A THREE-LEGGED STOOL: DENIAL, RATIONALIZATION, AND SELF-INTEREST

Yes, behold the infrastructure upon which humanity has rested its fat psychological ass since time immemorial. And it is those three things that remain constant, no matter what happens on the planet, what is discovered, what is accomplished, what is addressed, and what is ignored. And it is a FREAKIN’ BLOODY SHAME!

Even Jesus, who I think was actually a crazy person wandering around the Middle East back in the day, and most definitely NOT related to God in any way, because in my opinion God is a made-up concept fueled by – guess what! – denial, rationalization, and self-interest. Anyway, here’s quoting Jesus, that scramble-headed Aramaic-speaking Jew,  about “when his disciples asked, ‘When will the rest for the dead take place, and when will the new world come?’, he said to them, What you are looking forward to has come, but you don’t know it.’ ”

Just because the dude thought he was the son of God doesn’t make him entirely deranged, just more-or-less. Lots of people think they’re Jesus, even nowadays, although most often they are found in mental institutions. And, just like a lot of deranged people, Jesus did say  some things that made pretty good sense. Like the quotation above, which I interpret to mean that we could already have heaven on earth – if only that damned three-legged stool wasn’t mucking up the works. That’s right – denial, rationalization, and self-interest. The Bollocks Three.

Westerners are the worst for using the Bollocks Three to drive their thinking. Americans are worse than Westerners. And conservative Americans are the worst of all. We’ve spent the last half-century picking low-hanging fruit and congratulating ourselves on how smart we are, and peaceful, and nice and rosy and deserving and shining-city-upon-a-hill etc. Now it’s time to have our arms twisted back and our faces shoved up against the glass to confront the reality of empty-headed patriotism, climate change, peak oil, rotating economic crises, historical revisionism, universal deception, Orwellian speech (“Perpetual war for perpetual peace!”) and he-who-has-the-gold-makes-the-rules..

So let’s talk about the Bollocks Three.

First, the denial. Example: conservative politicians often hearken back to the good old days of the 50’s, when men were men, the economy was booming, and brown people knew their places. Okay, to recreate it, they would have to recreate the conditions of that era – for example, strong unions. Unions that guaranteed protections upon which one worker could bring home a reliable single income that was enough to raise a family on. BEEP! NOT ACCEPTABLE, so let’s just deny that unions had anything to do with those golden days. And what to do about these pesky brown folks, those LGBT people, and uppity women that didn’t exist in the 50’s, or at least had the manners to stay out of sight and not say or do anything unexpected? If only we could go back to the times when all those people were chattel, servants, farm workers, or stashing themselves within the folds of our culture under the threat of death! But OOPS – the founding fathers had the improvidence to write into the Declaration of Independence this awkward precept: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness”.

Dang. So now we have to either deny the fact that members of certain groups we don’t like are actually human, which even most (not all) conservatives know would be transparently ridiculous. Or – enter stage right! – it must be RATIONALIZED that somehow despite being human beings, certain stripes or ilks or whatevers of people simply do not deserve equal rights under the law. Becauuuuse … ummmm ….. God said it was bad! My Bible has a line that could be vaguely interpreted as not approving! They are evil! It’s against the natural order! They are taking all the jobs, especially the ones I would never lower myself to in a million years! They’re gonna gitcha kids! Etc. etc. etc., ad nauseum.

Then, of course, we inevitably roll on to the self-interest part. Once  the fine arts of denial and rationalization have been mastered, we can embark up the free-flowing river of more and better for ME! Capitalism has its good points, it cannot be argued. It has lifted many from poverty and into wealth. It has also demoted just as many or more from a decent quality of life to abject poverty. In many ways, capitalism can be considered legalized theft. In addition, it is a self-aggrandizing system in that the more you steal, the more you CAN steal. And the more you can steal, the closer you come to a complete monopoly on – everything.

I used to argue about this with my old conservative foil. He would tell me, straight-faced, that if he set up a hot-dog stand and made a better hot dog for less money, he’d come out ahead in the capitalist system. Yeah, right. What if Wal-Mart decides that your hot-dog concession is too profitable not to take an interest in? So they open their own hot-dog stand on the opposite corner, and since they already have captured a virtually infinite store of resources by cutting in on other businesses, they will engage you in a price war, and either break you or buy you. Easy as pie. They’ve done it already, and will do it again, while simultaneously stealing from taxpayers in the form of tax breaks, then stealing from their own employees AND the taxpayers by paying employees less than a survival wage so taxpayers can foot the bill for the difference with food stamps and emergency-room health care.

I would call this the “capitalist quantum effect.” You know how when you travel into the ultra-teeny world of quantum physics, NOTHING works like it does on the human scale? Well, it operates in the reverse too. Anything that happens at the human scale is deformed, hideously altered, or simply erased altogether at the Humongous Super-Capitalism level. Ordinary capitalist-citizens become ants among the elephants, and if it isn’t obvious by now, the elephants are already deep into denial and rationalization, talking about being “job creators” and how “tax cuts for the wealthy creates jobs”.

What’s to argue with about those claims! Except they aren’t true!

David Quammen wrote a book called “The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in the Age of Extinction.” The last few pages were devoted to the author’s musing on what he would do if he were faced with either killing the very last earthly representative of a particular species of bird, or allowing his own child to starve. No question, he concluded – he’d kill the bird! A human decision at a human scale.

But if you are a corporate captain of industry, there may be lots and lots of children dying, but you feel zero personal connection to it. Not YOUR fault, after all! Deny it! If Exxon wants to send  young soldiers to faraway places to bleed out in the dirt, those kids aren’t YOUR kids. Speaking from a rationalizing point of view – those strangers are dying for a good reason, and freedom isn’t free!  In point of fact, there’s no risk at all for a huge capitalist business to do horrible things to the citizens of the US, because whatever they do can always be rationalized by saying stuff like “the ends justify the means”, or “people want cheap gas more than they want other people’s children spared useless deaths”. Many citizens will buy this reasoning because they are tangled in their own webs of denial, rationalization, and self-interest. And then, since the business has collected a huge pile of money that Midas would envy, it can buy lots of people who are also prone to denial, rationalization, and self-interest, and stuff them into high government places, like the Supreme Court and Congressional seats. Not to mention, as Elizabeth Warren recently pointed out, big business can basically break every law there is and never fear prosecution because they are apparently “too big to put on trial”.

I’m not saying that the Bollocks Three is strictly an American phenomenon. It is a human phenomenon, or, more accurately, a monkey phenomenon. Look at North Korea. Look at China. Look at Central Africa. Look at the Middle East. Look at anywhere that anybody lives with other people in some semblance of a society. It’s everywhere. But some places have these things called LAWS AND REGULATIONS that are intended to protect citizens from corporate and governmental abuse. And there are a few people who will risk their lives – and often lose the same – by seeing right through the Bollocks Three in nations lacking such protections, and calling attention to wrongs being perpetrated. But lots of people will just go along to get along, and might even perform good deeds that don’t ask too much in the way of personal sacrifice.

In this age of uber-violent drug cartels, there is a Mexican saying: “La plata o el plomo…the silver or the lead”. You either take the bribe, or you’re gonna take the bullet. Not much of a choice. But for Americans, some opportunity to do the reasonable thing still exists. But you have to go there by following the money, and then be prepared to hear the most vehement denials and the most sophisticated rationalizations in defense of the indefensible.

And that’s the place to begin the change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S OFFICIAL: CONSERVATIVES PREDISPOSED TO HAVING THE POO SCARED OUT OF THEM

So say Rose McDermott and Peter K. Hatemi of Penn State University, and Lindon J. Eaves, Kenneth S. Kendler, and Michael C. Neale of Virginia Commonwealth University, who all co-authored a recent study titled “Fear as a Disposition and an Emotional State: A Genetic and Environmental Approach to Out-Group Political Preferences.”

In this study, they note the obvious: people who have a greater genetic liability to experience higher levels of social fear tend to be more supportive of anti-immigration and pro-segregation policies. I suspect that these are also the people who 1) think we all need guns to adequately protect ourselves, 2) need to seal the borders INSTANTLY because scary brown people are coming, and 3) require Jesus in our lives to handle those left-field attacks out of nowhere, like a Muslim riot at the local Safeway where a peace-loving American citizen happens to be picking up a box of Cheerios.

Do not laugh. I have a person in my life who is a Christian of this type. We handle horses together. She’s a good teacher of all things horsey, and not at all a horrible person, but is incessantly chirpy about the awesome powers of God and the evils of sin. She is also the most fearful, paranoid individual I have ever known. It has got to be exhausting, coming from that place. No matter what the situation, her mind leaps to the worst-case scenario. No matter what, every event has not just the possibility, but the probability, of going insanely bad. Every day becomes a process of gearing up for horrible things to happen, because she’s “seen it all”.

We discussed this a few times.
My question: “I’ve done exactly as many crazy things in my youth as you have, but all your experiences were horrible, and mine were just kind of mildly disconcerting. What gives?”
Answer: “God is constantly testing me.”
Followup: “Well, what a great guy. There’s compassion and love for you: scare the crap out of you over and over just to see how you’ll react. What is up with THAT?”
Followup answer: “Oh, there’s Satan in there too.”
Further followup question: “Well why doesn’t Satan mess with me the way he seems to be constantly messing with you?”
Further followup answer: “Satan doesn’t have to bother you cuz YOUR crusty nasty soul is already in the bag for him, so you’re due for an afterlife of hellfire and boiling lava anyway. But MY soul is a big fat ripe crispy apple hanging just out of reach, and Satan wants it bad!”

Oh. Okay. So, the lesson I draw from this is that this particular person isn’t Christian so much because of the Lord’s all-consuming love, but the FEAR of the boiling lava pits and cloven-hoofed taunting demons making her eternity into chopped walnuts. Eek. What a perfectly horrific world-view. I am SO GLAD not to have to live my life like this. It would be a perfectly ghastly way to go through one’s too-brief sojourn on the planet.

But back to frightened conservatives. I guess we shouldn’t seem surprised that so many of them are constantly terrified, and made stronger and more devoted Christians because of it. And of course, we have all noted how this particular brand of fundamentalist Christianity goes hand-in-hand with being a freaked-out looney-tune Tea Bagger. So from a cursory vantage point, just from gleaning through numerous news items and right-wing websites, yup, conservatives seem to be scared shitless virtually every minute of every day. But I totally get it! I had my little brush with fear-based living too: “Mommy, I’m Scared”. But I figured it out and got over it. And I didn’t have to saddle the nation with some reactionary goofball in Congress to do it.

Here’s a yummy bit of creepy conservatism on display: Says John T. Miller, “Horror (writing) is a fundamentally conservative genre. It’s of course a huge and diverse field, so it’s a little silly to slap it with a label. Yet so many of its stories involve a rupture in the social order and conclude with its restoration. They are also full of warnings about not messing with things you can’t understand, which is a subtle plea for respecting tradition.” This is from a guy posting to the National Review who reads horror stories to his children  before bedtime.

Nice! And speaking of conservatives and horror, do you know who the number 1 consumers of fake blood are in this country? Nope, not Halloween revelers, and not Hollywood special effects guys either. Fundamentalist Christians on Good Friday! Talk about a formative childhood event. Look at Reverend Charlie dressed up in a loincloth with a stickerbush on his head and a Balsawood cross, absolutely covered with realistic gore, and more being flung from the sidelines by jolly celebratory Christian observers. Yay! Fun for the whole family, mixed messages for all!

