Subject: ON IDEOLOGY,
RELIGION AND SOCIAL CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS : FROM THE
CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS,
5 February 2005
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
In round figures, from a total
Noam Chomsky begins his analysis of this phenomenon with the observation that "people vote according to their social class interests." From this perspective, in the November 2004 elections, some 80 million Americans failed to recognize their social class interests represented by either presidential candidate; they simply did not vote. In the framework of Chomsky's analysis, choosing not to vote may be interpreted as a political act: if working class interests are not represented by either candidate, boycotting the election might be seen as the only rational way of voicing disapproval of the "non-choice" presented to working class Americans on election day.
By starting from the perspective of social
class interests, we are also invited to evaluate the behavior of those 120
Assuming that there is no innate conflict
between American working class interests, such as: (a)full employment,
(b)guaranteed health benefits, (c)paid vacations, (d)free education, and
(e)adequate retirement pensions, on the one hand, and the global well
being of the human species, on the other hand, such as
(a)maintaining a clean environment and (b)sharing technological and scientific
knowledge that would improve the lives of our fellow human beings around the
world; then American working people might be expected to vote for
representatives whom they could empower with a mandate to write such laws that
would facilitate the enactment of policies intended to benefit American workers
and at the same time serve to protect the human species. The fact that this
does not happen in the
Many international scholars would argue, in fact, that just the opposite occurs in U.S. elections: Representatives of the interests of a relatively small class of American people are elected to pass legislation that assures: (a)high unemployment and low wages, (b)no health benefits for large numbers of families, (c)no paid vacations for most workers, (d)limited educational opportunities for many, and (e)few benefits after retirement for the majority of people; while, on the other hand, these same lawmakers do what is necessary to protect the private economic and political interests of the small social class for whom they work --a commitment that has a devastating effect on the environment and on international relations, to the detriment of all human beings, including themselves.
In the four items below, we offer readers
some new elements for an analysis of ideology, religion and social class
consciousness in contemporary
In item A. CEIMSA research associate Michael Albert, editor of Z
Item B., sent to us by our associate Professor Richard Du Boff, from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, is a testimony on the severe limitations faced by public educators in America today, due to extreme right-wing ideological and religious groups which have been mobilized in specific communities.
In item C. we are reminded by our
Finally, in item D., we are reminded by Dahr Jamail that imperialism gives birth to anti-imperialism,
and repression sometimes becomes the midwife to revolution. The protracted
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
from Michael Albert :
Subject: NO TOMORROW
by Bill Moyers
One of the biggest changes in politics
in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in
from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in
Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a
monopoly of power in
Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.
Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."
Beltway elites snickered. The press
corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So
were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe
the Bible is literally true - one-third of the American electorate, if a recent
That's right - the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in
Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to
him for adding to my own
As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their
clothes and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.
I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these
people, following some of them from
return, the righteous will enter Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.
So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn Scherer - "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed - even hastened - as a sign of the coming apocalypse. As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election - 231 legislators in total and more since the election - are backed by the religious right.
Forty-five senators and 186 members
of the 108th Congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three
most influential Christian right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority
Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of
And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 Time-CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or in the motel turn on some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care
about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture?
And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"
Because these people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book,
No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that militant hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions of the foot soldiers on Nov. 2, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.
It is hard for the journalist to report a story like this with any credibility. So let me put it on a personal level. I myself don't know
how to be in this world without expecting a confident future and getting up every morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I have always been an optimist. Now, however, I think of my friend on Wall Street whom I once asked: "What do you think of the market?" "I'm optimistic," he answered. "Then why do you look so worried?" And he answered: "Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."
I'm not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with Eric Chivian and the Center for Health and the Global Environment that people will protect the natural environment when they realize its importance to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not that I don't want to believe that - it's just that I read the news and connect the dots.
I read that the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment. This for an administration:
That wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and their habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the government to judge beforehand whether actions might damage natural resources.
That wants to relax pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars,
sport-utility vehicles and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment.
That wants a new international audit
law to allow corporations to keep certain information about environmental
problems secret from the public. That wants to drop all its new-source review
suits against polluting, coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees
reached earlier with coal companies. That wants to open the Arctic [National]
Wildlife Refuge to drilling and increase drilling in Padre Island National
Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and
the last great coastal wild land in
I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million - $2 million of it from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council - to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.
I read all this in the news.
I read the news just last night and learned that the administration's friends at the International Policy Network, which is supported by Exxon Mobil and others of like mind, have issued a new report that climate change is "a myth, sea levels are not rising" [and] scientists who believe catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment."
