Class War Spurs Violent Clashes in Europe -- Why Are Americans Just Letting the Super Rich Win?

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ArghMonkey ArghMonkey's picture
Class War Spurs Violent Clashes in Europe -- Why Are Americans Just Letting the Super Rich Win?

Quote:
The great unspoken two words of American political discourse are class war. The moral and political premise of the modern, post-World War II “American Century” is that the U.S. had overcome class divisions and struggle. Everyone, or nearly everyone save the very poor and the very, very rich, was absorbed into a vast, undifferentiated middle class. [See “The End of the American Century?: Suffering the New Normal,” CounterPunch, September 10-11, 2010.]

The fiction that America is a nation without class, a lie since its inception a half-century ago, gets more and more untenable as actual class struggle daily intensifies. It’s time to accept the simple yet profound fact that America is in the midst of class war – and the super-rich, the American sector of the global oligarchy, is winning.

Class struggle is being explicitly fought out in France and Britain. In France, it is expressed as mass and often-violent resistance, with blood on the streets. In the U.K., it’s being imposed as a ruling class demand for austerity through huge public-sector layoffs, cuts in public services and little overt resistance. In Germany and the U.S., the mediating lubricants of legal niceties and political parties continue to contain and blunt direct class conflict.

http://www.alternet.org/economy/148687/class_war_spurs_violent_clashes_i...

KenS

I would say that class war is just as alive in the US as it is in France.

In France the class war is not all its cracked up to be. What is most visible happens to coincide with what lefties want to see. The blockades and strikes are most visible. What is not so visible but just as real is that a lot of the protesters are youth, of all classes... and that the sectoral participation of the working class is very narrow... in many parts of the country even as passive supporters.

Conversely, the class war in the US is more than it is cracked up to be. The fighting back does not manifest in ways that warm the hearts of lefties, so they 'see' it less.

[And its not like the French are fighting back effectively enough that they will get any less of the shaft.]

al-Qa'bong

Quote:

I would say that class war is just as alive in the US as it is in France.

 

Now there's an understatement.  The rich are engaged in an all-out frontal attack, supported by media bombardment, government sappers and financial shock troops.

There is a class war, and we're being annihilated.

KenS

There's agreement that there is a class war, I was saying that there is also fight back in the US- in forms we dont identify with. While the forms takeing place in France that we DO identify with, we make much more of than their limited scope warrants.

Caissa

How is the fightback manifesting itself south of the border, KenS?

Is the Tea Party phenomenon amongst the rank and file class based?

 

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
Why Are Americans Just Letting the Super Rich Win?

 

Is this to suggest that because of a few overturned cars and a tire fire, the Super Rich in France are now on the ropes and begging for mercy?

Caissa

I expected something bordering on 1968 in France given their history. It seems like the Left has been in disarray and less activist in the first decade of this century than it was in the decade before.

KenS

Its definitely not organized in the US. And where it exists, its reaction, not 'fightback'. But I contend that the 'fightback' of the French is not all its cracked up to be. [What Snert said.] That there is much of the air of impulsive reaction that goes nowhere in France than we like to admitt.... more like what happens elsewhere. I think French people sensing that in one form or another contributes to the limited scope of the protests. And why in terms of being continued and self feeding, the protests were more alive among the young who are the least immediately effected by the pension 'reforms'.

al-Qa'bong

Is this thread just a roundabout way of saying "cheese-eating surrender monkeys"?  What's the point?

6079_Smith_W

Old article, making the rounds on facebook

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1249465620080812

I think if the general public ever were to wake up I think most of them would have more success fighting with their dollars than they would with bricks, or with votes.

 

ArghMonkey ArghMonkey's picture

Gotta love it, because Canada and the U.S. dont do anything to stop the destruction of the middle class we cant stand that anyone else is better than us.

The French clearly understand democracy better than us and what do we do? instead of admitting we suck and have screwed up royally and are the bitchs of coporations and lack the collective IQ to launch an assault on those that are succeeding in ruining our lives, we bash the French, we make stupid claims that they are only fighting because they never agree with anything or we say its just a bunch of kids out to screw around, no, clearly its not and even if it were so what? the net effect is that they are making their lives better and we are dumb and cant even get enough collective strength to have a coalition government.

We deserve to be destroyed if we cant start being smarter than this.

