Believing to Fit with One’s Community– The Enforced Orthodoxy on the Political Right

THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES shows how it is “the problem of power” that introduces a strong impetus of brokenness into the system of civilized humankind: the inevitable struggle for power; power as a contaminant that spreads inexorably through the system of interacting human societies; the consequent selection for the ways of power; the often harsh demands on human beings imposed by societies shaped by power.

All that is the product of the brokenness that ensues when a species, like humankind, breaks free from its place in the order of life that had developed for several billion years, and then inadvertently unleashed a second evolutionary process that is (in some important ways) in conflict with the first.

Here — in two installments — is one glimpse into how power can spread the brokenness through a cultural system. It uses an insight into the culture of the South to help explain one of the mysteries of our present national crisis: how intelligent people come to hold foolish beliefs, and how good people come to participate in an evil force.

In this first installment, I will describe what might be called “community-enforced orthodoxy” of belief, which we can today on the political right, on those matters central to issues of power. In the second and final installment, I will venture a historical explanation of how the history of power in the South helps explain this phenomenon.

*************************

It has been a recurrent question for me this past decade: how is it that people, who are intelligent in most aspect of their lives, can be led to believe incredible things? and how is it that people who show real goodness in most areas of their lives can be enlisted in the political realm — in that arena where the issues of power get decided — to give support to an evil force?

One important part of the answer involves the means by which people come to their beliefs.

My family culture led me to focus, in arriving at my beliefs, on what is shown by the evidence, considered by disciplined reason. It also led me to expect that this was more generally the way of the world than it is, and made me slow to recognize that many people arrive at their beliefs in a very different way.

For many people — at least on some subjects — the most important criterion for what to believe is that it maintains one’s good standing with one’s community.

conformity

That need imposes more pressure in some community’s than in others. Some communities tolerate considerably more diversity of opinions than others.

The culture of today’s political right is strikingly intolerant, by American standards, of political opinions that stray from that faction’s orthodoxy. And in this intolerance, it shows its continuity with the historic nature of the political culture of the South which, as I’ve argued in a four-part series, gave us the heart of the spirit that has taken over today’s Republican Party.

This enforced conformity of political belief is why we’ve long seen a “Solid South” — solid first, since before the Civil War, as a stronghold of the Democratic Party and solid in recent times, as a reliably “red state” region.

Only some issues fall within the domain of enforced orthodoxy. People can have whatever opinion they want on whether chocolate or vanilla ice cream is better, or on a whole myriad of matters. But on issues that define the basic posture of the right on those matters that concern how power is wielded in America, the unorthodox position is heresy.

From before the Civil War until a few decades ago, the paramount issues on which orthodoxy was enforced concerned race: first there was slavery, then there was Jim Crow segregation. No white Southerner could publicly oppose the prevailing opinion on those issues without suffering severe social (and possibly even physical) consequences.

pawns in a line

Now the enforced orthodoxy concerns anything that the power structure of the right has deemed “liberal.” For most of the ordinary people in my neck of the woods, being seen as politically liberal would carry enormous consequences in terms of a person’s relationship to their community. For many, likely most, it would mean ostracism, alienation from the people they live with, the people they work with, the people they worship with.

With a pattern this enduring, the culture has had the time to structure the socialization of children to impart the patterns that make this kind of conformity of belief possible. The culture has had generations to develop the means to inculcate this basic lesson: on some matters, one will simply believe what the community says to believe.

Thus it becomes possible for a kind of compartmentalization to develop in people’s mental and emotional habits. Intelligent people learn to turn off their intelligence when dealing with the realm of community orthodoxy, and good people will disconnect from their usual kind of moral awareness when regarding the moral qualities of that orthodoxy.

(This connects with the ideas I developed in “It’s a Mistake to Think of our Fellow Americans on the Right as ‘Stupid’ People: Here’s a Better Way,” where I wrote:

We might think of people as having different “modules” of consciousness that kick in depending on what “programs” they’ve learned to apply in each realm of their lives.)

Thus socialized, people will be responsive to the community pressures to hold the required beliefs.

Imagine a member of the white, rural, overwhelmingly Republican-voting community in which I live in the Shenandoah Valley, who strongly supports Obamacare and declares it publicly.

Imagine such a person stating publicly that climate change is real and requires action.

Imagine such a person telling his neighbors that Barack Obama is far from being the monster/traitor/America-hater that they’ve been led to believe by the powers that dominate the right.

A person who took such positions as I described above would be regarded as a heretic, I believe, and would be in some meaningful ways cut out from the community.

Although there is some social pressure in liberal circles as well to believe what others believe, and some cost to having divergent opinions, the pressure to conform is nothing like what exists on the right.

There’s been no “solid North” corresponding to the “solid South.” In the South, if you disregard the voting of blacks (who of course for generations were prevented from voting), you’d have practically a one-party system.

(This right-wing enforcement of conformity — well beyond what chaaracterizes Liberal America — can also be found also further up the hierarchy of the right’s political power system: Governor Huntsman felt compelled to recant his heresy in taking the climate science seriously, and the Republicans in the House voted unanimously against almost everything President Obama proposed. Toeing the line is nearly mandatory.)

The coercive power of sticking with the party line is manifest from the top of the right-wing system down to the level of the base.

The community exerts an essentially coercive power over the individual with respect to those beliefs central to the political force with which the community is aligned. The workings of power are top/down much more than the bottom/up of democracy.

And as we’ll see in the next installment, this “problem of power” here is not confined to the relationship between community and individual. It is also found in the way the society’s dominating power shapes the community into its coercive form.

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70 Comments

  1. Hey Andy

    I really enjoyed your thinking in this piece. You are illuminating an important dynamic of social psychology.

    I found the graphic of sheep as business drones counterproductive. Any right winger who happened upon this piece would bristle and dismiss anything else you have to say.

    And of course folks on the right see lefties as gullible politically correct collectivist sheep. So they’d say you’ve got it all backwards.

    • Thanks, Craig.

      I’m not at all attached to the graphic. (If others agree with Craig, I’ll gladly remove the sheep.)

      But neither am I talking to the right-wingers here. This project is an attempt to light a fire in Liberal America by presenting a clear picture of the vast and complex thing I’m calling an “evil force” that we’re up against. Once the fire is lit, the question of how do we help bring greater sanity to the rest of the body politic — how do we speak to people who have mistaken the evil for the good, for example — can better be addressed. But until we gain the strength that comes from the moral and spiritual passion this crisis calls for, we’ll be limited in our ability to have an impact on the rest of America.

  2. I have to say, I agree with Craig about the sheep. Your desired audience being “Liberals”–which to me these days mainly means “whoever it is that the Republicans are paranoid about”–doesn’t matter, if they’re not what have been referred to as “haters.” The sheep picture is rude, however appropriate it might be, and there are some of us left in the world who just do not like rudeness no matter who you are. I am far from being the only one left alive. I’ve been working hard elsewhere and wasn’t going to bother saying anything. But Craig’s right. And you can say what you want to say without triggering negative kneejerk reactions. I know, I know, the question is how best to get a good movement going. That I don’t claim to know. I’m just doing my best to say the important things that I have to say these days and to try to get people to listen to me. If that helps further a movement good. If not, oh well, keep on truckin’ and having at least a bit of fun in life.

    I also do think it’s a great article, agree with Craig on that also. And I think I pretty well know what’s coming in part two, can’t wait to see it.

