May 24, 2007

The Wrong Lessons Of Iraq





Don't ask me about Iraq.

But I do know something about our collective response to the Iraq war, to the Bush presidency, and to our times, and it says a lot about our cultural psychology.  And it helps predict the future.

It's sometimes easier to evaluate one's personality, and thus make predictions about it, by examining the defense mechanisms the person uses.  In difficult situations, specific people will use a small set of specific defenses over and over; so much so that we often describe people  exclusively by that defense, e.g. "she's passive aggressive."

Taking Iraq and President Bush as starting points, and examining the defense mechanisms we use to cope with both, yields the unsurprising conclusion that we are  a society of narcissists.

While this discovery is familiar to readers of my blog, what might be a surprise is what this heralds for our society politically and economically.  It isn't socialism, or even communism, as I had feared.  It's feudalism.  It's not 2007. It's 1066.

Let's begin. 




Splitting-- reducing the other person to a binary abstraction of all good or all bad, is a primitive, or regressive, defense mechanism used when the emotional level and complexity is greater than a person's capacity to interpret it.  For example, once your boyfriend cheats on you, he becomes a jerk, completely.  Even things he had done that were good-- like give money to the poor-- are reinterpreted in this light ("he only did that to get people to like him.") Who splits?  Someone with a lot of unfocused rage and frustration, i.e. the "primitive" emotions.

Currently, our social psyche has three main targets of splitting: President Bush, terrorists, and liberals.  Depending on your political bent, two of those are often conflated.

Splitting says: Bush is all bad, period.  Nothing he does is good, and if it is good, it is from some malicious of selfish motivation, or an accident related to his incompetence to even be self-serving.  Similarly on the other side, liberals are weak, corruptible, treasonous. 

Splitting is always polar; once something is declared "all bad," an opposite is necessarily declared all good.  Importantly, this isn't a comparison between the two-- he is bad, but she is better; it's perceived to be two independent, unconnected, assessments, even though to anyone else looking from the outside, they are so obviously linked.  So hatred of, say, liberals is thought to be independent of your preference for Bush, but in reality it is only because you hate liberals that you like Bush.  The hate comes first.  And this splitting makes it nearly impossible to acknowledge any of Bush's faults.    It is a fair guess that many people voted for either Bush or Kerry not because they liked their candidate, but because they hated the other candidate.   This is the important part:  that made them think that they liked their own candidate objectively. Not, "Kerry is better than Bush," but "Kerry is a great candidate." Period.  That's the illusion of splitting.

(Further evidence of the relatedness of splitting: once it's gone, it's gone.  Anyone voting for Kerry in 2008?) 

But splitting is rarely about the target, it's a convenient heuristic to get the subject out of having to accept the complexity and totality of the other, and of their own emotions about their environment.  In short, when things get heavy, it's easier to just label black and white and work from there. 

Splitting is the reaction to intense anger and frustration in those people who discover themselves to be powerless.

Inherent in the act of splitting is apathy.  You don't try to find a solution to the problem person, the split is the solution.  It allows you not to have to deal with the other, because you've decided that the other is irredeemable.

Our apathy is everywhere. There's a war on, and, except for the TV news, you'd never know it.  No one talks about it (except in brief, obvious, "knowing" soundbites, cribbed from the Daily Show.)  No one protests.   The emotional focus is on Bush, not on a solution to the war, or anything else.

Here's an example:  If, in the midst of no-liquids-on-airplanes Orange Alert, Cho was able to kill 30 students at Virginia Tech using two Glocks, how many students could a band of better armed jihadists kill?  A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation provides a reasonable estimate: all of them.  We're not ready, but, more importantly, we are not trying to be ready.  Not because we don't think it could happen, in fact we're all pretty sure it is going to happen-- but because our entire emotional energy is diverted to the "all bad" other, be it Bush, liberals, or terrorists.  "Terrorists-- but I thought you just said...?"  Yes, because that's what splitting is, emotion directed at an abstraction of someone.  We may hate "terrorists," just not those 6 terrorists right there.  Real terrorists pass under our noses without even a sneer.  Can anyone name one, just one, of the NJ terrorists alleged to have been planning an attack on Ft. Dix?  We're too busy hating terrorists.

The problem wasn't that people thought Saddam helped the 9/11 hijackers; the problem is that no one can name any of the 9/11 hijackers.  That would require work, emotional commitment, an  understanding of the complexity of the Other.  Much easier to say, "Saddam is evil..." 

Bush is fascist and stupid, and that's it.  Case closed.  Now who wants pizza?



Projection (scapegoating) and some Displacement:

Placing all the blame on Bush gets us out of the hard work of introspection: why did they attack us in the first place?   What do we do when Bush leaves?  What should we do now

Blaming Bush for being an incompetent anti-Muslim warmonger purposely avoids the question of why 50% of the country was in favor of the invasion of Iraq.  And some of the dissenters were against it only because they thought the costs were too high.  Bush didn't attack Iraq: we all did.  Right or wrong, we have been headed for a military clash with the Middle East for at least 34 years.  And we are on schedule to have another in two or three years.  Are we going to ask why that is, or are we going to look to CNN for an analysis of the Gulf of Tonkin?

Scapegoating also legitimizes apathy-- we can start 2009 fresh.  "Sorry world-- it wasn't us, it was Bush."  The trouble is, only our allies believe this.  The scapegoating is really a defense; those beliefs and emotions we attribute to that "cowboy Bush" are really our own.  Ask our enemies, who are certain that it's America that's the problem, not just Bush, because our enemies have a larger historical view.    Last time Iran challenged us was Carter.  Was he a Halliburton warmonger?   Did China/Korea prefer Truman?  Putin wants Reagan back?

There isn't really an easier way to say this: that cavalier, simplistic attitude towards history; myopic beliefs which bypass logic or reason, supported only by intuition and faith; and a hatred of others who have a radically different perspective on humanity-- that's not Bush, that's us.  I'm not even saying this perspective doesn't have some merit; but know thyself, yo. 

Most of our enemies share a common social philosophy that, at its core, is psychic: don't trust any country where women are regularly more powerful than men; where individuals are more important than a collective; and where personal beliefs and freedoms trump historical identity.  Because that means that its men are weak, its individuals are selfish, and they cannot be trusted to act in the long term interests of their own people.  Rather than responding seriously to this insane worldview, with equal fervor-- and it's so easy to do it-- the country has instead chosen to release this press statement: "Bush lied."



Since it's all Bush's fault, there isn't actually any underlying problem to deal with. 

A football analogy is perfect: once you know your team isn't going to the Superbowl, the mindset and the focus changes to next season's draft, even while the current season is still on.   No more sadness, no more heartache.  Focus on the future frees you from the pain of the present (though you pay lip service to it with inanities ("if the Colts are going to make it next year, they're going to have to run the ball and put some points on the board."))  Meanwhile, you're still losing this season.    

