Sunday, July 10, 2011

George Lakoff on the Christofascist Worldview

What Conservatives Really Want
Posted on February 19, 2011 by georgelakoff

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—Dedicated to the peaceful protestors in Wisconsin, February 19, 2011

The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.

The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on.
Budget deficits are a ruse, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin, where the Governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement.

Deficits can be addressed by raising revenue, plugging tax loopholes, putting people to work, and developing the economy long-term in all the ways the President has discussed. But deficits are not what really matters to conservatives.
Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life.

In the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama accurately described the basis of American democracy: Empathy — citizens caring for each other, both social and personal responsibility—acting on that care, and an ethic of excellence. From these, our freedoms and our way of life follow, as does the role of government: to protect and empower everyone equally. Protection includes safety, health, the environment, pensions and empowerment starts with education and infrastructure. No one can be free without these, and without a commitment to care and act on that care by one’s fellow citizens.

The conservative worldview rejects all of that.

Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don’t think government should help its citizens. That is, they don’t think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have over 800** military bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility.

But where does that view of individual responsibility alone come from?

The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don’t have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally.

The market itself is seen in this way. The slogan, “Let the market decide” assumes the market itself is The Decider. The market is seen as both natural (since it is assumed that people naturally seek their self-interest) and moral (if everyone seeks their own profit, the profit of all will be maximized by the invisible hand). As the ultimate moral authority, there should be no power higher than the market that might go against market values. Thus the government can spend money to protect the market and promote market values, but should not rule over it either through (1) regulation, (2) taxation, (3) unions and worker rights, (4) environmental protection or food safety laws, and (5) tort cases. Moreover, government should not do public service. The market has service industries for that. Thus, it would be wrong for the government to provide health care, education, public broadcasting, public parks, and so on. The very idea of these things is at odds with the conservative moral system. No one should be paying for anyone else. It is individual responsibility in all arenas. Taxation is thus seen as taking money away from those who have earned it and giving it to people who don’t deserve it. Taxation cannot be seen as providing the necessities of life, a civilized society, and as necessary for business to prosper.

In conservative family life, the strict father rules. Fathers and husbands should have control over reproduction; hence, parental and spousal notification laws and opposition to abortion. In conservative religion, God is seen as the strict father, the Lord, who rewards and punishes according to individual responsibility in following his Biblical word.

Above all, the authority of conservatism itself must be maintained. The country should be ruled by conservative values, and progressive values are seen as evil. Science should NOT have authority over the market, and so the science of global warming and evolution must be denied. Facts that are inconsistent with the authority of conservatism must be ignored or denied or explained away. To protect and extend conservative values themselves, the devil’s own means can be used against conservatism’s immoral enemies, whether lies, intimidation, torture, or even death, say, for women’s doctors.

Freedom is defined as being your own strict father — with individual not social responsibility, and without any government authority telling you what you can and cannot do. To defend that freedom as an individual, you will of course need a gun.

This is the America that conservatives really want. Budget deficits are convenient ruses for destroying American democracy and replacing it with conservative rule in all areas of life.

What is saddest of all is to see Democrats helping them.

Democrats help radical conservatives by accepting the deficit frame and arguing about what to cut. Even arguing against specific “cuts” is working within the conservative frame. What is the alternative? Pointing out what conservatives really want. Point out that there is plenty of money in America, and in Wisconsin. It is at the top. The disparity in financial assets is un-American — the top one percent has more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent. Middle class wages have been flat for 30 years, while the wealth has floated to the top. This fits the conservative way of life, but not the American way of life.
Democrats help conservatives by not shouting out loud over and over that it was conservative values that caused the global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a greed-is-good ethic.

Democrats also help conservatives by what a friend has called Democratic Communication Disorder. Republican conservatives have constructed a vast and effective communication system, with think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of trained speakers, vast holdings of media, and booking agents. Eighty percent of the talking heads on tv are conservatives. Talk matters because language heard over and over changes brains. Democrats have not built the communication system they need, and many are relatively clueless about how to frame their deepest values and complex truths.

