Archive for December, 2015

Tipping Point?

“The long and the short of it is, there is no important idea that stupidity does not know how to make use of, for it can move in all directions and is able to wear all the garments of truth. Truth, on the other hand, has only one garden and one road and is always at a disadvantage.” (The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil)

In the course of human events, the evolving and relentless curriculum of all societies, countries, indeed every form of human organization there inevitably comes to pass what can be called a tipping point. A moment in time when previous understandings no longer apply, are no longer valid or abided by. Things change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. This  dynamic exists in all relationships without exception. Relationships are constantly being made and broken, alliances formed, reformed, or destroyed, joined and separated – conjunto today separado tomorrow. This has always been the normal state of human affairs. We understand that relationships are at times defined by convenience, mutual needs under particular circumstances which, when those circumstances change, so too the relationships.

Social contracts defining political relationships such as democracy are based on trust that the foundational definitions will hold over time and circumstances and for all members equally. When beliefs fail to reflect  experience trust is inevitably displaced by disillusionment and disappointment which inevitably segues into resentment and anger. No amount of rhetoric or sermonizing can assuage the indignity of inequality – social, economic, or political. When the foundational conditions defining a society, country, or international agreement fail, become inconsistent, or are regularly violated the required trust, the “glue” dissolves taking the contract with it. The social history of the United States speaks to this truth since its inception failing to deliver its promises of social equality never mind economic.

An analysis  of federal policy initiatives dating from 1981 to 2002 by researchers at Princeton concluded, “ … economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” The denial and destruction of a government of, by, and for the people, is the antithesis of a democratic society paving a path to disillusionment, disengagement, and ultimately – dissolution. There are all manner of inequalities some of which society can redress and some we cannot. It is inarguable that civilized humane people must correct those inequalities that can be, to provide the economic and social capital to equalize the inequalities of opportunity and access.  It is not that society lacks the means and methods but rather it lacks the will and motivation but, there is more to it than that even. It’s a failure to believe in or to understand what it means to live in a democracy.

More and more people in the US realize they don’t live in a participatory democracy as they were led to believe and where this realization will take us is unknowable. Obviously the many Texans, supported by elected officials, who were convinced the federal government was preparing to “take over” that state, impose martial law, and confine them in disused Walmart stores have reached some kind of tipping point. For these delusory Texans the only remaining question is will there be greeters in blue vests.

    The ability to live at high levels of cognitive dissonance such as to believe the US government is plotting to lock you up in an empty Walmart store illustrates the problem – no contradiction of evidence, values, or beliefs is to great to ignore; no reassurance to the contrary matters accompanied by pandering politicians exploiting the hysteria.The consistent thread is dispensing with the idea of truth. Where there is no social or economic opportunity, and no justice there is no believable truth.  If black people can be shot or beaten by police with impunity on any pretext no amount of political suasion will protect a belief in truth or justice in that community. Where there is no justice there is no possibility of a coherent social contract. Nowhere in such a desperate belief system can truth live comfortably and securely. The denial and negation of truth has many expressions including social and economic inequality, mysogny, racism, and eventually the reality of a diminished, if not extinguished, democracy.

Economic justice is constrained by neoliberal capitalism, an amoral economic system become a quasi-religious belief system not to be questioned. One can fairly ask as now one must, how is it possible for a polity to maintain a non-democratic economic system approaching religious status conflated with a barely functioning social contract? This is the stuff of cognitive dissonance.

But, what is all this about, really?  It’s about indignity; not simply expressed as inequality of material things but the inequality of shared human experience which underlies racism, mysogny, greed, and every other social aberration that objectifies others. It is about a growing lack of simple compassion as illustrated by thirty-three cities across the US which have either already banned or are considering banning giving food to homeless people going so far as to threaten jail time for doing so. If every person of color were to disappear from the United States by tomorrow morning a new replacement group would be found by nightfall. It’s a curse on society and that, my friends, is the sad truth and how far can it go without some serious course corrections is more in question than the inevitability of that necessity. We don’t know where the tipping point is – but, there is one, there always is.

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