We simply hold our collective breath and wait for 2008, when the "problem" (Bush) will go away. 



Trouble is, the rest of the world isn't waiting, and the real problem isn't going away, it's going to get much worse.

One might make the argument that the only reason we haven't been attacked again is that everyone "knows" Bush is "insane" and would invade them. Whatever.  Point is, we are in denial about much larger political problems than George Bush.

I'm only using terrorism as a convenient example, though larger political realities are in play.  Chavez, Hu Jintao, Putin-- they're not reacting to Bush, they are preparing for his departure. 

"If only Al Gore had won..."  Then what? 


Here's an example I fear no one will understand.  The Iranians took 15 British soldiers hostage.  I don't know what constitutes an act of war, but I figure this is pretty much it.   The soldiers surrendered without a fight (ironically, so as not to start an international incident), and then pretended to go along with the Iranians.  They did the song and dance "we are bad, we are imperialists, Ahmadinejad is good, we're sorry, thanks for being so nice to us" and were eventually released.


Ahm and soldier 


 iran pic









So I'm sure those soldiers were thinking, "look, I know who I am, I know I'm not a coward, I'm not helping the Iranians, but I have to do whatever is necessary to get out of this mess."  What they are saying is that they can declare who they are, and what they do has no impact on it.  "I am a hero, regardless of how I act."  That's the narcissist fallacy.  Whatever they may think about themselves, the fact is that they did help the Iranians, and they are not heroes.  But I can see that it is ego protective, I can see why they might take this perspective.  There are few things in life worse than being taken hostage by the Iranians,  so I understand why they would choose this type of self-deception, why they would turn to narcissism for defense.  Bottom line is, I guess you can't fault them for playing along.

But here's the thing: when they returned home to Britain, they were heralded as heroes by other people.  Including the British government.   Based on what?  They didn't actually do anything; heroism isn't simply living through a bad experience.  Well, of course: based on the fact that they are heroes who had to pretend to be something else.

That's the narcissist's tautology: you are what you say you are because you said you are.  What makes it an example of our collective narcissism is that we agree--  we want it to be true that they, and we, can declare an identity. 

This is further evidenced by the British public's outrage-- not that they were being called heroes, but that they were allowed to sell their stories to the media.   Not that they received false honor-- who cares about that nowadays?-- but that they received legitimate money.

Here's the part Americans can't get: why would Iran put them on TV when everyone is going to know it was forced?  Unless you are saying that the Iranians, and only the Iranians, are so completely delusional that they actually believe the servicemen were thankful and apologetic, then this show had to appeal to some broader audience.   Other people had to believe this was the real thing.   Is it possible-- and I'm just asking here-- that we are the only ones who don't believe these statements were meaningful? 

In other words, is it possible that our enemies judge us by our actions, regardless of intent-- and if you support Ahmadenijad on TV, then that counts-- while we retreat into the narcissists' hideout of identity-as-declared, where any actions can be disavowed as "not who we are?"

Reaction Formation: Sorry, Everybody; We're Closed

Reaction formation is an ego defense against id; when you want something that violates your identity, you shift violently to the opposite.  The secretly gay man who is loudly anti-gay. It's "going overboard."

Have the interventionist Bush years taught us that we need to be more involved with the world, and work with our allies and enemies to reach a common ground?  No: it's that everyone else is nuts, and the less direct contact we have with them, the better. 

I find it fascinating that the key lament against Bush is not ideological, but "realist."   You might think that women's rights, civil wars, and pending genocides might be the pet issues of the Left, but increasingly Americans-- right and left-- feel that many people are simply not worth saving.  That certain people aren't ready for democracy.  Women's rights, while ideal, can only come after "they"  (it's always they) make some necessary preliminary steps.  And that, no matter what, it's never worth a ground assault if they don't really want us involved. 

Not even on principle.  Genocide in Darfur?  Forget about sending troops to Darfur-- we don't even want to talk about Darfur.  Any of the candidates mention Darfur? It's only used as a comparator: since we haven't/shouldn't send troops to Darfur where things are worse, we shouldn't have sent them to Iraq.

Isolationism is the easy defense because we can pretend no one hates us.  Good luck with that.


No More Foreign Adventures 

What are the political ramifications of this defensive posture?  Here's an example: what happens if we are ever attacked again?  It puts the nuclear option higher on the list of responses.  Maybe not at the top, sure, but  no way will we tolerate the costs of invading another country, no matter how well planned. 

The nuclear weapons are no longer the last resort.  Think about this.


Count Up Your Defenses: We're Narcissists 

The primary sustenance of narcissism is control. 

Why did the gods punish Prometheus?    It wasn't just stealing fire: "I gave humans the illusion they weren't doomed."  You think you're in control of your destiny, because you can smoke cigarettes. Well, you're not.

Narcissism is identification without identity.  It's making something up and then fighting to the death to maintain it.  It's "the zeal of a convert."  It's not really you, but boy oh boy don't let anyone tell you that.  You'll sacrifice anything-- happiness, money, comfort-- in order to maintain control, to get people to think you are who you say you are.  All that matters is people see you how you want to be seen-- even if you're really something else.

There are three ways to protect an empty identity: violence, power, and money.

Enter Feudalism

Lord, vassal and fief.  The lord owns the capital; the vassal gets to use it, and profit from it, but he doesn't actually own it-- the "it" being the fief.  In return for the profits, the vassal agrees to fight for the lord. 

How does a man get his woman to act the way he wants, dress the way he wants, be the way he wants-- so that he can be seen the way he wants?  He allows her to live in his world and profit from the splendor of it in exchange for her allegiance and deference.  What if his world actually sucks?  Then he just beats her.

What do we want, now?  Identity-products.  Things which signal to others who we want to be.  IPod, Aeropostale, blogs.  "This is me."   We want brands.  Coke vs. Pepsi may not be relevant, but you can start a civil war by saying  "Apple sucks, Microsoft is way better." 

You don't realize it, but blindly identifying yourself with externalities negates your significance in the world.  You're not a person, you're a block.  I don't know you,  but I know if you own a Mac, you voted for Kerry.   Guess what?  That means that Apple carries a lot of power with Kerry.  But you don't, not once you fell into this branded trap.

The joke is that Halliburton controls the government.  What saves this from actually being true is that Halliburton is a public company-- anyone can buy into it.  Even if they did control the government, you control them-- it nets out.  And if you don't like the way they do business (or if you do,) the shareholders, or at least the biggest shareholders, can do something about it.   But if Halliburton were not public, then all that power would be concentrated in the owners.  You could work for Halliburton and profit that way, but you don't share any of the power.

