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The Power of Leadership Narrative Intelligence (NQ)

I’m inspired by Quakers who call on one another to answer the question: “What is mine to do?” They ask this not just once, but in an ongoing way. As we reenter the post-pandemic world, how can we be optimally responsive to the crucial match between outer needs and our authentic motivations? What is ours to do?

 

The theme of this year’s International Leadership Association (ILA) global conference calls us to reimagine leadership for our time. For me, this is also a call to reimagine one’s own leadership. A psychodynamic approach can encourage us to reflect and then act from the inside out. If we don’t, and we come up with abstract ideas only, we may fail to embody them—just like New Year’s resolutions or organizational visioning processes that end up in a drawer, accomplishing nothing.

This is the second of two blogs that explore the role of archetypal narrative intelligence (NQ) in linking motivation, action, and leadership outcomes.

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Blog Two: Fueling Leadership Authenticity, Situational Flexibility, Cognitive Complexity

 

 Authentic Leadership and Personae Development

Leadership literature tells us that authentic leaders tend to be successful because people trust them enough to follow them. Authenticity is supported when we act in ways congruent with our most active archetypes. Ultimately, our authenticity arises from our essence, and in a Jungian frame, from our deeper self. Archetypal stories provide ways to express who we are by embodying our own versions of these universal characters and living their many plotlines. If you take the PMAI® assessment, your results will identify your three most active archetypes, making these conscious. The more aware we are of which archetypes are most available to us, the more choice we have in how we live their narratives. The more we trust and express who we are, the clearer our sense of purpose can be and the more likely we will contribute what we are uniquely qualified to do.

 

Jung’s work on persona development emphasizes that we are not islands who can be totally authentic all the time. Good persona development—or, for leader, personal branding—is interactive. A discovery process is needed to recognize what part of ourselves can be welcomed and be effective in each environment in which we find ourselves. Effective leadership can require a persona that shows the parts of you that others can hear, which can also lead to effective communication.

 

While some assume that leaders have a set style, psychodynamic theory related to archetypes says yes and no. Yes, we may have a core archetypal story, but people change over time, and cultures do too, although generally a bit more slowly. This means that just about the time we get comfortable being ourselves in an organizational, civic, or family culture, we might change or the culture might. If our most active archetypes change, we may seek to shift our roles or context, unless the inner change we are experiencing mirrors the outer changes needed by the setting in which we find ourselves.

 

Gaining Flexibility

Originally, PMAI® results emphasized only high and low archetypes, but leadership literature helped me understand how important the eight midrange scores are. Some midrange scores may be, or have been, active in you. If so, the motivation to live those stories has likely developed, to a certain degree, the archetypes’ possible competencies. It is helpful to recognize that although we can possess those competencies, we may feel bored or robotic when we do the very activities that used to light us up or that we developed by doing what was required of us. You might notice the plotlines/tasks you checked off as things you could do, and those that are also starred, as things you like to do. You know that for either you can rise to the occasion when needed, but the ones you also enjoy are those that you are likely to be able to sustain without a loss of energy and passion. 

 

Leaders can better understand others by imaginatively putting themselves in their shoes. One way to do that is for the leader to find some part of themselves that is like the other. The 12-archetype system can be of help in naming what “movie” we are in, what inner character needs to show up in it, and to what end. Borrowing from method acting, we can perform the needed storyline convincingly by finding that part of ourselves. For example, if someone is whining and you hate that, find the part of you that whines inwardly, so you can show compassion. Such inner work prepares you to live the story needed by a situation, at least for the time required, even though it may not be where you like to live.

 

Being story savvy also can help you meet goals through team action. Scenario planning provides a way to achieve a desired goal by telling many stories about how to get there. Archetypal theory can add to this by assessing whether the narratives the group and its leadership are currently motivated to live can achieve the goals desired. Imagine various archetypal storylines as maps that might help you get from here to there. If the goal is winning, the Warrior plotline may be called for, whereas if the goal is to form a supportive community and collaborate or to figure out a difficult issue, the Lover or Sage plotlines may need to be invoked. Moreover, many storylines have various tributaries. Some lead to desired outcomes, some to undesired ones, and a few to somewhere in between. Getting everyone on board with the desired outcome is an intelligent move, so your efforts are not undercut. The key is to make clear how their own motivations can be utilized in the endeavor.

 

What We May Not See Coming

The PMAI® assessment reports a least active score. You can consider any motivations/plotlines that you crossed out above as being your lowest scores. Why is this important? When we utilize one of our preferred narratives to explain what is happening, we are likely to disproportionately focus on the things that support that narrative’s plotline. Even well-read, well-informed, well-traveled leaders may have one or more stories that do not occur to them. That is where they can be blindsided by events they do not see coming, and where they can discount insights from those in whom these plotlines are active. Having a heads up about what we might not see can motivate us to learn enough about those archetypal stories to be prepared if they are needed.

 

This is also important because such undeveloped storylines may result in leadership challenges where we find ourselves confronted with our own level of incompetence. At worst, we might even act out a potentially shadowy quality of an undeveloped archetype. These can spring into action uninvited in their more primal forms because their narratives have not been lived enough to evolve through practice and feedback.

 

Recognizing such undeveloped areas early can lead to wise team building, delegation, and partnerships, which serve as protection going forward.

 

Leadership and Complexity of Thinking

A current danger in many countries today is that some people live in bubbles where they keep hearing only one side of the story, a story which sometimes is not even connected to reality. Such people without power can be easily manipulated. However, leaders typically do have power, so the more they are capable of understanding, the better it is for everyone. The advantage of thinking through story-telling is that narratives link the head with the heart and light up a good part of the brain. The more archetypes active in our psyches, even imaginatively, the more ways of understanding the world we have available to us. In this, as in most things, practice can help. It is helpful, when faced with a new challenge, to tell several of the twelve archetypal stories about how to ace it — including the story from our lowest scoring archetype. Doing this activates narrative intelligence (NQ), which can combine empathy with rationality, while also revealing the logical consequences of considered actions where plotlines lead.

 

Conclusion:  I hope this short article has provided you with some story-based leadership insights.  It, of course, builds on the work of many respected scholars who specialize in areas such as transformational leadership, authentic leadership, situational flexibility, cultural sensitivity, cognitive complexity, and so on.  Any of these can provide you with important background information about such specific leadership approaches.  For more information about my story-based approach, go to What Stories Are You Living: Discover Your Archetypes – Transform Your Life. 

 

 

 

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The Power of Leadership Narrative Intelligence (NQ)

I’m inspired by Quakers who call on one another to answer the question: “What is mine to do?” They ask this not just once, but in an ongoing way. As we reenter the post-pandemic world, how can we be optimally responsive to the crucial match between outer needs and our authentic motivations? What is ours to do?

 

The theme of this year’s International Leadership Association (ILA) global conference calls us to reimagine leadership for our time. For me, this is also a call to reimagine one’s own leadership. A psychodynamic approach can encourage us to reflect and then act from the inside out. If we don’t, and we come up with abstract ideas only, we may fail to embody them—just like New Year’s resolutions or organizational visioning processes that end up in a drawer, accomplishing nothing.

 

This is the first of two blogs that explore the role of archetypal narrative intelligence (NQ) in linking motivation, action, and leadership outcomes.