    Larry

    • Here’s what I did after I finished the article: I googled “Conformity” and then clicked “Images.” I picked out an image that caught my eye.

      May I suggest — Larry, Craig, others– you go to that collection of images and pick one you’d think a fine choice?

  3. P.S. I’d thought earlier, subject to seeing part two, that this article might be a good one to put to the fore. Just a thought.

  4. Responding to the Host’s initial post : So ?!
    ……………………………………………………………………….

    I observe all of humanity not really as sheep; no !

    But humans really do seem to have the ‘herd’ instinct.

    ………………………………………………………………………. . . . . . . .

    And regarding belief and principle , when opportunity, economic or other advantage suddenly appears and a choice must be made, ie, one or the other,
    the prior often loses to the latter REGARDLESS..
    (sometimes some rationale must be invented; and sometimes the individual just separates and moves on)
    ……………………………………………………………………………………

    there ARE WOLVES IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING
    (just a thought. hmmm!)

  5. Earlier rather than later, is all. It’s your plan, your project, I only butt in. Just a thought. Larry

  6. No argument, David R.

    [Maybe you’re thinking you’re one of the wolves in sheep’s clothing David R? (kidding, could be anybody really, thinking of the old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” ] 🙂

    Larry

  7. P.S. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” means the same thing as “anybody can make a mistake.” Some mistakes are small, some are big.

  8. Richard H. Randall

    I am ok with the sheep picture (though I generally dislike calling people sheep-it’s a terrible stereo-type.) I am ok with it here for two reasons. 1.The right calls the left this in the media ALL OF THE DAMNED TIME. 2. I am ok with it here in business suits, because it really, really fits. The idea that the business model is the way to go in running a democracy/republic is one of the worst ideas available, and it has been screwing things up for decades. higher education, the un-sustainable and not top flight American Medical system, and our military. Let business, run business: let the market actually work without all of the welfare given to the top earners and oil and defense industry, etc., etc. Then let the best that can be done for the AMERICAN PEOPLE be done in those areas that benefit all American by their very nature. It is bad enough when Ford engineers knew about the falcon and GM engineers knew about the ignition switches, and Morton Thiokol knew about the ‘O’ rings on the Challenger: why let these ‘men’ use the poor, the sick, the men and women going into combat, and the kids striving for an education and being wrung out for it, handle what is most valuable in our society. As Dave R has said, and truthfully so, that GREED is destroying this nation. And the sheep picture can also fit 98% of Academia as well, especially at the top, where million dollar salaries abound.

  9. It should be obvious that the U S is being USED, yes, USED in the world for interests other than the sovereignty and prosperity of the American citizen;
    and at the expense of the American taxpayer and debt that maybe already is dictating U S policy in significant ‘areas’.

    I think some people simply look away preferring not to see or know, some believing it is over . . no hope . . and others maybe imagining Patriotic American will gain power and turn the ‘tide’.

    Will it happen ? Should it happen ? Do the people in their lives and attitudes
    offer inspiration for the sacrifice necessary for such Patriots ?
    Where is the loud chorus demanding that Ed Snowden be exonerated, given his passport and all rights of an American citizen and be honored for his REAL service to civilization . . U S and the world of Nations.

    I say, still listening; hello out there . . .

  10. http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518#comment-555520
    On the very first thing you said, Richard H. Randall, tit for tat is not a good rule for anyone to follow no matter what “they” say. But I had missed seeing the suits on the sheep. I like the rest of what you said except I think your ending comment about Academia is careless–meaning unsupported by randomly selected data as far as I know–but probably not what we want to wrangle about here.

    Acknowledging David R, I think we have to wait and see, taking part individually as we are inspired to do.

    Larry

  11. Re tit-for-tat not being a good rule, it seems to me that the picture is not clear on that.

    Robert Axelrod ran experiments on the iterated prisoners’ dilemma game and found tit-for-tat the most robust of 63 strategies used.

    Since then other people have claimed that the robustness of tit-for-tat does not generalize to all or most other human interactions and yet others are fans, so to speak, of tit-for-tat as a generally robust strategy in human interactions.

    For more on this, see the book review at:

    http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/1/1/review1.html

    At the end of the day, the notion that tit-for-tat is not the best general strategy may well be correct. But maybe on the other hand it is still pretty good. Significant work is required to be able to render an informed judgement on the question. Maybe those who say tit-for-tat is not so good have done that work. I have not.

    • About the Tit For Tat strategy, ToddR is correct– with one additional point to be made about the strategy. The winning strategy was one that cooperated with cooperators, and retaliated against defectors PLUS it would interrupt the conflictual mode every once in a while to try the cooperative move. If the other party cooperated, then the mutually beneficial mode could be sustained. If the other party continued the conflict despite the cooperative offer, then Tit For Tat would also revert to the conflictual mode.

  12. Richard H. Randall

    I have an academic background Larry, and I have seen the internal workings of several major universities: I know that at some schools, people will stand up and take a position. What has been going on for years though, is the wholesale movement to the ‘business model’ which pays the top decision makers millions of dollars while raising the tuition and fees as much as 325% in the last 10 years. It also brings some more unscrupulous characters whose jobs is to diminish the role of teachers in favor of ‘business deals and favorable treatment,’ such as the GM deal at WSU in Pullman which had salesman touting new cars for sale on campus. I was there and picketed against it. I had no help, though and there was a backlash against me from a large # of faculty, and students. There was a Wall Street Journal piece done on this as I recall.
    There is a fallacy in logical philosophy called ‘tu quoque’-it means, ‘you too.’
    So you’re point is probably well put generally: however in this case there is a very-lock step goper tendency to put people in a ‘ask no questions,’ posture. The only exception of which I am recently aware is the Tea Party crazies, who sent the goper favoribility rating to its lowest ever for shutting down the government. Sometimes these things are a little more subtle than first meets the eye.

  13. Richard H. Randall

    For David R., It would be helpful if you were a little more explicit in what this force is. And I agree with you that many people given the opportunity, will stand to, to do the right thing.

  14. Thank you both ToddR and Richard H Randall. I am taking your comments and references under advisement, my concern with “tit for tat” of course being I don’t want to look the same as “them.” I know you probably got that already. I understand you to be saying that whether or not I am or you are seen as a hypocrite may not be the main concern for effective communication.

    Larry

  15. http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518&cpage=1#comment-555888
    Andy said, “It just isn’t willing to be a chump if the other side insists on making a fight out of it.”

    There are other methods of fighting besides doing what they do. I learned that growing up. It is a rather complicated topic. I can show that other methods have been effective at times. But I acknowledge that anecdotal examples are not proof of anything overall.

    Larry

    • The Tit For Tat strategy was the winner in a contest that dealt with a version of the situation called “The Prisoner’s Dilemma.” The important thing here, in the context of Larry’s point, is that it’s a situation in which only two possible choices are available: cooperation and defection. In real life, of course, the possible range of moves is virtually infinite.

      At the same time, just as one should not limit one’s view of choices to some unnecessarily limited range, so also one should not misidentify moves that are really different as being the same.

      For example, I recall saying more than once on the campaign trail, when I spoke of the need for a kind of battle, and I encountered the objection that we should not “sink to their level” or “do what they do”: To fight back with the truth against those who fight with lies is not sinking to their level.”