But now things are different.  Not since the 1980s, and before that never, has there been this much  M&A activity, share buybacks and privatization.   While this boosts share prices in the short term, as privateers bid up the price in a takeover, there's a huge downstream cost:  the company is no longer public.  You don't get to profit from it unless you work for it.  Each privatized company, or the private equity firm who owns it, becomes a little lord.  You want money?  They demand your service.  It is the opposite of owning a stock, where you demand their service.  It's more than just a concentration of wealth among the few. It is also a concentration of control, and, more importantly, risk.  You may not be able to profit from it, but if something goes bad, for sure you'll be asked to pay for it. 

If you think Halliburton is unaccountable to the public now, imagine when it goes private.  And it will go private.

Furthermore, as these companies become (more) multinational-- as they derive less of their profits from the fertile soil of the U.S. economy, they will be less beholden to its government.  In fact, they will have more control over the government. 

I think it's stupendous that there is an individual campaign contributions limit of $2000, equalizing the effect among rich and poor.  But this actually promotes feudalism: instead of rich donors buying some access to a future official, several rich donors get together to form a PAC to influence your vote.  That gets them much more power than they had as individuals.  In effect, they become the lord, and the candidate the vassal.  And your $2000 vote is next to worthless.

I won't be the last to make this universally horrifying observation: if Hillary Clinton wins the 2008 election, then an entire generation of people-- 24 years-- will have been ruled by either a Bush or a Clinton.  Why do we keep picking them?  Because they're the best?  No-- because they're a brand.  That saves us from thinking.  And, conveniently, it gives us a scapegoat: the system is stacked against us, for them.  Feudal.

Remember, the defining emotion in narcissism is rage, frustration.  Collective narcissism comes from collective rage, frustration.  So Marx was wrong (yes, again.)  Feudalism doesn't precede capitalism, it follows inevitably, logically, after capitalism--if something, anything-- goes wrong.   In capitalism, not everyone succeeds, but everyone feels like they could.  In a working capitalist model, class divisions would be fluid, people could go up and down based on their intelligence or work ethic. The mail boy could become the CEO.  But if the classes become fixed, such that a mail boy could never become CEO-- only other CEOs can become CEO-- you get, well, feudalism.

When that happens-- when your future is limited, the tendency is to withdraw, get control over your local environment (family, friends, blogs, etc) and create an identity where you do have value above mail boy, even though in reality you are the mail boy.  You get angry, frustrated, resentful-- at "them," the people who have more power than you.

Here's an example.  On Thursday 5/10 I was listening to NPR, and the NPR interviewer said, oil companies are making huge profits, shouldn't they have to eat into those profits to lower the price?  And the interviewee responded that he'd prefer the prices to be higher, or even there to be a tax, which would result in less gas consumed, which would be better for the environment, etc.  And the NPR interviewer responded something like, and I'm quoting from memory, "so if you need to hit them [oil companies] in the pocket, reduced demand would be another way of doing it."

Wow.  WOW.  The psychological pivot point for her wasn't lower prices for the consumer, but hurting the oil companies.  That's where her head was at.  And she's a reporter!   You see that anger, resentment, that powerlessness, disenfranchisement not in working capitalism, but in feudalism.

There's a hint of feudalism in the air already; universal healthcare, better, broader social security-- this is the lord taking responsibility for the economic well being of its people, in exchange for "service."  It's not socialism because there isn't a redistribution of wealth-- the wealth and power are actually more concentrated-- it's a lease of wealth.

We are much more interested in how we will brand ourselves than in what we will do. We'll sell out our votes, our safety, our liberties and general freedoms in exchange for a safe, mostly hands-off environment where we are free to pretend to be someone.  Yes to isolationism.  Yes to expediency, yes to individualism.  Just give me a little space.  And don't tell me what I can and can't wear.  My clothes are who I am.

It's not a clash of ideas, USSR vs. US; it's more visceral, personal.  People hate us for us, we hate Bush for Bush, there's plenty of hate all around, so we retreat inside ourselves and our denial.  We're leveraging the future for short term control of our micro-environments, selling ourselves in exchange for a 25 year lease.  We want to be renters, not owners, so we don't have to fix the toilet.   Meanwhile, the world trudges on. 


Regarding splitting, there ... (Below threshold)

May 24, 2007 11:41 PM | Posted by AK: | Reply

Regarding splitting, there is a proverb:

'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.'

IMO think the US is becoming increasingly dissociative. People are hiding out behind Ipods, cell phones, handheld devices, those peculiar Bluetooth devices that clip to ears, and, yes, computers. More and more of us are turning into Borgs, and dont seem frightened by this at all.

It may be that others, who dont actually need to use psychotrophic drugs are on them for dissociative purposes--evading awareness of situations in which, to quote Death of a Salesman, 'Attention must be paid.'

More and more, we are witholding attention and dissociating. Attentiveness is becoming a lost art.

A Buddhist friend was at work at her social service agency, and told us that at a meeting, people began dumping on Bush.

She waited, let people go on for awile, and then said, quietly, 'You know, I am President Bush.' This floor stopper remark caused people to stop.

To a Buddhist there is no way to arbitrarily separate oneself from a deplorable problem or situation. We are interconnected--and if we contemplate this long enough, its possible to identify places where one can attempt to intervene. But this takes patience, curiosity, kindness and a very high tolerance for pain and ambiguity.

I refuse to listen to conspiracy theories about how the two elections were stolen.

Because, if more of us out out of the house and voted, we wouldnt have gotten into this damned fix.

The current administration is a symptom of a much deeper social malaise.

And, I dont know what to do about it.

I must confess I routinely engage in a form of splitting/dissociation whenever I walk down the street in my city. We have legions of panhandlers and beggars. I did work on an outreach team and at a homeless shelter and in a street ministry.

I ended up meaner, sadder and more frightened. I dont know how to be present to all this misery without getting depressed as hell. I dont want to give money directly because I dont want to fund drug or alcohol use, or even indirectly support the kind of parasitic scoundrelism that preys on street people.

A lot of the folks out on the street are little kids in adult bodies and facing that for more than a split second hurts me like hell.

I dont know what to do, and its so damned easy to get crabby, defend myself by splitting.

When we are adept, one can dissociate without any any use of ETOH or drugs.

I will have to do something about this. The other day, I glanced in a mirror while running errands at the local hardware store, and realized to my alarm, that my eyes were dull, almost dead.

The only drug I use is caffiene. I never touch alcohol or other drugs. I dont go around with an Ipod or cell phone. But my default when anxious or scared is to activate something between my ears and dissociate.

What I faced in the mirror was that doing this was finally showing up on my face, leaving me dead eyed, with a thousand yard stare.

I hope I can find ways to reverse this process after having kindled my nervous system to go dissociative.

Its like having my own dope and my own dealer right between my ears, peddling the shit for free.

And...I have a feeling legions of my fellow Americans do the very same thing. It hurts to be human and we have few role models on how to bear this suffering creatively, instead of opting out by splitting, dissociating.

It may be the goal of psychiatry is to assist us to become aware and kind as human beings, in the best way we can, whatever cards we've been dealt.

