Cultural Psychology

Countering Political Evil

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At the Watchblog Third Party Website, Joel S. Hirschhorn wrote an good article titled The Evolution of Evil. He identifies as an essential problem the current two-party system. To quote Joel:

Most corrupt and legally sanctioned forms of tyranny hide in plain sight as democracies with free elections….  Nothing conceals tyranny better than elections. Few Americans accept that their government has become a two-party plutocracy run by a rich and powerful ruling class. The steady erosion of the rule of law is masked by everyday consumer freedoms. Because people want to be happy and hopeful, we have an epidemic of denial, especially in the present presidential campaign. But to believe that any change-selling politician or shift in party control will overturn the ruling class is the epitome of self-delusion and false hope. In the end, such wishful thinking perpetuates plutocracy. Proof is that plutocracy has flourished despite repeated change agents, promises of reform and partisan shifts.

He also identifies three solutions aimed at achieving reform: (1) curbing discretionary spending as a form of civil disobedience — hit the enemy where it hurts: in the pocketbooks; (2) refusing to vote, and (3) grassroots political organization aimed at reform.

I agree in general with (3), completely disagree with (2), and largely disagree with (1).

My arguments for promoting change by voting for third-party and independent candidates are explained elsewhere, so there’s no need to repeat them here. Concerning consumer protest, I would rather see more intelligent discretionary spending than no spending at all. Spending is good for the economy. More importantly spending means you’re paying somebody else to work, which is an intrinsically good thing. People like to work. People need to work. Working gives people a sense of accomplishment and meaning. We’re designed to work. But it has to be the right kind of work. So spend money, but let it be on services and products that are good — for example, organic food and solar energy.

More basically, I suggest that we need to pay more attention to spiritual solutions. On the one hand, most people seem to accept that the human race is battling some kind of metaphysical evil; but on the other hand, we seem very reluctant to admit this publicly, or to try to use spiritual strategies to counter it. To avoid narrow sectarian religious views in public social discourse is understandable; but to avoid spirituality altogether seems near suicidal! Hence my comment to Joel’s article, which I also ‘reprint’ below

John Uebersax

Hi Joel, this is an excellent article. You truly see how the current two-party system is a tyranny masquerading as democracy! I’m going to post a link to it in my third-parties blog.

Please let me suggest three other strategies for restoring power, in addition to the three you mention. First though, let me explain that I approach politics from a perspective that is both spiritually-oriented and logically hard-headed. I always feel I must apologize for this, fearing that people will associate my ideas with those of ignorant religious fundamentalist or ‘new-agers’. Be assured that such is not the case. My religious views are more like those of the Renaissance or in classical Greece and Rome — in times before the radical dissociation of Science and Religion occurred. The ‘System’ has discredited religion, thereby removing our most potent tools for restoring control. It has marginalized religious thought, drawing most attention to the more ignorant representatives of this viewpoint. Regardless of what the dominant positivist-materialist worldview teaches, evils does exist, and it quite plainly operates in ways that go beyond our current scientific models. It stands to reason that if we want to counter evil, then we have to be willing to consider spiritual paradigms. The fact that this seems to many so implausible is itself evidence of our conditioning.

Enough by way of preface then. Now the three additional strategies for restoring power:

4. Personal education. We have let our nation become dumbed down. This must be reversed. People, need to read more, and to read better quality material. Throw out Harry Potter and Tom Clancy. Pick up Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Gibbons. If that seems too hard and gives you a headache, so much the better; it proves the point: that people’s brains have become ‘flabby’ through non-use. The better people educate themselves, the more apparent the lies and oppression of the two-party monopoly will be. This is a cheap solution, and, importantly, one that, like all true solutions, begins with a person asking, “How can I promote change by reforming and improving myself?”

5. Acquiring virtue. Yes, the System is evil and exploits us. But, as Walt Kelly, social critic and creator of the “Pogo” comic strip, wrote so long ago, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Unfortunately, we are not just oppressed by the System, we are, to an alarming degree, part of the System. Anyone with a bank account or a pension plan is, intentionally or not, invested in the stock market — that immensely powerful, blind, and amoral force which *owns* the corporations that own the political parties.

We need to become more virtuous — more just and charitable. We need to re-examine areas of our own life that contribute to the system. The more each of us acquires virtue, the more we enable others to do so by our example.

6. Spiritual weapons. Most Americans apparently believe in God and an afterlife. They believe they are immortal beings. They also believe in prayer, or say they do. Yet somehow we dissociate these beliefs entirely when it comes to politics. That makes no sense at all. Either people should give up their religion or use it! And if religion is true, then people should pray for change. Indeed, that should be their first and most primary tool.

Related to prayer is the class of tactics that Gandhi called “satyagraha”, which means “truth force.” Examples include things like demonstrations, constructive civil disobedience, and the willing acceptance of forms of suffering to promote change. When was the last time you heard anyone suggesting that people should go on penitential fasts for the sake of effecting social change? But the efficacy of such fasts is an established tenet of Judeao-Christian religious beliefs. We are ignoring all the most effective means human culture has ever known to promote social change.

As this is just a comment, I shouldn’t make it too long. Let it suffice to suggest that people should think more about re-introducing religious and spiritual themes into discussions of socio-political reform. This should not be narrow-minded, fundamentalist, or sectarian. (Gandhi, for example, was famous for holding interdenominational religious services, combining Hindu, Muslim, and Christian prayers and scriptures.) But if we’re fighting evil, then we would be foolish indeed to fail to make use of our most potent weapons for combating it.


Written by John Uebersax

February 18, 2008 at 10:17 am

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