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I think this is pretty much true.

I would say, however, that, at this point, it is not very easy or perhaps even possible to object to Islamism without instigating a clash of civilizations. To me, its a bit like what the Christian Right says about gays: that they "love the sinner, but hate the sin." OK, thats theoretically a possible position to take, but the two get mixed up very easily.

Also, a bit of American perspective. At Kos, for example, I'm always seeing atheists and agnostics complain about the nature of American Christianity or perhaps Christianity more generally - along the lines of: "we need to create a liberal Christianity" or "where are the liberal Christian voices?" To me, this rings quite hollow, because if you aren't a Christian you can't exactly convincingly argue that a faith you don't have should change to suit what you want. The reason fundamentalist Christianity is globally ascendent is similar for the reasons Islamism is ascendent (really, Europe is the only part of the world that is not particularly effected by this phenomenon, except vis-a-vis recent migrant populations): it is providing something to its adherents that liberal religious traditions and secular belief systems don't. To me, the growth of fundamentalist religion worldwide (particularly Islam and Christianity, but in other relgions too, on a lesser scale) is intimately connected to neo-liberal globalization and the postmodern cultural turn that have been two of the major (if the two major) global trends since the 1960s.

Thus, while I find the proverbial older Moroccon man's observations interesting in this sense, I find it so primarily for historical reasons, because it isn't addressing the psychological and material changes that have driven this change. To, again, use a US example: in the 1950s, for example, what is known as "mainline" or moderate Christianity and denominations were dominant and fundamentalism and pentecostalism were seen as fringe, dying belief systems of the maladjusted. Today, it is just the opposite, because material and cultural circumstances have fundamentally changed.

Basically, and you see this especially well in a country like the US, which in some ways straddles both the European and the Third World trends vis-a-vis religion, is that people are either becoming entirely secular or joining religious bodies that offer quite fundamentalist strictures, often in the guise of quite modern forms. Liberal religion is becoming an anachronism, because the demographic to which it might appeal is basically vanishing (becoming irreligious).

BTW, two books I would really recommend on modern religion are Philip Jenkins's "The Next Christianity" and Mike Davis's soon-to-be-published "Planet of the Slums" (although he wrote an article by the same name for the New Left Review several years ago.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 03:32:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"the good old times..."

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 04:53:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, but what is it in the culture that has changed? I can more or less make sense of the idea that the (so called) Moral Majority in the US became the new populism of discontent, and the thieves and crooks in the neo-con camp decided to exploit this by manufacturing an apparent (and fictitious) alliance of interests.

But what is it people in Kansas were actually unhappy about? Was it really just a change towards more diverse and open values?

There's a diary on Kos (by one of our regulars?) which wonders whether or not Bush is mentally ill. There's a comment hanging off it which asks what's maybe a more interesting question, which is whether the US as a country is mentally ill. On the basis that without a certain distance from reality, it should have been impossible for Bush to get anywhere close to the White House.

But it's not just Bush and the US that's had problem. Historically, crazy or damaged people have often become leaders.

How do democratic processes allow this? It makes sense after a violent take-over. But what is it that stopped a significant proportion of the population (e.g.) in the US from looking at Bush's record and thinking 'This guy is nuts - no way'?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 05:54:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is because older narratives about how the world works have broken down and no longer adequately make sense of how the world works. This process is, at root, I think a result of economic and technological changes, which have in turn broken down older community structures.

The manifestations of this are numerous:

  • The collapse of socialism as a credible intellectual alternative to capitalism, especially in western countries (and I would count myself in this category - if I had lived 30 or 40 years ago, I would have probably been a socialist. Today, I think socialism can't work.)
  • In the third or "developing" world, the rapid disruption of previously quite isolated rural modes of living and the susequent mass migration to megalopolises - Cairo, Mexico City, Manilla, Baghdad, Lagos, etc. - all places where fundamentalist religious has taken off in one form or another)
  • the breakdown of the European "social capitalism" model and the subsequent malaise afflicting countries like France, Germany, and Italy
  • in the United States, the collapse and offshoring of almost the entire manufacturing base, with the subsequent decimation of numerous inner-cities and the formation of minority ghettos
  • in general, an astonishing mobility of capital, facilitated by legal changes, but most importantly, by technological changes
  • while technology has given capital an advantage, it has also spurred a perhaps historically unprecedented round of migrations from third world to first world societies as well.

This is a start. Perhaps I should make this a diary as well : )
by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 06:59:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be interesting to see statistics about inner city collapse as the result of the loss of manufacturing. (This is presumably not just a U.S. problem, as plenty of European goods are imported from China also.) There were plenty of slums around back in the 1950s...
by asdf on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 08:38:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't think a city like Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, or Philadelphia has suffered greatly in the last 40 years? You know, the whole underclass debate, crack epidemic, etc.?