And Democrats help conservatives when they function as policy wonks — talking policy without communicating the moral values behind the policies. They help conservatives when they neglect to remind us that pensions are deferred payments for work done. “Benefits” are pay for work, not a handout. Pensions and benefits are arranged by contract. If there is not enough money for them, it is because the contracted funds have been taken by conservative officials and given to wealthy people and corporations instead of to the people who have earned them.

Democrats help conservatives when they use conservative words like “entitlements” instead of “earnings” and speak of government as providing “services” instead of “necessities.”

Is there hope?

I see it in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands citizens see through the conservative frames and are willing to flood the streets of their capital to stand up for their rights. They understand that democracy is about citizens uniting to take care of each other, about social responsibility as well as individual responsibility, and about work — not just for your own profit, but to help create a civilized society. They appreciate their teachers, nurses, firemen, police, and other public servants. They are flooding the streets to demand real democracy — the democracy of caring, of social responsibility, and of excellence, where prosperity is to be shared by those who work and those who serve.

**This number was incorrectly reported as 174 in an earlier version of the article. Thanks to my many readers who contacted me with a more accurate number.

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3 Responses to What Conservatives Really Want

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I could have written this.

I want to not be invisible anymore.

I want to get up and shower and have somewhere to go.

I want to punch the people who talk about the recession being over.

I want to not have to choose between toilet paper or dog food.

I want to take back all the money I spent on student loans for an education that does me no good now.

I want to stop mending the waistband of five-year-old sweatpants.

I want to not consider two tacos for a dollar at Jack In The Box a splurge.

I want to walk into a job interview not reeking of desperation.

I want to be able to afford a simple goddamned urn for my daughter's ashes.

I want to pay just one bill on its due date, not have to wait until the FINAL NOTICE.

I want to be able to drive across town to pick my kid up so he doesn't have to walk in the rain.

I want to shop at the Dollar Store because I'm thrifty, not because it is the only way I can afford luxuries like body wash, toothpaste and laundry soap.

I want to be able to drive the two hours to Santa Cruz to visit my dying friend.

I want to pay for a haircut, instead of using the kitchen scissors to “even up the ends again”.

I want to have a shit job to bitch about.

I want to not panic every time the doorbell rings unexpectedly.

I want to split a tab or treat someone to something.

I want to wear contact lenses again, instead of these wobbly old glasses.

I want to be able to buy a present for my goddaughters.

I want to go to the theater to see a movie and pay for my own damn ticket.

I want to drive a completely legal car legally.

I want to not have to choose between buying tampons or a pound of ground beef.

I want to buy a book that ISN'T on the 25-cent rack at the Thrift Store.

I want to stop avoiding my friends because they're pitying or worse.

I want to not have to invent new ways to rearrange my resume and STILL get no response.

I want to get my dogs their shots so I can take them to the park.

I want to use good trash bags.

I want to wake up without dread that today is the day it will all come tumbling down.

I want to consider owning a spicebox and a mortar and pestle NOT a pipe dream.

I want a new bra.

I want to feel like a real person again.

I want to BE a real person again.

I am sick to death of this Middle Class poverty (not a penny to my name, but the remnants of a better life all around me)

I am sick to death of dumbing down my resume, groveling for jobs I could have done at sixteen and STILL not getting hired.

I am sick to death of feeling powerless.

I am sick to death of apologizing and being shamed and embarrassed for being one of the long-term unemployed.

I am sick to death of tailoring my resume to each job and STILL not getting a response from 99% of the companies I apply to.

I am sick to death of people telling me that I “really should see a doctor” when nothing would please me more, except that I can't afford to do so.

I am sick to death of not even getting interviewed for open positions, and then getting shitty service from the person they DID hire when I didn't even get an interview.

I am sick to death of turning down invitations to do things with friends, because I can't afford to do so.

I am sick to death of pretending that holidays don't exist because I can't afford to celebrate them.

I am sick to death of throwing away 2/3 of my mail without even opening it because I know that there's a bill or a statement from someone I owe that I can't afford to pay.

