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Some basics that commonsense objective observers of human history should know by now:
Chaos is at the natural state of things. Entropy decrees it.
Mankind imposes order and structure on chaos which is how civilizations arise. Energy, which in politics translates to power, is needed to maintain this order.
In a stable system, there is a balance of structure (order) and freedom (chaos). However, a stable system also needs to be able adapt to outside and inside change. This is usually the tricky part. One common failure is that instead of focusing on the system adapting, the power-holders, being human, accrete power.
Repression is what happens when power accretes unchecked. More and more power is spent maintaining the power structure. The power structure becomes rigid and top-heavy and a burden. People start to chafe. They want more freedom.
At this point there are two options: Revolution or Reform.
Revolution is violent, and therefore exciting, “glorious”, and adrenaline-packed. It is black & white – us against them, and triggers our tribal instincts for war. It has the element of revenge, always an excellent motivator. Once it has been initiated, it doesn’t require much higher thinking. It is all or nothing, which means it
excuses glorifies, any action for the cause.
The ultimate problem with revolution is that when it succeeds, it usually fails. Revolution tries to sweep away the existing structure, thereby creating extreme chaos. The revolutionaries, having won, then scramble to impose order on this chaos. To be effective, the order imposed must be likewise extreme. The revolutionary government quickly becomes as, if not more, rigid and authoritarian than the government it replaced.
Revolution returns you to your original problem. It’s a vicious cycle.
Reform, on the other hand, is boring. It requires analysis, attention to detail, projections about future effects of current actions. It is also uncomfortable for all side because it requires self-examination and demands accountability. More than that it frequently requires allowing other points of view to co-exist. It requires dogged persistence and unfailing optimism in the face of deeply entrenched obstacles and inevitable setbacks. It’s damned hard to do.
Given all that, Reform is actually the only thing that can break the Repression-Revolution cycle.
If you want excitement, aux les barricades. But if you want to actually fix what’s wrong and improve lives, choose reform.
This is an open thread for when crayfisher goes down.
What have we learned from the journeys of Hillary & Sarah? What knowledge have they bought us with their valiant struggles against media immolation and backdoor power shenanigans?
Two women, equally impressive in record and accomplishment, of opposing politics, of different generations, both beloved by the voters of their party’s base, share a remarkably parallel journey that has done more to reveal the truth about our rotten political system in 4 years than most of us could ever imagine.
One: A strong woman leader, one who is determined to lead, will be ostracized, attacked, and backstabbed by her own party establishment. Their own party’s establishment will break any rule, move any date, do everything, to prevent the base from voting for them. A strong woman’s greatest obstacle to cracking the ultimate glass ceiling is her own party.
Two: The media will lie shamelessly, repeatedly and filthily, to convince us that a strong woman leader is unacceptable. They will invite us to rhetorically stone her and goad us to commit atrocities against her. The media is the propaganda arm of the establishment’s backers.
Three: That a strong woman leader will nevertheless endure and thrive and do what she does best – lead. Whether it’s Hillary Clinton in the State Department keeping the USA safe despite the President’s booberies, or Sarah Palin in Wasilla as the lone voice in politics with the guts to point out the Crony Capitalism is what is killing the USA — you just can’t get these women to shut up and sit down.
Four: That we, the people, deserve better than this rotten DonkyPhant of a political party. A party that presents a liberal face to the left, and a conservative face to the right, but really is in place only to ensure the continued looting of the country for the benefit of the most powerful. One of the greatest things we can do for our children’s future will be to destroy the DonkyPhant party and the permanent political class for ever. This is not democracy. This is plutocracy. This is the slow death of everything our country was founded on. Don’t consent to it. Resist. Reform. Restore.
Whether you count yourself a PUMA, a Tea-Partier, or a 99%er, we all share one goal – to restore democracy to America.
(Originally published here)
A senior U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy said changes to the land program also stem from a desire at the top levels of the Obama administration to triage the war and focus on the overriding goal of ending the conflict.
“Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities,” said the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations. “There’s no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.”
Afghan women are pet rocks. Time to toss them aside so Karzai can woo the Talibanistic to his side.
It’s not like we learned anything about supporting oppressive regimes in the past month, really ….