I think the problem is less acute than it was 10 years ago, but these cities - in different measures - have just been decimated since the 1950s. St. Louis's population, for example, has fallen by something like 66% in this time frame. Detroit by somewhere in the neighborhood of 50%.

The problem exists in Europe too. But I think it was more acute in the US because of the way poverty was racialized and spacially demarcated.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Mar 2nd, 2006 at 09:51:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

the breakdown of the European "social capitalism" model and the subsequent malaise afflicting countries like France, Germany, and Italy

Please don't write this here on ET as if it were a fact. There is no breakdown of the European "social capitalism" model - that's only what the neoliberals want you to believe to impose their model instead.

Let's not ever play in their game.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 02:26:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm... this is the "of course" or "everyone knows" gambit -- we all use it at one time or another consciously or un-, by assuming that some basic meme or foundational notion is shared by our audience;  but at other times it's used less ingenuously to present contentious assertions as if they were products of a secure consensus.

Examples abound -- "the US social security system is in terrible trouble and needs reform" is another "of course" meme (and one also serving neocon and neolib agendas) in which "trouble" (not well documented imho) is assumed, and "reform" is the label given to proposals which some critics would call sabotage.  "Of course" wages "have to be" suppressed, "flexibility" (meaning union-busting and revocation of worker rights) is required for "healthy" (healthy for whom?) economies, and so on.

Political battles seem to be twofold -- one is the raw struggle for secular power -- electoral and often dirty politics;  the other is the battle for mindshare or discourse space, the meme wars in which foundational assumptions frame (and, strategically, limit) the realm of discourse... so that certain ideas can be rendered unthinkable, undiscussable, "obsolete".  As CS Lewis pointed out long ago, far more effective than contending with the truth of falsity of an idea, if you want to suppress it, is to redefine it as "unfashionable" or  old fashioned.

It really does seem to me sometimes that we have a kind of fashion sense for ideas -- certain ideas are in vogue and can be taken seriously, and other ideas are out of style and can only be ridiculed like last season's cut of trousers.  And like fashion sense, this apparent consensus is at least partly manipulated and directed by vested interests...

Some ideas have -- or should have -- failed the test of time.  Slavery for example, we would hope, has few defenders left in the "enlightened" west, nor has child labour or (again, we would hope) indentured servitude or debt slavery (though the usury industry seems to be working on bringing that one back into vogue).  One would like to think that Kinder Kirche Kueche has had its day on the mental stage (though the Dominionists are working on a career comeback for that one).  

A neat trick of the neocons and neolibs is 1) to claim -- I think rightly so -- that Soviet-style Communism failed the test of time, then 2) to conflate any variant of Socialism with Soviet-style Communism, and then 3) to claim that therefore all flavours of socialism have failed the test of time and are laughable, obsolete, or "evil."

It's the conflation phase that's disingenuous;  and also the wilful disregard of any evidence that real societies made up of real people are being strengthened by the judicious application of socialist principles.    Therefore Europe must be failing -- it is ideologically necessary for Europe to fail, regardless of its tangible successes in education, public health, industry, finance etc. -- because Europe is "socialist" ... and America must be succeeding (no matter how dire its balance sheet looks on every front) because it is not-socialist.

Meanwhile, I have just paid some taxes on a Canadian (you know, one of those "socialist" countries) purchase from a year and a half ago.  The US dollar has fallen so fast relative to the Canadian dollar that the currency exchange differential has cost me an extra 10+ percent on the amount of tax due.  I wish I had transferred almost all my capital to a Canadian bank two years ago.  Somehow I don't think the Euro has fallen that far relative to the CAD over the same period.  When I'm awake I think I'll go look it up.  And then I'll meditate for a while on the meaning of the word "failure."

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 03:42:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome writes:

"Please don't write this here on ET as if it were a fact. There is no breakdown of the European "social capitalism" model - that's only what the neoliberals want you to believe to impose their model instead.

Let's not ever play in their game."

So Ben, here is a question for you. Did you read Newt Gingrich's little booklet from 1992? It sure seems so.  

I'm quoting; the memo was titled

"Language: A Key Mechanism of Control" by Newt Gingrich.

Newt wrote, "Often we search hard for words to help us define our opponents. Apply these words to the opponent, their record, proposal and their party".

And here's the list of words that Newt said you should always use whenever you are going to describe anything democratic or liberal. Always attach these words to everything 'liberal'.

