process" lacking the mental faculties to be intellectually honest with themselves? Which, seems to be the foundation of our society, because, to accept it as it is, and not see how odious it is in all it's wretchedness, and not know the source of it's cruelty, is to be intellectually dishonest with oneself.

"It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving, it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe." - Thomas Paine

Peter Parker's example provides a false morality play for the weak minded to find shelter, that one must have a "superpower" to fight injustice. Peter Parker's "superpowers" were the result of an accident. He got bit by a radioactive spider.

We all have the superpower of "awareness", it is merely a "choice", arrived at through reason, of whether we take action to correct the error, that robs one's mind, heart, and soul of justice.

My father used to tell me, "Son, only fight the battles you know you can win". I scoffed and called him a coward.

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C99, my refuge from an insane world. #ForceTheVote

@RantingRooster
situation. I mean, sure, a person could put that interpretation on it -- but the alternative interpretation is that each of us is obligated to undertake such as is within our power.

However, your comment also reminded me of an idea put forth by Jonathan Kozoll, who wrote several relevant books on stuff like education in the inner cities. Kozoll complained about the tendency to mythologize and heroicize important figures in the neverending battle for justice, not because it gave people an out, but because it actively discouraged them from trying. "I wish I were heroic and morally perfect like Z, but I'm not, so I will never be able to accomplish what they did." Thus, misrepresenting someone like MLK as a moral paragon is much more counterproductive than publicizing his human failings.

up
5 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

RantingRooster's picture

@UntimelyRippd but just explain it differently.

You state - "but the alternative interpretation is that each of us is obligated to undertake such as is within our power."

My "concept", is that those with the awareness (of a wrong or injustice), have the responsibility to act (or obligation if you will), irregardless of whether one has a superpower or not, because none are needed.

However, if one is not aware of injustice, Peter Parker's powers are mute.

Again, I draw from Thomas Paine, in Agrarian Justice

"To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary to have some idea of the natural and primitive state of man; such as it is at this day among the Indians of North America. There is not, in that state, any of those spectacles of human misery which poverty and want present to our eyes in all the towns and streets in Europe. Poverty therefore, is a thing created by that which is called civilized life."

I think both of us are making the same moral argument, based on empathy and compassion for others, whoever the other may be, implying the principal, we can not exist, survive, thrive and prosper, without the expressed collaboration of others. A newborn human dies with out help. Just like adults die today without help (ie no healthcare).

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4 users have voted.

C99, my refuge from an insane world. #ForceTheVote

@RantingRooster
I am a force of Nature unto myself, the All-being, master of time, space and dimension.

Feel free to worship me, puny humans, but don't get your knickers in a twist if I don't notice. After all, why would I?

up
2 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

enhydra lutris's picture

@RantingRooster

begets

'A time comes when silence is betrayal,

(MLK)

begets

“Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.”

(Oscar Wilde)

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3 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@RantingRooster

How can one assign blame or even discuss anything, when one starts the "thinking process" lacking the mental faculties to be intellectually honest with themselves? Which, seems to be the foundation of our society, because, to accept it as it is, and not see how odious it is in all it's wretchedness, and not know the source of it's cruelty, is to be intellectually dishonest with oneself.

I don't agree with you about comic books, superheroes, or heroic literature generally; I think fictional heroes are there precisely to give us something to emulate, admire, live up to. It's why comic book movies have been so popular over the last couple of decades. The rest of society has absolutely dried up in terms of offering things to emulate. Comic books, esp. comic book movies, are what's left. Which is probably why some seriously shitty things have been done to those movies and stories.

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3 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

RantingRooster's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

"I think fictional heroes are there precisely to give us something to emulate, admire, live up to."

Full disclosure, I never got into comic books or reading fiction and such things. (Movies, TV, and especially Music were more my style.)

I've also never sought out hero's to emulate, fictional or otherwise, because it usually involved some terrible, personal injury (mental / physical / emotional) to propel those fictional characters, to "heroic action". (Batman comes to mind, at least Christoper Nolon's re-boot.)

Let's think about Batman for a moment (Nolon's version), he was a "billionaire". Not my kind of hero actually. Make sense?

A childhood event develops into a phobia (scared of bats). Not long thereafter, child experiences deep anxieties caused by attending a "civilized society" event, rich parents taking child to the theater. Child ask loving parents can they leave, loving parents agree, no problem. Loving parents, as members of "civilized society", decide to take the back exit of the theater, because otherwise would be disruptive to other members of civilized society enjoying their evening at the theater.