9142475473?profile=original 

Blog One: Matching Motivation With Story and Capacities

Most leadership theory tends to focus on what leaders do rather than how they want to do it. Psychodynamic leadership theory, which is rooted in Jungian and archetypal psychology and its application, fills this gap with expertise about the inner life. Archetypal (universal) narratives shape our thinking and feeling into plotlines that then guide what we do. (For more information on archetypes and leadership, go to www.carolspearson.com). These, however, can be more habitual than motivating. When the outer life mirrors our inner desires, energy and passion are released that fuel aliveness in what we say and do. Living such narratives develops life and leadership competencies, which, as they continually develop and evolve, can lead to various forms of mastery.

 

I created a 12-archetype human development system, beginning with six in the 1980s, described in The Hero Within, and expanded to 12 in the early 1990s described in Awakening the Heroes Within. These 12 archetypes are ones that have been seen to promote human evolution, from the most ancient of times until now. I called these archetypes heroic, meaning they are committed to the greater good as well as one’s own. I have been working with these archetypes with individuals and groups ever since. In the process, I’ve expanded my ability to apply this basic theory to leadership. How? By studying leadership theory, taking on academic leadership positions, directing the Burns Academy at the University of Maryland, and by co-authoring books on organizational branding and organizational development and designing and editing The Transforming Leader.

 

My new 2021 book, What Stories Are You Living? Discover You Archetypes – Transform Your Life, and the companionPearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® (PMAI®) assessment, build on this background. These are available to the general public, as everyone today should be trained to think like leaders! The book and the scoring protocol of the instrument are informed by leadership theory and practice as well as by psychodynamic psychology. In this short piece, I hope you’ll discover ways to link who you are inside with what the world needs from you, thus promoting genuine personal fulfillment.

 

The following chart includes inner desires in the first column that are prompted by the archetypes in the second. Because the human mind makes meaning through narrative, the final column links such narratives with examples of needed organizational or community leadership tasks. Take a moment to scan the first column and select the motivations that are most true for you at this point in your life, perhaps placing a star next to them. Then, moving to the third column, put a check next to all the tasks you are good at doing, and stars by any or all that make you feel as if you are at home and truly yourself when you do them. You can cross out any that absolutely are not you.

 

Inner motivation

Archetype

Plotline: Motivates Leadership Tasks

Be positive, cheerful, and inspirational, trusting of others and the future.

The Idealist

Embodies and reinforces individual and team values through inspiration, appreciation, and encouragement.

Face facts, trust common sense, prevent breakdown, treat everyone fairly.

The Realist

Identifies threats; appraises opportunities before acting to prevent or remediate them.

Be strong, protecting self and others, accomplishing goals, competing, and winning.

The Warrior

Fights for your people, resources, and mission fulfillment; builds competitive teams.

Compassionate concern for others, providing nurture, care, and safety.

The Caregiver

Establishes caring systems; models being kind to people; fulfills basic human needs.

Openness to the new, loving adventure, scouting out possibilities.

The Seeker

Pioneers by finding available options; accomplishes goals in individualistic ways.

Bring people together as a community that fosters friendship & quality of life.

The Lover

Fosters relationships, collaboration, shared commitments, and attractive spaces.

Imagine, innovate, create, and design things artfully, responding to inspiration.

The Creator

Encourages and implements imaginative solutions and innovative products/ services.

Get rid of what is counterproductive in order to realize a preferred vision.

The Revolutionary

Resources and prioritizes projects and avoids overload by weeding out outmoded policies. 

Take charge to make things work in safer, more orderly and efficient ways.  

The Ruler

Sustains and manages in a changing environment, regularly upgrades policies/procedures.

Enjoy life, free oneself and others from boredom, and have playful fun together. 

The Jester

Offers social time, humor, and wildcard brainstorming; promotes attitude of work as fun.

Follow curiosity in order to figure things out and discover what is demonstrably true.

The Sage

Evaluates evidence, analyzes situations, weighs options, and develops strategies for mission attainment.

Find and promote meaning in life and work, help people know they matter.  

The Magician

Orchestrates rituals of celebration and transition; builds consensus around a future vision and fuels the motivation to achieve it.

 

Being aware of the archetypal narratives you have lived and are living can support your ability to succeed in the leadership capacities listed below. These capacities are ones that I believe to be part of a current leadership excellence consensus.

Leaders need to

  • be authentic;
  • deal well with others, however different they might be;
  • have the flexibility needed to respond to various and fast-changing situations, cultures, and environments;
  • organize groups and teams to get things done;
  • balance inner with outer awareness, to avoid being blindsided by what is not anticipated; and
  • think complexly enough to meet the challenges of the 21st

 

To help you apply these ideas to yourself, you can make use of what you have starred, checked, and crossed out in the table above. Living your archetypes consciously—those most active in you, those that serve as secondary supports, and those gestating until you need them—can make you a more successful leader.

 

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Of all the ironies, is there any greater than the fact that we work (or at least labour) extremely hard to build a comfortable life only to then discover that this comfort atrophies into debilitating states of depression or numbness? It used to only afflict those at midlife, but with the advent of the quarter-life crisis, we are being provoked to get real earlier than ever before.

We empathise with protagonists such as Frodo. Why on earth would one want to give up the tranquility of the shire, to enter the dangerous unknown - replete with orcs, wraiths, giant spiders and other deadlies? Sure, Bilbo Baggins may feel alive while he is reading about dragons and glittering treasure but he is not crazy enough to want to encounter them! While we secretly urge these heroes-in-waiting on as they vacillate over whether or not to leave their ordinary worlds behind, we always do so from the comfort of the cinema or our living rooms.

The fundamental question seems to be whether we merely live vicariously through bold adventurers or use their journeys as an impetus to take our own. After studying mythology Joseph Campbell maintained that “The serpent, the rejected one, is representative of the unconscious deep wherein are hoarded all of the rejected, unadmitted, unrecognized, unknown or undeveloped factors.” Afraid of what our individuating will require, we heartily project our fears until our vision is impaired and all we can see is a dangerous and hostile world.

So perhaps the choice is really no choice at all. Resist doing the extensive excavation work to discover what talents lie dormant within us, or become resigned to the melancholy and lethargy that accompanies denial. That was the picture painted in the opening scene of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. I doubt it would have resonated with so many people had her story gone on to show her repressing her wilder intuition and instead, settling down to have a child, fulfill the role others wanted for her and put her crisis moment down to simply being a rough patch.

mental health retreats for depression

Daring Greatly
 
A generation ago we responded to the bravery of Robyn Davidson as she abandoned the blandness of a patriarchal suburban existence to traverse the outback and “place herself in the wilderness of her own accord,” as Suzanne Falkiner puts it.

For a more recent tale of an Australian rewilding her life, take a look at Clare Dunn’s, A Year Without Matches. She encompasses the wisdom of indigenous Australians who took to walkabouts as, “A fast from all things familiar that is designed to break the habitual patterns of the mind and allow a deeper knowledge to arise.” Fortunately, she doesn’t have to brave her quest entirely alone. In addition to her mentors, friends and the other courageous souls who join her, she fortuitously happened to pack the ultimate tome on rewilding, Women Who Run With The Wolves.
 
Whether travelling through the searing heat and dusty wasteland of the outback on a camel, foraging and battling the loneliness of spending a year in the bush, or mixing it up with a year of indulgence, self-discovery and the ordeal of love, rewilding your life is not for the faint-hearted. But all immature insects must pass through a larval stage before entering the chrysalis state in order to emerge as adults. Metamorphosis requires a caterpillar to liquefy and take on an entirely new form. Rewilding, becoming authentic, taking the hero’s journey, it doesn’t matter which analogy you choose; the process is the most radical one of all.
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Alive in the Darkness

 “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being”  ~ Carl Jung

 

Jung's quote evoked the memory of a deeply sad and grief-stricken moment in my life. My husband walked out one day, and many months later, I accepted that it was likely the end of our marriage. 

