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Forum Post: Bully Nation

Posted 6 months ago on Feb. 1, 2014, 5:13 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5854)
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Bully Nation

Saturday, 01 February 2014 09:09 By Yale Magrass and Charles Derber, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21549-bully-nation

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has appropriately been called a bully. This has implications well beyond Christie. His calling out has the potential to shift the growing public conversation about bullying from a pyschological narrative about abusive individuals to a new discourse on institutionalized bullying, carried out by ruling institutions and elites.

The current focus on bullying - like much of the discussion about guns and gun violence - has tended to focus on individuals and mental health. It is a therapeutic narrative. Bullying is seen primarily as a psychological problem of individuals. The victim needs therapy, better communication or adaptation skills. Bullies are characterologically flawed and need therapy or perhaps legal punishment.

But there is little or no discussion of larger social or cultural forces in the United States and the American institutions or leaders who bully other countries or workers and citizens at home. Institutionalized bullying is endemic to a capitalist hegemonic nation like the United States and creates death and suffering on a far greater scale than personal, everyday bullying, as important and toxic as the latter might be.

Moreover, much of the everyday bullying that is the current media focus must be understood as the inevitable consequence of a militarized corporate system that requires a popular mind-set of bullying to produce profit and power. The individual bully is the creation of the bully nation.

The United States openly views itself as the world police force, a benign hegemon morally ordained to impose its interests and values on the rest of the world and justified in the name of freedom, human rights and antiterrorism to do to weaker countries what it wants. It spends more on weapons than its next 20 largest competitors combined. President Obama proclaimed "[S]o long as I'm Commander-in-Chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known." To peasants living in small countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia - where the United States has sent armed forces, used drones to bomb, and often overthrown the government - polls show that a majority of people see the United States as the greatest threat to their security, and fear it. Hegemony here seamlessly unfolds as morally sanctioned, institutionalized bullying.

America makes heroes of bomber pilots like John McCain and offers them as role models for children and adolescents to emulate. They see the media applaud the bullying behavior of their own government that dispatches police, soldiers, FBI and CIA agents into foreign nations to kill and wreak havoc - from Afghanistan to Somalia to Columbia. If you kill enough, whether in a just war or not, you may win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

If bullying brings esteem to a nation, then surely that is a behavior to strive for. Potential recruits for an aggressive military need to be immunized against scruples over violence and bullying. This becomes an implicit part of their education, whether or not it is ever publicly admitted. Accordingly, schools and adult authorities often turn a blind eye toward bullying. After two world wars, the Army lamented that a majority of combat soldiers never fired a weapon. They called for a change in the training of soldiers and the education and upbringing of children to correct that. By that measure, they have been successful. In Vietnam, Iraq and Afganistan, the majority of combat soldiers killed.

Sports has played a vital part in preparing children for institutionalized aggression, bullying and combat. In football, the goal is to attack the opponent and knock them down, a hard hit that keeps the opponent dazed on the ground is sometimes encouraged by coaches and cheered by the crowd. In schools and campuses, the athletes are often the popular heroes and also the bullies, involved too often in sexual violence or drinking binges in bars that lead to fights or crimes.

Only recently would they expect sanctions against bullying. Indeed, the more they bullied, the more popular they would be. Even before World War I, President Theodore Roosevelt insisted that elite universities like Harvard would have to enhance their football teams if America were to dominate the world. He declared: "We cannot afford to turn out college men who shrink from physical effort or a little physical pain." For the nation needed men with "the courage that will fight valiantly against the foes of the soul and the foes of the body."

The aggression and competiveness of bullying pervades civilian life as well as military. As the beacon for the rest of the world to emulate, the culture the United States wishes to export is capitalism. Capitalism's staunchest defenders proclaim competition to be its fundamental operating principle. The monopolistic corporations and the wealthiest 1% have been the most aggressive, bullying anyone who stood in their way by outsourcing their jobs, lowering wages, stripping away benefits and firing those seeking to organize unions.

The bully demonizes their victim. In American capitalism, elites have long defined the losers in the competitive struggle with the words used by Mitt Romney to defame the 47%: undeserving "moochers." They are weak and lazy and don't have the stuff to prevail. As victims, they deserve their fate and must submit to the triumphant. Those, like the wolves on Wall Street who bully their way to the top, should be there; those who couldn't or don't, belong where they are.