  16. Sorry, Andy, but I think you have twisted things. I agree with your last statement that “[t]o fight back with the truth against those who fight with lies is not sinking to their level.” The question is what are the facts.

    I really do not get your contrast with “real life.” I understand the lingo that it is used, but it does seems that for you this is “real life,” and to a greater or lesser extent for the rest of us here also. And the choice here has NOT been between agreeing with everything you say or defection.

    Larry

    • I’d be glad to give you the last word, Larry. But there seems to be a misunderstanding.

      The Tit for Tat is about an artificial situation, a constructed game (albeit one that helps to clarify some important dilemmas that occur in the real world). The game is different from “real life.”

  17. I learned the phrase “tit-for-tat” when I was a small child back in the 1950s. And it was about how not to deal with people in real life, no game. Larry

  18. I just told one of my younger sisters who was not around in the 1950s that I’d been discussing “tit-for-tat” and asked her what she thought about it. She pondered briefly and said, “It depends.” I told her I thought that was an excellent answer and stopped there. Larry

  19. Richard H. Randall

    One of the problems with cynacism and skepticism, is that both deny the reality of truth. Certain religious groups have a problem with truth being any property, except for (their)God’s doctrines. Modern ‘conservatism’ really right wing extremism-is pretty skeptical, and ideologically so. They deny truth so that they may continue their fantasy construction of reality, as Andy and others have pointed out here quite well. I added to an older thread yesterday, that the Wyoming Legislature passed a bill, to not adopt the current scientific national standards regarding climate change because it discussed human causative factors, for example. In the current case, Larry ignores possible differences between the two major parties/and or larger groups. It seems to me that a strong case can be made against this being so.
    Therefore, if one is willing to look into this with a little depth, and factual analysis, the ‘tu quoqe fallacy’ is not relevant, and it is logically valid to use the charge against the gopers–and truth be told against anyone who simply becomes a doorstop for their institution for their boss, school, commander, organization etc…AS Andy stated above, ‘To fight back with the truth against those who fight with lies is not sinking to their level.’
    In this case, it is about mature, fair judgement versus boiler plate childhood truisms which aren’t relevant in this case.

  20. http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518#comment-555966
    “In the current case, Larry ignores possible differences between the two major parties/and or larger groups….”

    I don’t think so.

    “In this case, it is about mature, fair judgement versus boiler plate childhood truisms which aren’t relevant in this case.”

    You are being most insulting, Richard H. Randall!!! Should I just turn you off? I learned a hard lesson and have followed it with some minor exceptions that need not be told.

    Larry

  21. http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518#comment-555977
    It was no “truism,” either Richard. It was a major difference between my parents and the way some of the neighbors were raising their kids, a difference that had real life effects.

  22. Bottom line, there are different ways to do things, better ways and worse ways, speaking generally, not of here in particular with that. People frequently argue over which is which in specific cases, and then something gets done and no one will ever know about the ways that were not tried.

    Larry

  23. http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518#comment-555985
    And believe me, that is an important concept to keep in mind whatever else. It helps us to avoid thinking that we’re the only ones who are perfect.

  24. There is one previous, 1:44pm that I think you missed, Andy. The 2:14 one just above makes no sense without the one just previous.

    I trust you’ll delete this one particular right out of here once having fixed the problem. Ah the burden of being a site moderator along with everything else you’re doing. I do so appreciate that too.

    Larry

  25. Andy,

    I also enjoyed this.

    Will you at some point address the mechanisms by which orthodoxy is redefined? It’s been on my mind recently with the coverage of TEA Party influence. They lose primaries but keeping pushing the republican orthodoxy to extremes. And, ironically the Democrats keep shifting right in response in order to avoid seeming extreme themselves.

    Bruce

  26. Richard,

    Just so you know, I have had a very old friend who’d been in Military Intelligence before I met him in law school many years ago. He is a private contractor with them now still at 80 years old, and he wants to act like you’ve just acted, like somehow he is more mature than I am because he’s in the military and was in active service as a soldier back in the late 1950s and on for a bit before he became high tech, very high tech.

    After giving him many warnings I have turned him off. It was sorrowful for me, but I did it. Dealing with it was just too big a waste of my time.

    Just the facts, nothing but the facts.

    Larry

  27. Yes, I see you just covered this. Sorry, I was reading my mail in the wrong order. Still, the dynamics of that process are interesting. I’ll do more digging before I post.

  28. http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518#comment-556023
    P.S. about that old former friend, Richard. He saw some things you wrote back aways and asked me what you would think of the concept embodied in the Constitution of the United States as enacted, the concept that civilians and particularly elected officials should be the ones in control of the military. He himself did not agree with the concept, though he is a lawyer. I gotta say, I was surprised when that came out in the open in conversation. Just thought I might pass that question on. 🙂 I told him that I did not think I’d seen you give a direct answer to it. He won’t see your answer, though, if any sorry.

  29. Richard H. Randall

    Now please calm down Larry….wasn’t trying to be insulting at all. Am very tired today so perhaps I could have simply written that had you given sufficient thought to the issue to grant me (perhaps) some intelligence about what I was writing, I may have had more in mind than ‘you smack me, then I’ll smack you.’

    Yes the idea is one I taught Army officers and cadets for many years that we follow Law of Land Warfare, the Army Regulations-especially for the treatment of prisoners, and the Geneva Conventions regarding the Conduct of War. (It is a mark of the despicability of the Bush Administration that they ignored all of these.)

    That is at that level: at another, you don’t tolerate bullies and bigots.
    My oldest adopted daughter who is black was taunted by a white bully for the first week of her school here in rural Washington. After he called her the N word (she was about 8 at the time)and pushed her down, she picked up a rock and laid the little bastard out.
    The superintendant of education of that village called the sheriff to arrest her: he refused. So she was suspended for a week. The white boy was not disciplined although the teacher involved told him the abuse had gone on for a week. My ex called me at work in the Pentagon and explained. I called said Superintendant and told him I’d be in Eastern Washington in a day or two, with Federal Marshalls and an attorney from the U.S. Courthouse in Spokane, and would do my best to see him in the pokey down there where they had other white supremacists incarcerated for planting pipe bombs, and attempting to kill Federal officials. (It seemed these degenerates had also been killing and robbing banks and stores to foment their rebellion against the government.) After due consideration, he decided to suspend the boy for a week as well as keep the suspension of my daughter. I said that was fine, and that I looked forward to making his acquaintance when I took leave in a few months.
    If good principles matter Larry-and they certainly do even truisms-when they are relevant- then thought and action do too. My daughter received no more racial harassment there in that school district. If the British and French had not signed away the Sudetenland, and Austria, etc.
    then WWII might have been different. Well Larry please don’t be offended: it was not my intent.

  30. Richard H. Randall

    David R., it would be good to get your specifics on who(m) it is who is destroying American Democracy. I think you know more than you are telling….

  31. Richard H. Randall

    Todd R., thanks for your insight as usual. Did you see that business about Wyoming and the science standards I mentioned. It seems now we have Texas minimizing Jefferson, and God knows what else, and Wyoming ejecting 97% of the actual climate scientists of the U.S.. .too bad they couldn’t follow the old guy selling fans in ‘Inherit the Wind,’ who didn’t have opinions as they were bad for business. The boys and girls of the Wyoming Legislature have said they think (?) I guess, that either such opinions are false(?) or too dangerous (?) to expose to their tender charges, there in the cowboy state, which prides itself on personal courage, and being rough and tough. Chances are, they’ll need all of the former, since if that 97% is right, things will be rough and tough enough for some time to come. Please understand I am in no sense disparaging the history or nature of growing up in Wyoming: it did ‘bully good’ for Teddy Roosevelt, who championed the active life and environmental issues for the rest of his life. That is something to be proud of. Of course, Roosevelt was a man much enamored of the truth: the Wy. Legislature, not so much. Well as Heraclitus said, all things change. Be nice if they changed back to his character in this instance, too.