 

I felt extraordinary fatigue in the pit of my soul. The world became a vast, drab gray plane. My existence seemed worthless. Bereft of energy to go on, day after day, I simply sat; I stared into space not only outer but inner. It was there that I saw the vastness of my existence. Would I wander this landscape endlessly?

 

A notion flitted across my consciousness, a caption across the edge of this vision: What if the only purpose of my existence is to breathe? My breath caught in my throat. Would that be enough? To just breathe, each moment a new beginning? What if I accepted this notion as a true possibility and just started there. If this breathing was enough, then my purpose would be to simply be; that was enough. That certainly would be valid. No one had to know. I needed to know and know ever more simply and deeply.

 

Just being was enough reason to stay alive; I realized I was actually meant to be alive, that my mere being was actually a contribution to the ecology of the planet, itself in a state of pure being. I began suspecting that this was true of everything on the planet and that we are all related through just being together. 

 

What could this new reckoning bring into my life? I began looking at where I might be led. Over time, it was following this experience that prompted me to write what I thought was going to be my doctoral dissertation. Instead, a memoir about my relationship with a Titan Greek goddess named Hekate emerged. Eventually, the memoir was published as both an audio recording and a book.

 

I pondered what would grow if all of us humans were to undergo the experience of being led to face the ultimate being sense of our existence, to see what would arise within us spontaneously. What might intentionally cultivating an ongoing inner world sensibility eventually lead to? And what yield might we harvest from such an effort if it guided not only our personal but also collective consciousness?

 

 Because you are readingg not this website, you may well be used to connecting with your Soul and the  Self, your psyche. If so, and this piece has moved you in some way, I welcome your responses.

 

 

 

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PROVEN CONSPIRACY THEORIES

CONSPIRACY - is defined as: "an agreeing or planning of two or more people to commit an evil [or negative] act in concert".

Warning: The following unpopular information is presented and discussed candidly, to advance our understanding of the human path behind us, and before us. Some readers may find this open discussion offensive, if taken personally. 

Once we learn to transcend our lifetimes of cultural conditioning that function like restrictive chains in Plato's cave, our ethical eyes open to see and recognize the true reality operating around us.

People who have taken the far more difficult ethical path to understand real human history instead of relying on the easy path, ie: their own deeply biased cultural upbringing, to inform them about historic events, have blazed a fragile trail of truth for those seekers who may follow. 

In today's world, no one has done this sacred human work better, ie: with more intellectual diligence, integrity, courage, and humility, than American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky. One of his recent publications, "Who Rules the World?" sets out his many erudite thoughts on global conspiracies.

Where there are humans, there are conspiracies!!!

Constantine's Christian Bible contains numerous conspiracies beginning with Satan who is reported to have conspired with other angelic entities to change things in heaven. Satan is said to have conspired with Eve in Eden, to eat the forbidden fruit of knowledge [enlightenment].

Over time, humans have learned to conspire in many ways and on many levels, for a spectrum of goals. The nature of those conspiracies was generally negative, hence the need for concealment from others [victims?], who may have been affected by that negative agenda.

Some well known conspiracies that changed the world.....

1. The Roman Conspiracy for Empire [27 BCE- 479 CE] - started as a local conspiracy by a small group of ambitious, greedy men who learned to used massive violence to gain control over the best parts of the Italian peninsula. When more Romans joined this conspiracy to form a national conspiracy, they went on to conquer most of the western world, and enslave it for the next 1000 years...now that's a highly successful conspiracy.

2. The Roman Christian Conspiracy for World Domination -  [33 BCE- 2021 CE,...ongoing]  

Roman records inform us that the men who conspired to create Roman Christianity were Romans, and not Jesus's disciples. There were many fingers in the Christian pie. Saul of Tarsus [Paul the Heretic] was a Roman agent who attempted to derail Jesus's teachings by injecting Judaism that Jesus had rejected, back into Christianity. Turncoat Hebrew author Josephus, conspired with Romans to hijack the Jesus ministry and remake it into a Roman religion. In 325 CE, Constantine changed everything when he ordered the creation of the New Testament, over which he held complete editorial control. Rome conspired successfully to hijack and recreate [with false gospels] and impose [with massive violence] a controlling state religion known as Christianity. It would control the hearts and minds of Rome's slaves and defeated nations, with a secondary form of spiritual governance that contained "rules and consequences" to be obeyed. 

3. The British Christian Conspiracy for Global Domination. 

Britain was invaded and occupied by Rome from 43 CE to 410 CE, and made into a Roman province. During that time Romans taught British elites how to elevate themselves to the top of the power structure by becoming the top predators, and they called themselves the Lions of Britain, while degrading their commoners to the level of serfs or slaves. Once the British Lions had successfully enslaved and oppressed their own country, they conspired to build an empire of wealth taken from others. Beginning in the 16 century, British Lions sent out what they euphemistically called "trading ships" that were in fact predator fleets sent out to terrorize the indigenous worlds in Africa. There, European Christian predator nations began the criminal practice of genocidal land theft, that also enslaved the inhabitants. By 1922, the British conspiracy had succeeded in terrorizing, taking, and enslaving, about 1/4 of the entire world. Now that's a very successful conspiracy, and a tumor on the soul of earth's humanity!

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Input on mythical image

I am a sculptor working in intuitively derived mythical/archetypal imagery. I find others often help me recognize the source of these images.  I would appreciate anyone who might have input on the central figure in the sculpture photo below.  The piece is named: The Nocturnal Parsing of the Incubus:; however the more I research the image the more it seems to me it is something other than and incubus.  Any input would be appreciated.

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I am a sculptor working in mythical/archetypal imagery derived from intuitive sketching.  I currently publish a Sculpture of the Month Series where I talk about one piece in depth.  Below is the April entry.  You can see and comment on others on my website: https://www.burkhart-sculptor.

Issue #11 - April 2021
Horned Man’s Melody
(2000)

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This month’s sculpture comes a little later than usual due to a sudden laptop crash while traveling and my prior preparations for a presentation for West Coast Drawing.

I recorded said presentation, by the way, and should be able to share it with you soon. It focuses on the transition from my early doodle drawing to sculptural work. Please send me an email if you’d like to see the video.

For April, I’ve chosen a piece that delves into the darker, perhaps shamanic, side of the psyche. I have observed these images rarely sell. Some feel frightened by them, and to others, they may seem somewhat perverse.

This piece shows a horned, squid-like shaman/demon floating ominously over a landscape where a frog and a deer appear bewitched and intimidated by his dark melody.

With no humans present, we can guess the threat must be to the natural world. The animals appear to plead for mercy.

I think we all know that parts of ourselves emerge at times - either in the imagery of dreams or extreme psycho-emotional states - to deeply frighten or even shame us. Social media now seems to invite these darker parts of ourselves out into the world without our even becoming aware that it’s our shadow self the medium speaks to.

Rarely do we receive any clarity about the negative consequences of letting what Jung called the “shadow side” of our psyches out into society. Instead, we tend to avoid looking too closely at the feelings and ideas dark images evoke. This has led us dangerously toward more prejudicial views and even violence against ourselves or others.

Similarly, the casual way we use up resources and deplete the natural world without seeing the shadow side of this process has lead to a climate and extinction crisis.

When approached consciously and with compassion, however, becoming aware of our psychic shadows can strengthen our capacity to create lives of care and understanding for ourselves and all beings.

