Posts Tagged 'Terry England'

Low-Effort Thinking

A study published in the journal Personality and Social Science Bulletin last year showed that those who score low on intelligence tests eventually gravitate towards “socially conservative political views.” The study concluded that “low-effort thinking” promotes political conservatism and acceptance of hierarchy. Who’da thunk it?

In the military blaming a subordinate for a mistake or failure made on your watch could result, at minimum, in a reprimand, or at worst being brought up on charges of conduct unbecoming of an officer. In New Mexico we are witnessing a scandal brought about by a Republican State Representative, Cathrynn Brown, blaming a bill drafter for making errors in a bill she requested, subsequently reviewed, signed and introduced to the Chamber. I fully understand that charges of “conduct unbecoming a politician” would be a conundrum of challenging proportions, but they should certainly be pursued, if only by the rational voters in her district. The legislation proposed was most certainly antisocial and demonstrated a lack of conscience and empathy. It is / was a piece of sociopathic legislation designed to punish women who have been raped for not carrying the child to term. Denials of responsibility followed public disclosure of the bill.

This was religious zealotry and low-effort thinking attempting to become law plain and simple. What you have here when you shovel your way through the “don’t-blame-me” propaganda is a bill that makes criminals of rape victims who don’t want to carry the rapist’s child. What’s next on this agenda? Perhaps witch burning such as took place in Papua New Guinea this past week. A 20-year-old mother was burned alive there in front of hundreds of witnesses (taking photographs no less), she having been accused of sorcery. It was, along with photographs, front-page news in the biggest newspaper in the country. Irrational, dogmatic religious zealotry takes its toll on a society; it makes mockery of claims of being civilized.

In New Mexico we have Cathrynn Brown, and in Missouri they have Todd Akin, a former US Representative who claims there is “legitimate rape” and that women’s bodies have a built-in mechanism for “shutting down” so pregnancy from rape won’t occur. Next we have Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia, an MD, who claims that evolution, embryology, and the “Big Bang Theory” are “… lies straight from the pit of Hell.” I would be remiss if I forgot to mention Terry England, a Georgia legislator who wanted to pass a bill requiring women to carry still-born fetuses to term. His rationale? Cows and pigs do. I should also include Richard Murdock, the Republican state treasurer of Indiana who opined: “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” There you have it, ladies, Grin and Bear It – God “intended” that you should be raped.

In Mississippi recently a five-year-old child was taken home from kindergarten in a police car “to teach him and his mother a lesson.” What was the crime? The school requires all students to wear black shoes, and this kid’s family was too poor to buy him black shoes. Mom, being resourceful, colored over his red and white sneakers with black marker. Unfortunately she missed a few places and so had to be “taught a lesson” in low-effort thinking by school officials.

Every example of low-effort thinking throughout history that failed to embrace and maintain common compassion, justice, equal economic opportunity, and respect for individuals did so as their social contract ceased to be viable. As in 14th-century Venice, people do not long subscribe to a social contract they perceive as being unfair and delimiting. The United States has the fifth-highest wealth disparity among 150 countries. It has happened before and it could be happening again. Even the Greek-born Roman essayist Plutarch recognized that “an imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” It is not simply the disparity of wealth that matters, so much as the disparity of opportunity that in itself is the measure of a nation, of a society.

The most serious question certainly is: What does this low-effort thinking in the simultaneous trends of zealotry and material greed portend for the American social contract? The recent election and its aftermath have shown how conservatives such as moderate Republicans and Tea Party activists cannot connect with each other even to win an election. Tea Party zealots have now vowed to run candidates against moderate Republicans in future elections. Like everything else involving people, low-effort thinking is a spectrum across which people and ideas are spread, ranging from virulent to somewhat reasonable. Every form of sociopathy has its destructive consequences.

It isn’t a joking matter that scores of people in states across the South and in the West have signed petitions demanding their state secede from the United States. When thoughtful engagement is required to sustain a society, low-effort thinking is the kiss of death.  The wisdom of Shelley’s Ozymandias rings true to this day:

‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’ Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.
What better example of low-effort thinking need there be? Perhaps the Texas GOP has the solution: Do not teach “critical thinking” in public schools.