I am sick to death of explaining to other people that “getting a job at McDonalds” is not as simple as they think.

I am sick to death of hiding, being quiet, trying to play nice, mentally composing suicide letters, trying to figure out who can take care of my dogs/cat/kid when it all goes to hell like it is bound to do.

I am sick to death of feeling powerless.

I am sick to death of being unable to pay my own way.

I am sick to death of people telling me that “it could be worse”, because I know that it could and I am convinced that it will and I am only biding my time in this limbo which is a certain kind of hell all its own.

I am sick to death of these conversations where my friends and I try to brainstorm ways to get the hell out of this town/state in hopes that there is some place where we can still trade hard work for decent wages and crawl out of the hellhole we've fallen into.

I am sick to death of having to look my son in the eye and admit that I have failed him, that I failed his sister, that I have failed us all.

I am sick. And sad. And exhausted. And undone.

3:46 PM PT: I am overwhelmed by the support and suggestions and the stories you have all shared. I wish new bras and shoes and hope and joy for each one of you who is, in one way or another, where I am at. What I did not expect was the laughter you also managed to squeeze in there, though some of it through tears, and for that too, I am so grateful. Thank you all.
Originally posted to laurustina on Fri Jul 08, 2011 at 12:27 PM PDT.
Also republished by WYFP?, Personal Storytellers, Unemployment Chronicles, and Class Warfare Newsletter: The Plutocracy VS the Working Class.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Drug testing in the military - Unintended consequences

It used to be common to hear "the military has gone weak since they let Blacks/women/gays join."


Leadership died when they started pee testing officers and NCOs for drugs.

Instant degradation and destroyed morale.

"Here's the keys to the nukes. Pee in the bottle because you can't be trusted."

Clear message to the troops that officers aren't held to a higher standard.

The only challenge was from a newly-minted female 2nd Lt. She lost and resigned her commission rather than have her oath questioned.

The rest of us caved. We went off and peed, while under the close observation of a service member of the same sex. As one of the rare female officers, guess who got tapped a lot, both for donating and observing. Yeah.

If you're eating, stop. This isn't pretty.

The protocol for female urine gathering was as follows. The donor was obliged to position herself over the toilet, skirt up or pants down. She would then reach down and spread the lips of her labia apart with her fingers so the observer could watch the urine leave the donor's urethra and drop into a plastic cup.

The observer watches the sample be turned over to the clerk, who seals and labels it. Next donor is allowed into the bathroom. And so it goes.

This usually occurred in dank airport style bathrooms, since women's latrines were afterthoughts in most places.

Hostility to women or just paranoid? Either way, not conducive to a sense of obligation and noblesse oblige in your officer ranks.

I was just ROTC, but I never understood how the ring knockers could stand it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

ABC sides with Reality

As humans re-start using both sides of their brains to mass communicate, the Power of the Word wains.

Damn, sounds all LTR.

The point is, people are still trying to use just words to control others. The Bible is out of their hands, but they would like to replace it with a mythology of the Founding Fathers and their Sacred Words - The Constitution.

Hm - Ben Franklin as Bacchus or Priapas. I can see that.

The same old language - Latin - but the new priests are lawyers, who speak together and dispense law from their esoteric knowledge of the mysteries of the Bill of Rights.

They will, of course, fail. They've learned nothing from the Arab Spring or Rep. Weiner. The private is once again public.
Or at least our notions of what 'private' is are changing. We'll probably go more Japanese, or at least European.

Americans and the notion of the suburbs have created notions of entitlement to space. (Virgin Land, Machine in the Garden, John Ford, etc.) Which is why the cities are considered corrupting - because they ignore your obvious insight and wisdom and do strange things you're not comfortable with.

We haven't run out of land, but we've made that irrelevant. YouTube. CNN. Comcast. You can't escape the gazillion stimuli your brain processes daily. The trick is, we're using the right brain now, which isn't used to non-linear thinking. It's learning, though.

Used to lecture Korean Exchange students on American Culture. 10 hour series. Wonder if I still have my notes...

I suspect new taboos will take their place.