Perhaps our current, world-threatening climate crisis somehow parallels a loss of mindful connection to our shadow selves and the corollary dissolution of community we’re experiencing.

I invite you to notice with an open mind and heart what “Horned Man’s Melody” brings up for you. Try to acknowledge any darkness that runs through with compassion. How can we hold our fears and vicious thoughts more honestly and gently for the benefit of all?

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Part One

Racist White Blues Cats

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.) – Walt Whitman

I’m a lifelong fan of African American music, especially Blues, and I’ve written about the subject extensively in Chapter Eleven of my book, as well as here, here, here, here, and here.

So I was surprised to learn about a recent decision by the Blues Foundation to rescind Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s 2021 Blues Music Awards nomination for best blues/rock artist. But I was stunned to discover the reason: apparently Shepherd had portrayed the Confederate flag on his car and guitars. A Blues cat displaying something that any African American (and most Euro-Americans) would instantly recognize as a symbol of racial hatred and multi-generational suffering?

It gets stranger. Had the board of directors independently determined the inappropriateness of nominating this guy for an award (less than two weeks after a Confederate flag-carrying mob attacked the Capitol building)? Why, no. It took a long social media post by Mercy Morganfield, daughter of – yes – McKinley Morganfield, otherwise known as Muddy Waters, to get their attention. Her post – “The Way My Daddy Looks At a White Man Winning a Blues Foundation Music Award While Waving A F*****g Confederate Flag” – was a masterpiece of righteous polemic, part of which I quote:

My daddy did it (played Blues) because he had no choice. He was born in the early twentieth century when a blk man could become strange fruit in the blink of an eye…(his) greatest rebellion was refusing to return to Mississippi to perform…What is y’all’s excuse? Why haven’t y’all descended on the Blues Foundation in droves and demand they rescind that award to that motherfucking racist?…It was born in bondage. In the southernmost part of the Mississippi delta. Where a confederate flag represented the very bondage it was born into and the very men who would gladly have hanged McKinley Morganfield from a tree if he was in their town after sundown…Now, you give a blues award to a man who feels the need to decorate his fucking car with a Confederate Flag? That’s a brand new kind of stupid…If one of the whitest institutions in American history, NASCAR, can ban the Confederate Flag, Blues Foundation, why can’t you?

The Foundation initially responded, “We are not a political organization” before public pressure forced them to do the right thing. Shepherd issued an apology with the lame explanation that the car is a replica copy of the “General Lee,” (yes, that General Lee) featured in the favorite TV show of his childhood, “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Was the apology helpful? I doubt it. Not when the flag had been removed from toy versions of the car back in 2013.

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Well, I hadn’t been paying attention to this kind of stuff. But an internet search reveals that simply because they play Blues, white musicians are not always politically sympathetic to Black people. Several (Willie J Campbell, Jimmie Vaughan, Anson Funderburgh) are apparently Trump supporters. Then we have the case of Eric Clapton, who went full racist in a live 1976 concert (Notice the URL):

Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. Wogs I mean, I’m looking at you. Where are you? I’m sorry but some fucking wog…Arab grabbed my wife’s bum, you know?…this is what all the fucking foreigners and wogs over here are like, just disgusting, that’s just the truth, yeah…I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country…I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell…Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans…this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake?…Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!

Clapton has repeatedly apologized over the years, blaming his heavy drug and alcohol addictions for his racist diatribes. In the old movie cliché, the “liquor made him do it,” or in Homeric terms, some god made him say those things. Such refusal to take full responsibility is, according to one Black writer, a form of “whitesplaining.”

These men are second and third-generation white Blues cats. Back in the first generation, they didn’t even bother with apologies. Greil Marcus writes that Jerry Lee Lewis,

…far more than Elvis, came to represent all the mythical strangeness of the redneck South: lynch-mob blood lust, populist frenzies, even incest.

Lewis also flew the Confederate flag, back when few fans even noticed, and freely used the N-word.

Lewis’ cousin is the televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who (like many other TV preachers) suffered a series of scandals involving prostitutes in the 1980s and 90s. This may offer us a clue to their world. In Chapter Eleven of my book I write of Southern religion:

Throughout the Jim Crow era this spirit survived in the black church. Even though many of its members absorbed the conservative social values of their former masters, there was never any mind-body split in the practice of their religion, which some white churches copied. Southerners, both white and black, have been in this bind for generations, writes Michael Ventura. “A doctrine that denied the body, preached by a practice that excited the body, would eventually drive the body into fulfilling itself elsewhere.” The call-and-response chanting and rhythmic bodily movement typical of southern preachers absolutely contradict their moralistic sermons. This contributes to “the terrible tension that drives their unchecked paranoias.”

Only such a “terrible tension” can produce people who love Black culture but are willing to insulate themselves from the social realities that convert that tension into white supremacy, or that allow them to appropriate and profit from that same culture. We’ll return to this question, but let’s contemplate a related theme.

Muddy Waters is one of my culture heroes. But what of some of my intellectual heroes? Carl Jung, according to some of his detractors (and current Neo-Nazis), was at least a borderline anti-Semite, although he opposed the Nazis in World War Two. (At the same time, Ezra Pound supported Italian Fascism and was a proud anti-Semite.) A similar controversy swirls around the legacy of Joseph Campbell, the father of modern mythological studies.

Never mind all those mass killers like Columbus, slaveholders like Washington and Jefferson and Indian killers like Lincoln whose names are being stripped off public schools. Never mind “they were men of their times.” This is America: many socialists like Jack London were outspoken racists; feminist Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist. We could go on and on. According to filmmaker Ken Burns, “That’s what’s so endlessly fascinating about (Ernest) Hemingway, is that in the Whitmanesque sense, he contained multitudes.”

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As we begin to emerge from the tragic worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, many of us have reexamined our priorities based on what we truly believe in and care about. How can we reenter the post-pandemic world so that it supports what most matters to us, rather than just letting old habits take us over or responding to nihilistic thoughts that put down the urges of our better selves as naïve and deluded? In these times, we need all of us, as parents, workers, citizens, and friends, to call up the leader within, so that we can rise to the occasion in the ways only we can do. Some of us may then also help to build organizations, institutions, and entire societies that reflect the possible evolution of human community that is gestating, ready to happen if we choose it.

 

Leadership can be more than a role. At best, it is a calling to care about the world and those around us.

 

The purpose of my work on heroic archetypes (universal characters and stories) has always been to help people be fulfilled as they make a difference in the world. It therefore is particularly important to the growing field of transformation leadership devoted to helping leaders become transformational. James MacGregor Burns, the founder of this field, described such leaders as those who inspire others with a vision that promotes the greater good. In this process, such leaders also bring out the best, even sometimes the nobility, in everyone involved.

 

Some transforming leaders seem to be born this way, but working with archetypes can help any of us be transformative enough to realize our purpose. Archetypes are universal patterns available to humans in all times and places, and thus to you and me. Becoming conscious of them can help leaders link their inner desires with outer behaviors that have a transformational impact. We can begin by recognizing the positive archetypal energies that can infuse an authentic desire to make a difference, and then help clarify what we want to contribute toward what end. For example, the inner Lover wants us all to get along, the Creator to innovate, the Sage to analyze the issue, and the Jester to lighten up and enjoy life.