The American Taliban

The recent news story (7/9/12) about the Taliban executing a young Afghan woman was revolting. The woman was shown in the accompanying video seated on the ground as the executioner fired his Kalashnikov nine times into her back. Aside from the abject cowardliness of the executioner and his colleagues, there was a crowd of about 100 villagers sitting on a nearby hillside cheering. No matter what her offense, it was a brutal event. A person’s life was taken in a direct and brutish manner, a despicable violation of human decency and civilized behavior.

In the US we don’t drag people into the streets and shoot them (yet). What we do is deny them health care, unemployment benefits, food stamps, living wages, and access to the political process on an equal footing with the wealthy via the Citizens United decision.

In the state of mind that is the State of Texas there are some 6.2 million people without health insurance. The Republican governor, Rick Perry, has rejected expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a health care insurance exchange. Consider that those 6.2 million people represent nearly a quarter of the population of Texas. This brings to mind the cheering at a Republican primary debate last year when a candidate explained that an ill person with no health insurance could die. Brutish, inhumane, and uncivilized behavior? You bet it is.

Texas Republicans recently revealed a key plank of their platform for the upcoming elections, their opposition to teaching critical thinking skills in public schools. This is unsurprising of course when your purpose is to create a stupidized general population that will go along with denying health care to poor people and other similar dehumanizing policies. What we have here is a Republican Tea Party agenda to de-legitimize the idea of community—to undermine and ultimately destroy the civil society. Following the Texas model, they want to create a gun-toting, everyone-for-themselves, don’t-tread-on-me world. They, like the Taliban, are anti-social, un-American, and they are dangerous sociopaths.

While philosophers like Max Weber and Marcel Gauchet thought that religion was the main influence on the development of Western social contracts, that influence is now distorted and deformed; it has become a weapon. The new religious influences on the social contract are exemplified by popular Christian preachers with national audiences, one of whom, in the solemn presence of Republican Presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, screamed that all immigrants should be sent back to where they came from. The other called for a national policy to create internment camps for homosexuals. Catholic bishops have been stiffed by US Congressmen professing the same faith as theirs because bishops forfeited their moral authority covering for child-abusing priests. Religion is no longer the humanizing influence it once was and has become, more than ever, polarizing, compartmentalizing, and more importantly, hypocritical.

Women are also under attack. Georgia Republican state legislator, Terry England, supported a bill to force women to carry a still-born or dying fetus to term because cows and pigs do, he said, so why not women. Tea Party activists cheering at the death of the elderly and the infirm, represent the new social contract. The Republican conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court that defines corporations as people with equal rights as human beings rends the fabric of rationality as well as the social contract. Money talks in America, and if you don’t have it you are mute, and your constitutional rights, just like your mortgage, have been foreclosed by big money. If you are not rich you exist to provide votes for whichever party can scare you the most about your fellow Americans. Capitalist cannibalism and nihilism are the new social contract replacing community, shared values, and common interest. Trade unions are being marginalized by politicians, business interests and their own inability to see a bigger picture than their internecine politics. In the mid-1950s close to 40 percent of American workers were covered by union contracts; today only 12 percent are. In the recent gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin union members voted against the union-endorsed candidate.

Public-sector unions are being attacked and eviscerated, not just by Republican governors but by Democrats as well. Eleven Democrat governors are blaming public-sector unions for budget deficits, demanding wage and benefit concessions. In all of that, neither the governors nor the affected unions have effectively pointed out the predatory role of big banks and the recession they caused. At this moment in time, corporate profits are at an all-time high and wages, calculated as a percent of the economy, are at an all-time low.

In Colorado Springs, the location of recent wildfires, public employees had been laid off or their jobs eliminated by elected officials who took Grover Norquist’s no new taxes pledge and rejected property tax increases. With the ranks of firefighters and police reduced, the city had 39 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer policemen to face the crisis. A few years ago the city even had to turn off a third of the town’s street lights. Many homes that weren’t consumed by the fire were looted or vandalized and dozens of automobiles broken into. The classic irony is that in the aftermath the city has shamelessly applied for Federal grants and aid. Where’s Grover? Maybe he has some ideas on how to reconcile this contradiction.

In the past few days it was revealed that traders at JPMorgan-Chase lost approximately $5.8 billion in bad gambles. How many firemen, cops, teachers, health clinics, and other more humane possibilities would that bundle have paid for? In the meantime the Republican Taliban, with public support, are going after the poor and disadvantaged; they are rampant and smelling victory.

This post first appeared at: http://www.grass-roots-press.com/


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