Out back behind the theater, a criminal kills the child's loving parents and is deeply emotionally scared. Years later, when civilized society fails to bring about justice, because after all, civilized society is totally corrupt and also law enforcement are completely incompetent, now a young man, angered by society's failure, takes the "law" into his own hands, and is humiliated by the mob boss.
In a fit of humiliation and anger, he runs away, giving his expensive coat to a homeless person...he now sets out across the world to discovery what it means to be a criminal and how to steal.

Gets caught, goes to prison, an evil master mind get's him out of prison (paying off prison officials) to train him as his protege, in his League of Shadows, whose sole purpose is to destroy that corrupted "civilized society" that gave rise to his parents murder in the first place.

But then (months / years later) to pass his final test to be member of the league of Shadows, he must murder someone, for committing a crime, unworthy of murder, and somehow he find's his "moral compass" and reject's his master's command to kill, beats up all his master's army of warriors (he's that good...) and even beats up his master, nearly killing him, yet decides to say his life, out of some morally twisted logic.

And then all of a sudden Michael Caine appears and he's back to being a billionaire again. But now, armed with all kinds of "criminal knowledge", not to mention his billions, he sets out once again, to take the law into his own hands, to commit crimes for a noble purpose, to "save" civilized society from the evil master mind from the League of Shadows.

But not the tsunami of indifference and wretchedness produced by that "civilized society".

Don't get me wrong, I think Nolon's re-boot was a kewl movie, great entertainment, and Wally Pfister is a hell-of-a-cinematographer, but there's nothing there in any of the "fictional" characters behavior I wish to emulate.

My "reasoning" follows... If we treated each other, the way we wished to be treated, we would have no need for government.

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C99, my refuge from an insane world. #ForceTheVote

Anja Geitz's picture

That is the great importance of the Sanders movement, for all its flaws. It enables people to get out of the ideological car. It is the great importance of indie media, and, despite *our* flaws, the great importance of this site.

And yes, the narrative has shifted. We've been given the permission to speak about issues that are important to us, and ask questions aloud we never thought to ask. Take for example the always annoying and always misleading "How do you pay for it?" question we progressives get beaten over the head with? Not until this election have I ever heard any Presidential candidate turn that question on its ear by asking why companies making billions of dollars in profit are paying zero taxes. Conversations around the dinner table have changed as well. "How are we going to pay for it" turns into discussions about bloated military budgets, subsidies for the rich, and also companies making billions of dollars in profits and paying zero taxes.

Interesting how that works when we step out of that ideological car, eh?

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Anja Geitz

I guess getting out of the ideological car is a little like being outside the asylum Smile

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Alligator Ed's picture

In spirit with Ranting Rooster, long may he crow, it is my civic duty to inform any who read this And simultaneously hold any thought that the Demokratische Partei [Sieg Meine Valküre] gives a damn (or anything else?

They do not notice us, individually or in disparate groups. To them, we are but ants. Wait there! What is an ant? Don't know other than it's a hive-based hierarchical arthropod genus. So, what is one ant? Wait again: what are 10 million ants crawling up your pant legs?

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I hope you never stop thinking because you do it so nicely and well.

For me, morality seems personal and central. At the simplest level it's trying not to harm other sentient beings, though there are exceptions like mosquitoes, flies, clothes moths, black widow spiders and bodily self defense. And there are deeper levels, morality in thought, intent, dealing respectfully with life. I'm theistic and devotional and so loving God feels natural and right. Personal morality seems to stem from the love and honor one feels toward those with whom one shares this time and space because it's all holy on some level.

Judgement is probably inevitable but it's inherently arrogant and can bring unnecessary pain to others, perhaps even to ourselves. Certainly it brings division. We are all human, we make mistakes, we're each on our own journey and at different stages within life's journeys. We stumble around, finding our way, messing up sometimes. In some actions, like eating meat, driving cars and thus polluting, etc., I'm mea culpa. I do my share of damage just by living. My thoughts and feelings run the gamut as well, but I try not be too self-judgmental. Just keep trying to do a better job of living up to my own values. However I frequently feel either pity or hatred toward those who intentionally harm others, especially when they victimize weaker people, children and animals, and those who abuse power. Yeah, I am definitely judgmental toward power abusers.

Blame often seems childish, sort of a hot potato game. We don't need to "blame" other people. Blaming seems self-indulgent. Taking responsibility for our actions is something we should strive to do as self-respecting adults, and when we put others in positions of power, we have a right to expect that they will not abuse that power. If they fail in that regard, they've relinquished their side of the contract.

Sorry I couldn't be more cerebral and less subjective about these things. I admire your ability to do so.

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Lurking in the wings is Hillary, like some terrifying bat hanging by her feet in a cavern below the DNC. A bat with theropod instincts. -- Fred Reed https://tinyurl.com/vgvuhcl