 

While archetypes, as universal characters and narratives, are deeper than culture, they do reflect cultural mindsets in their diverse images and narratives. Through understanding the archetypal stories that shape our values, character, culture, and capacities—and those of other people and groups—we, as individuals and organizations, can realize our unique potential and experience greater success and fulfillment. Archetypes also inform the stories we think, tell, and live.[1]

 

Speaking Up: My country is very divided by what is called a “culture war,” but the one thing we all seem agree on is our dissatisfaction and sense that there is something wrong with how we have been living. Often, people respond to this by blaming others, and, yes, sometimes certain individuals and groups are responsible for many problems. However, I keep hearing very sophisticated people relating how they censor at work in ways that keep them from truly showing up with what they have to offer. True, the more we conform to the unwritten rules of how to fit in, the easier it is to get heard. But while it is important to share respectfully with awareness of how others view things, censoring what we know to be true and needed can literally impede progress and the evolution of consciousness.

 

One way to notice this is to recognize the stories being told around us when we know another one that is a better fit with reality. A very senior female executive, whose highest archetype was Magician, shared with me how much she hated it when the executive team of the corporation in which she worked would start talking as if their business were literally at war with competitors. To fit in, she found herself using war-like metaphors such as “let’s roll out the tanks” and “destroy them.” 

 

Yet, she knew that what was holding back success was that people working there kept being pushed to do their work as if it were storming the beaches in World War II. The whole place was living a Warrior story, but its positive ability to focus, work hard, and win was being undercut by the archetype’s negative underbelly. Along with the Warrior’s gifts of courage, focus, and a desire to compete and win came a stoic culture where being exhausted could not be revealed for fear of losing power and status. The constant pressure to push ahead meant that often the wrong things were being done and mistakes were being made. She recognized that the executive team needed to hear what was true for her, not by attacking their militant stance, but simply by sharing what she was seeing. She decided to do that by distributing an article in a prominent business publication for discussion by the team. Nothing in her action focused on how the team being misguided; rather, the article was all about achieving goals—but doing so without exhausting employees.

 

By now, most high-level leaders know that it is important to speak up about what they see that other members of their team do not, but the desire to belong is instinctual, and the cost of challenging the story the powerful are telling and/or that defines belonging can be devastating. Historically underrepresented groups often are the ones that see the issues about the presumptive story of “us,” whatever that is, because that “us” does not seem to include them. Yet, they are the ones most likely to be sacrificed if they seem not to be a team player or one of “us,” or the plotline of their story is “not how we do things here.” And often being one of us depends on believing “our story.”

 

Caregiver organizations are just as attached to their stories as Warrior ones are. A male colleague with a Sage archetype sat quietly as a predominantly Caregiver team assumed that a woman who charges a man with inappropriate behavior must always be believed, while the Sage archetype within him was screaming, “No, we must listen and then investigate—really investigate,” or else many people would revolt, thinking that innocent men (and women) would end up losing their jobs. However, he stopped and thought about how to communicate that in a Caregiver way, by stressing the importance of avoiding harm to those charged who are innocent as well as those who report being abused. He also made sure to express his concern about the larger issue of power differentials in a way that showed empathy for how difficult it is for women, or others, to speak up in response to inappropriate behavior, abuse, or a more serious violation, or even to report it after the fact.

 

Leadership starts with being the one who talks about the elephant in the room, who describes what they see and invites others to do likewise, and is open to change. Speaking up in intelligent and respectful ways is a leadership skill we all need today. The leaders who can do this most effectively have been prepared by experiencing multiple storylines through reading, through traveling, and through curious listening. The more we expand our inner storylines through any means available, the more effective we can be when the need to speak up presents itself. Instead of debating with others on important issues in a me- against-you way, we can seek understanding by speaking from one archetype to another, as in debates on immigration: “My Warrior relates to your Warrior desire to protect our borders, but my Caregiver feels empathy for refugees and wants to help them.” This also could be said in the opposite way, depending on the views of the person or group we are talking with.

 

Neuroscience tells us that sharing data lights up only a small part of the brain, while incorporating the data into a powerful storyline lights up the brain like a Christmas tree. If leaders are to unify conflicting groups, they need a story that is effective in helping both sides recognize where they agree and why they need one another. The peace movement has evolved strategies for getting people literally at war with one another (that is, killing one another) to talk openly about their actual experiences. Peace sometimes breaks out when each side faces how the horrors and losses of war are shared by both.

 

In my country, where almost everyone is dissatisfied in some way, true communication can come from learning to state what that feels like for each of us,  without pointing the finger—and without blame or judgment— at one another. And in everyday situations, each one of us can voice fewer opinions, listen more, and reveal more of our actual experiences. That puts what we believe in a context that does not inherently make someone who believes differently, as a result of his or her experience, wrong.  

 

We can each further the human development so needed currently as we move through, and potentially out of, this pandemic, simply by speaking up to share our perspectives, all the while learning from others, as we contribute what only we can.

Buy the book or Take the PMAI

[1] See What Stories Are You Living? Discover Your Archetypes – Transform Your Life and the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® (PMAI®) assessment for more information.

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Well, I thought I was done with this theme. But then I had an opportunity to attend the wonderful Bioneers conference, which has devoted much energy to the concerns and values of tribal people.

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There, I attended a “council” workshop on cultural appropriation  and heard many of the points of view that I’ve already articulated.

The idea of council comes from the indigenous world. The process encourages all participants to speak from the heart with respect and concern for communal values as the talking stick passes around the circle. And although each speaker’s voice is supposed to have equal value, the reality is that the leader(s) of the conversation do invoke the privilege of speaking both as authorities and as participants.

In this council, and under these circumstances, one of the leaders offered an opinion that I found rich and provocative: “Good intentions are not enough.” She was implying that potential appropriators must go to great lengths to avoid harming or insulting the indigenous carriers of tradition. She was right, of course. But her statement was more than an opinion: it was a prescription: This is how you must act. And assertions about how we must act can result in our not acting at all.

In response, I thought of something I heard once from a drumming teacher: Bad drumming insults the ancestors. But I’d also heard a different teacher say: There are no drumming mistakes, only new rhythms. Together, they cover the whole cultural appropriation range, from the gatekeepers who hide esoteric forms from the public to those who actually ask Westerners to carry on dying traditions. The first drumming teacher may well have been accurate, but the second was kind and generous. I’ll go with the second.

And how about those good intentions? Linguist George Lakoff says that 95% of our motivations are unconscious. Most of the time we have no idea what our real motivations or agendas are or how many parts of ourselves are in conflict with our conscious ideals.

Recall this old saying – No good deed goes unpunished. Often our (personal and national) “good” deeds go punished (have unintended consequences) precisely because some or most of our unconscious motivations are in direct opposition to our conscious good intentions. It’s like driving with your parking brake engaged. Most of the time those conscious motivations are all we really know. We are – all of us – ambivalent (ambi-valent = “both strengths”) by nature. This is one of the most fundamental realizations of Greek Tragedy. Realizing this may be the first step to self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.

The tyranny of the ego assigns value only to those conscious motives. And that ego-tyrant is our internalized father-figure, who represents the authority of Jehovah/Allah, the mono-god of monotheism. But outside of our Judeo-Christian-Moslem tradition, almost all indigenous and tribal people practiced polytheistic ways that more accurately mirrored our complex psychology. Having a complicated pantheon of figures in one’s mythic imagination encourages one to ponder the equally broad range of internal voices, each of whom may well have their own agenda.

And that is one reason to take the leap into the unknown and engage in ritual. In my experience, ritual more than anything else can help us clarify those intentions, to learn the complex nature of who we are. Encouraged by religion, we think: I need this. Ritual asks: Really? How much do you need this? Do you need it or do you want it? What’s the difference? What will you sacrifice in order to attain it?