  32. Robin M. Pettit

    I have lived my life helping those I meet and generally assuming they will respond in kind. However, every now and then I meet someone who is a jerk or takes advantage of me. I then keep them in mind that I will not help when they need help, other than a major assistance because their life is at risk or there is a disaster. This situation almost never happens but knowing how life works, I do not really care. There have been only two occasions in my life where this has become operative. I will not go into the details unless asked. One lied to avoid responsibility, the other takes great offense and seems to lack empathy about simply things.

    Regarding tit for tat, I have never investigated Game Theory in my studies. However, my recollection of the results mirror Andy’s summary here:

    http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518#comment-555904

    I hope this contributes to the conversation. I personally thing Game Theory applies to real life more than most people want to admit.

  33. Richard–

    Most interesting story about how you took care of your daughter. It seems she was a lucky girl, having you.

    Our communications have become jumbled. Please allow me to draw your attention to yesterday at 1:44pm, which you could not have seen when you were writing at any time after that. I think it’s key.
    http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518#comment-555985

    [Btw, seems like you’re asking David R stuff to which you have demonstrated that you already know the answer. Wonder why.]

    Larry

  34. I can’t believe have really read these foregoing exchanges but have and will give an observation. Anyone can quit reading already ! But !

    Re: Larry’s Quaker(?) view
    From Solomon:
    “Answer a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own conceit:
    answer not a fool according to his folly lest thou be like him ”

    When it come to the beginnings of war, one has to wonder how many could have been averted and how many live lost and how much suffering and destruction the world has experienced triggered by small actions and reactions.
    (could name several that come to mind – but another can of worms not needed open here)

    However, when a real attack is launched with the intent to conquer us, be thankful that we always have the young ready to fight and wise heads to guide us hopefully to victory.

    (what passes for defensive war today may prove to be criminal aggression guided by His Royal Majesty , . . . .) Or is it long ago obvious already !

    Will ‘we’ ever learn ? probably not ever . .

  35. Richard H. Randall

    Larry, again I meant no insult. I am sorry you took it as such, so I therefore now renounce my use of the term ‘mature’ in the offending-to you-passage. (Perhaps I should have used the term ‘realistic’?) Folks with a Pacifistic turn such as yourself, seem to think counter-aggression to right a wrong is in itself wrong. There is surely room for argument and disagreement here.
    Perhaps sometime it is, as when small children fight. During President Carter’s administration (a man for whom I voted and still respect mightily)a number of North Koreans killed an American soldier in the DMZ. Some on the right were upset because the President did not order a retaliatory attack. Carter knew that there would be a new Korean war over the incident, and did not do so. I thought he was right in this. I still think so.
    Larry, I took the enlistment oath to the army in 1967 serving til 1968. Again in 1976, and the commissioning oath in 1977, serving until 1996. Those oaths entail loyalty to our Constitution, whose very structure required obedience and loyalty to itself, the officers appointed over me. That obviously meant ‘support and defend’ which for all has meant sacrifice, and some even death. And that has been to the Constitution, and for the People of the United States-and frankly what we used to call the free peoples of the world. That Constitution requires that Civilians to be in charge of the military. Sometimes that has worked well, as with Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman: sometimes, the civilians made a mockery of the Constitution, as in the Bush administrations and it’s despicable actions on behalf of it’s personal vendettas, personal fortunes and drive for the “New World Order.” (With this is the total and abysmal failure to protect the east coast on 9/11/01 for which Bush and his buddies including ranking military officers should have been seriously investigated.)
    Personally Larry, my retirement certificate says my service was faithful and honorable. And I accomplished that by being true to that Constitution, and the People of the United States. So I am not sure why you are asking me if I believe that the civilians should run the military, but the answer is YES, and I have served over 20 hears to help keep it so. I would return today, if asked, to do so again. I am wondering Larry, what would you do?

  36. To help out Richard with his question, I think one clear and simple answer to what has destroyed American democracy is to be found now in reading Thomas Piketty, currently becoming in a rapid process the most famous economist in the world. If I understand him correctly it’s just part of an inevitable ongoing process of extreme wealth accumulating more and more and everyone else having less and less to the point of desperation (and submission?) and death. There’s a collection of resources that I put together
    here.

    Some of them are in another major thread here at NSB, more difficult for me to find at the moment.

    Larry


  37. Richard asked,

    “I am wondering Larry, what would you do?”

    That is unanswerable. The answer would depend on the specifics of the situation. Let us not bother with hypotheticals.

    “Folks with a Pacifistic turn such as yourself, seem to think counter-aggression to right a wrong is in itself wrong.”

    Not necessarily. It might partly depend on who I thought started the fight in the first place, the bigger picture. But will I defend myself physically? I might try but have had no experience with being physically attacked since I got to my full size. For better or for worse, I am bigger than average physically, which of course has affected my experience.


    David R,

    to answer your question, “Larry’s Quaker(?) views, I have said a fair amount here about me being a Friend (Quaker). To understand that, the main thing that Quakers would agree upon is that the belief system that each of us has is finally independent of the belief system of anyone else in the world, while at the same time listening closely to others. So my point is yes I’m a Quaker, but it is safer for understanding to realize about anything that comes out of my mouth may not represent the views even of one other Quaker–not exactly anyway.

    No, confusing you is the purpose of my saying that. Any confusion is collateral damage. :-7

    Thank you for your lesson.

    Larry


  38. Richard asked,

    “I am wondering Larry, what would you do?”

    That is unanswerable. The answer would depend on the specifics of the situation. Let us not bother with hypotheticals.

    “Folks with a Pacifistic turn such as yourself, seem to think counter-aggression to right a wrong is in itself wrong.”

    Not necessarily. It might partly depend on who I thought started the fight in the first place, the bigger picture. But will I defend myself physically? I might try but have had no experience with being physically attacked since I got to my full size. For better or for worse, I am bigger than average physically, which of course has affected my experience.


    David R,

    to answer your question, “Larry’s Quaker(?) views, I have said a fair amount here about me being a Friend (Quaker). To understand that, the main thing that Quakers would agree upon is that the belief system that each of us has is finally independent of the belief system of anyone else in the world, while at the same time listening closely to others. So my point is yes I’m a Quaker, but it is safer for understanding to realize about anything that comes out of my mouth may not represent the views even of one other Quaker–not exactly anyway.

    No, confusing you is not the purpose of my saying that. Any confusion is collateral damage. :-7

    Thank you for your lesson.