How about the redoubtable Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the National Rifle Association? In his view, it is obvious that the answer to school shootings is to give everybody in school a gun, which to anybody without the fear gene, is crazy on the face of it. Every parent has gone through those moments where if their pointing finger was a .38, they probably would’ve shot their kid for good n’ all. Because kids can piss adults off! And adults piss kids off too, so if one of those angry little psychos got hold of a misplaced gun, well, there’d be bloodshed and plenty of it. I am MUCH more afraid of THAT happening than of some crazy dude busting in through a window and shooting up the place. Wayne LaPierre, you are a nutbag and a scaredy-cat, and also a shameless collector of monetary kickbacks from the gun industry.

How about the extreme militarization of our police departments all over the country? I kind of understand the deployment of an occasional SWAT team, because sometimes, there’s a need. But does EVERY police department need to be armed to the teeth with every kind of deadly weapon known to man, just in the outside chance somebody is going to do something bad? Like the Alabama lunatic Jimmy Lee Dykes saga. Google the name under “images” and you shall see a spread of military armament like no other. One guy – crazy and dangerous, to be sure – but honestly, was it really necessary to bust out the whole collection of assault weapons, helicopters, paramilitary commanders, armored vehicles, Kevlar, etc. etc.? For one 70-year-old guy with a mental condition? In less corporatized times, this would have been known as “an overreaction”. But if you’re an Alabaman petrified of everything that could conceivably happen, and are encouraged to be afraid because of the unique brew of Alabama history, religion, and politics, well…. what else would one expect?

How about the fact that the United States leads all nations in the number of people in jail? Incarcerated. Confined. Put away. Not because so much of the crimes they committed, although some undoubtedly need to be packed off to some inescapable island somewhere, never to trouble the sleep of honest citizens again. But 86% are locked up for victimless crimes; over 50% of that figure for drug crimes alone. But there is a substantial number of people – 35% – who have been jailed for “public order offenses”. These include such things as immigration, weapons charges, public drunkenness, selling lemonade without a license, dancing in public, feeding the homeless without a permit, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. And, since at midyear 2008, there were 4,777 black male inmates per 100,000 black males held in state and federal prisons and local jails, compared to 1,760 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 727 white male inmates per 100,000 white males, I guess being too brown is a crime in itself.

Certainly all the white people who managed to tank the economy from Wall Street, costing hundreds of thousands of people their life savings, are criminals too. Oh. But they don’t go to jail, do they. On a personal level, we are all far more likely to suffer from corporate crime than have some ugly guy mug us. And we are likely to lose far more of our money to white-collar criminals too. But – jail’s out of the question for those dudes! Hell’s bells, a firm scolding and a big frown are pretty much all they got, and then they went right back to their cunning tricksiness of screwing around with fantasy economics, which the rest of us will inevitably wind up paying for again. But as George Bush Sr. can tell you, Willie Horton is a thousand times scarier than a president of AIG or the CEO of Goldmann Sachs. Fear always works! A certain kind of people are terrified out of their minds of things that have a miniscule likelihood of ever occurring, yet blithely soldier on as their nation crumbles around them due to psychopathic banking and lending practices that have already affected them directly, and will again. Go figure.

It’s all fear. Baseless, disjointed fear. Eeeek! Aiieeee! Noooooo! Look out! Run!

I refuse to live my life like that. You conservatives are big, fat chickens. You drive Hummers and flourish sidearms because you are terrified. You feed your children’s minds racist drivel, and blame immigrants for screwing up your life when you know perfectly well you screwed it up yourself but are afraid to face the fact. Too often you rely on an invisible buddy for moral support instead of having the courage to know what is right and good, and then standing up for it.

What a terrible way to live such a beautiful gift as life. You people need to join a commune or something. Loosen up and learn to let go. You are holding the rest of us hostage to your irrational terror, and as the last election demonstrated, a bunch of people are pretty sick of it.

Source(s):

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/prisons.htm