Every deed – every single thing we do – has unintended consequences. Now what? Do nothing that might possibly be tainted with cultural appropriation for fear that we might trigger someone?

A Hassidic story (yes, I’m appropriating it) told by Elie Wiesel addresses this dilemma:

When the Baal Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews, he would go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire and say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished. Later, when his disciple, the Magid of Mezritch, needed for the same reason to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: ‘‘Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer,’’ and again he would have success. Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Lieb of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: ‘‘I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place, and this must be sufficient.’’ It was sufficient. Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting at home, his head in his hands, he addressed God: ‘‘I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is ask You to redeem us, and this must be sufficient.’’ And it was.

We will screw up. We will hurt someone’s feelings, period. But, as we really feel the terrifying reality of the political, environmental and spiritual conditions in this moment, I remember another old saying: The perfect is the enemy of the good.

We no longer have the privilege of hesitating because we might not be doing something perfectly. We must do what we are called to do (even as we clarify that sense of calling), knowing full well that our intentions can never be fully clear, that our actions – without exception – have consequences beyond our knowledge.

Right action means being willing to accept responsibility for those consequences. Only people (and nations) who are utterly invested in their own innocence act with no sense of consequences. Ultimately, this business of cultural appropriation is about waking up and clarifying the complex nature of who we are – our good intentions as well as our darker motives – accepting them and loving them. This willingness to acknowledge our fullness is a necessary precursor to self-forgiveness.

It All Comes Back To Me

Not willing to be vicious, I lost my voice.

Not wanting to be foolish, I lost my courage.

Averse to being led, I lost my way.

Unwilling to be like them, I forgot my name.

Remembering now is blessing enough.

Waking up groggy is still waking up.

– Victory Lee Schouten

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¡Bienvenudo al Mundo Tercero! Driving south from Texas in a huge SUV with my friend Michael who is on his way to do anthropology field work in Belize. Me, I’m simply escaping an unbearable emotional crisis at home, the breakdown of my marriage and all I had ever thought of as normal. All is illusion, Maya.

We have great conversations as I grieve inwardly – Jazz on the tape deck – tiny, thatched huts – transition from desert to semi-tropics, from cacti to palm trees – cornfields, distant volcanoes – town drunks, – sixteenth-century churches, grinding poverty. Macho truck drivers passing each other on dangerous curves, challenging la muerte.

Our first night out, in our motel we are awakened at 4:00 AM by the screams of a pig being slaughtered outside our window – beach resorts – watching baseball games with chickens wandering through the outfield – flowering papaya trees – men on horses and burros – sugar cane – short, tired women with ubiquitous pregnant bellies – giant speed bumps (topes) at the entrance to each town force us to slow down, where we are quickly surrounded by kids begging or selling Chicklets. Colossal Olmec stone heads.

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Burning cane fields: yellow flames, grey smoke, impossibly green grass, with brilliantly white egrets feasting on insects at the edge of each fire – fruit stands with huge bunches of bananas – shrines to the dead everywhere on the sides of the highway – open trucks full of farmworkers – pineapple plantations – everyone in the towns selling something – cantinas/whorehouses.

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Faithful to one woman for eighteen years, I want to make a ritual gesture of separation. However, as The People’s Guide to Mexico says, “A visit to a brothel that caters to campesinos and local businessmen is funny and surrealistic rather than erotic.” The gesture will have to wait.

Oil towns – moneychangers – plastic “crafts” – campesinos walking in the dark near a VW dealership – a bridge next to the road, crossing nothing – pollo en mole con arroz – platanos fritos, pescados murrader (with the dreaded jabanero pepper known as “El Chernobilito”), liquados, corn on the cob stands on three-wheel bicycles – cattle ranches – RV caravans driven by fat Texans– a happy madness – passeos in the zocalos  theme from Exodus wafting out of a craft shop – local merchants patiently letting me try to bargain in primitive Spanish, then switching to English for the credit card transaction – swimming at a beautiful natural spring with friendly locals, then returning to the SUV with anti-gringo curses written in the dust caked on the vehicle – the exuberance and complexity of the visual/auditory/olfactory world competing with, almost mirroring, the loopy turmoil of my inner world.

A bizarre but common sight: local police or military standing with shotguns in front of every bank or public building in every town, no matter how small – guarding what? From whom? These peasants? Who is the freer, more advanced population? We Norteamericanos who (after eight years of Ronald Reagan) don’t need to have the dominant paradigms of power prominently displayed or shoved down our throats, because we have utterly internalized them – or these people, heirs to a living history of resistance? Indeed, a mere five years later, in towns not so far from here, the Zapatista rebellion would begin.

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Sensory overload in the towns – heat and traffic in Tuxpan, smelly Tampico, Coatzacoalas, Cardenas, Olmec ruins at La Venta, Mayan ruins at Xpujil, Villa Hermosa, Escarcega – then the vast cultural complex and psychedelic Mecca of Palenque, with its hoards of tall, blonde European tourists, the young women dressed scandalously in this conservatively Catholic region – the further south we go, the more we see signs saying “Maya” this, “Maya” that, on every billboard or bus – the slanting facial profiles of the tiny, barefoot indigenas selling souvenirs exactly matching those on the ancient sculptures.

All along, we have been seeing gigantic trucks bearing “dichos” (mottos or proverbs) on their front fenders. Many are muy macho; others are self-mocking, sad or philosophical: Rambo, El Chillero, El Timido, Zorro, Casi un Angel, Corre Caminos (Road Runner), El Puma, Dios me Permitte Regresso, Cruz Azul, Christo Negro – Casi Siempre, Don Juan, No Vale la Pena, Super Galan, Angel Salvage – Vagabudo – Ama sin Dueno – Coronel Javiercito – En el Nombrese de Dios – Christo Rey, Comanche, Bonanza, Creo en Ti, Senor, Bandolero, Huevitos, Lo Siento por Ti, Quien como Dios? (For more, see Grant La Farge’s delightful book, Faith in God and Full Speed Ahead!: Fe En Dios Y Adelante : Dichos from the Trucks and Buses of Mexico and Latin America).

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The SUV breaks down twice, but each time it restarts after cooling off. Approaching Vera Cruz, we encounter the gigantic Pemex petroleum refinery, stretching for vast distances along the highway, with dozens of 100-foot-tall steel towers and smokestacks, miles of interconnecting pipes, steam, noise – a surreal, futuristic scene, yet evoking images of Hindu temples, Spanish cathedrals, Cape Canaveral, sci-fi cityscapes, the place as much a shrine to the gods of technology as the other buildings are to theirs.

Then trouble: the SUV stalls out yet again. We pull over and open the hood, waiting for the engine to cool down again. I get out and take some photos of this bizarre scene directly across the highway from us, then return to the SUV. Soon, we see two jeep loads of soldiers approaching – to help us repair the truck? ¡Pero no! Turning to my right, I encounter the muzzles of two M-16 rifles inches from my face! I think this is rather funny, until Michael jabs me in the side with his elbow, informing me that my irreverence is somewhat inappropriate.

Courteously but firmly, the commanding officer informs us that we (did I mention that both of us are long-haired and unshaven?) look like terroristas, and that it is forbidden to photograph the oil refinery. After reviewing our identification, he demands my camera so as to expose my role of film (remember film?), when Michael explains in his excellent Spanish that he’s an anthropologist and that we’d only been photographing ruins and cultural sights (true enough) before seeing the refinery, the photos of which were at the end of the film roll.