The first step is to recognize that europe is better than Canada and much much much much much much much better then the U.S.

We should be applauding the French and offering to help and beg, in return, for them to help FIX our society since we are so totally inept.

6079_Smith_W

Argh, indeed.

Well they do SOME things better than over here, Not everything. They can keep some of their food, social control, invasion of privacy, and copyright and internet laws, as far as I am concerned.

autoworker autoworker's picture

It seems, to this humble soul, that, as much as 'middle class' Americans (and, increasingly, Canadians) rail against 'big' government, most realize that they will inevitably rely on Social Security benefits (which they are loathe to share with those they perceive did not contribute to that diminishing account which is currently adrift in a sea of deepening public debt, with a rising tide of deficits.  In other words, 'they' don't want to 'pay' for those who they don't see working and paying taxes, or for the rich, who don't need it anyway. 

In this sense, 'middle class' is everyone who depends on a paycheque or retirement income (i.e.: 'works' or 'has worked' for a living) and now enjoys the equal status of grievance ("Tea Partiers!...we're all in this together!"-- as they cross the Delaware); the myth being that there are: the very poor, the very rich...and everyone in between.  The erstwhile identification with being part of the working class is now synonymous with the popular notion of inclusion within a broad middle class.  "What is to be done?" has morphed into "Get it done!'...whatever that might be, and wherever it may lead.

NDPP

Lies Are All You Know  -  by Arthur Silber

http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com

"The American working class has been destroyed. The American middle class is in its final stages of destruction. Soon the bottom rungs of the rich themselves will be destroyed....

The entire way though this process the government will lie and the media will lie...

This is how we live today: lies are the staple of our diet. Without them we would die, certainly in pschological terms.."

Caissa

Al-Q asked:

 

Is this thread just a roundabout way of saying "cheese-eating surrender monkeys"?  What's the point?

 

 

Caissa: At least not for me it isn't. From the confines of academia, France in 1968 seems like a model for successful coalition building and resistance. The outcome has stirred much deabte. I'm sure you know far more about

this Al-Q and I would love your insights.

 

For me this is part of a struggle to understand the state of resistance these days. Seattle seemed to be a high point in anti-global resistance. What has happened since? Is it the war on terror (TM) after 2001 which has hurt unity? Has the crash of the economy left many worried more about their day to day survival? Has the internet which was a tool for organization in its early days become instead the venue of protest?

I wonder. 

KenS

Trying to recreate 'resistance'- with all that means [and does not]- has run its course.

And we havent figured out the replacement.

The movements in 1968- in North America as well as France- were not only protest. Mind you, then as now it started from/with protest and resistance.

I think what has changed is that back then the beyond protest followed organically. While that still tends to arise more or less organically for activists, it is as individuals rather than as an at least semi-coherent larger vision.

Something has happened that we now need to be more deliberate. A big part of that may be that the realization has been forced on us that we need the skills of outreach. Even if you dont articulate that, its the elephant in the room.

The dirty secret of remorse for the loss of the good old days is that 40 years ago we didn't have outreach skills either.

And now we pay for never having done that.

fooz33

Thats because people are a bunch of spineless cowards, think about this website - ANY idiot can complain, it takes real balls to do something.  You should all be going around to the public and highschools of the world and make sure canada doesn't raise another generation of losers.

remind remind's picture

real balls eh??

 

How about you just choke on your own sexist spew

Slumberjack

The power apparatus wouldn't survive for long by assuming the public will continue to absorb the lies indefinitely without some form of reinforcement, which is why everything they create and present to us comes packaged with varying degrees of security. The required security posture is determined by measuring the scale of the lie against a threat level assessment that anticipates the level of opposition to it in any given situation. The spectre of mass security operations with wholesale street level arrests and beatings should only be seen as a mid-level reaction against any presumptuous outburst of truth. An array of more significant responses are held in reserve until such a time as pretending no longer serves its purpose, and we‘ve reached the stage where unmitigated violence against the population becomes the last resort in which to preserve themselves.

To the extent that the fragmented North American left is fully aware of the ramifications of confronting power in the manner that it deserves, we can also recognize the effect that fear and paralysis has on those who lead the various factions of the left, whenever the oligarchy decides to offer up a preview further down the range of potential state sanctioned interventions, whenever such a need arises during its interactions with the most marginalized and oppressed subjects. Security is thus ensured through voluntary or involuntary compliance.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

fooz33 wrote:
Thats because people are a bunch of spineless cowards, think about this website - ANY idiot can complain, it takes real balls to do something.  You should all be going around to the public and highschools of the world and make sure canada doesn't raise another generation of losers.

Bye, champ.

ETA: Apparently my arch-nemesis beat me to it. Damn you, Maysie!

absentia

Doing something has become very difficult. Made so on purpose, with a definite agenda, over a long period of time. This is what the right had that the left lacked: relentless, well-orchestrated pursuit of a single goal over decades. Ironic, innit? Given that the very short-sightendness of capitalism is what destroyed it. The single goal being to collect the most possible wealth into the fewest possible hands. They've all but finished doing that - are scrambling for the dregs, like drunks crowding the bar at last call. There is no resistance, because their propaganda, combined with material blandishments and physical intimidation, has been entirely too effective. So effective that they swallowed it themselves. They exhausted, abused, and are now eating the goose that laid the golden eggs.

The US is heading for civil war. Not a new one; more like Part II of the old one; like Korea, they never reconciled. There is no organized class resistance and no charismatic leadership: the huge and increasing number of poor are being swept under the rug in great unassimilated ethnic lumps, and the floor is starting to heave, and there is going to be one gawdawful mess. If i were a gutless Democrat (yeah, i know, redundant) i'd be heading for the Rockies before next election. They had one chance to come out fighting and they blew it.

If we had a flat-out, honest socialist party that could say it aloud - the truth, unvarnished - it might have one last chance to come out fighting .... Political suicide, of course. But a degree or two better than unfocussed, desperate rioting.

(ETC near-fatal typographical errors)

Slumberjack

Happy as a Hangman - Chris Hedges

Innocence, as defined by law, makes us complicit with the crimes of the state. To do nothing, to be judged by the state as an innocent, is to be guilty. It is to sanction, through passivity and obedience, the array of crimes carried out by the state.

To be innocent in America means we passively permit offshore penal colonies where we torture human beings, some of whom are children. To be innocent in America is to acquiesce to the relentless corporate destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species. To be innocent in America is to permit the continued theft of hundreds of billions of dollars from the state by Wall Street swindlers and speculators. To be innocent in America is to stand by as insurance and pharmaceutical companies, in the name of profit, condemn ill people, including children, to die. To be innocent in America is refusing to resist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are not only illegal under international law but responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people. This is the odd age we live in. Innocence is complicity.

ArghMonkey ArghMonkey's picture

absentia wrote:

Doing something has become very difficult. Made so on purpose, with a definite agenda, over a long period of time. This is what the right had that the left lacked: relentless, well-orchestrated pursuit of a single goal over decades. Ironic, innit? Given that the very short-sightendness of capitalism is what destroyed it. The single goal being to collect the most possible wealth into the fewest possible hands. They've all but finished doing that - are scrambling for the dregs, like drunks crowding the bar at last call. There is no resistance, because their propaganda, combined with material blandishments and physical intimidation, has been entirely too effective. So effective that they swallowed it themselves. They exhausted, abused, and are now eating the goose that laid the golden eggs.

The US is heading for civil war. Not a new one; more like Part II of the old one; like Korea, they never reconciled. There is no organized class resistance and no charismatic leadership: the huge and increasing number of poor are being swept under the rug in great unassimilated ethnic lumps, and the floor is starting to heave, and there is going to be one gawdawful mess. If i were a gutless Democrat (yeah, i know, redundant) i'd be heading for the Rockies before next election. They had one chance to come out fighting and they blew it.

If we had a flat-out, honest socialist party that could say it aloud - the truth, unvarnished - it might have one last chance to come out fighting .... Political suicide, of course. But a degree or two better than unfocussed, desperate rioting.

(ETC near-fatal typographical errors)

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

The following may be of interest to those reading this thread. Actually, anything by this author is interesting.

This is your brain on neo-liberal culture. Any questions?

Hurtin Albertan

I suspect that the average North American is made complacent by fast food bread and high definition circuses. while being simultaneously distraced by pop culture smoke and something or other mirrors.  Can't be bothered to come up with a fourth metaphor but you get the idea.

George Victor

Perhaps the alternatives offered don't inspire confidence?

Fidel

I think what we are seeing in the US is similar to what happened in Russia of the 1990s. Many of the people who were there in Bush I and Clinton's government helped European and Russian oligarchs to put grabs on valuable Russian assets while lowering austerity measures on the people. By the mid 1990s, 60 million Russians were living in poverty compared to about 2 million in 1989. I think they have close to 60 million impoverished now in the US and will likely strive for more. And many of those same US politicians and embedded bureaucrats are still there in Obama's government. They are doing to Americans what they did to Russian citizens of the 1990s, which will be to pauperize tens of millions of workers and continue looting the country.

The question is, will the US produce an American leader equivalent to Vladimir Putin who might stop the planned fascist demolition of the US economy?

George Victor

Depends if there is any jail capacity to incarcerate the oligarch opponents and assassins of media critics at that time.  Laughing 

Fidel

I think that the US oligarchs are observing what happens with results in Europe and supposedly will then attempt similar austerity measures in America. And what's happening in Europe? The big talk among banksters and financial newz journalists there is the Latvian option. Newz journies in Europe and politicos are suggesting that  Valdis Dombrovskis was re-elected in October because of his promises to wage austerity war on Latvian workers. The notion is that Latvians are mature and realize austerity is necessary to fix what the neoliberals have broken. But they are deluding themselves according to US economist Michael Hudson. Reasons why the Latvian option will probably not work in the rest of Europe are several according to Hudson. There was a bit of election trickery in Latvia that likely won't be reproduced in countries with established labour movements. And it likely won't work in countries where there are no Moscow-friendly politicians representing ethnic Russian minorities and, coincidentally, promising to counter to the neoliberal political agenda for ethnic majorities to vote against.

Prince_or_Orange

That is because the super-rich in the US buy everything with borrowed money, including their political leaders and a dizying 'divide and conquer' left-right paradigm that produces only one thing: more of the mind-numbing same.  At least in Canada we have four or five points of view in the mainstream...and 30 million outside that whereas only in Quebec politicans can be bought with cash. (that last comment was my french joke).

Balls to do something.... to me it is all about getting the information out and opening people's eyes at the moment.  It is not as if we will want to unleash CIA/Pentagon's/DHS misguided macho violence on the American or Canadian middle class.   I think it is very simple and elegant: the strenght of persuasive arguments.  "Freedom and democracy" and "the truth will set them free". They need more "I have a dream" moments and then walk the talk. Aaron Russo's movie "America: From Freedom to Fascism", Peter Joseph's "Zeitgeist", Jesse Ventura and www.infowars.com opened mine.  I think it is a matter of time before a critical mass of good Americans will get off their lazy boy chairs and vote for real change we can all believe in.  Ooops, and this time not for another puppet of the banksters (disguised as a change agent), but someone who is real, who will stand up for what is right and who cannot be bought with borrowed money, castrated by some bogus sex scandal, or shot in a conspiracy.  Hmmm thinking about it again, that all sounds pretty idealistic and complicated after all.  Perhaps it is time for plan B.

Cueball Cueball's picture

To me it has nothing to do with getting the "word" out at all. There is actually a wide consensus among people that something is drastically wrong in the USA, and indeed, they are well aware of the corruption at the highest levels of government and corporations and their media. The problem is that there is no consensus about what to do about it.

Notice for example the fact that the libertarian right, and the left both share very common analysis of the war in Iraq. Antiwar.com is run by right wing bloggers. Both left and right are convinced of the corruption of the government and the media, and the fact that it is in the hands of special interests groups, and the left is not alone in notice the wholesale fraud of the bank bailouts. The problem is that an issue like this is being leveraged by the status quo to frame the debate as an issue of Republican or Democratic responsibility for the collapse of American civil society, and many people are still willing to play along with the electoral shell-game, as if their vote means something.

Both manipulate the politics of fear and ensure political stasis.

The problems are quite evident. The solutions, not so simple.

The real danger is the idea that "real change" can be achieved through voting, within the context of a completely corrupt system of democracy as it is practiced in the USA, without there being a massive shake up of the social order from top to bottom. Unfortunately, that shake up is unlikely to happen through any process as civilized as "voting". Things will likely get uglier, before getting any better.

Prince_or_Orange

Maybe you are right, is America getting ready for its own French revolution as its mortgaged house of cards and warlord-sham democracy is coming apart?  My bet is that America's religions, opiates, info-tainment  and if that fails: its printed money will keep  90% of its middle and lower classes dancing to its banksters' tunes (while the rest can be put in jail, if needed).  I personally like the idea of a disarming, enlightened debate about the real issues instead of a "first play the person, then the ball" debate that seems to be mostly going on there now.  One thing is for sure: Plan B, a second American revolution would be very painful with no guarantee of a better outcome than the first. 

George Victor

So we're to have a "massive shake up of the social order." and perhaps a "second American revolution" ...or "is America getting ready for its own French revolution?"

 

What a titillating variety of choices. Tin flutes or tumbrels.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Such upheavals are never something that I would anticipate with anything but foreboding. Hopefully the change is as orderly and bloodless as the collapse of the Soviet Union. One should always hope for the best.

Fidel

Cueball wrote:
Hopefully the change is as orderly and bloodless as the collapse of the Soviet Union. One should always hope for the best.

Ya let's hope that a US equivalent of Boris Yeltsin orders tank shells firing at the White House. And then the Russkies can finance the election campaign of their stooge in Washington encouraging him all the while to "dare to be a dictator" and help them loot the country. US oligarchs have the looting part of it down pat though, for sure.

Cueball Cueball's picture

I place primary responsibility for the collapse of Gorbacheov's reform movement on the Stalanist era hardliners who undermined his authority by trying to remove him as head of the CPSU. That was the first coup. Had the old farts not been so keen on preserving their privilege then Yeltsin would likely still be cooling his heals in Moscow as the local party boss. Yeltsin's coup was the result of the first.

But at the end of the day, Russia and the Soviet Union managed to avoid all out civil war, or massive police state repression or the ascendancy of a fascist state, which is not so bad. War is tyrrany, and civil war the most ruthless of all kinds of wars.

George Victor

So far. Thanks first to Gorby. 

Fidel

There were thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators who tried to break Yeltsin military blockade of Russia's parliament. 5000 reluctant troops and tanks were ordered to surround the place. There were two weeks worth of thousands of people protesting Yeltsin's siege of the entire Russian parliament and supreme court of the country.

Part of Yeltsin's job as inside stooge for the west was to destroy the Soviets, which could have made democratizing the former USSR more likely. Thatcher, the Bush crime family and Clinton were interested in anything but democratizing the FSU. By 2003 the west and their Russian friends thought they could bribe members of the Duma into laying off new taxation rules on Russia's natural resource exports. They lost. Enter Putin.

George Victor

Ah to have been a fly on the wall when Vladimir Vladimirovich worked out a territorial "understanding" with the Russian mafia.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Maybe so, but there were only 4 or 5 plotters you arrested Gorbacheov and locked him up in Foros. Losing control of the party meant that Gorbacheov lost control of country because the party lost its moral authority to lead the pro-democracy movement.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Such a "territorial understanding" with one or more of the drug cartels is one option that the Mexican government is most certainly considering at this point in time.

Fidel

I think the demise of the USSR began by the mid 1970s or so. USian Michael Parenti has a good essay on that. He was there in 1980 Moscow and debated Russian "inteligentsia" on the merits of capitalism versus socialism. The Russians they spoke to basically sounded a lot like they'd been coerced by pro-USA Republicans. They actually believed the propaganda about how everything was better in the west.

I think Gorby believed some of it, too. And perhaps he, too, was bought and paid-for, I don't know. And so did would-be presidents of future ex-Yugoslav republics believe the neoliberal economic propagandists who landed on their shores in waves by the 1980s. Gorby believed that Harvard economists and USAID diplomats were talking about creating Swedish style socialism in Russia. They were lied to. And I think Jeffrey Sachs and all those unemployed US economists who suddenly found work in Africa and former USSR know more about what occurred then during perestroika than they've let on.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Well of course you believe all that, since there is absolutely no evidence for most of it. If there is no evidence, it must be true, since the plotters are always so good at their plots that no trace remains. The fact that they leave no trace is proof of their existence. Therefore, what there is absolutely no evidence for is most likely to be the truth.

The revealed plot to declare a state of emergency and undermine Gorbacheov's reform movement is just part of the clever distraction used to throw people off the real trail.

Nikita Kruscheov was almost certainly a State Department stooge as well, why else release the secret speech condemning Stalin?

Fidel

Monthly Review and other essays by Chomsky, Michael Parenti, Canadians Fred Weir, Naomi Klein, Michel Chossudovsky etc  quoting actual Russians involved at the time. I remember quoting and sourcing a number of them in various babble threads. Read at least three credible points of view and draw your own conclusions is what I would suggest.

absentia

Are ther any possible leaders of a real alternative in the US? Seems to me they've exiled, discouraged, vilified and neutralized all of their thinkers and turned the people totally against intellect, reason and thought, while calling slogans 'ideas'. Americans actually seem to belive that the Dems are socialist. There, as well as here, the center has been artificially moved so far right that the very phrase 'social justice' is considered a red flag.

I don't see a controlled, conventionally political way back from that dark shore.

Fidel

[url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIA4coQHZ3k&feature=player_embedded]Latvi... (YouTube) is what EU politicos are pointing to as a model for austerity and reforms to fix their own ideoligically induced meltdown. And what a miserable system it is that they have produced with help from the best economic minds the western world has to offer.

Slumberjack

absentia wrote:
I don't see a controlled, conventionally political way back from that dark shore.

Neither do I. At this point it would take a massive disengagement from the trappings of contemporary politics and economy, somewhere along the lines described by the so called 'situationalist inheritors' in the Tiqqun texts of the late 90s, or something massive and sustained to the point of becoming irreversible as the Tunisian example might suggest. Every other political experiment conducted within the boundaries set down and presided over by the corporate establishment has been an utter failure and betrayal. At this point we cannot help but to be reminded of this evident every waking day.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

N.Beltov wrote:

The following may be of interest to those reading this thread. Actually, anything by this author is interesting.

This is your brain on neo-liberal culture. Any questions?

I have been reading and watching some programs on neuroplasticity and I found this article fascinating.  Mirror Neurons may be the basis of the anarchists deep belief that people are inherently good. They seem to be the antithesis of the Christian belief that we are all born sinful and need saving.  The existence of the Mirror Neurons also serves to explain the existence of the "golden rule" in every major spiritual tradition.  we all know we should treat others as we would like to be treated because it seems to be hard wired. fascinating.

This work clearly points to the dangers of a mass culture based on violent and oppressive imagery. The paper also seems to confirm my believe that most capitalist are sociopaths. This one section goes a long way to answering the question posed in the title of this thread.

Quote:

Through the Mind’s Mirror, Darkly

 

          Again, the quandary is why there is such a paucity of real-world empathic behavior, especially in the United States?  If only some 4 percent of the U.S. population can be classified as sociopaths—individuals utterly incapable of empathy—what accounts for a mass culture characterized by an empathy disorder of virtually pathological proportions?  (Studies reveal substantially less incidence of sociopathy in some East Asian countries with percentages ranging from 0.03 percent to 0.14 percent, conditions warranting a follow-up study of its own.)

 

          I’m proposing that future research pursue Goldschmidt’s (1999) observation that “Culturally derived motives may replace, supplement or override genetically programmed behavior.”  The mirror mechanism, a hard-wired biological mechanism, minus positive cultural nurturing, is unlikely to flourish (Rizzolatti and Craighero, 2006).  For example, studies on attachment theory and emotion regulation (Shaver, et al., 2008) suggests links between attachment security and pro-social behavior, including self-transcendent values and empathy.

 

          An enhanced sense of security correlates with being sensitive to other’s needs and a willingness to engage in pro-social responsive behavior.  Conversely we know that empathy is less likely to manifest itself under conditions of attachment insecurity because the individual is more likely to be self-absorbed, personally distressed, and empathically unavailable.  These avoidant individuals fear being “sucked in” by empathy and compassion, not only because of the “hassle” but because people in need bring out their own feelings of personal distress (Shaver, et al., pp. 135-136).  A study on the negative consequences of neo-liberal economic policy in Latin America concluded that an empathic orientation may be crowded out when people are preoccupied with personal needs, insecure, and fearful about tomorrow (Vilas, 1997).  To me it seems entirely plausible that culturally-driven psychological insecurity could weigh as heavily as material deprivation.  Ervin Staub, a pioneering investigator in the field, makes the case that even if empathy is hardwired, people will not act on “. . . unless they have certain kinds of life experiences that shape their orientation toward other human beings and toward themselves” (Staub, 2002, p. 222).

 

          The role of socio-cultural variables in influencing psychopathology (Marsella and Yamada, 2007) is now accepted, and I’m proposing here that it would be instructive to examine whether certain pathogenic cultural factors explain the etiology of what I’ve tentatively labeled a societal empathy deficit disorder (SEDD).  In their well-documented discussion of psychopathy as a disorder characterized by callousness and lack of empathy, Blair and Blair (2009) discuss the existence of a population that has been subject to insufficient moral socialization.  Such individuals reveal an absence of empathic response to the distress of others, an impaired reaction to “moral transgressions.”  What is striking here, at least to me, is the ascription of these behaviors to a subset of outliers and not to the larger society, the implicit message being that the latter’s everyday behavior is well within the “normal” range.

 

          That is, highly competitive societies optimize the behavior of genetically-based, primary sociopaths.  In her book, The Sociopath Next Door, psychologist Martha Stout argues that American culture’s celebration of extreme individualism and “me-first” thinking reinforces anti-social behavior in the United States, including an increasing incidence of primarysociopathy.  If, as suspected, cold and calculating individuals devoid of empathy are represented in higher numbers at the upper levels of business, media, and politics, we can assume these values will become the cultural norm.  Therefore, under a pathological capitalist culture, psychopathy is a successful adaptive behavior for secondary sociopaths intent on getting ahead in society (Mealey, 1995).

 

          Setting aside the genetic, permanent condition for the moment, I’m drawing attention to effective or secondary sociopaths whose empathy deficit is more a product of environmental circumstances (Mealey, 1995).  The terminology remains stubbornly imprecise but we might extrapolate from what Damasio (1990, 1994, 2007) labeled an acquired sociopathic personality when referencing individuals.  Here I’ve described it as an empathy-challenged personality condition having structural roots in the socio-economic system.  This incongruity between our substrate of empathy and the external environment significantly contributes to the creation of empathy-suppressed individuals because the culture virtually requires the methodical bracketing off of empathy.  It’s less a foreclosure and more a question of to whom is empathy directed.  As a result, we habitually violate our biological moral compass (Tollberg, 2007; Johnson, 2005) and secondary sociopathy not only becomes normal behavior but a necessary, rewarded adaptive behavior under the aforementioned “feeling rules” (Lindsay, 2008; Miller, 1999, p. 45). The primate scientist Frans de Waal succinctly captures the system-maintenance function of contrived callousness when he asserts, “You need to indoctrinate empathy out of people in order to arrive at extreme capitalist positions (de Waal, 2007).  Miller (1999) goes a step further by adding, “It may not be strictly necessary to be a sociopath in order to be in a position of power in society, but the rules of the game require doing a good imitation of one.”

 

 

absentia

That really is interesting.

But i see the problem in US culture as being even more complicated, and therefore more difficult to address.

They think they are empathetic! They cry over every misfortune and kindness; sniffle over unreality shows and personal slights; weep like fountains (not to mention fill streets and parking lots with gift-shop litter) when some of their own get killed, inevitably, by means of the very culture that they export wholesale. They blubber over the homeless and foreclose without mercy; protect the unborn and refuse to feed the babies; cheer the rescue of foreign miners ... and the murder of foreign journalists. See, this is a genuinely engaged, deeply caring, overtly emotional people.

No, i'm not just being sarcastic. I'm saying their brains are normal, but their minds have been warped and twisted into such a state of confusion, they can't identify their own feelings nor formulate an appropriate response - and so they're frustrated and angry all the time.    

al-Qa'bong

Quote:
No, i'm not just being sarcastic. I'm saying their brains are normal, but their minds have been warped and twisted into such a state of confusion, they can't identify their own feelings nor formulate an appropriate response - and so they're frustrated and angry all the time.

Last night, Jon Stewart called a related psychological disorder "Palindrome" (he stole the term, yes) and "Anchorage Steamer."

 

Quote:
Such upheavals are never something that I would anticipate with anything but foreboding. Hopefully the change is as orderly and bloodless as the collapse of the Soviet Union. One should always hope for the best.

How many individuals in the USA own firearms?

George Victor

 

But "U.S.culture" is such a humungous, all-embracing category. Perhaps we could ask why more among them who are not "confused" don't speak up as spontaneously as Joe Bageant? They who play the academic game, removed from all that sentimentality?  

Just took out a copy of Saul Bellow's "Letters." Hope his native Canadian cynicism shows through and helps to explain that question.

 

 

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