(Originally published here)
This has some of the same feeling: a dictator who’s a long-time US client, a mass popular uprising that’s more about the perceived corruption of the government than about any particular ideology; El Baradei seems to be playing something like the Corazon Aquino role.
I say “echo” rather than “parallel” because there are similarities but key differences as well.
The basic similarity is that, yes, the USA supported a long-time dictator because of USA interests, in the name of regional stability. Supporting means turning a blind eye to very real human rights abuses, to very real corruption and looting, and most of all, a blind eye to the absence of clean elections. After a while, people start resenting this as their economic hardships grow.
Another parallel is that the protests were sanctioned by the clergy — the Archbishop of Manila, Jaime cardinal Sin, supported Cory Aquino. That is a very big deal when the clergy of the majority religion withdraws it support for a regime. I don’t know if Mubarak has any religious clergy on his side at this point. The thing about being a dictator is that at some point your public sins become so heinous that no spiritual authority can afford to support you anymore. You become radioactive.
The differences are myriad — the biggest one being that in 1986, the region was stable and Marcos needed the USA much more than the USA needed him. It didn’t really matter what happened to the Philippines (we are kind of used to that). This is very much not the case in Cairo — Egypt is key in both ME peace and in the flow of oil. The stakes are painfully high in Egypt.
In Manila there was a clear opposition leader who was very much not a threat to USA interests. In Cairo, there is not yet a clear opposition leader, and this creates a lot of anxiety on the part of the interested outsiders.
In Manila, the opposition basically won when General Ramos switched sides to the opposition, and the rest of the army followed. In Cairo, Mubarak still has the military on his side.
In Manila, there was no implied threat of radical political change. The clergy was mainstream and non-violent. The Communist insurgency was active rurally but marginalized politically. In Egypt there is the Muslim Brotherhood which seems to be in favor of Islamic theocracy (please prove me wrong).
And what I am sure everyone else will overlook but to me is deeply significant and most troubling, in Manila, the opposition was led by a woman, and thousands of women participated, including nuns,
but in Cairo you will not see a single woman protesting in the streets. ***
I am not sure what will happen in Egypt, but I am pretty sure I know what lessons the USA will NOT learn from it. The USA will not stop supporting authoritarian regimes for short-term political and economic goals, the USA will not embark on a long-term foreign policy that requires the democratic process to be a requirement for aid. Please, America, prove me wrong.
Lex pointed out that I am wrong and women are in the protests. I am very glad, and I will be very much gladder if they have more freedom under whatever new government is formed. I have read prior to the protests that more Egyptian women have been feeling pressured (or brainwashed) to wear the niqab, and I would hope that that trend reverses.
(Originally published here)
Remember how I said I was dreading the coming primary wars?
I think they have begun, sparked by Tucson.
The memorial rally is a clear signal to me that the President WILL seek re-election. He’s not anticipating a primary challenge, so the campaign is already focused on side-lining probable general election contenders.
The MOTU want a contest between two bought and paid for corporatists – a true win-win for them. The President is determined to be the winning corporatist. The GOP have any number of wannabes to replace him.
Any action taken by the msm or the admin that doesn’t seem to make sense will make sense when viewed in the light of “how does this affect 2012?”
The pipes are calling, the whistles sounding, the drums of war are beating. Tribes and clans are being called to once again assemble. Are you ready to pick a side or will you stay neutral and be universally reviled?
This has been a public service announcement by your jaded and cynical neighborhood cassandra.
Please have a nice day.
(Originally published here)
I want to share something I was thinking about last night, after my insomnia flared. It is a probably long, but I think it is relevant to current events and it might even be helpful to some. It is such a broad topic and I know the readers will have insights that i probably have not considered.
Growing up, for various reasons, I was basically taught that anger is bad and that I should swallow my anger. It’s taken me a lot of work and experience as an adult to unlearn this and to come to know that anger can be healthy.
I. Healthy Anger
Anger is part of the fight or flight reflex, a survival trait that exists in all animals. When we perceive a threat, there is a marvelous mechanism that instantly picks one of those reactions – anger or fear, which lets us deal with the threat and live. Anger gives us the energy to fight the threat, while fear gives us the energy to run away from the threat. And there’s nothing healthier than living versus dying. That’s how anger (and fear) are basic emotions that enable us to survive. No human goes through life without experiencing these.