El teniente is flattered, polite, if somewhat lax in security terms; he possesses that Hispanic quality of extreme honor and dignity known as pundonor. Taking us at our word, deciding that we are harmless, he gallantly exposes only the last pictures on the roll and hands it back to me with the remaining frames intact. He offers us his compliments, wishes us buen viaje, collects his troops and drives off – without offering any assistance with our SUV, which eventually starts up on its own. We depart from that mysterious place, unaware that 27 years later a massive explosion there will kill 24 workers.

A few hours later we stall yet again after gassing up at a rural gas station that has no services. We watch some more baseball for a while, but it still won’t restart. Eventually, some bored guys who’d been waiting for a bus approach us and offer to help. They tell us the local gasoline is muy malo and often clogs fuel filters, resulting in that double entendre, No hay tigre en el tanque.

We have extra filters, but no wrench to remove the old one. No problemo, they respond, and ask for a large screwdriver and a hammer, which we do have. One of them climbs onto the engine, whacks the screwdriver with the hammer, drives it all the way through the fuel filter, grabs both ends of the screwdriver and turns it until he has unscrewed and removed the filter! They call their method El estilo Mexicano: use whatever you have on hand to get the job done. They refuse cash payment but do accept several beers, which we share in the heat. The SUV starts up, we embrace our new friends and move on.

Vera Cruz on a weekend: thousands of partiers, soldiers, gringo tourists, police, children, musicians, Indians, food carts, teenagers and prostitutes. And, in front of every small mercado, postcard stands with five-cent pictures of the same Pemex refinery, from every angle, the same photos we’d almost been shot for taking! ¡El estilo Mexicano! ¡Como Mexico no hay dos!

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More of my articles about Mexico:

Mexico’s Mother Goddess

Protest, Grief and Memory in Mexico

The Prince of Flowers

The Weeping Woman

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How powerful are the words we use? How have they influenced the narratives we tell ourselves about ourselves? To really understand, we need to know how Christianity arose.

Only monotheistic thinking, with its simplistic dualisms, sees difference as a threat to be eliminated; whatever isn’t aligned with our god must necessarily follow his opposite. Here is a clue: if your people consider their story to be literally true and other people’s stories are “myths,” then you and your people are thinking mythically or literally. Other mono-words share the brittleness of one correct way: monopoly, monogamy, monolithic, monarchy, monotonous.

By the time of Jesus the idea that humans are alienated from God was firmly in place (Genesis 6: 5-6). And so was the idea that the children of light must forever confront the children of darkness. God forbade men to create “graven images,” which were central to indigenous spirituality. Later Christians would fight brutal wars over this question. This was the birth of monotheism’s assault upon the imagination.

Word One: Hamartia

Greek mythmakers had long told stories of tragic heroes. Aristotle used the word hamartia (“error” or “missing the mark,” a term from archery) to describe the hero’s inevitably fatal flaw, the wound that connected him to his potential. It was, paradoxically, the very thing that made him unique. In both the Greek and the Celtic worlds, if sin had any meaning at all, it meant “failure,” and – this is critical – potentially any failure can be reversed. Christians, however, interpreted hamartia as inherent and inescapable sinfulness, mankind’s literal inheritance from Adam’s original mythic transgression. From this thinking came the doctrine of original sin. Men needed discipline and moral purification to control their darker side.

The change in the meaning of hamartia is an historical marker that drags us into a fearsome new world in which every single person is tainted from birth with the mark of evil. By this logic, children are corrupt by nature and must be kept from polluting adults through baptism (“to dip, steep, dye, color”) very soon after birth. It was a toxic mimic of indigenous initiation ritual.

Word Two: Daimon

Another factor in the solidification of Christian dogma (originally, “opinion”) was the rational and ascetic Greek philosophical tradition. The Church turned Plato’s notion of a realm of pure ideas into the afterlife, which was a higher, better place than the sensual world. Another old word took on new meaning. Plato wrote that before birth each soul receives a unique soul-companion or daimon that selects a pattern for it to live on earth. James Hillman explains, “The daimon remembers what is in your image and belongs to your pattern, and…is the carrier of your destiny.” It was known as genius (related to gene, generate) by the Romans and jinn or genie by the Arabs.

Like hamartia, daimon was connected to the universal notion of purpose. Older traditions understood the vast complexity of the human soul, but Greek dualism marked a clear boundary between good from evil. In the second century B.C.E., the seventy men who translated the Hebrew Bible into a Greek book (the Septuagint) used daimonion to denote evil or unclean spirits.

Thus, with two linguistic shifts, western man gradually lost both his guiding spirits and his sense of his innate purpose in life. Eventually, one’s intuition, if it disputed church dogma, would express only the voice of the demonic, and the pagan gods, archetypal images of human and cosmic potential, became demons.

Changes in language signaled changes in cult practice. The breakdown of ritual eventually led to a condition in which human urges that were once hallowed to the gods became acts of evil. The church repressed them into the personal and collective unconscious and blamed all suffering upon human sinfulness. Orphism had taught that the soul (derived from Dionysus) was potentially good; but the body (from the ashes of the Titans) was its prison, where it remained until all guilt had been expiated. This led, writes E. R. Dodds, to “a horror of the body and a revulsion against the life of the senses.” The Orphics themselves had written: “Pleasure is in all circumstances bad; for we came here to be punished.”

As the age of mythological thinking neared its end, it became more difficult to think in terms of the symbolic processes of initiation and rebirth. The holy text that emerged out of this period omitted the few metaphors of the sacred Earth that had been allowed into Hebrew scripture. As a result, writes Paul Shepard, the New Testament is “one of the world’s most antiorganic and antisensuous masterpieces of abstract ideology.”

All these factors were rolled into the messianic tradition. Pagan cults had expressed a longing for the return of the king or the divine child who was reborn in the hearts of the initiates. But as mythological thinking declined, the Jews longed for a literal messiah (“the anointed”, Khristos in Greek). They witnessed the quick passing of many such figures, including the historic Jesus. After his death, however, he became “The Christ,” a concept, writes Arthur Evans, that was molded by traditions that had “…nothing to do with his life, applied by people who never knew him, recorded in a language he never used.”

Word Three: Apocalypse

At first, the Roman world welcomed the new god. Their cosmos was still marked by epiphany, the continual manifestation of spirit in the world. Paganism never needed to create structures of belief. Celebration of multiple divine images was one of its most essential characteristics.

But it was precisely this animating connection between cosmos, Earth and individual that Christianity sought to replace. Its transcendent god could only enter the world through revelation, which led to dogma and reduced a world of possibilities to one of dreadful certainties. This god was kept alive through belief, not through sacrifices. Saint John of Patmos interpreted his apocalyptic dream vision not as an internal initiation experience, a “lifting of the veils,” but as universal destruction. His Book of Revelation is ecstatic poetry. Interpreted literally, however, it is the very definition of – and a prescription for – madness. To Puritans obsessed with judgment and evil it became the Bible’s most important section. Later, they would invent the Antichrist to embody the world’s resistance to the Word, who “…became flesh and resided among us.”

Word Four: Pagan

For generations, the new belief (a word that has long lost its etymological connection to “love”) system was primarily urban. Everywhere across Europe, rural people were the last to be forcefully converted (some not until the 14th century), since they lived closer to the natural and still magical world that had been served by the older cults. Christians called them “country dwellers” (paganus). Eventually the term Pagan became so thoroughly defamed that today’s English language can barely describe it in value-neutral terms. Common dictionary definitions include “an irreligious or hedonistic person.” For millennia these people had gratefully accepted the mysterious bounty of the earth in the form of Dionysus’ wine and Demeter’s bread. The Eucharist (“thanksgiving, gratitude”) ritual eventually expressed this same mystery, after having removed both Dionysus and Demeter.