Bullying is the means through which the corporate empires were built. Carnegie and Rockefeller intimidated and threatened their rival capitalists to cede them an ever-larger share of the market. They brought in Pinkerton goons to beat striking workers into submission. Workers were forced to either sign "yellow dog" contracts and pledge not to join unions, or be thrown into the street. Similar bullying practices continue today. Corporations warn entire communites they will shut down factories and undermine the local economy if they do not accept low wages and minimal regulations. Banks entice consumers to borrow through predatory loans and then raise interest rates and threaten foreclosure. The corporations are clear they have the power and will not tolerate challenges from weaklings who fail to know their place.

Bullying enhances the ideology that the strong are strong and the weak are weak, and each deserves to be where they are. This attitude pervades America's culture, government, military, corporations, media, schools, entertainment, athletics and everyday life. The first step to a solution is shifting the conversation to institutional bullying, moving beyond simply a therapeutic narrative to a political one aiming toward transformative social change. As long as the United States embraces militarism and aggressive capitalism, systemic bullying and all its impacts - abroad and at home - will persist as a major crisis.

Copyright, Truthout.

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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 6 months ago

Why Turning Post Offices Into Banks Would Be Win-Win

Thursday, 06 February 2014 11:06 By Kevin Mathews, Care2 | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21699-why-turning-post-offices-into-banks-would-be-win-win

Both America’s lower class and the United States Postal Service are struggling financially. If only there were a way to tackle both problems. It seems that U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has a proposal to address this situation. She wants to introduce basic banking services at post offices so that Americans could go to their nearby post office to cash checks and obtain small loans.

Why do Americans need easier access to banking services? It may surprise you to learn that a full 25% of Americans do not belong to any type of bank. Often, banks aren’t even accessible to citizens living in poverty; in plenty of poor areas, bank branches don’t even exist.

As a result, poor Americans must instead turn to check cashing businesses to complete their financial transactions. With nowhere else to cash their paychecks or receive small loans, they go to these predatory companies that charge them exorbitant fees and unconscionable interest rates.

Like more and more people are pointing out, it’s actually quite expensive to be poor. Studies find that the poorest Americans wind up spending an average of $2,400 per year on fees at these payday lender businesses. That’s approximately 10% of their total annual income, or as Warren points out, equivalent to these families’ food budgets. Check cashing companies are able to swindle the poor in this manner because they know their clientele has no other way to access the money they need to scrape by.

That’s why Warren hopes the post offices could step in. Surely there is a way to offer bank-less Americans simple financial services at reasonable prices rather than taking them for the little that they have. From a location standpoint, using post offices as stand-in banks makes sense, too. Post offices are everywhere, often at the center of their communities. USPS research uncovered that 59% of post offices are in zip codes with no more than one (but often zero) existing bank branch, so they would prove immediately useful to people without bank access.

For the record, the USPS Inspector General, David C. Williams, is already on board. After crunching the numbers, Williams sees that offering these services would not only save America’s least fortunate households about 90%, but would also net the USPS about $9 billion in additional revenue each year. It appears to be a win-win situation.

With that endorsement, Warren’s plan is more than a pipedream. Besides, comparable models have already proven successful — other countries have introduced similar financial services at their post offices and seen their profits rise significantly.

“The Postal Service is huge – employing more than a half million people – and its history is long and complicated. Any change will take time,” wrote Elizabeth Warren in her recent op-ed. “But this is an issue I am going to spend a lot of time working on – and I hope my colleagues join me. We need innovative ways to created pathways for struggling families to build economic security.”

Inevitably this proposal will face opposition in Congress because shady check cashing businesses have lobbyists and poor people do not, but let’s hope that Warren’s crusade to provide meaningful reform for the lower class through practical solutions wins out in the end.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by bullfrogma (448) 6 months ago

A really good movie just came out called Beasts of the Southern Wild. It's pretty accurate in a lot of ways. But people with power use superiority to create the impression of it, basically like David DeAngelo. A little dog needs a big bark. We’re surrounded by this bully complex because it was a survival strategy in nature.

But we’re at this point now when it becomes the thing to tear us apart. We need to evolve something else, something better that transcends the insanity of this obsolescent mechanism. We are challenged now to put mind over matter, to actually think with our minds, instead of our cockadoodle.

Landlords are bullies, buying up everything they can, effectively owning people. It makes sense to bring back the era of the single family owner occupied home, as elf3 put it. If people weren’t allowed to own these homes that other people lived in then landlords couldn’t buy up everything while forcing other people to give up their money.

Similarly, while all of us are playing the games we’re told to be playing, tyrants are doing what they always do creating their own positions of power. There’s nothing legal about the majority of things which happen behind closed doors. People are greedy because it’s in our animal to be egotistical, and these people are going to fight you like animals.

Nurse Ratched is a bully, as elf3 also pointed out, looking innocent while making you look crazy, being cool while pushing your buttons. Manipulative power is the worst kind because it’s stealthy, remaining unidentifiable to become invincible. Such is the nature of secret societies, pulling the strings of a puppet show.

It’s the standard strategy by those in power to psychologically discredit something by ignoring it. But how has it been managed, that all of society is brainwashed into such a reflexive disbelief of any conversation about government agents or conspiracy? Maybe it’s Hollywood? Just think about it. It’s pretty weird, because conspiracy is exactly one of the biggest problems we are facing.

Tell someone you've been harassed by secret agents and they automatically refuse to believe you, as if that would never happen. Even here, the rules of this forum say that we’re not even allowed to speak about conspiracy. Really? This is something that we have got to talk about. It’s not just big money taking over the world; it’s organized, and has probably been going on for a very long time.

Take for example this beautiful speech that apparently resulted in JFK's assassination conveniently thereafter: http://youtu.be/zdMbmdFOvTs

They have grown into hundreds of departments and agencies operating over a thousand facilities all over the country. Almost 1 million people now have "top secret" clearance for undisclosed reasons, and there's an unaccountable leech on the treasury which no leaders have the guts to defund. Really? Wtb.

Whatever the whole truth is, the point is that these secret societies with agents all over our system will not willingly ever give up their power, and we're not going to deviate from their agenda by playing a system which they subversively invent. It’s a system that renders our population into a slave class feeding their master class, and all the while our planet and evolution is suffering from this incompetent selfishness.

We have to do something that’s either more powerful than they are, or that takes their power away. They’re mentally controlling the titanic mass of our population with infested leverage, invincible to scrutiny behind closed doors. We either need to win that game, or dissolve that leverage. Otherwise this will never be a democracy, and our fate will continue secretly decided by something or someone we don’t even know.

Take the occupy movement for example, transformed into a controlled fire, even better than not having a fire. Agents who are inserted will nudge things in a direction that doesn't seem unproductive, but is. There’s a sense that we can't even trust ourselves, creating a profound, permeated sense that it's hopeless, and that we're powerless.

I keep thinking the best thing we could do is cut it off at the source; stop using money and start a new system of things based on life. Take their power away. Eliminate this perverted energy. Get to the heart of the dragon, and stop it. They'll pretend it wouldn't be that easy. They'll pretend because they don't want to give up all that incredible, narcissistic domination.

They don’t want independent communities and free education; they want capitalism and mass distribution. They don’t want people to earn their power through understanding; they want to control the information and indoctrinate us into their view of reality.

This article from truthout is pretty interesting, http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/20966-major-social-transformation-is-a-lot-closer-than-you-may-realize-how-do-we-finish-the-job

We might not have so much time, or the people with real power (secret power) will still manage to keep manipulating things to deceive us, and the time we take is time they have to change their game. Deception is the easiest game because it’s a rigged game, the disaster of reality.

We're all in this together, our turn to face the weather, the universe. We're already in for some global calamity as a result of pollution, and we don't even know when too late is. That's enough reason right there to demand some change right fookin now.

Here’s a really good song, speaking of us against the weather. It's like having an identity in a world that's changing besides you, too mystical and metaphoric to say exactly, it's so many things at once, I love it. http://youtu.be/2naehMUQpQY

And if you haven't watched this video yet, watch this video. http://youtu.be/jHm0XhtDyZA

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 6 months ago

Transforming Our Dark Affinities

Saturday, 01 February 2014 09:11 By Michael Johnson, Truthout | Opinion

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21498-transforming-our-dark-affinities

In "Dark Affinities: Liberal and Neoliberal," Joseph Natoli opened up a line of thinking about our political quandaries that is profoundly important but little understood. His piece is grounded in a rich understanding of the deep cultural dimensions of our political dynamics.

His analysis of the "unconscious common core" of values and beliefs that choke the possibilities of advancing democracy in the United States underlines how the vast majority of Americans are "attached to what is victimizing them" to the point of "the Winners and the Losers sharing the same values:"

But because almost every American, whether employed or bankrupt, solvent or insolvent, luxuriating or underwater, wants it all, admires and envies those who have it all, hates those who interfere in any way with the chance to get it all, believes that rich and poor alike are free, independent, proud and playing always on a level field, that a man down on his luck today can be king of the hill with the right turn of the wheel and that carping criticism comes from whining anti-Americans who want nothing more than to have us all equally poor and queuing up for government handouts, there is no moral divide, but only a moral monism.

Furthermore, Natoli shows how this culture-driven mass of personal tragedies works itself out specifically issue by issue - education "reform," immigration, taxation, etc. The sheer clarity of his specific understandings of how this unconscious common core overwhelms our rational thinking cuts to the heart of our political darkness.

However, when Natoli writes:

… The sort of pathography I am conducting here finds the Winners and the Losers sharing the same values. They share the same mass psyche desires, fears, antipathies, repressions, traumas, blindness, compulsions, dreams and nightmares, the same American Dream, if you will. If the Losers did not connect here with the Winners, we would face the clarity of a moral dualism, of innocence and guilt, of oppressor and oppressed, of hero and monster. ...

I don’t think moral dualism can provide us with the clarity we need. In fact, moral dualisms are essential to the dynamic binding the Winners and Losers in "wanting it all." Natoli points to this out when he shows how the "unconscious common core" that is built around "wanting it all" includes a moral condemnation of "whining anti-Americans who want nothing more than have us all equally poor and queuing up for government handouts…"

He seems to see this condemning disposition as having "no moral divide, but only a moral monism." I see it as a major moral dualism involving an "us" that is good and a "them" that is bad. The "clarity of a moral dualism" would lead to the "oppressed" turning against and condemning the "oppressors." Well, who among us is not moved in some way by that "wanting it all?" Natoli suggests that is the case of the 80 percent of us in the lower economic groupings. If there is anything needing condemning, it is the core values and beliefs that have the vast majority of us "wanting it all," not those of us caught in the cultural conundrum he so beautifully describes.

Getting Beyond Moral Dualisms

I believe, on the other hand, that to work our way out of our "unconscious common core," we need a new kind of dialectical space, not a moral dualism. I think Paulo Freire can point us toward it. In The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire sees that the core dynamic of oppression is dialectical. It is a dance between oppressed and oppressor that cannot happen without each playing out their role to the music of our "unconscious common core." He argues passionately that for oppressed people to liberate themselves from their oppression, they have to confront a radical choice: to become an oppressor or to start becoming more fully human:

The struggle for humanization … to have meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity … become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of the humanity of both. [44]

So for Freire - at least as I read him - the only real alternative to oppression - that is, to the "unconscious common core," is what he calls "re-humanization" - love and compassion - along with a clear-eyed understanding of the external oppressive dynamics.

This re-humanization is a process of transforming the "unconscious common core" to create alternatives to the winner-loser mentality that is embedded in the cultural marrow of our being. Freire also warns:

… Almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors or "sub-oppressors." The very structure of their thought has been conditioned by the contradictions of the concrete, existential situation by which they were shaped. [45]

Maybe, I am misconstruing what Natoli means by "moral dualism." He may be calling for what Freire is referring to here:

To surmount the situation of oppression, people must first critically recognize its causes, so that through transforming action they can create a new situation, one which makes possible the pursuit of a fuller humanity. [47]

Certainly" Losers" must see how they are "being had" by their sharing a particular cultural mentality with "Winners." But they also must see how they are trapped into this mentality by their own agency, their choosing the "wanting it all" beliefs and values. This is the liberating insight that can enable us to choose another path. Freire makes this point well:

... For the oppressed to be able to wage the struggle for their liberation, they must perceive the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting condition which they can transform. [49]

"Transform" is the key word. Natoli says "we need to explore these deep-rooted connections" between oppressor classes and oppressed classes then "sever them, and seek legislative representation that is not bound already on this level of unconscious affinities to the policies we need to contest." I think the metaphor of "severing connections," which suggests a straightforward solution that is somehow close at hand, is misleading.

I believe our "unconscious common core" is more akin to a kind of "cultural marrow." I choose this metaphor because Freire’s humanization requires transformative processes that are much more than a "severing." They are matters of personal and cultural transformation that literally reconstitute our "common core." And they require transformative pedagogies our educational system knows little about because they are too busy unconsciously creating "Winners and Losers," as Freire understood so well:

The oppressed suffer from the duality which has established itself in their innermost being. They discover that without freedom they cannot exist authentically. Yet, although they desire authentic existence, they fear it. They are at one and the same time themselves and the oppressor whose consciousness they have internalized. The conflict lies in the choice between being wholly themselves or being divided; between ejecting the oppressor within or not ejecting them; between human solidarity or alienation; between following prescriptions or having choices; between being spectators or actors; between acting or having the illusion of acting through the action of the oppressors; between speaking out or being silent, castrated in their power to create and re-create, in their power to transform the world. This is the tragic dilemma of the oppressed which their education must take into account.

In following Natoli’s foundational lead, we need to turn to our attention to finding and developing learning processes that are truly transformational.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5854) 6 months ago

UN Report Blasts Catholic Church for Systemic Child Abuse Coverups

Thursday, 06 February 2014 12:54 By Jaisal Noor, The Real News Network | Video Interview

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfQ37vNS4M0&feature=player_embedded

Chairperson Kirsten Sandberg discusses the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report outlining massive allegations of child abuse coverups and its demands the Vatican take action to hold guilty parties accountable.

TRANSCRIPT: http://truth-out.org/news/item/21704-un-report-blasts-catholic-church-for-systemic-child-abuse-coverups

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5854) 6 months ago

Shocking Facts About America's For-Profit Prison Industry

Thursday, 06 February 2014 09:40 By Beth Buczynski, Care2 | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21694-shocking-facts-about-americas-for-profit-prison-industry

As long as their have been human societies, there have been criminals. Despite the best efforts of lawmakers and religions, humans can’t be trusted to do the right thing, even when we’re aware of the consequences. The prison system used to be a last resort, a place you sent people when other forms of punishment were ineffective. Now it’s grown into something much darker, and even less rehabilitative.

Unbeknownst to many, the prison system has become a for-profit business in which inmates are the product–a system that has shocking similarities to another human-based business from America’s past: slavery.

In late 2013, a new report from In the Public Interest (ITPI) revealed that private prison companies are striking deals with states that contain clauses guaranteeing high prison occupancy rates–sometimes 100 percent. This means that states agree to supply prison corporations with a steady flow of residents–whether or not that level of criminal activity exists. Some experts believe this relationship between government and private prison corporations encourages law enforcement agencies to use underhanded tactics–often targeting minority and underserved groups–to fill cells.

“The report, ‘Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations,’ documents the contracts exchanged between private prison companies and state and local governments that either guarantee prison occupancy rates (essentially creating inmate lockup quotas) or force taxpayers to pay for empty beds if the prison population decreases due to lower crime rates or other factors (essentially creating low-crime taxes),” reports Salon.

As a result, there are now over 2 million people living behind bars in the United States. That’s half a million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Many are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, like the use or possession of marijuana, and other problems that would be far better served through a rehabilitation or education program.

The worst part is that once captured by the prison industry, inmates are forced to work for pennies an hour, providing cheap labor for some of the most profitable enterprises in the world, including the U.S. Military.

According to the Left Business Observer, “the federal prison industry produces 100 percent of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98 percent of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93 percent of paints and paintbrushes; 92 percent of stove assembly; 46 percent of body armor; 36 percent of home appliances; 30 percent of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21 percent of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.”

When you can get that kind of labor for less than a dollar a day, it’s hard to see the government’s motivation for incarcerating fewer people. And it’s all done at the taxpayer’s expense.

Scroll through the infographic below for more shocking facts about America‘s prison industry, and how much it‘s costing taxpayers like you.

Click here to enlarge. http://www.online-paralegal-degree.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/private-prisons.png

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by bullfrogma (448) 6 months ago

yeah, fear is cheap and easy. it's cost effective. check out these ideas along the same lines: http://occupywallst.org/forum/grueling-volition/

art is how much love you put into something, and that is what fear is lacking. such is effort with great reward; love is more difficult than fear. it takes more effort to accomplish that which is good because the universe is objective; you make your own bed.

giving in to the power of dominance is a weakness of the will to do what is right. it is not strength, it's an addiction. it's unrealistically self-centered. the proof is in the pudding because our situation like this is doomed.

[-] 0 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 6 months ago

the NFL recently discovers blows to the head are bad

lol