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Fantastic essay. I felt you... (Below threshold)

May 25, 2007 4:47 AM | Posted by Douglas Cootey: | Reply

Fantastic essay. I felt you covered the topic very fairly. I have been very troubled by the polarization of politics lately, but more troubled by the disenfranchisement of we, the people, as voters. Lobbyists, PACS, and non-profits hold more sway over our elected leaders than we do. And so many of my friends (I'm 40) are disillusioned with the whole process. They wonder what the point of voting is, what the point of voicing displeasure is, etc. They have given up.

To get back to your essay, Bush has his flaws, but by dismissing him as an evil liar we fail to seek solutions to the problems the new President will inherit the moment Bush steps out of office. It is political naivete to assume that the home team will do a better job simply because they are the home team, but I agree with you that this is what is happening to us. It seems that people like to divorce themselves from reality by simply saying "Well, I didn't vote for him..."

The Splintered Mind - Overcoming Neurological Disabilities With Lots Of Humor And Attitude

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Feudalism is the wrong word... (Below threshold)

May 25, 2007 8:59 AM | Posted by Common Reader: | Reply

Feudalism is the wrong word for this system. Feudalism is about personal loyalty to a warlord who will protect you from real threats. Real feudalism is happening in Africa and in parts of Latin America, but the state is too strong in the US to allow for personally charismatic gangleaders to form stable protectorates that break the state's monopoly on the protection racket. For real feudalism, the state has to degenerate to the point that it can no longer guarantee anyone's safety and therefore cannot mount a serious challenge to the local competitor.

The system you're describing here is of course that of "The Road to Serfdom," and because Hayek used a term from the feudal system to describe the individual under a welfare superstate it's tempting to identify the welfare superstate with feudalism, but this is wrong. A superstate is not feudal - it's anti-feudal because it's anti-personal. No one is personally swearing fealty to Steve Jobs or Barack Obama; as you say, people are associating themselves with a brand. Note that Steve Jobs or Barack Obama would not feel any personal duty to the millions of people who wish to acquire some of their mana either.

Admin response: Ok, you're mostly right. But you're focusing on the protection aspect-- that people buy into the feudal system to be protected by the lord. If that's the focus, then I'm saying that the corporation becomes more important because the government can't protect you anymore (not economically.) No one has allegiance to the country-- it's to the money, the safety. As for the brand, think of it like this: being a "Mac" guy protects you because there's safety in numbers, in the brand identification. Remember third grade, where wearing the wrong clothes got you punched out? This is the opposite: wearing the right brand lets you pass unmolested, under the radar. And you don't have to have your identity subjected to scrutiny by others, and risk reprisals.

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Before anyone says it, yes,... (Below threshold)

May 25, 2007 3:19 PM | Posted by Admin: | Reply

Before anyone says it, yes, this post is an example of Mistake #5.

Also, regarding defense mechanisms, we all do these at various points, they are not definitionally pathological. But certain people use certain defenses excessively, and that's what's pathological.

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Hey Dr. Jack Sparrow. Who i... (Below threshold)

May 27, 2007 11:12 AM | Posted by Rodney Yoder: | Reply

Hey Dr. Jack Sparrow. Who is the "we" that hates ArchPirate Bush? And who comprises this

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I don't know much beyond ps... (Below threshold)

May 29, 2007 4:32 PM | Posted by Hiro: | Reply

I don't know much beyond psych 101, but I think this is one of the finest analyses of the American socio-political situation I've read. I've sent it to everyone I know. Well done.

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And mistake #1, too.<... (Below threshold)

May 29, 2007 7:03 PM | Posted by donna: | Reply

And mistake #1, too.

Besides, Bush is a sociopath, not a fascist.

Admin's response: I'm not sure what you had in mind, but technically Bush is not a sociopath, if rigorously defined as one lacking any sense of moral and social conscience. Bush has a very strong sense of moral conscience-- it's just the opposite of yours (and a lot of other people's.)

If Bush did things for self-aggrandizement or personal profit, then this might hold; but I'm not sure even the most left leaning person would think Bush is doing this for self-aggradizement; many of his own supporters have abandoned him.

The problem most people have with Bush is that he seems to care not at all about the individual. Everything he does is about a group, or a movement. That's what neoconservatism is. He's willing to suspend individual rights; to go to war; to ignore "your" vote, etc, all for some purpose that people can't help but assume is Machiavellian. As a simple analogy, he is much closer to Bismark than to Hitler. (and before anyone flames me, try and understand that this is an analogy.)

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Your site has won a <a href... (Below threshold)

May 30, 2007 2:10 PM | Posted by BOTDA: | Reply

Your site has won a Blog of the Day Award (BOTDA)

Award Code

Thank you,

famous quotes

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This post was like hearing ... (Below threshold)

May 31, 2007 3:23 PM | Posted by Debra: | Reply

This post was like hearing someone belt out a song or do a complicated, surprising dance move or give a morally nuanced theater performance -- a real pleasure that made me sit up straighter in my chair and really think about what you were saying. Thank you so much.

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very interesting. I found i... (Below threshold)

June 1, 2007 8:56 AM | Posted by SLP: | Reply

very interesting. I found it to be very Kantian with a dash of Foucault, regarding power and knowledge. I think that perhaps it is not entirely fair in saying that most American thought has "split" nor that the symptoms are being overlooked. I think Americans were/are scared stiff in the years after 9-11 to even engage in remotely dissident discourse, or to acknowledge that American culture and the world view of said culture is a cause for anti-American sentiments. It is hard for any society to admit that it is a hegemony and is imploding. Thus, we hide behind entertainment news and start kvetching about our geo-political problems without offering solid solutions.

None the less this post was an excellent reminder to look at myself and remember where I should focus my socio-politically bitching.. Thank you!!

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So... let's say you're corr... (Below threshold)

June 1, 2007 2:50 PM | Posted by abeedle: | Reply

So... let's say you're correct (that's pretty easy to grant IMO). Now let's say that we further think that a more considered and balanced approach to politics/life/whatever is the way to go. Now let's look outside the door for a minute and wonder just WTF and how far all that resolve towards balance will get us.

Whew... *that* was scary.

So... what do *you* think we might do as actual individuals as opposed to society in general? Society in general really digs Jerry Springer, and invasions, and patriotism, and hatin' them terrorists, and the lottery. The members of society in general want (as you so deftly point out) to be the center of the drama -- *any* drama -- as long as the individual members can be the center. ("Today, we are all Hokies" anyone??)

What do you do when you basically think that all of this stark weirdness is, uh, stark weirdness?

On a slightly different track, viz the first response ("I am George Bush.") I have to admit that sometimes I give money to panhandlers, sometimes I don't. What they do with the money is *their* moral problem, not mine. Would I feel *bad* if they used it to OD on heroin? Yep. Would I think I should have done differently? Nope. (But then I never found Jainism very compelling... maybe I'd be a better person if I did.) Anyhow, I really don't like the idea that my generous impulses or my desires to help people are now part of a larger, more complex, and basically impossible project of figuring out all of the potential future consequences of the aid I'd try to render. To be sure, somewhere in here is some balance -- I don't give the same guy money every week. But heck, I don't worry about giving it to him a few times.

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Excellent and classic examp... (Below threshold)

June 1, 2007 3:31 PM | Posted by Ozgur: | Reply

Excellent and classic example of an integrated approach to the issues (i.e. an approach that incorporates the partial truths in the numerous perspectives while separating them from the errors).

I would like to address the comment from AK about the Buddhist thing. One way that the integral movement (which is very closely tied to Buddhist approaches but also marries them with western psychology) differs from the form of Buddhism you're describing is that it also appears not only to account for the suffering in the world, but to account for its resilience. It also recognizes that the absolute truth claims of Buddhism, being transconditional by nature, cannot meaningfully be directly applied to conditional realities. On that note, I'm sure that the reaction to your friend's statement of "I AM president Bush" was based on the perception that not only does that reflect an awareness beyond their experience, but was based also on the correct perception that this is, in the conditional terms of the conversation, completely meaningless and irrelevant (in a "wrong tool for the wrong job" kind of way).

On a transpersonal, transconditional level, of course you're right. It's just not useful for direct application to conditional truths (that's where western psych enters into the integral approach, since a lot of Eastern approaches like to just "transcend and ignore" conditional concerns entirely). It's like using your hand to pound in a nail and just bypassing the hammer altogether. It accomplishes about as much too.

But going back to the point that resilience is the other side of the same coin as suffering, I think that modern liberal (or "Boomeritic") Buddhism is largely just concerned with the "suffering" part. This is very flawed (and will cause you to get that dead look in your eyes) because you condition yourself simply to develop this high tolerance for pain and ambiguity without obtaining help from recognizing the resilience in creation.

If you, for example, are also president Bush, then he is also you. If you are also that suffering beggar, then he is also the fortunate and content person YOU are. If you are "the same people" in the Buddhist sense, it works both ways. And what that means in transcendental terms is that while people are being affected by suffering, they are also being affected by resilience. Everyone you feel a responsibility towards also has one towards you. If the same being stares out of all eyes, what matters it if your eyes see suffering when their eyes see contentment, exuberance and compassion?

That just doesn't solve the psychological side of the puzzle, and that's what's largely important about this post, but it may help with any spiritual angst you or your friend feel at the sight of suffering.

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Very interesting. What is ... (Below threshold)

June 2, 2007 5:09 PM | Posted by rick geiger: | Reply

Very interesting. What is means is that people really don't like to think very hard or too much. With good reason, because when you think, if you do it honestly, which is difficult, you often have to question your knowledge and your beliefs and who the heck likes to do that? But WOW, my suggestion for the author is to get a few new friends because it is pretty clear that most of her friends think alike...too much alike

Admin's response: Huh? Do I write like a girl?

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I will hesitate to utilize ... (Below threshold)

June 3, 2007 9:21 PM | Posted by Anon: | Reply

I will hesitate to utilize Ken Wilber's integral material for insight into the issue of suffering until Wilber ceases to associate with or support the careers of various and sundry abusive gurus who use harsh teaching methods. One such teacher whom Wilber has associated with over the years is Andrew Cohen.

One commentator, Alan Kazlev wrote:

"But the most common – indeed, the standard, excuse abusive gurus use to justify their behaviour is that it is necessary that the disciple be abused and humiliated in order for them to overcome ego and attain enlightenment (although at the same time, no abusive guru ever acknowledges that any of their students have ever attained enlightenment)

"It is this, more subtle argument, that one finds associated with the Wilberian Integral movement as a whole.

According to Andrew Cohen, teachers need to break down one's ego, and this can be a psychologically and emotionally excruciating process. Wilber fully supports this approach. In the Foreword to one of Cohen's books, (Wilber)says

"When it comes to spiritual teachers, there are those who are safe, gentle, consoling, soothing, caring; and there are the outlaws, the living terrors, the Rude Boys and Nasty Girls of God realization, the men and women who are in your face, disturbing you, terrifying you, until you radically awaken to who and what you really are....

"If you want encouragement, soft smiles, ego stroking, gentle caresses of your self-contracting ways, pats on the back and sweet words of solace, find yourself a Nice Guy or Good Girl, and hold their hand on the sweet path of stress reduction and egoic comfort.

"But if you want Enlightenment, if you want to wake up, if you want to get fried in the fire of passionate Infinity, then, I promise you: find yourself a Rude Boy or a Nasty Girl, the ones who make you uncomfortable in their presence, who scare you witless, who will turn on you in a second and hold you up for ridicule, who will make you wish you were never born, who will offer you not sweet comfort but abject terror, not saccharin solace but scorching angst, for then, just then, you might very well be on the path to your own Original Face".[51]

"Wilber applauds Cohen as a "rude boy", and offers him (and abusive gurus in general) as the alternative to a ridiculous caricature that does not match the description of any spiritual teacher. He says that the "rude boy" will "hold you up for ridicule" and "will make you wish you were never born". Yes, all out of his boundless love and compassion that you may yourself attain Enlightenment!

But let us look at the reality, the mind games and psychological conditioning and abuse; things that Wilber, who has never been a disciple at Cohen's Foxhollow community, has not had to experience.

Here is one example (from Enlighten Nixt blog)

"At one point, the women as a group got into serious trouble because some women answered back to some men who told them they were not doing their spiritual practice properly. Andrew heard about this and let it be known that their disagreement was "outrageous."

The women went into a panic when they heard this. They decided they must do something extreme to prove their penitence.
The tragic nature of this example is shown by the fact that it is the disciples themselves suggested this, as a means of punishment, in order to win Cohen's favour (other methods included giving him huge sums of money, such as twenty thousand dollars, or even the entire life savings) I will return to this point a little later. In this particular instance, it was decided that they would do prostrations in the freezing cold water of a lake on the property, standing waist deep in water and submerging themselves completely, again and again, for an entire hour...

(This is an excerpt from a longer article that can be read here)

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"There are few things in li... (Below threshold)

June 10, 2007 11:49 AM | Posted by An Iranian-American: | Reply

"There are few things in life worse than being taken hostage by the Iranians..."

You say this with such authority.

Yeah, gosh, it looked awful, with all the heaping plates of food. Perhaps they should be sent to the spa at Guantanamo Bay for recovery.

Admin's response: You're doing that splitting I was referring to: Guantanamo=all bad so Iran=all good, and, obviously, you're starting from the position of hating Guantanamo, not actually liking Iran. Do you expect that I'll make comparisons between the two, to show that Guantanamo is actually better than Iran? I won't, because they are separate things. And I stand behind my above comment.

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There's something in this a... (Below threshold)

August 21, 2007 6:28 AM | Posted by Anna: | Reply

There's something in this all that I can't quite put my finger on so can't comment on very well. I think its a good article, as far as I understand it (its not my usual reading), but everything, every motive, seems to have an 'angle' with a 'label' which somehow is depressing?

There's an 'inbetween' of some sort or maybe its just a simplistic non-intellectual one, but as the topic of street people has been brought up in a couple of comments, I'll use that as I can 'see' that more clearly.

1. I don't want to give money because he (or she of course) may worsen his own situation by buying another dose of drugs and I don't want him to do that (or perhaps I don't want to feel responsible for it).

2. I'll give him some cash - if he gives it to a dealer, who cares. That's his problem, I've done my bit today for the homeless and hope he chooses food.

3. The man is homeless and clearly suffering from malnutrition, this maybe because he's addicted to drugs/alcohol and his fault, it maybe lifes circumstances that drove him to homelessness or addiction, it really doesn't matter because its clear he's suffering. I'll go back to the takeout on the last corner, buy him a hot drink and a hot snack (or nutritious cold version if appropriate) and then quickly and quietly hand it to him (or put it next to him is he's sitting down) before walking on.
That way I can help a tiny bit as he benefits from some nutrition and he can't do himself more harm with my contribution.

I still can't quite work out HOW this, to me, relates to some points in the article about how people view things, but hope you can.

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You know, you don't use the... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2007 8:46 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You know, you don't use the standard right-wing cliches (Bush Derangement Syndrome, "they hate us for our freedoms") but they seem to map to what you're saying. Are you a dittohead?

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There were moments when you... (Below threshold)

June 5, 2008 12:37 AM | Posted by endif: | Reply

There were moments when your over use of 'liberal' perspective as the default example really had me wondering if this was what happened when an intelligent person drank the kool aid. Note the reply above.

But then I figured you were just using what you knew.

Either way, if you're going to use one example as a foil against the other(s), you might jump around between a number of example perspectives in order to remain, er, 'fair and balanced'.

That said, excellent post. Pimping around to others. Really made me think.

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Excellent, articulate, and ... (Below threshold)

June 5, 2008 11:49 AM | Posted by black dog barking: | Reply

Excellent, articulate, and observant. Thanks for maybe expanding this layperson's vocabulary in matters of social interaction. I didn't realize until near the end of the comments that this post is over a year old. Still relevant.

In re: dittohead-ness. In choosing from the Hate List "Bush, Terrorism, Liberal" for purposes of illustration I would tactically use Bush Hatred as it would likely reach a larger audience. Part of the (narcissistic?) Liberal world view includes entertaining divergent points of view. No such pretense from real dittoheads.

My impression of the Britain / Iran kidnapped soldiers incident was that it highlighted the asymmetric nature of the conflict and the weapons. One side straps on body armor, the other nails and explosives; completely different levels of commitment. I'm pretty sure the British soldiers were engaging with their captors at the level of "Whatever, don't cut my head off" while the intended audience for the captors heard and believed confessions of state sin, not "whatever".

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re: Halliburton, or any oth... (Below threshold)

June 5, 2008 10:18 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

re: Halliburton, or any other corporation:
And if you don't like the way they do business (or if you do,) the shareholders, or at least the biggest shareholders, can do something about it.

Yeah, right. Please provide _one_ instance when a shareholder resolution forced a board of directors to change their actions. The boards of US corporations answer to themselves, not to the shareholders. You're living in a fantasy world if you think otherwise.

The rest of your essay makes almost as much sense. Yes, some people go overboard on their opinions, but it's not as black and white as the way you paint it either.

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Most people need some sort ... (Below threshold)

June 6, 2008 9:46 AM | Posted by Psychomancer: | Reply

Most people need some sort of moral stance before they use violence. I don't need that sort of thing. If I perceive a threat I will ruthlessly (and hopefully efficiently) remove the threat. The the target's survival is irrelevant. If the threat is gone then the job is done. I could try to kill a man one day, and if our problems are gone, drink a beer with him the next. If he threatens me, I am not going to ask why he hates me. I don't care. I am going to remove threat and then go eat a hot-pocket and watch sponge-bob.
This also expands into my "world-view". I don't give a crap why they hate us. The fact is they do. I am not inclined to talking them into liking us. I am not inclined to changing our behavior because they were clever enough to execute a terrorist attack. I don't care about their approval. They killed our people, bragged about it, made demands and threatened to do it again.
I say we kill them. If they stop trying to kill us, then fine, I'll buy them a Coke and smile and no hard feelings.

-From the Ravings of the Psychomancer

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That's a ridiculously isoli... (Below threshold)

June 6, 2008 1:33 PM | Posted, in reply to Psychomancer's comment, by Jube: | Reply

That's a ridiculously isolistic view.

You're looking at the world in a vacuum and in doing so completely missed some of the most interesting points of the article. Think about it, look at Iraq as a threat, it was invaded, shit got done, people got killed.

Now the next threat comes along and this time people don't want a ground war. No-one wants another attack. Yet people like you are still screaming "NO! No middle ground! We need blood now!" and while I sympathise with that view and I for the most part agree with the sentiment you're completely ignoring the repurcussions.

Eventually you end in a situation where someone attacks US soil or is said to have and we have a nuclear attack situation, or similar horrible horrible situation. Something that would completely change or unsettle the power balance of the world

And then what? Lash out again when people call you wrong for nuking country X? Nuke them till they shut up?

Every action you take has repurcussions. That was the point of the Iraq bit. In refusing to solve the problem by attacking the symptoms (as opposed to the disease) you end in a situation that spirals down and down.

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My God...You just validated... (Below threshold)

June 10, 2008 10:43 AM | Posted, in reply to Psychomancer's comment, by Slapmaster Ed: | Reply

My God...You just validated the original argument of the article in less than 1000 words.

Your stance on violence and "them versus Me" in all situations is, IMO, the classic case of the "splitting" behavior as detailed by the esteemed author in his well written, and logically argued article (/brown-nosing...)

Believe me, I understand where you are coming from in your stance on self-defense...but only as it pertains to individual survival. To quote [I]Roadhouse[/I] (admittedly, not high art or culture, but the point holds, I believe) "If someone pulls a gun on you, you either die or you kill the motherf***er"

However, as illustrated by Jube in their response to your post, this posturing falls apart when applied to a worldview. Actions have consequences. Cause begets Effect. When this type of blind lashing out against a perceived threat is applied on a large scale, as has recently been done, and been done down the ages through history (Crusades anyone?) that hatred begets more hatred. A pattern develops, which follows something like this;

You attacked me (for some reason, be it a radical group, a resource war, a land-greedy warlord, what-have-you) I am retaliating against you, and in doing so, will attempt to wipe you from the face of the Earth so that you can never threaten me again. This type of war of attrition is impossible to execute completely, particularly when one is the invading party in retaliation. You are on their turf; they know more than you; they will survive your onslaught after your resources run out. You are now the bad guy; whoever you attacked will forget that they instigated the retaliation, or rationalize it, and will teach their children to hate and fear you as the invader or oppressor. This begets more actions of violence from them against you. (Children used as suicide bombers in Iraq, anyone?) You, following the argument you postulated, continue to attempt to destroy them, since they are continuing to pose a threat to you, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence, negating any attempts at mitigation or mediation.

A note of disclaimer: I am in no way trained at the analysis of people. In fact, I don't deal with people; I'm a practicing engineer, I much prefer mechanical things to people. People are irrational. Machines only do exactly what you tell them to...which is why they seem to have minds of their own; they do...yours... What I'm getting at is simply this: I am most likely way off base, or neglected several points which would prove/disprove my opinions. I am simply doing what I always strive to do; be critical of everything around me, including my own behaviors.

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I think there are several p... (Below threshold)

June 11, 2008 11:29 AM | Posted by Lusepuster: | Reply

I think there are several problematic things in this analysis.
First off, the facts: What you call "feudalism" is still, technically, capitalism. So Marx wasn't wrong about that one: feudalism preceeds capitalism, but - which was one of his main points - capitalism is bound to end up in a huge power concentration (monopolism, in Marxist terms), that in many ways resemble feudalism - exactly as you describe.

Second; how did Hugo Chavez become the arch villain in the Star Wars sequel that international politics is reduced to in the US media? He's a democratically elected president, and the only reason for his aggression against the US is that the latter has a long and bloody history of supporting dictators in Latin America. That would hardly pose a threat to the US, he simply wants its hands off, and no more than that.

Third: Everyone can "just" buy into Halliburton and change things? Is that supposed to be a joke? Because it's not even funny to someone who can just make the rent and food and clothing. And besides, what kind of view on democracy is that? One buck, one vote?

But not to the main point. The real problems are not crazy foreigners that hate America. Almost everyone fighting the US in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else, would be happy if the US would just take their crap and leave, and mind their own business, instead of telling the whole world that they know better. No, the real problems for most Americans are an economy that stinks, unemploment, housing prices, food prices, gas prices, etc. These are not forces of nature, they are the result of political decisions, made by a small class in power. People that control the media, the military industrial complex that already Eisenhower warned about, and the think tanks made up of people who would never dream of personally fighting the wars that they forge. And, of course, the government, that might be democratically elected, but through a campaign ruled by corporate media and whoever has the more money to campaign for.

Since people have learned all their lives that questioning these people's right to have such a superior power would be pure communism, there is only one option left - individual damage control. You can't change the problems, but at least you can dodge them. That is why people feel powerless, and that is why apathy and all your "pathological" conditions set in. They are defense mechanisms, yes, but instead of criticizing them, why not ask what peoples alternative is? You seem to find it pathetic that people want to shrug off the problems that they are faced with everyday - well, what is their alternative? What are they supposed to do instead? I see only two options apart from the defense mechanisms: Question whether it's such a good idea that huge cormporations have such a huge power, but we've already learned that this would be pure communist evil. Or, keep dodging - but remember to smile and be thankful you live in a democracy. Fat chance.

If you think there are other obvious alternatives why not state them instead of criticizing your fellow Americans for their (lack of) skills in handling a situation of permanent crisis?

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"if Hillary Clinton wins th... (Below threshold)

June 11, 2008 3:12 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"if Hillary Clinton wins the 2008 election, then an entire generation of people-- 24 years-- will have been ruled by either a Bush or a Clinton. Why do we keep picking them...because they're a brand." But I think a huge aspect of it is the fact that she is a woman, not just because she is a "brand". I understand what you're trying to say: in comparison to Bush, Bill Clinton was better in office and Hillary Clinton, by association, had an automatic in with the American people. I think the voting scenario would have looked much different if Bill had a brother that was running for office.

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Applying feudalism to the m... (Below threshold)

June 15, 2008 9:42 AM | Posted by Chris: | Reply

Applying feudalism to the modern corporate world? Ingenious, and not the first time I've seen it. In particular, Richard Maybury has said a fair amount on this topic.

With the increased presence of private security forces in the corporate world, the link to feudalism is becoming remarkably clear.

And to the commenter previously who does not understand how feudalism applies to the current situation; the Corporation is a direct challenge to the sovereignty and existence of any government, even the U.S. Federal Government. If politicians do not support the large corporations, then their opponents will receive corporate support and backing.

Corporations with enough money and political clout do exist as semi-sovereign entities, able to make their own rules and judgments.

Add in privatized paramilitary security forces, and you have modern-day feudalism, complete with royalty.

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Excellent essay! I disagre... (Below threshold)

June 20, 2008 3:09 AM | Posted by John: | Reply

Excellent essay! I disagree that capitalism will evolve to feudalism - in the words of Gordon Gecko, "Greed is good, greed is right, greed works." I think it's possible in theory to evolve into feudalism, but in practice the offspring of the lords would largely need the skills to rule and willingness of the subjects to be ruled.
In the last thirty years we have seen unparalleled movement between classes and economic rungs. Look at millionaires as a percentage of the population compared to thirty years ago and you will actually find a broadening of economic power.
Sadly (maybe, maybe not), the economic successors, by and large, do not have the abilities and have not had to endure the trials and tribulations that developed their progenitors.
Many sports stars who earn incredible amounts of money and find themselves bankrupt a few years after retirement because they lacked the skills to manage the economic class that they had attained. Likewise, the Paris Hilton's of the world lack the skills to manage the life that their parents built for them.
I do agree that the Haliburtons, et al. could be taken private, but the economic successors would let greed override wisdom and they would be back on the auction block.
I do believe that economic mobility is greater now than ever before and will increase with the advance of technology. I believe the essay hit the American publics issue right on the head – apathy & envy. You can’t go very long without hearing someone complain about corporate CEO pay – it has nothing to do with how much the person doing the complaining wanting to earn more, they just don’t want the CEO to make as much as he does. The fact is that 99.9% of the population couldn’t do the job – heck 50% of those who get the job can’t do it.
Most of the people complaining about economic immobility and the lack of economic freedoms at the lowest rungs of our society and the same ones who do nothing to improve their economic conditions or that of the community. I was deeply offended by Al Gore’s comment during his presidential campaign that those of us who have “won life’s lottery” should [pay more taxes]. Life is not a lottery. 95% of the bad things in my life are due to bad decisions that I have made. The way to win this lottery is to learn from your mistakes.
I associate with very diverse groups of people ranging from the top to the bottom economic levels. None of the people that I know at the top levels inherited their millions. A succession of good decisions was made that led to financial success. I am not on the top financial rung, but I did make the transition from middle-lower class, growing up in East LA, through upper-middle class, because of the decision to do so and not just sitting and complaining about what other people had. Now I’m trying to continue the class progression to the higher rungs.
Anyway, excellent observations. Thank you for making us think..

