Monthly Archives: July 2013

Zimmerman

Just as a body requires nutrients to survive, and to be able to expel toxicity, we likewise need to do the same with information. As Americans increasingly fail to metabolize massive amounts of carbohydrates, we have simultaneously lost the ability absorb, and sift through the deluge superfluous data we take in every day. With tabloid, ratings driven news-ertainment having supplanted journalism as the common means by which we garner current events, our ability to cognitively metabolize media has been compromised by a steady diet of sugar coated propaganda. The diversions from more pressing political or economic issues amount to insulin for the nation’s cerebral diabetes.

We’ve become intellectually unhealthy, lazy in our thinking, and have fed our bias past the point of morbid obesity.

In a big scary world where real life monsters manifest as disappearing pensions and inaccessible health care, our diminishing ability to psychologically cope with the feelings of powerlessness that accompany the twenty-first century have caused many to project their anxiety at tabloid social issues. Mired in a Pavlovian feedback loop, the American proletariat has been conditioned to salivate every time the news media makes the determination of where we should focus our attention. On some visceral level, we feel more emotionally equipped to offer sociological opinions on tabloid subject matter than we do the economy. And in that regard, it allows us to feel a little less powerless.

America is afraid. So do as we’ve been trained to do in order to internally rationalize our anxiety. We engage in the partisan rhetoric, and ignore things that require acumen, or which might require us to accord uncomfortable realities. We cope with fear by being angry at one another. Indeed, Americans have been Nancy Grace’d into a waking coma.

But it gets worse. With the advent of social media, our polarization has become philosophically paralyzing. Facebook and Twitter have allowed us to engage one another directly. Thus, our fear and hyper-partisanship are realized in guttural reactions to complex social and economic issues. Our diminishing intellects and collective unwillingness to generate genuine comprehension have crippled our ability to effectively communicate, and reduced us to a nation of conspiratorial, hyperbolic, name calling dullards.

We’ve gotten to a point where one’s choice of laundry detergent can reduce them to ally or enemy.

As such, American social media has diminished every aspect of sociology to equate with over-simplified, black and white perspectives. So we gather information that coincides with our predispositions, and dismiss that which contradicts them. It is no longer enough to feel that our vapid, uninformed opinions are so completely justified that there is no room for any concession, but the world has to understand that whomever lies in the path of our enfeebled sensibilities must be so utterly wrong, morally bankrupt and intellectually inferior that they are due ridicule from the entire internet. But of course, those with whom we disagree feel the same about us. Our collective need to have some sort of control over our fear –and to be “right”– often precludes us from sharing empathy with one another.

And around and around we go. It’s not that anybody is right, or that anybody is wrong. It’s that (to some degree) everybody is right, and everybody is wrong. Falling prey to sensationalist media is a no-win scenario, and the people who profit from tabloid news know it. In fact, they bank on it. literally.

The danger of subjectivity harmonizing with cynicism on any given issue can affect our overall perspectives moving forward. From a sociological perspective, tabloid news is interesting insofar as how people can interpret the same evidence in accordance with their own predispositions, and how –as a society– we are prone to polarization. Whether one is partial to believe in anyone’s guilt or innocence, those choices are often made before information is gathered, or objectivity can be implemented so as to accord one’s bias. Tabloid news says a lot more about our capacity to remain mired in subjectivity than it does our judicial system.

The very purpose of the establishing a free press in our country was to keep our focus on the judiciary, legislative, and executive branches of our government. Not to distract us from them. But as with every other industry, profit alters perspective. So we find our media being dummied down to our lowest intellectual common denominator and arguing over symptomatic social issues, while their root causes go unaddressed.

Sadly, the same capital lobbies that collude with Congress to undermine our economy, and our judicial system also own the media. They need us polarized, and bickering with one another. For if we ever stopped to notice that our democratic republic is being slowly terraformed into an Orwellian aristocracy, “We the People” might learn to metabolize the bad information we are being fed.

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Demonizing Academia

What Kepler and Copernicus theorized, Galileo proved. The sun –not the Earth– was the center of our solar system. For his efforts in discovering this truth (which every grade school child understands today) Galileo was rewarded by the Pope with being forced to denounce his work publicly under threat of torture, and spending the remainder of his life under house arrest. Discovery that conflicted with scripture was considered blasphemous, regardless of truth.

And so it is in certain parts of America, in 2013.

As the “TEA-vangelical” movement takes over total control of the Republican party, there has been a concerted effort to impose a sixteenth century suppression of academics via policy. In a barrage of anti-education platitudes — worded so-as-to convince the TEA Party proletariat that higher education is more accurately liberal propaganda design to dis-inform the masses by using science to steer good Christian folks away from biblical truth– there is now a rationalization amongst GOP voters which allows for an intellectual concession. A significant portion of our country now denounces academics as a matter of party-line protocol as explained via conservative, mono-syllabic diatribes on cable news.