I not only read the news but the fine print of the recent appropriations bill passed by Congress, with the obscure (and obscene) riders attached to it: a clause removing all endangered species protections from pesticides; language prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon; a waiver of environmental review for grazing permits on public lands; a rider pressed by developers to weaken protection for crucial habitats in California.
I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer - pictures of my grandchildren. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do." And then I am stopped short by the thought: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world."
And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice? What has happened to our moral imagination?
On the heath Lear asks
I see it feelingly.
The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we need is what the ancient Israelites called hochma - the science of the heart ... the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you.
Believe me, it does.
was host until recently of the weekly public affairs series "NOW with Bill
Moyers" on PBS. This article is adapted from AlterNet,
where it first appeared. The text is taken from Moyers'
remarks upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center
for Health and the Global Environment at
From: Richard B. Du Boff :
Subject: The superpower educates its children
New York Times
Takes a Back Seat in
by CORNELIA DEAN
Dr. John Frandsen,
a retired zoologist, was at a dinner for teachers in
"She confided that she simply ignored evolution because she knew she'd get in trouble with the principal if word got about that she was teaching it," he recalled. "She told me other teachers were doing the same thing."
Though the teaching of evolution
makes the news when officials propose, as they did in
In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue.
Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists in their communities.
"The most common remark I've
heard from teachers was that the chapter on evolution was assigned as reading
but that virtually no discussion in class was taken," said Dr. John R. Christy,
a climatologist at the
Dr. Frandsen, former chairman of the committee on science and public policy of the Alabama Academy of Science, said in an interview that this fear made it impossible to say precisely how many teachers avoid the topic. "You're not going to hear about it," he said. "And for political reasons nobody will do a survey among randomly selected public school children and parents to ask just what is being taught in science classes."
But he said he believed the practice
of avoiding the topic was widespread, particularly in districts where many
people adhere to fundamentalist faiths. "You can imagine how difficult it
would be to teach evolution as the standards prescribe in ever so many little
towns, not only in
Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive
director of the
Sometimes, Dr. Scott said, parents will ask that their children be allowed to "opt out" of any discussion of evolution and principals lean on teachers to agree.
Even where evolution is taught,
teachers may be hesitant to give it full weight. Ron Bier, a biology teacher at
He noted that his high school, in a college town, has many students whose parents are professors who have no problem with the teaching of evolution. But many other students come from families that may not accept the idea, he said, "and that holds me back to some extent. I don't force things," Mr. Bier added. "I don't argue with students about it."
In this, he is typical of many science teachers, according to a report by the Fordham Foundation, which studies educational issues and backs programs like charter schools and vouchers.
Some teachers avoid the subject altogether, Dr. Lawrence S. Lerner, a physicist and historian of science, wrote in the report. Others give it very short shrift or discuss it without using "the E word," relying instead on what Dr. Lerner characterized as incorrect or misleading phrases, like "change over time."
Dr. Gerald Wheeler, a physicist who heads the National Science Teachers Association, said many members of his organization "fly under the radar" of fundamentalists by introducing evolution as controversial, which scientifically it is not, or by noting that many people do not accept it, caveats not normally offered for other parts of the science curriculum.
Dr. Wheeler said the science teachers' organization hears "constantly" from science teachers who want the organization's backing. "What they are asking for is 'Can you support me?' " he said, and the help they seek "is more political; it's not pedagogical."
There is no credible scientific challenge to the idea that all living things evolved from common ancestors, that evolution on earth has been going on for billions of years and that evolution can be and has been tested and confirmed by the methods of science. But in a 2001 survey, the National Science Foundation found that only 53 percent of Americans agreed with the statement "human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals."
And this was good news to the foundation. It was the first time one of its regular surveys showed a majority of Americans had accepted the idea. According to the foundation report, polls consistently show that a plurality of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago, and about two-thirds believe that this belief should be taught along with evolution in public schools.
These findings set the
In other industrialized countries, Dr. Miller said, 80 percent or more typically accept evolution, most of the others say they are not sure and very few people reject the idea outright.
Indeed, two popes, Pius XII in 1950 and John Paul II in 1996, have endorsed the idea that evolution and religion can coexist. "I have yet to meet a Catholic school teacher who skips evolution," Dr. Scott said.
Dr. Gerald D. Skoog,
a former dean of the
Advocates for the teaching of evolution provide teachers or school officials who are challenged on it with information to help them make the case that evolution is completely accepted as a bedrock idea of science. Organizations like the science teachers' association, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science provide position papers and other information on the subject. The National Association of Biology Teachers devoted a two-day meeting to the subject last summer, Dr. Skoog said.
