We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Zero-Sum: The Savage Vision Driving a Terror-Ridden World

Click here to access article by Chris Floyd from his blog Empire Burlesque

In this essay the Floyd, an independent journalist, embarks on an ambitious quest to explain the continuing terrorist events in Western countries by examining what he regards as a "primitive" orientation of control and domination that has been adopted by so many ruling classes throughout history. Of course recorded history only dates back to about 10,000 years ago, or at most about 2% of human history. Thus little is known about the earlier 98% of human experience. 

Floyd later suggests that this "fiercely primitive worldview" is an "extremely limited worldview", however he doesn't develop the theme that there is another worldview that is characterized by "The idea of equal citizens working, living, and sharing together". Such a worldview is regarded as purely a fantasy by especially those who dominate the world today. 

This is a fundamental issue regarding human nature. It seems obvious that human nature is highly plastic and can take many different forms for long periods of time. Many have argued that, although the latter is true, human nature is not infinitely plastic. Two such people who argue that this "fiercely primitive worldview" is not a fundamental part of human nature are Susan Rosenthal, a retired psychiatrist, and Noam Chomsky, a world famous linguist. Rosenthal's thoughts on this subject can be accessed in Chapter Five of her book Power and Powerlessness and  Chomsky's in an article entitled "Human Nature: Justice versus Power" which features a 1971 debate with Michel Foucault. Eric Fromm after WWII wrote many books featuring a similar concept of human nature. All these concepts suggest that human nature is incompatible with any kind of class rule.

Floyd focuses our attention on more contemporary and false notions of human nature, the most prominent of which is the capitalist ruling class's notion of extreme individualism where everyone is encouraged to believe that they are in competition with everyone else for control and domination. Such beliefs, of course, ultimately justify capitalist class rule.
...the dynamic of domination is key: since nothing exists outside this dynamic, since there is no other way, then one group MUST dominate the others. The idea of equal citizens working, living, and sharing together is a fantasy in this worldview. If blacks or immigrants or women or gays are perceived to have gained a small share in the national life, then that share must have been “taken” from the dominant group. And since, in this view, domination is the goal of all groups, since it is the organizing principle of human life, then those upstart groups are not just seeking a fair share of society’s bounty and freedoms and opportunities; no, they are actually aiming to subjugate the dominant group. In this extremely limited worldview, life is always a zero-sum game. To give someone else more opportunity means less for yourself, and your kind. The freer someone else is, the less free you are. There is only so much to go around. You will find more sophisticated and empathetic worldviews on grade-school playgrounds, or in wolf packs.

And so we come to the foreign policies of Western nations today.

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