But the motivations behind these attacks on education are much more sinister than one might think. Just as it was during the medieval inquisition, the constraining of knowledge is being portrayed as something other than what it’s intended as. Since Evangelical Christian politicians can’t come right out and say that “we want to keep you less educated so you’ll be more easily manipulated, and therefore easier to control” they attack the institutions of higher learning under the guise of “fiscal responsibility”. As if there is anything fiscally responsible about reducing the earning potential of the populace through suppressing intellect. Education (more accurately educating people) within the Republican economic stratagem is simply not worth the investment.

Well, the world needs ditch diggers too. Lots of em’.

Since the merging of the Republican party with Christian fundamentalism, there has been a slow, but systematic attempt to dismantle Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s wall of separation between church and state. As any other historical movement towards theocracy suggests, the most effective way to accomplish this is through the bastardization of the education system. Rather than be the nation born of the Enlightenment, and who first put a man on the moon, the GOP is revisiting the 1925 Scopes trial. Although a dark spot in our own history almost a hundred years in the American past, an un-subtle attempt to re-introduce creationism in science class is occurring all over the under-educated red-state south .

Following the 2012 pasting that the Republican party took in the national elections, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s instinct for political self preservation cajoled him into publically proclaiming that the GOP had to stop being the “party of stupid”. It is an admirable sentiment. Except that despite this, he continues to capitulate to his evangelical masters in supporting (un)intelligent design being taught alongside evolution in public schools. Stupid is, as stupid does, Governor Jindal.

To make educational matters worse in the predominantly Christian, red state south, there are no laws to mandate that medically accurate information be taught in sexual education classes. The results have been a significantly higher teen pregnancy rate than their blue state counterparts. In fact, the top ten states for unwanted teen pregnancies in 2013 were Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina are all Christian Red States. But the Christian TEA Party can’t allow reality to seep into their method of education when it defies their pedestrian interpretation of biblical precepts.

God apparently wants abstinence through blind obedience, not via choices made through understanding reproductive facts. However the TEA-vangelical economic goal –as it has been throughout history when Christianity vies for political power– is to create poverty amongst the masses. Not (as they are claiming) to educate, or avoid unwanted pregnancies.

The thing is, the Republican strategy is working perfectly. The most effective method of deriding education is to convolute the meanings of socio/political terminology. In some cases it is to apply a feckless insincerity and mean the exact opposite of what one says. This is how they can sell the attack on education to red-state America. For instance, teaching children facts about science and history in public school is now being referred to by the Christian Proletariat as “indoctrination”, whereas actually indoctrinating them with factually inaccurate versions of these same subjects is being referred to as “freedom.”

Freedom to remain ignorant, I guess.

But the reality is that in order to control the masses, you must keep them –not only uneducated– but wary of those who are. Republicans have even gone so far as referring to academics as “elitists” and “snobs” in order to create a hostility between middle-America and institutions of higher learning. We’ve seen what happens when people become educated. The middle class and the economy grow, and generations prosper. That is the socio/economic opposite of what any theocracy in history has endeavored to create.

Indeed, an equitable distribution of wealth is the theocratic ruling class’ worst economic nightmare. So the TEA-vangelical/GOP has re-branded its educational policy to equate to “Lack of knowledge is Power”. And they are correct, for those at the top of the economic pyramid, anyway. The march backwards towards the twelfth century socio/economic division of wealth and power requires non-thinking, unquestioning, uneducated, easily manipulated Christian soldiers.

“The Kin-yun So-Sha-list wants to destroy ‘Murrica”

The very basis for Christian fundamentalism is derived from the story of what happens when one seeks knowledge. In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve’s fall from grace occurred when they defied God by eating fruit from the “forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Despite being an awfully long name for a topiary, it stands as a warning to Christians that comprehension defies God. Avoiding knowledge is the premise from which Christianity operates.

As I write this, the interest rates on college tuition loans have doubled. Despite the direct correlation –both individually and communally– between education and prosperity, there has been a TEA-vangelical inspired socially conservative movement in America to circumvent the process by which we garner knowledge. It begins with teaching grade school children that women were created from the first man’s rib, and it ends with denying entrance to the institutions where they might learn otherwise. It is right wing social engineering.

There is a reason why scientists, and intellectuals –AKA “smart people”– tend to shy away from the Christian led GOP. Academics stand for everything that those who would profit from an uneducated nation are afraid of… socio/economic equity, and knowledge. However being afraid of the dark, while irrational, is one thing. But being afraid of the light is quite another.