    Larry

  39. Richard H. Randall

    Larry, thank you for the comment about my daughter: I was just outraged by the blatant racism in that district, and unfair treatment of my daughter. Without the threat of law-a command backed by force as the old definition goes, nothing positive would have happened. I am sorry again about the perceived insult-I was writing while in a very tired condition…..Probably should learn from that.
    As for asking David for his ideas on what the causes for our continuing calamity, I’m not totally sure what he would say: I am certain HE IS RIGHT about a lot of things were, and mistaken about some others. I am glad he went to the Bible to show how the Wisdom Traditions offer insight and wisdom into practical life-something Solomon was known for often.
    YES, the Piketty work, On Capital in the 21st Century, is extremely good.
    And I agree with you that it details why the superabundance and growth of wealth is having a very anti-democratic affect. This perhaps accounts for the rapid and at times hysterical backlash from the right to it. It is chilling, is it not, to know the Supreme court of the US, and it’s right wing members
    are aiding and abetting the destruction of a representative form of government, the one I discussed in a previous post. If I am not mistaken, all of the Justices take a very similar oath, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. I am wondering-as a lawyer and believer in Democracy, could there be grounds for impeachment here?

  40. David R, there is a story that Friends love to tell. If I’ve told it here already please forgive me.

    One of the founders of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in the 1600s in England was George Fox. He spend time in jail for heresy against the Church of England. (Hey, you might have been a heretic too in relation to their teachings. lol) On one occasion when old George was hauled before the King of England and refused to take his hat off the King asked him, “George, aren’t you afraid?”

    George thundered: “I quake only before The Lord.”

    And that was the origin of the nickname “Quakers.” 🙂

    Larry


  41. Richard,

    “So I am not sure why you are asking me if I believe that the civilians should run the military, but the answer is YES,…”

    I actually had told the guy that I thought that would be your answer, that it just went without saying.

    But I also said that I did not want to make my assumption into a certainty, especially since he had startled me so.

    Larry

  42. http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518#comment-556597Richard said,
    “I therefore now renounce my use of the term ‘mature’ in the offending-to you-passage. (Perhaps I should have used the term ‘realistic’?)..”

    That helps some. Just for fun, though:
    The concept that people wearing suits all think the same way is TOTALLY false, not even remotely true except for the bare concept of wearing a suit sometimes. Remember for example Alfred Korzybski, who sometimes wore a suit and thought differently from everyone else at the time, both at once. The fact that there are billions of different true stories that no one could invent is sometimes a difficult concept, or so I find.

    That’s been one of my favorite email taglines. I authored it. lol

    Alfred Korzybski (Wikipedia link)

    I laugh, and I hope you will also. But it’s actually a very serious truth.

    Larry


  43. Richard H Randall asked,

    “I am wondering-as a lawyer and believer in Democracy, could there be grounds for impeachment here?”

    I’ve never studied the impeachment process. Just offhand I think there might be a problem. From what I know the United States Supreme Court is the final authority on the meanings of the words of the Constitution and on how those words apply to a much much different society than existed when those words were written. From that I wonder how anyone would approach questioning that Court’s authority, on that topic most especially. I would not know how to start. Time-consuming research might help or might not. I am not accepting offers of employment right now these days. I’d focus on the work being done toward a constitutional amendment. Again, I’m no authority at all really on this particular topic. But this might help a bit anyway to help focus on the ideas that one might look at.

    Larry


  44. Richard H Randall asked,

    “As for asking David for his ideas on what the causes for our continuing calamity, I’m not totally sure what he would say”

    I am not totally sure either. But that’s not the point for me. I count on David R to tell us when he has something to say. It crosses my mind to wonder whether or not your putting him in a position of either having to come up with something or else being put in some sort of failure position might not be a bit of evil play on your part. Or maybe you just aren’t aware of how it looks. I do not assume anything, I assure you. Nor do I mean to offend you, Richard.

    Larry

  45. Richard H. Randall

    The idea Larry is not that they think the same thing: the idea is that they act or fail to act, due to pressure, or the perception of pressure, or cowardice when they know something is wrong, but won’t report/or challenge that wrong doing. One cannot know always, short of action or inaction what others think: one may only, to some extent, determine that by their final actions. I suggest you visit the N.Y.Times front page, today’s edition and read the article on the GM scandal about the ignition failures which caused 13 deaths from 2001-to this year. Engineers working with the issue, and male CEO’s knew about the problem, but didn’t consider doing anything due to business interests. It was not until January 2014, when GM had it’s first female CEO, that the issue was taken seriously to the point of accepting responsibility, and accountability. There are in the field of philosophy business ethics books the size of large city phone books, which are chock-full of lurid examples of such conduct. That is one reason why I maintain that the business model is a poor one for the conduct of really important fields of life, such medical care, the military, and government, in general. This by the way is why the Supreme court’s conservative majority is I think so mistaken on it’s rulings regarding campaign finance these past years. By the way did you see my question regarding impeachment of those folks?
    Your example in italics is little more than a strawman.

  46. Richard Randall,
    I would like to address your example of the boy who verbally tormented your daughter with the N-word. She reacted by hitting him with a rock. You do realize that is not an example of the Tit for Tat Strategy. If it were, she would have verbally tormented him back.
    I would like to ask the participants in this discussion, is it ever a good idea to respond to verbal abuse with violence? I don’t think so. Suppose the girl who was called the N-word had responded with “You must be hurting inside and you are trying to feel better by trying to hurt my feelings”. I can think up several lines that are preferable to hitting him with a rock. On the other hand, if the boy got physical with her, that is a whole different example for discussion.

  47. Richard H. Randall

    Richard Wicka, a good point and question which deserves an answer.
    Again, context and facts mean so much to people who are interested in the truth. Granted, I did not offer these facts in the initial telling, knowing it pretty well form my then-wife’s description. My adopted daughter was 7 years at the time.She was a special needs child whom we adopted from the state of Colorado. She had been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused in the foster care system for 2 years. She weighed at the time less than 60 lbs.
    Her tormentor was 3 grades higher than her, and was a male. I don’t know his weight. It is unlikely she would have been able to respond at that age and given her emotional state, then as now, by immediate psychotherapeutic engagement. She was experiencing again what she’d experienced for years: In this case the harassment had continued for four days before she clobbered him. Has she been in high school, with stronger emotional control, perhaps she might have been able to ignore or respond verbally. That just wasn’t possible for her then.
    Is it ever the case that it could be right to respond violently to verbal abuse? probably not…..but again the context of the situation, and what had occurred before is significant here. Remember the case of the man on the burning bed? A woman in Nevada (I think) had reported her drunken, extremely violent husband to the police. She had bruises, cuts and hospital record to prove that he’d physically abuse her again, and again, and in front of her children. ( His name was Mickey Hughes, and his wife was Francine Hughes.) The police drove Francine to her trailer after an unsucessful attempt to have the state do anything to this evil man; Mickey showed up drunk later, an threatened her again, but at that he passed out.
    She got him to a bed, tied him by his legs and arms to the posts, doused him with gasoline and torched him. He died and the moral value of the universe increased. However, the state charged Francine with pre-mediated murder. She eventually won her case with tons of evidence and battalions of mostly women, and some men to take her side. I think that was a good and just outcome. I understand it is bad that her husband was that way: in those days, late 60.s I think, men could do no harm to women, the source of man’s alleged falleness. But I do think that not only Francine, but all possible target women and children were better off for him becoming a crispy critter.
    There are strategies for handling conflict and disagreement: (amongst them rational enquiry and debate!) I favor all of these over violence when it is possible. I don’t accept at all, that it is always possible–nor can I see anyone who has been abused, or who has real experience in the ways of this world and has a valid reason to be afraid-and again there are many who do–to resort to discussion when avoidance evasion are uppermost in their racing minds.
    I HATE BULLIES, ABUSERS AND MOLESTERS. I HATE RACISTS, ANTI-SEMMITES, WILFULLY IGNORANT PERSONS WHO ARE ALWAYS SCREAMING THE LOUDEST ABOUT WHAT THEY KNOW, AND OTHERS DON’T,
    MEAN SPIRITED GREEDY PERSONS WHO TAKE UNDUE ADVANTAGE OF THE POOR AND WEAK AND THE DOWN TRODDEN, THE SPECIAL NEEDS KIDS AND THE BEATEN WOMEN AND MEN. I HATE THE WING-NUTS, AND THE GOP WHO ARE TRYING TO DESTROY THE MOST MORAL FORM OF GOVERNMENT WE HAVE
    AND REPLACE IT WITH A PLUTOCRATIC-ECONOMICALLY ELITIST BUNCH OF NON-VETERAN WHITE FRAT BOYS, WHO USE PERPETUAL WAR AND TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHIEST PEOPLE WHO HAVE EVER LIVED, TO PHYSICALLY, FISCALLY, EMOTIONALLY, MENTALLY, AND SPIRITIALLY. And I hate it that the left, as well as the right has chosen to forget amongst other things, 20th century history. A good dose of serious existential philosophy, emphasizing that it OUR responsibility to make moral decisions, to engender a better world. The evangelicals don’t want one-as one told me he wanted the end of the world quickly, because he wanted to to back to heaven. The far right are nazis who only want to be the ones with the whips and guns, the businessmen (for the most part) don’t care who wins, as long as they are free to make money and have toys, the far left is into denial, some missing the marxism that never was, some pacifists content with challenging 20 year veterans who are disabled through their service, who go on to insist the world and its problems are hypothetical.(Some pacifist Quakers not only served in America’s wars, but served with distinction.)
    So Richard Wicka, I do think rules and principles and contexts and intention, and consequences are all important in dealing with moral issues,
    and problems and disagreements. Perhaps it is a sign of failure that sometimes we go to war, though sometimes I hold it is morally obligatory that we do so. I am a liberal and a progressive, and a disabled veteran, and if called upon to do so, I’d pick up my weapon, and defend what is greatly cherished by so many–and that is usually not a hypothetical situation at all. I think most people might do the same if they value their nation, their families, and the opportunities for future generations of their young. I know there are many who find reasons they can’t serve: some legitimate, some not. I have always considered myself fortunate that I seem to have been knowing there is a God/ess who is involved with the earth and all of its inhabitants: that individuals are important, whoever or however they happen to be; that sex is a human and animal good, necessary and (usually ) healthy, and not a sign of man’s depravity and fallenness, whatever the hell that is supposed to be. And that we are rightfully expected to contribute to the common good, as best we can. Albert Schweitzer said it best: “Only at quite rare moments have I felt truly glad to be alive. I could not but feel with a sympathy full of regret, not only the pain and suffering of men, but of the whole creation. From this community of suffering, I have never tried to withdraw myself: it seemed to me, a mater of course that we should all take our share of the burden of pain which lies upon the world.”(From his work, ‘Out of my life and Thought.’) Ideologies which hold their practicioners apart, and separate, and superior, like religious fundamentalism, ideologies like Rand’s Objectivism, and the like. sometimes make it necessary to throw rocks and such. Fortuantly, I was also born knowing how to shoot well-but only, after all moral options have been utterly and truly exhausted.
    If you have read this far, I owe you my gratitude-thank you! Richard H. Randall, MAJOR, USA, (ret.)


  48. I said earlier,

    “The concept that people wearing suits all think the same way is TOTALLY false..”

    Richard H Randall, MAJOR, USA, (ret.) said,
    “The idea Larry is not that they think the same thing: the idea is that they act or fail to act, due to pressure, or the perception of pressure, or cowardice when they know something is wrong, but won’t report/or challenge that wrong doing.”

    Wow, Richard H. Randall, you can write! Now let me get this clear: You are saying that all men who wear suits “act or fail to act, due to pressure, or the perception of pressure, or cowardice when they know something is wrong, but won’t report/or challenge that wrong doing, [each and every one of them]”? I don’t see how else to read that.

    Richard H. Randall, MAJOR, USA, (ret.) further said, “Your example in italics is little more than a strawman.”

    I don’t think so. In a sense it is, just because each of us is inspired to act, or not, according to her or his own personal understanding and vision of reality, whatever that vision might be. It is important to realize, however, that the difficulty in convincing others that one’s view of reality is the really real view is not because everyone else is just plain stupid. That realization could possibly influence one’s approach for the better if you happen to have a purpose of changing others’ minds or at least some others’ minds. In my opinion.

    Note that this is not otherwise intended as any comment on your view of reality as you have expressed it.

    Richard H. Randall, MAJOR, USA, (ret.) asked, “…[T]he Supreme court’s conservative majority is I think so mistaken on it’s rulings regarding campaign finance these past years. By the way did you see my question regarding impeachment of those folks?”

    Yes, for whatever my very limited response was worth. You could not see it when you wrote:
    http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518#comment-556776

    Larry


  49. I said,
    “It is important to realize, however, that the difficulty in convincing others that one’s view of reality is the really real view is [NOT] because everyone else is just plain stupid.”

    Adding to that, there’s another old story that Friends like to tell each other and that I first heard many years ago. It is not claimed that it is a true story.

    Elijah and Abraham, two old Friends who’d known each other for many years were walking along together one day when Elijah said to Abraham, “You know, Abraham? Sometimes I think the whole world is crazy except me and thee, and sometimes I’m not so sure about thee!”

    Then we laugh together again, after someone tells that story.

    I think it relates here and that others here might agree with me. 🙂

    Larry

  50. Richard H. Randall

    Larry, for some reason I am not offended and I hope I have not offended you. I am just reading your answers regarding the impeachment of the Supreme Court, thanks-and I agree with you that it would be difficult. It would be nice to think intelligent people in both parties could agree on some legal/lawful manner to pass legislation and have a president sign it, that would go straight to public financing, and criminalize all other money in politics…but I suspect it is going to be a huge and maleficent source of evil in the near future.
    Regarding David R, and his failure to explicate: OK, so he says there is a huge demon out there destroying America…..and bunch of little demons too. He has rightly said that one of these demons is GREED. I thank him for this-I have done it here publicly. But as anyone who got to town yesterday can tell (You made lists!)there are more issues here than greed, no matter how bad-and that is BAD.. I am sincerely waiting for David’s answer here. Say-I think he said out of control spending once. OK I might agree with some of that, though I’d add that we have a terrible lack of input to the treasury because of all the spoiled whining greedy white boys (I am white) running about crying about their ‘terrible tax burden.’ Poor Paul Ryan, and John Boehner, Eric Cantor and the rest of the pity party come to mind. So while agreeing that we might need to curtail spending, I’d need to see these aforementioned cry-babies close nearly all of the loopholes and raise the taxes to a robust level….Look, I don’t feel like making DavidR’s argument for him. Maybe he would like a more progressive tax, maybe he likes the regressive ones which have had a lot to do with putting us in this place. I know he is smart enough to do this.
    Oh, by the way I just have to get this out here: Richard N. Burr, (R) NC,
    the guy who is all for closing the commissaries including the ones who have lower ranking enlisted personnel and their spouses who use FOOD STAMPS to get by, who is in favor of cutting food stamps and halting assistance for heating for the poor, had as one of his chief responsibilities, selling lawn mowers in that state. I am not making this up. He wants a real man and American Hero, Eric Shinseki to resign or be fired, but has missed nearly all the testimony regarding the current VA woes. If he were interested in Veterans and families, he’d help replace that 7.8 billion which was cut from the VA’s funding. But I know, these boys are too busy raking in the unlimited cash from–well we just hardly know anymore. I wonder-does he have to split with Clarence Thomas for his ‘good offices,’
    Larry: do I really seem evil to you buddy? I have never thought you so at all, not even when you were attributing very nasty things to me. I hope we got that straight by now.
    Socrates said it was against the Law of God, that worse men should injure better men.. All b.s. aside Shinsheki is a good man, who has been punished before for telling truth to power. I know it is de rigoeur that the GOPERS will character assasinate anyone who isn’t like them, but they only show the depths of their ignorance, and their malevolence when doing so.
    Come to think of it, I’d said here recently that there was a sense of a final accounting to the Creator before all is said and done. I have never believed in perfect people, or chosen people or the like. If there were, I could never have been one, knowing some of the things I have done, and also failed to do. But I do not believe when I ? am weighed by the scales of God, I will be found to have hurt the poor, or needy, to have made them an object of my anger or greed: to have hated them for their sex or color or gender or nationality. However, I am one hamburger fiend!!Put Wimpy to shame sometimes…..

  51. Richard Randall,
    I am in awe of the amount of time and care that you put into your last comment. Actually, I plan on reading it a few more times. You clarified the example and explained it carefully.
    You said that you know that there is a God/ess who is involved with the earth and all of its inhabitants. That intrigues me. Did you mean you “suspect” or “believe” there is a God/ess? “Know” is a rather strong term when it comes to God. It would make you a “gnostic theist”.
    Thank you too for elaborating on your morality and the Albert Schweitzer quote.

  52. Richard H. Randall

    No Larry, it is you who insists on the arguments from irrelevant extremes. As for reality, I absolutely insist that we all have a unique and individual perspective. That however doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as the social construction of reality: if there weren’t, we’d be lucky to be herd animals: but even they have language and understanding, and emotion.
    The only person at NSB who keeps insisting that I think other people are stupid is you. Dig out your old psychology books Larry, and look up projection.
    Finally, I use my military title when I wish to make a statement that is important to me, that my military life has had a hand in carving my being and my bearing. Like other soldiers, there was bad as well as good which occurred in my life. I would do the service again, but I would try to do it better. (see above.)
    But if this bothers you, don’t read my stuff, for I will probably use it again.

  53. A little old Jewish mother had raised four successful children all now passed away except one . . a friend of mine now 88 . .(she) had this to say:

    ” Vee don’t care; vee got da money. vee can buy you anytime ” !

    I say it a little more simply . . with a little less money :

    “Yeah, I hear you; see you at the grocery store or down at the bank ”

    Much of what folks say simply signifies an open mouth; now and then a little
    Truth enters the scene. Sure is nice when it happens.

  54. Richard Randall,

    You mentioned “the social construction of reality”. Wow! That is something new for me. I am going to be thinking about that all night. I have heard of the social construction of race and of gender, but never of reality. Can you give an historical example of a reality that was socially constructed? I just can’t get my mind around that.


  55. Richard H. Randall said,
    “Larry: do I really seem evil to you buddy?”

    Well you asked, and I choose to answer you:

    Friends seem to agree that there is both good and evil in everyone. In some there’s more good and in some there’s more evil. And we can change. And I do not pretend to be your judge any more than I am anyone else’s judge. So far no one has offered me a job as a judge. But yes, as I said, what you are trying to do to David R seems like evil play to me, though you may feel innocent, and I choose to oppose you on that because I see that particular thing as evil and because I can, or at least I can try, at least up to this point. Please read again exactly why:
    http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=12518#comment-556791
    It’s not about me either judging you or hating you for it.

    This has nothing to do with anything else you’ve ever said or done, just this one thing.

    Your use of your title in no way offends me. I apologize for any confusion about that.


    Richard H. Randall said,
    “The only person at NSB who keeps insisting that I think other people are stupid is you….”

    Never have I said that, meant to say that, though I have twice pointed out perceived ambiguities in things you’ve said, here and in one other thread.

    “….Dig out your old psychology books Larry, and look up projection.”

    I admit to having to deal with the thought myself sometimes that someone is stupid. I try to avoid giving that impression. I have been known to fail. Most likely you and I agree that doing so is counterproductive, just makes things worse. There was some discussion about that here recently.


    Richard H. Randall said,
    “No Larry, it is you who insists on the arguments from irrelevant extremes….”

    You really think so? Okaaay. 🙂

    “…..As for reality, I absolutely insist that we all have a unique and individual perspective. That however doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as the social construction of reality…”

    To an extent it means exactly that. Now please don’t you take that to an extreme. Often there is sufficient overlap in our realities due both to genetics and to upbringing, and to a greater or lesser extent due to lessons we have learned as adults, that we can manage to get along somehow. Other times we seem totally unable to communicate with some people, even people who speak English at least somewhat.

    Larry


  56. Richard H. Randall said,
    “…I have never believed in perfect people, or chosen people or the like….”


    If perchance you might be referring to what I said here,
    we are not within the same framework, not on the same topic exactly, quite. I was referring to the concept of self-actualization, technically I suppose. I am not aware of self-actualization having anything to do with “chosen,” but obviously I can’t be certain about that. 🙂
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-actualization

    Larry

  57. Richard H. Randall

    Richard Wicka- you know, you ask the best damned questions! For me, faith has mostly an intuitive reality: my life has been saved numerous times from near certain death. In fact, our doctor told my mother that he could find no heartbeat, nor other sign of life when he came to our home on Christmas eve, 1948, two weeks after my birth. My grandmothers begged to differ, however, and kept putting me in hot and could baths, until I finally stirred just before dawn on Christmas day. I have no conscious recollection of this. Three times last year, I was near death: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and then Massive blood Clots in both lungs, and left leg; and then sepsis from surgical infection during knee replacement. My blood pressure was 45 over 15 when they got me to the emergency room 10 days after the surgery. I do have spotty memories of these later events. NO white lights, no angels (or demons-not yet any way.) A time in the combat engineers when I could have been killed by a snapped steel rope-but wasn’t. A military training accident in 1990 in Colorado which fired a carabiner from a snapped rope knocked me down and out, having struck me in the throat. Half an inch to the center, it would have crushed my trachea: as it was, it caused permanent nerve damage and eventually had to be repaired in an 8 hour surgery by 4 neurosurgeons which had a 25% chance of killing me. For better or worse, I am still here in good shape for the shape I am in, hike, and do what martial arts and calisthenics I can.
    The aspect in me which has changed the most is more a reflective, and grateful appreciation of the ongoing creation, and of God/ess and the various avatars – which I take to be something likes God’s helpers. I believe there are men and woman who once had human form-or other forms, but are now
    spiritual beings who do things like prod us to do good, and to not do bad.
    Simple and no doubt heretical to most believers. As to Gnosticism: the first acquaintance I had as a philosophy student was that some gnosticism had frankly some very scary aspects to it. I have never gotten over that first introduction so I’ll just say that some gnostics had, it seemed to me, to have evil ideas. Richard, to me evil is real: I have been in the room with it, and I grew up aware of it, but also being harmed by it as a child. I also saw it harm many others, hence my outburst above. Meanness is evil, and sometimes it seemed all too powerful and potent. My metaphysics are processive after Whitehead and Hartshorne. (A few weeks ago I mentioned to someone at NSB that the look at the current account of “Process Theism” at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (free and online.) Basically this view holds that God/ess is all knowing (omniscient)all beneficient -or benevolent-but NOT all powerful, either by choice or the nature of his/her being. It is also a cosmic view-perhaps like the Stoics who believed that God/ess was part of the Universe which contained a vast number of beings/creatures, and all mattered to the Creator. Now as a very, very limited being, and using my heart as the American Philosopher C.S.S. Peirce said was an organ of knowledge-as well as my mind and my experience(s)
    I more properly should have said have a small knowledge of God/ess not an actual perception and only a hazy conception. I think God/ess is more than Love, though love is there. I believe the universe is, for me, unimaginably – well unimaginable. But it is still REAL. Peirce said something like ‘we cannot think gods thoughts, but perhaps we can catch a glimpse of them.’ For me, that is like seeing the goodness in the process of creation, in our children, and the beauty of the natural world, in parts of our culture and civilization. Yet there is certainly the problem of evil, natural and manmade. And that is also real as well. Finally, I should have used more discipline in describing my ‘knowledge as belief.’ I was actually thinking along those lines before I returned to the computer, as I’d read something a few moments before that made sense. It was from a book abut 8 years or so old, called “This I believe,” from the CBS and NPR programs of the 50’s and the more recent offerings. It is a quote from Eboo Patel. “I realize that to believe in pluralism means I need the courage to act on it. Action is what separates a belief from an opinion.” So in those terms as a limited, fallible being I cannot ever know God/ess on His/her terms or reality, but through my actions, through love, through helping, protecting, defending,-through ‘doing the right thing in the hear and now’ I can know as well as believe in God/ess, and to some extent what is required of me.
    I think the Book of Micah had it like this: “He has shewed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to ‘walk humbly with thy God.”
    Now I think most of the religious wisdom traditions probably have something close to this idea. Some good moral philosophers as well.
    I am going to close this-poor Andy. And because you have made me think about my poor choice of words, Richard tomorrow, with Andy’s permission, I’ll add a little from Peirce, and Charles Kurwalt doing David Lilienthal, and then trying to connect it somehow to the original idea about enforcing people to believe and act in a lock-step manner.

  58. Richard H. Randall

    Richard Wicka: the idea is pretty well discussed at Wikipedia under ‘The Social construction of Reality.’ I’ll let you read that rather than try to out-do the more formal and useful defiinitions. However, when I use the term, it is to basically criticize extreme individualism/extreme egoism/ and as mentioned before ideas like Ayn Rand’s ‘Objectivism’- or perhaps I should have said Nathaniel Brandon’s idea of objecitivism as I think he actually wrote the book of that name. WE do not exist alone: neither do we ‘make it’ all alone. In Whitehead’s phrase, we are in the universe-the universe is not in us. Older philosophy had an amazing amount of trouble with subjectivism-of different sorts actually. And moral subjectivism is still with us…..but the idea of the social construction of reality is the realization that our languages and histories, and cultural realities are to some extent a construction because of what people do ;and believe and make happen together. One ideal of America is that it is a melting pot: certain sociological/historical/economic studies suport that. Some deny it, and offer counter evidence, and re-interpretations. From this some truths may emerge-for example the role of Hispanic-Latin American contributions to the U.S. Army. On one wall;in the Pentagon, there are dozens of pictures of men and women of this background who have contributed to our survival as a nation. I saw this in about 1992, when I was stationed there. Now you know there were/are people in America who generally deny any contributions by this group. They are generally losing their sway I hope, because their opinion is false-demonstrably false. As more facts are known, as more men and women from different backgrounds serve with Hispanic men and women, you can bet they will learn as I did that they can and co contribute to American military strength. How is this knowledge spread? Socially, and exeperientially, usually also in a social manner. it is a matter of getting out of the extreme ego, and into the I’m ok-your’e ok place. Ultimately, it is also a matter of truth. Or take the Gopers claim that all of this new emphasis upon voting registration and voting security on the day of the vote is absolutely necessary due to massive vote fraud. j jNow even some of the Rep. party, are admitting there is no evidence of any of this. The last vote fraud I am aware of was done by Kathryn Harris, in the elections that the SCOTUS gave to George W. Bush. And she is a goper. Now they have used the courts, the red state legislatures, and enormous omounts of time and media-social exposure to plant these lies. jit is an attempt at the social construction of propaganda to propagate a lie based on the racial bigotry and hatred of these white people-always a good play to the base, you know-as well as a way to intimidate people, make them afraid to actually show up to vote. Not because they aren’t legally registered-but because the pickup trucks may have chains and nooses in them. How do you take this down: through the law, and force if necessary, such as in the use of U.S. Marshalls-I have seen it done. And through the truth. To date, the courts seem to disagree with the states who want to make this an issue and to have everyone prove who they are —again, and again, so perhaps the truth will win. The wiki article is pretty good and gives examples. It is actually an idea about how we become socialized to some extent: however there are deeper issues I don’t care to tackle tonight. Its connection to the original topic here is important: what do you do to socalize, but not propagandize, and browbeat others to be sheep, when what you want is people with the courage to speak out when something that they see is wrong–yet understand that it is also appropriate to cooperate and coordinate to accomplish some task as a group, unit, dance group, what have you–especially when recognition, rewards for accomplishment are to be shared, and understood as justly earned, and not the exclusive property of one or a few? See the connection now between the 1%/47% political issues?

  59. Richard H. Randall

    Hi Larry, I did do another long piece to answer some of your questions: however Andy thought due to the nature of one of my answers, he ought to spike the piece. I understand his thinking on that, and as he has asked me to move on to the next article. So undoubtedly I will see you there. Hope to hear from Richard Wicka and others there as well.

  60. Well, interesting discussions. When our governor and legislature put in place photo ID that was just recently ruled unconstitutional, I was asked to produce a photo ID when I voted last and I refused out of principle. It was optional thank goodness.

  61. Richard H. Randall

    Atta boy Robin!

  62. The development of the concept of the social construction of reality is most interesting–not exactly surprising, but most interesting. I had not happened upon it until now. Thank you Richard H Randall! I am juxtaposing that concept with the studies by Alfred Korzybski (1879 to 1950), mentioned and linked earlier. He is another recent discovery of mine, a year or so back now. His still-respected work adds the complexity of varying realities due in significant part to individual neurological differences in addition to social influences which I think he described similarly to the modern formal social construction of reality thinking. Two (or more) heads are better than one, as the old saying goes, referring to fact of the modern concept having been the work of more than one person. Nonetheless, I think individual neurological differences are something to consider and take into account.

    Thank you again.

    And since this may be my last in this thread may I say bye all, it’s been great!

    Larry

  63. “Social psychologist Ellen Langer’s unconventional studies have long suggested what brain science is now revealing: our experiences are formed by the words and ideas we attach to them.”

    That’s just the beginning. The discussion of mindlessness vs mindfulness is significant and might well be helpful. It is not related to Buddhism. Audio. 51 min. Downloadable.
    http://www.onbeing.org/program/ellen-langer-science-of-mindlessness-and-mindfulness/6332/audio

    Larry

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