-- John

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I can predict the future. ... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2008 8:35 PM | Posted by Charles: | Reply

I can predict the future. I can predict who will be the next US President: John McCain?

How can I predict that?

Because he's clearly a crazyface as was Bush when elected. The fact that Americans can't clearly, collectively get together and get rid of your current crazyface president who is screwing up not only your country, but the entire planet shows me that you might actually believe McCain won't do the same thing.

Please elect an intelligent candidate, not another good ol' boy.

What am I saying. You'll elect McCain because you're used to the crazyface ways.

The rest of the planet will continue to suffer because of the United States of crazyface leaders.

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I think you "hate" universa... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2008 11:38 AM | Posted by David Johnson: | Reply

I think you "hate" universal health care. You make numerous one-off comments about it ... in your screed you write: "Inherent in the act of splitting is apathy. You don't try to find a solution to the problem person, the split is the solution. It allows you not to have to deal with the other, because you've decided that the other is irredeemable." Sort of like universal health care, eh? Even though it doesn't exist in this country. Even though other countries manage to provide more services to a greater percentage of their population at a lesser cost.

I encourage people to visit, Physicians for a Nation Care Health Program. There you'll find information and advocacy for better health care solutions. Apathy around health care issues is easy to embrace ... try a more rigorous and beneficial course of action.

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In a suicide pact, always g... (Below threshold)

October 21, 2008 11:19 PM | Posted by Eric Sohr: | Reply

In a suicide pact, always go second.

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Part of the problem, politi... (Below threshold)

December 18, 2008 10:38 AM | Posted by La BellaDonna: | Reply

Part of the problem, politically, is that Americans, by and large, are brought up to be "nice" and to "get along". They figure if they can get rid of their demonized scapegoat, Bush, then everyone will like us. There are a couple of problems with that. One is that there are countries which hate us for the very things that we think makes us good people (and therefore likeable); the other is that those countries DON'T want us to take our crap and go. They want us to give them our crap, give them our money, AND be exterminated from the face of the earth - George Bush or no George Bush. It's a concept that most Americans just can't cope with: no matter what we do, we'll be hated for being Americans. We'll be hated while we donate money to the victims of the next international natural disaster, we'll be hated for sending soldiers in when we've been asked to intervene in some affray, we'll be hated if we DON'T send soldiers to intervene when requested. We'll be hated because we're Americans, and Americans just don't want to believe that. They think they're "good people" (even if "Bush isn't"), and who in their right minds hates good people? Psychomancer's reaction is both normal and healthy: you threaten me, and I will make sure that you are not a threat. It may not be a "nice" answer, but it's the answer of a survivor. Good luck talking the countries that hate us into not hating us; it would be dandy if you could, but it doesn't seem likely, and in a throwdown, I'd rather be armed with Psychomancer at my back than depend on the earnest convincing conversational skills of the "nice" people.

That said, however, unless armed conflict finds its way to me, I will continue to take my shoes off at airports and roll my eyes as "airport security" searches somebody's Norwegian-ancestry grandma for terrorist supplies, instead of looking for actual likely suspects - oh, excuse me, that would be "racial profiling" - since there doesn't seem to be a feasible alternative for me.

That's the problem, Alone: no feasible alternatives for the powerless, regardless of their views on how America and Americans are perceived abroad. I'm willing to listen to any suggestions you might have, but until then, is it any goddamned wonder that people are "addicted" to World of War and other games, where they are offered the semblance of control over their lives? Why WOULDN'T someone choose a positive delusion over an unpleasant reality, if there's no perception that they can change their current reality into a more positive one?

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This is great that we can t... (Below threshold)

May 25, 2010 10:36 PM | Posted by SteeleAUDRA18: | Reply

This is great that we can take the moreover, this opens up completely new chances.

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The fact that Americans can... (Below threshold)

July 26, 2010 5:23 AM | Posted by Club Penguin Cheats: | Reply

The fact that Americans can't clearly, collectively get together and get rid of your current crazyface president who is screwing up not only your country, but the entire planet shows me that you might actually believe McCain won't do the same thing.
And there are many funny games by click club penguin cheats.

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Yeah! Me too have some turm... (Below threshold)

November 28, 2010 11:14 PM | Posted by stretch mark removal: | Reply

Yeah! Me too have some turmoils which would direct me to "where the hell is it?"
It is such a bad one that most terrorists these days are scattered all over the world planning some evil scheme which would then be the advent of the vengeance.

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<a href="http://reduce-stre... (Below threshold)

November 28, 2010 11:15 PM | Posted by Jake: | Reply

stretch mark removal

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AT&T Simplify Your L... (Below threshold)

November 29, 2010 1:34 AM | Posted by juan: | Reply

AT&T Simplify Your Life video contest - Kill Bills

I just found this AT&T Simplify Your Life video

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America learns to save as m... (Below threshold)

December 31, 2010 12:32 AM | Posted by remove moles: | Reply

America learns to save as many lives as possible. The might and the men must synchronize and never take vengeance as justice reflects on the lives that would be jeopardized in this said conflict.

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">remove moles... (Below threshold)

December 31, 2010 12:33 AM | Posted by remove moles: | Reply

">remove moles

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Oh... This blog is so hot..... (Below threshold)

March 27, 2011 11:25 AM | Posted by wart removal: | Reply

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U.S. troops in Muslim count... (Below threshold)

April 1, 2011 9:35 AM | Posted by James Byden: | Reply

U.S. troops in Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan become the cause itself for war. There is no question that in those countries at this time U.S. operations must be limited in duration, and have very specific objectives. See Dwight Eisenhower and the Suez crisis for corroboration—limited engagement works.

The Bush Administration came to believe that they could spread democracy in the Middle East at the muzzle of a gun. It was wrong. The Obama Administration’s approach seems riskier, but is in fact less so. To try to protect other nations against themselves is a futile endeavor.
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And if American influence around the world largely depends on military might we have found a fine way to bleed ourselves dry. Lucky for us it is not so.

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"its men are weak, its indi... (Below threshold)

June 1, 2013 12:58 AM | Posted by Dude: | Reply

"its men are weak, its individuals are selfish, and they cannot be trusted to act in the long term interests of their own people."

Whatever the cause, A, do you seriously dispute that this is the state in which the West finds itself?

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Great. Just one thing. If 1... (Below threshold)

April 27, 2014 7:29 PM | Posted by johnnycoconut: | Reply

Great. Just one thing. If 15 British prevent a war, are they not heroes?

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As I'm reading this in 2014... (Below threshold)

November 23, 2014 10:44 AM | Posted by Tara D.: | Reply

As I'm reading this in 2014, my only thought is: Alone was dead-on. Damned prophetic.

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