Other advocates of teaching evolution are making the case that a person can believe both in God and the scientific method. "People have been told by some evangelical Christians and by some scientists, that you have to choose." Dr. Scott said. "That is just wrong."
While plenty of scientists reject
religion - the eminent evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins famously likens it
to a disease - many others do not. In fact, when a researcher from the
Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum
on Religion and Public Life, said he thought the great variety of religious
groups in the
He said the teaching of evolution was portrayed not as scientific instruction but as "an assault of the secular elite on the values of God-fearing people." As a result, he said, politicians don't want to touch it. "Everybody discovers the wisdom of federalism here very quickly," he said. "Leave it at the state or the local level."
But several experts say scientists are feeling increasing pressure to make their case, in part, Dr. Miller said, because scriptural literalists are moving beyond evolution to challenge the teaching of geology and physics on issues like the age of the earth and the origin of the universe.
"They have now decided the Big Bang has to be wrong," he said. "There are now a lot of people who are insisting that that be called only a theory without evidence and so on, and now the physicists are getting mad about this."
From Sheila Whittick :
Subject: Elections in
I don't know whether you read the British press but I thought that this article from today's Guardian might interest you.
(No amount of spin can conceal
Iraqis' hostility to
by Sami Ramadani
As for Iraqis abroad, the up to 4
million strong exiled community (with perhaps a little over 2 million entitled
to vote) produced a 280,000 registration figure. Of those, 265,000 actually
voted. The Iraqi south, more religious than
was a political refugee from Saddam Hussein's regime and is a senior lecturer
From: Dahr Jamail :
Tomgram: Dahr Jamail on Life under the
Here is a lead from Tom Engelhardt who manages a fine website <http://www.tomdispatch.com/>, followed by a link to a recent piece from Dahr Jamail:
There is something thoroughly
inspiring when people, under the threat of death, turn out to vote in a country
that has become an armed camp. The urge of a long oppressed people to take back
their lives, to act, is always moving and powerful. Certainly, the
The meaning of the vote in
And then there's that other question: Whatever Iraqis thought they were voting for at polling places where, due to security concerns, most didn't even know the names of the candidates, what exactly are they going to get from this election? Was it even possible, as Brian Whitaker asked in the Guardian, to achieve anything like a genuine democracy when the Bush administration has paid so little "attention to the slow and laborious business of creating the civil institutions that make elections meaningful"? Or was it, as Pepe Escobar suggested in the Asia Times, a means of further embedding American power in the country? ("[O]nly the naïve may believe that an imperial power would voluntarily abandon the dream scenario of a cluster of military bases planted over virtually unlimited reserves of oil.") Or might the Bush administration not even mind a post-election descent into something approaching civil war, as James Carroll of the Boston Globe suggested in a devastating column on the election and George Bush?
And what will be possible for a future
Iraqi government in a land still occupied by a foreign army and a foreign power
whose "advisers" are now emplaced in every important ministry, whose
bases or "enduring camps" are now gargantuan, permanent structures,
whose officials control much of the money that will be available to any new
administration which will also face a fierce home-grown insurgency not about to
go away any time soon? Still, Iraqis at the polls represented at least one
modestly hopeful face of
Over a week ago, President Bush
offered an official American face to the world when, in his inaugural speech,
he plunked for the messianic global spread of "freedom" (as defined
by his administration), essentially by force of (or the threat of) arms. But
how different the face of
Two Faces of
Just the other day, on the front page of the New York Times, reporters David Johnston, Neil A. Lewis, and Douglas Jehl revealed that federal appeals court judge Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration's designee for head of the Homeland Security Department, spent parts of 2002-03 -- he was then the head of the Justice Department's criminal division -- advising the Central Intelligence Agency "on the legality of coercive interrogation methods on terror suspects under the federal anti-torture statute." More specifically, among the techniques he evidently green-lighted because they did not involve "the infliction of pain" (as narrowly defined in pretzled torture memos developed in the office of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales), he indicated that one technique "C.I.A. officers could use under certain circumstances without fear of prosecution was strapping a subject down and making him experience a feeling of drowning." Water torture is, of course, an ancient interrogation technique and was used by numerous oppressive regimes in the last century. It now goes under the rubric of "waterboarding" (which sounds much like the harmless daredevil sport of surfboarding).
Read Dahr Jamail's Piece http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=2166
More writing, photos and commentary at http://dahrjamailiraq.com
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE