Subject: ON CUTTING ONE'S THROAT WITH OCCAM'S RAZOR.
16 June 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
There is an African proverb that says, “Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be the hero.”
In their book, When Elephants Weep, the Emotional Lives of Animals (Vintage Press, 1996), Jeffrey Masson and Susan McCarthy cite geoscientist Edward Bullard, in his account for the intellectual inertia that perpetuates orthodoxy and retards our scientific understanding of realities, old and new --which remains as a precondition for human (and all animal) liberation.
There is always a strong inclination for a body of professionals to oppose an unorthodox view. Such a group has a considerable investment in orthodoxy; they have learned to interpret a large body of data in terms of the old view, and they have prepared lectures and perhaps written books with the old background. To think the whole subject through again when one is no longer young is not easy and involves admitting a partially misspent youth. . . . Clearly it is more prudent to keep quiet, to be a moderate defender of orthodoxy, and to maintain that all is doubtful, sit on the fence, and wait in statesmanlike ambiguity for more data. (p.14)
Reductive thinking is a black-magic practice which appears to clarify while in fact it falsifies and, worse, it dissolves complex sentient reality and replaces it with fictive tunnel vision. At the end of the tunnel of parsimonious behavior is always a target, but passage through this tunnel is a trap, where most people spend a lifetime, aiming and re-aiming at designated goals; then watching helplessly as the price they must pay for achieving these goals destroys them.
In the Baroque Age of Science, René Descartes (1596-1650) expressed the prejudices of his day and far beyond, to influence future generations, when he issued his authoritative opinion that only humans had the capacity to think and therefore to feel.
There are [no men] so deprived and stupid, without even excepting idiots, that they cannot arrange different words together, forming of them a statement by which they make known their thoughts; while, on the other hand, there is no other animal, however perfect and fortunately circumstanced it may be, which can do the same . . . the reason why animals do not speak as we do is not that they lack the organs but that they have no thoughts.(cited by Masson, et al., p.18)
Masson & McCarthy cite, also, an unknown contemporary of Descartes, to draw attention to the ‘scientific behavior’ which such ideas foster :
The [Cartesian] scientists administered beatings to dogs with perfect indifference and made fun of those who pitied the creatures as if they felt pain. They said the animals were clocks; that the cries they emitted when struck were only the noise of a little spring that had been touched, but that the whole body was without feeling. They nailed the poor animals up on boards by their four paws to vivisect them to see the circulation of the blood, which was a great subject of controversy.(cited by Masson, et al., p.18)
This mantra was taken up in that bastion of ethnocentric thinking, which is, of course, the University. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Sorbonne University Professor L. Levy-Bruhl, “discovered” that there existed some cultures where the full range of Western emotions could not be expressed and therefore were probably not experienced. (Mental Function in Inferior Societies, 1910, cited by Masson in When Elephants Weep, The Emotional Lives of Animals, 1995, p.11)
Jason Hribal, author of Fear of the Animal Planet, the Hidden History of Animal Resistance (2010), points out that such prejudices against animals is closely related to racism and other forms of bigotry encouraged by the privileged. Animal rights remains all but a taboo subject in American universities even after the civil rights movement has been largely co-opted on campuses.
The Catholic Church, in ancient times, used to destroy paganism and thus increase the church’s power and influence. Today, it is science and industry that wields the sword. Their methodology, though, is opposite to that of the church. Instead of uniting various sectors, they seek to divide and draw wide chasms between humans and other animals. This distance, they hope, will create a general public who neither knows nor cares about the lives and labors of tigers, elephants, or monkeys. It is a human centered and human dominated world, which science and industry seeks. This narrow perspective allows them to continue their exploitation of other animals in a completely unquestioned and unmolested fashion. The ultimate goal, of course, is to make the largest degree of profit possible.
As for those individuals who dare go against the idea, they will automatically be called out and publicly censured: ‘You are being anthropomorphic!’ Sadly, this kind of reaction and labeling has led to self-censorship. There are lines of inquiry that a great many people are afraid to cross, as to do so can mean ridicule, castigation, and, yes, unemployment. The smart person will simply internalize the term. Nowhere has this behavior gained a stronger hold than within the university –home of the status quo. Yet, it should be remembered that it was not so long ago when, in universities across the country, the ideas of eugenics and racism were also considered to be true, essential, and scientific categories of analysis. Professors loved them to no end. Today, the situation has changed, and the university is embarrassed, even to the point of denial, of its iniquitous past. Anthropomorphism awaits the same graveyard.(pp.26-27)
Masson & McCarthy discuss the capacity of feeling shame, and note that scientifically it can be proven today that this human capacity is shared with other animals, and good reasons can be advanced to explain the universal survival of this feeling among different animal species.
If shame proves to be widespread in the animal kingdom, the evolutionary approach would predict that it should confer some advantage. Just what might be adaptive about global self-accusation is not immediately apparent. . . .
As for the advantage of global self-accusation, [Psychiatrist Donald] Nathanson argues: ‘If you were going to design a system capable of learning from experience and educating itself, you might as well build in the capacity to magnify failure. Shame augments our memory of failure and protects us from whatever danger might occur, when, in a moment of need, we might try something well beyond our capacity.’ . . .
Another possibility is that shame might keep animals from attracting the attention of predators. Humans feel ashamed not only of their actual or perceived faults, but often of their differences from others, even when those differences are neutral or even positive. To be stared out can be unnerving, even when the stare is an admiring one. . . .
Predators single out prey. Some predators select prey on the basis of physical condition, thus culling out sick and injured animals, as well as young animals. They may study herds of prey animals, chase some of them, and make an all-out effort to catch only a few.(pp.186-187)
To survive, then, an animal must not only be fit, it must look fit. The sense of shame, painful to experience, may provide an emotional reason to hide infirmity.(p.189)
In the 6 items below, CEIMSA readers will recognize the ideological dimensions that class warfare has recently spawned. Essentialist thinking too often creates a reductionist opposition, creating a stalemate from which a new balance is sought in order to regain equilibrium. We are better off today looking for contradictions rather than simply for oppositions. Opposing the impoverishment of our lives is not enough, we are faced with the need to refuse reductive thought, to insist upon living in a voluptuous environment from which we can benefit and with which we may reciprocate. To achieve this, old centers of political power must be displaced and new grass-roots political power centers must be created, steming from the organic needs of ordinary people.
Item A., from Reader Supported News, is an article by Anthony Gucciardi on the coverup of animal deaths caused by GM corn.
Item B., from Truth Out, is an article by Gar Alperovitz, “How Big Banks Run the World - at Your Expense.”
Item C., sent to us by Jim O’Brien, is a Historians Against War publication of a “Recent Articles of Interest.”
Item D., from San Diego Community organizer Byron Morton, is the former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich’s article, “The Big-Lie Coup d’Etat,” first published on 5 June at the Robert Reich Blog.
Item E., from Truth Out, is an article by Chris Hayes, in which the author describes the mind of the new American ruling class, in “1% Pathologies.”
And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers access to an important video discussion by David Harvey on political solidarity and the power of 21st-century class consciousness in cities around the world where historically social movements evolve.
David Harvey video interview - the Guardian
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Reader Supported News :
Date: 16 June 2012
Subject: Biotech Leader covered up animal deaths from GM corn.
Gucciardi reports: "In a riveting victory against genetically modified creations, a major biotech company known as Syngenta has been criminally charged for denying knowledge that its GM Bt corn actually kills livestock."
Biotech Leader Covered Up Animal Deaths From GM Corn
by Anthony Gucciardi
from Truth Out :
Date: 8 June 2012
Subject: How Big Banks Run the World.
The recent Public Banking conference held in Philadelphia offered a message that is at once so simple - but also so bold - it is hard for most Americans to pause long enough to understand how profoundly their thinking had been corralled by the masters of finance ... To understand what has happened, however, you first have to take a minute to shake a few cobwebs out of your brain about 'money' - and how it is created and by whom and for whose benefit.
from Jim O’Brien :
Date: 8 June 2012
Subject: Historians Against the War.
Links to Recent Articles of Interest
"Reversing the Vietnam War Verdict"
By Jack A. Smith, The Rag Blog, posted June 7
On the Pentagon's newly instituted campaign to honor (and justify) the Vietnam War
"Somebody Else's Atrocities"
By Noam Chomsky, Nation of Change, posted June 7
"First the 'Targeted Killing' Campaign, Then the Targeted Propaganda Campaign"
By Jameel Jaffer and Nathan Wessler, The Guardian, posted June 7
"Praying at the Church of St. Drone: The President and His Apostles"
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, posted June 5
"Syria: America vs. Israel?"
By Giorgio Cafiero, Foreign Policy in Focus, posted June 4
"Do Nuclear Weapons Really Deter Aggression?"
By Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network, posted June 4
The author is a professor of history emeritus at SUNY Albany
"The Legend of the Spat-Upon Veteran"
By David Sirota, In These Times, posted June 1
"Unleashed: Globalizing the Global War on Terror"
By Andrew Bacevich, TomDispatch.com, posted May 29
The author teaches history and international relations at Boston University
"Bipartisan Assault on Middle East Peace"
By Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus, posted May 29
"Thank You for Your Service, Sort Of"
By Andrew Bacevich, New York Times Book Review, posted May 27
Review of James Wright's Those Who Have Borne the Battle
Suggestions for these lists can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Rosalyn Baxandall and Mim Jackson for suggesting articles that are included in the above list.
from Byron Morton :
Date: 8 June 2012
Subject: THE FUTURE BIG-LIE COUP D’ETAT IN AMERICA.
You have probably seen Reich's article calling the economic disparity a coup d'Etat.
Here it is.
The Big-Lie Coup d’Etat
by Robert Reich
JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, BP, Chevron, WalMart, and billionaires Charles and David Koch are launching a multi-million dollar TV ad buy Tuesday blasting President Obama over the national debt.
Actually, I don’t know who’s behind this ad because there’s no way to know. And that’s a big problem.
The front group for the ad is Crossroads GPS, the sister organization to the super PAC American Crossroads run by Republican political operative Karl Rove.
Because Crossroads GPS is a tax-exempt nonprofit group, it can spend unlimited money on politics — and it doesn’t have to reveal where it gets the dough.
By law, all it has to do is spend most of the money on policy “issues,” which is a fig leaf for partisan politics.
Here’s what counts as an issue ad, as opposed to a partisan one. The narrator in the ad Crossroads GPS is launching solemnly intones: “In 2008, Barack Obama said, ‘We can’t mortgage our children’s future on a mountain of debt.’ Now he’s adding $4 billion in debt every day, borrowing from China for his spending. Every second, growing our debt faster than our economy,” he continues. “Tell Obama, stop the spending.”
This is a baldface lie, by the way.
Obama isn’t adding to the debt every day. The debt is growing because of obligations entered into long ago, many under George W. Bush – including two giant tax cuts that went mostly to the very wealthy that were supposed to be temporary and which are still going, courtesy of Republican blackmail over raising the debt limit.
In realty, government spending as a portion of GDP keeps dropping.
As I said, I don’t know who’s financing this big lie but there’s good reason to think it’s some combination of Wall Street, big corporations, and the billionaire Koch brothers.
According to the reliable inside-Washington source “Politico,” the Koch brothers’ network alone will be spending $400 million over the next six months trying to defeat Obama, which is more than Senator John McCain spent on his entire 2008 campaign.
Big corporations and Wall Street are also secretly funneling big bucks into front groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that will use the money to air anti-Obama ads, while keeping secret the identities of these firms.
Looking at the all the anti-Obama super PACs and political fronts like Crossroads GPS, Politico estimates the anti-Obama forces (including the Romney campaign) will outspend Obama and pro-Obama groups by 2 to 1.
How can it be that big corporations and billionaires will be spending unlimited amounts on big lies like this one, without any accountability because no one will know where the money is coming from?
Blame a majority of the Supreme Court in its grotesque 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision — as well as the IRS for lax enforcement that lets political front groups like Crossroads GPS or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pretend they’re not political.
But you might also blame something deeper, more sinister.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist (you can’t have served in Washington and seriously believe more than two people can hold on to a big story without it leaking), but I fear that at least since 2010 we’ve been witnessing a quiet, slow-motion coup d’etat whose purpose is to repeal every bit of progressive legislation since the New Deal and entrench the privileged positions of the wealthy and powerful — who haven’t been as wealthy or as powerful since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century.
Its technique is to inundate America with a few big lies, told over and over (the debt is Obama’s fault and it’s out of control; corporations and the very rich are the “job creators” that need tax cuts; government is the enemy, and its regulations are strangling the private sector; unions are bad; and so on), and tell them so often they’re taken as fact.
Then having convinced enough Americans that these lies are true, take over the White House, Congress, and remaining states that haven’t yet succumbed to the regressive right (witness Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin).
I desperately hope I’m wrong, but all there’s growing evidence I may be right.
from Truth Out :
Date: 15 June 2012
Subject: 1% Pathologies.
Nearly all of the commentary on America's growing inequality focuses on the ways in which skewed distribution of income and wealth is bad for those on the bottom of the pyramid: the way it leads to stagnating wages and competition for scarce positional goods; the way it alienates the middle and working classes and the poor. But we largely ignore the effect of extreme inequality that is, in the long run, the most destructive: the way it makes those at the top of the social pyramid worse.
by Chris Hayes
from Reader Supported News :
Date: 16 June 2012
Subject: US Senators grovel before billionaire, like little girls and café waiters used to grovel before local celebrities.
Most of the rest of the senators not only supplicated before the blowdried banker like love-struck schoolgirls or hotel bellhops, they also almost all revealed themselves to be total ignoramuses with no grasp of the material they were supposed to be investigating.
Senators Grovel, Embarrass Themselves at Dimon Hearing
by Matt Taibbi