"Decay, failure, fail, collapsing, deeper, crisis, urgent, destructive, destroy, sick, pathetic, lie, liberal, they, them, unionized bureaucracy, compassion is not enough, betray, consequences, limits, shallow, traitors, sensationalists, endanger, coercion, hypocrisy, radical, threaten, devour, waste, corruption, incompetent, permissive, destruction, impose, self-serving, greed, ideological, insecure, anti-flag, anti-family, anti-child, anti-jobs, pessimistic, excuses, intolerant, stagnation, welfare, corrupt, selfish, insensitive, status quo, mandates, taxes, spending, shame, disgrace, punish, bizarre, cynicism, cheat, steal, abuse of power, machine, bosses, obsolete, criminal rights, red tape, and patronage."

And as I went through that list, you probably recognized a lot of words that you've heard in the context of discussions about about democrats and liberals and it's no accident. What was amazing to me during this last election was the number of cons who would come onto shows like Crossfire and talking about John Kerry, would just pull these words out of the hat.

On the other hand, Newt said, to the Republicans, that there are positive governing words, positive words that should be attached to any discussion of the GOP or GOP policies, conservative policies.

He said, in fact he said, "memorize as many as possible" of these words. That's a direct quote. "Positive Governing Words".

Here's the words that Newt said should be attached to all things Republican, and have been, basically, ever since this memo came out more than a decade ago, certainly by right-wing radio talk show hosts.

"Share, change, opportunity, legacy, challenge, control, truth, moral, courage, reform, prosperity, crusade, movement, children, family, debate, compete, actively, we, us, our," (this instead of they or them), "candidly, humane, pristine, provide, liberty, commitment, principled, unique, duty, precious, premise, caring, tough, listen, learn, help, lead, vision, success, empowerment, citizen, activist, mobilize, conflict, light, dream, freedom, peace, rights, pioneer, proud, pride, building, preserve, pro-flag, pro-children, pro-environment, reform, workfare, eliminate good-time in prison, strength, choose, choice, fair, protect, confident, incentive, hard work, initiative, common sense, and passionate."

Perhaps someone with enough time on his hand should take last year's editorials on Europe, France, Germany published in the NYT, WaPo, Guardian etc. and run them through a word count text program and come up with with a list of the most frequently used neo con buzzwords.

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 03:27:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Ritter I knew -- in a background way, from the work of  Lakoff (with whose "framing" arguments I am not all that comfortable but that's another story) -- about this Newspeak guidebook.  But I had not actually read it and your excerpts here are very telling.

What happens when Madison Avenue meets electoral politics?  we are all finding out.

I wrote my thesis on the semantic "absolute value" overloading of common words, and the use advertisers and propagandists make of this curious feature of language... funny how things come around again.

Socialism Double Plus Ungood :-)

thanks for the killer pullquotes.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 11:22:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for these quotes from Newt, Ritter. I'd read all this once on a Blog somewhere but didn't keep the reference, now we've got it on record here on ET. You wouldn't want to do a diary on this, would you? ;)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 4th, 2006 at 02:02:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a 4 for you jerome, for stating this.

however there is a distinct malaise in italy right now, maybe not france...

i think a big problem the left has both attaining and managing power is that moderate lefties are not control freaks; they (we) want time with our families, to relax, have fun with our work, participate in politics, but in a minimal way (just enough).

our opponents -thugs -don't have lives, they live for external power, not that of love.

so whatever structure is in place: capitalism, communism, socialism or dictatorship, these thugs with entirely too much time on their hands crawl to the top, by dint of greedy need, working like the psycho-drones they are, when honest folk are sleeping after their love and labour.

politicians are squeezed betwen two lobbying forces: that of social welfare, (ngo's, civil rights, human rights etc,) and that of the  corporations.

guess who has the most money to 'invest'?

once-pure ideas become transformed into vicious police states as means foul ends, and thugs reach the power apex.

naked capitalism likes to dress up its objectives with figleaves of christianity, democracy etc, and so far the cognitive dissonance between purported 'values' and reality has not reached the alarming levels of louis 14th or stalinist russia.

won't be long at this rate....

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 01:35:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The collapse of socialism as a credible intellectual alternative to capitalism, especially in western countries (and I would count myself in this category - if I had lived 30 or 40 years ago, I would have probably been a socialist. Today, I think socialism can't work.)

Some political ideas like Social democracy has its roots in socialist ideologies and is working just fine in most of the Scandinavian countries today.  What most people think is that socialism is a static ideology, but that is by no means true.  Socialism, that is democratic socialism, is changing as society progress.   Social democracy is no exception and as a set of political ideas it is extremely adaptable to changes in society, too adaptable according to some.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Sat Mar 4th, 2006 at 12:41:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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