The energy from anger or fear comes at a physical price, it places a stress on the body. In the animal world, this is usually not a problem — surviving an immediate threat is decided in minutes or hours, and after that you are either dead or can relax and recover. In the human world, however, threats can be perceived long before they are immediate, and that means your fight or flight reflex can be raised for days, weeks, or months. This is very unhealthy physically, so it benefits us to learn to deal with anger in a healthy way.
What I have learned is that the best way for me to deal with anger is to acknowledge it right away. I am angry. Then to examine why. If it is a reasonable reaction, if there is in fact a threat, the next step is to decide to do something about it. Even before I actually do it, or even before I know exactly what I am going to do, that is often enough for me to be able to ramp down the adrenaline, calm down the amygdala, and release the stress. Sometimes that’s not enough and I need to do something therapeutic to release the stress – garden, knit, read, walk, chores, whatever. Some people exercise or run or meditate or pray.
Sometimes we get angry on behalf of someone else, an empathetic reaction. This is a very human thing, and in my opinion, a good thing. We get angry at injustice, even when we are may not be directly affected. Reformers are people who have channeled their anger into good.
Anger can be unreasonable, sometimes from unrealistic expectations. For example, someone might be convinced he is a wonderful singer, then audition on American Idol and get unanimously rejected by the judges. That person might then erupt in anger. I think that’s unreasonable, but still very understandable. It’s a blow to the ego and self-image that hurts. And hopefully that person calms down eventually and recovers. That happens to most of us one time or another, losing our temper unreasonably. I have probably experienced every kind of anger in my life.
It’s ok to get angry. And it’s also ok if someone is angry at you. It doesn’t mean you are bad, it just means you and the other person are both human. If the other person is reasonable, it can be an opportunity, with ground rules and safeguards, to discuss the reason the person is angry and possibly improve the situation. Like when my kids get angry at each other, I get them to work it out under my beady eye.
Anger is about us, about a threat to our selves, or an injury to us. Anger focuses on neutralizing the threat or providing a remedy to the injury. It’s about making the situation better.
2. Poisonous Hate
I am not sure what hate is, honestly. I know we often confuse anger with hate, and in everyday usage we lightly use the word “hate” to signify either extreme dislike or extreme anger. How is hate different from anger?
When we look at hate, from the outside, it is characterized by two things – an object of hate, and an urge to hurt, injure, or destroy that object. When we hate someone, we have no empathy with them; we stop seeing them as a person. Thus they become objects. They exist in our head, projected onto actual human beings. There is an irrational, illogical aspect to hate; maybe, like love, it is blind.
Why do humans hate? I suspect it has something to do with war. Animals don’t have wars, and I don’t think animals hate either. They are to much in the moment. But I think hate is useful in war, and I think it is probable that hate and war are related in a way that feed each other. And maybe an aversion to war can be similarly linked to an aversion to hate. I think there are also a lot of other factors in hate and war, but there is some kind of link.
Dave Grossman, in his Pulitzer-nominated book On Killing, asserts that humans have an innate resistance to killing other humans. Historically more soldiers have misfired than aimed true. Modern military training overcomes this by, among other things, conditioning the soldiers to view the enemy soldiers as objects, and also to avoid face-to-face combat in favor of long-range killing.
So how do you know if your anger has slipped into hate? It’s hard to say exactly, but one clue would be if you find yourself talking not about an action that angered you but about how the person not fully human. How the person is (fill in the blank) and deserves hurt or injury. Another clue would be when other people start telling you that your seem illogical about the person, or over-the-top when talking about the person. Or when you start shunning people who are not sufficiently angry at the person and bonding with other people on how to properly punish or injure the person.
It’s not ok to hate, and it’s not, in my opinion, safe to open dialogue with someone who hates you. Someone who hates you is not looking to improve a situation, someone who hates you is simply looking to hurt you, to kill you. We all know, even as children, know that is – something that wants to hurt you, that wants you cowering under the covers or running away from, is — a monster. And a monster can create a lot if pain, but eventually, the story never ends well for the monster.
Hate is a poison that can turn you into a monster.
Don’t be a monster.