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In the late fourth century the Church set the Christian canon (“measuring line, rule”), which excluded much writing that posed alternatives to the new orthodoxy (“right, true, straight”). It declared that Jesus had been born on December 25th. Now, his birth coincided with the rebirth of the sun, and the symbolism of his light conquering darkness matched a common theme in ancient hero myths. Other old beliefs, such as reincarnation, died slowly. Early theologians had embraced it, but eventually the church opposed it because it promoted the idea that men could find the truth for themselves, without intercession by religion. It wasn’t until 543, however, that they declared it anathema (“devoted to evil”).

Absolutely nothing attributed to Jesus in the Gospels suggested anything about his death as a sacrifice. Saint Paul, however, changed Christianity’s central image from the birth of the Divine Child to his death and resurrection. An invitation to immanence became an excuse for transcendence. A religion of love became an obsession with suffering. It taught that Christ’s sacrifice had occurred once, not as part of an unending cycle. Emphasis on this single event and the progression from creation to salvation solidified our concept of linear time and led to the invention of clocks, which eventually contributed to the regulation of social behavior for the purpose of production (the word “calendar” came from the Latin calends, the first day of the month, when business accounts had to be settled). The western world understood myth literally, as actual history. Jesus, unlike Dionysus, had died not to symbolize the cycle of creation but as a payment for humanity’s bad behavior.

In the indigenous world men had always understood the necessity of symbolically killing the child-nature in their boys to invite their full participation in the adult world. But the crushing of paganism produced a different narrative, the actual sacrifice of a child for the glory of his father. Fanatics emulated this god, and Europe feasted on the bodies of its young in constant warfare.

Word Five: Martyr

Jesus was now the suffering god, but not the ecstatic, bisexual destroyer of boundaries, and no longer a Prince of Peace. Worshipers beheld his stern figure, the Pantocrator (“ruler of all”), glaring down from church ceilings, amid horrifying scenes of the Last Judgment. “Because a monotheistic psychology must be dedicated to unity,” writes Hillman, “its psychopathology is intolerance of difference.” For centuries, white men would rape and pillage to hasten the coming of the Prince of Peace. The meaning of the word martyr gradually changed. Abraham’s knife became a soldier’s sword in Christian iconography. Dying as Christ (around 100AD) became dying for Christ (500), which became killing for Christ (1000).

Word Six: Breath

Dualistic thinking and misogyny were interlinked in language. Men identified with mind and spirit and associated women with nature and the body. We can follow the linguistic shift. The Old Testament Hebrew word ruah (spirit/breath) is feminine. Translated to Greek it became pneuma, which is neuter. But Saint Paul elevated pneuma to the Trinity as the Holy Ghost, which became the masculine spiritus in Latin. In a long, mysterious process, spirit would become an Alchemical term, a substance that unites the fixed and volatile elements of the philosopher’s stone, and eventually the essence of distilled alcohol.

Word Seven: Evil

As I mentioned in Part One, the Aramaic word used by Jesus and translated into Greek as diabolos and into English as “evil” actually means “unripe.” An unripe person is not evil; he is simply immature, or in ritual terms, uninitiated. His antisocial behavior may be nothing more than a cry for help. The classic Hero doesn’t overcome evil, not even an evil part of himself, but his own “unripeness.” Through the corruption of the term hamartia, however, the Church made it clear that no one was unripe; everyone was inherently evil.

Word Eight: Devil

The Holy Ghost required an evil twin. In Hebrew myth, Satan was originally an adversary of humans and enforcer of Jehovah’s will. His meaning gradually changed from “opponent” into a personality whose nature is to obstruct, a rebellious prince in eternal opposition to the divine will. The Septuagint used the Greek word diabolikos (accuser, slanderer, “to throw across”), which became the English “devil.” Hebrew myths of the fallen angel (Lucifer, or “light-bringer”) added to the image of this eternal opposition: “How thou art fallen, oh day-star…” (Isaiah 14:12).

This established the foundations for European racism. Light/white became synonymous with spirit/goodness, while dark/black represented the material and sensual world. The New Testament solidified the image; Barnabus described Satan as the “Black One.” Saint Jerome linked blackness with sex; the Devil’s strength was “in his loins.” Augustine (himself a North African) claimed that everyone is black until he accepts Christ.

The choice was now clear and unambiguous. If one wasn’t an observant Christian, he followed the dark prince. In this form, writes Jacob Needleman, the Devil becomes irredeemably evil: “All the truly terrifying images of the devil are in one way or another rooted in the diabolical.”

As early as the second century, Clement of Alexandria declared that the gods of all other religions were demons. Since their mere existence placed in doubt the belief in one true God, they could only be in league with Satan. The church now had an “Other” to justify its Catholic (“universally accepted”) self-perception – and justification for its genocidal crusades.

Scholars disagree as to how Satan received his popular image. Some claim that the earliest model was the lecherous goat-god Pan. Early Christians feared Pan because of his shameless sexuality and his association with the wilderness, where hostile spirits lay in wait. He caused panic. They depicted Satan with Pan’s hooves, oversized phallus and horns, which carry a potent ambiguity, writes historian Jeffrey Russell. They symbolize Satan’s power and evoke the “mysterious, frightening otherness of animals…not only fertility but also night, darkness and death.”

Some link Satan with the European Horned God, consort of many Goddesses, especially those worshipped on the island of Crete. These images evoked the ambiguous mix of fertility and death (not evil) that indigenous people still understand, but which the modern mind splits into two figures.

Others connected Satan with Hades, ruler of the underworld, but the Greeks also knew Hades as Pluto (“wealth,” root of “plutocrat”). Here is as sharp a divide as we can find between monotheism and Pagan thinking, which perceives a wealth of possibilities both under the ground and in the psychological underworld. The Western world would not begin to imagine these possibilities until the late 19th century, when Freud “discovered” the unconscious, although he admitted, “Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.”

Word Nine: Heretic

The paranoid imagination created enemies within to match those without. More dangerous than pagans were Satan’s followers who took the form of schismatics who divided the community with false doctrines, and heretics (“able to choose”).

Word Ten: Hell

When Christians assigned Satan a realm to administer, they named it after Hella, Nordic goddess of the underworld, sister of the wolf who threatens to emerge and wreck vengeance upon the gods of the upper world. Greece, however, has retained indigenous associations. There, the lord of Hell is still Charon, the ferryman of the river Styx (“the hateful”), and rural Greeks still place coins over a dead person’s eyes to pay for the journey. If Hades (as Pluto/wealth) is forgotten, his ferryman still makes a tidy profit.

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Conclusion with Three Questions

First Question: Why was Joe Biden nominated?

Long before the primaries it was clear that Biden had no charisma, no base of voters, and no chance of beating Trumpus. But as I argued throughout this essay, the corporate Democrats feared their own left wing (even as the public favored it) more than it feared any Republicans. It feared the insurance companies more than the 69% of the public who supported Medicare For All. In Part Three I showed how they manipulated the primary results to steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders, just as they had done in 2016. As Johnstone writes, “There’s no point telling the Democratic establishment that Bernie would have won. They know Bernie would have won. That’s why they stopped him.”

Second Question: Why did Biden win (or Trumpus lose)?

1 – With the most profoundly unpopular and deeply reviled president in U.S. history, it still took a pandemic with 300,000 dead (by the election) and an economic depression with forty million unemployed. With no pandemic, Trumpus would be in his second term. Here is a study confirming this.

2 – A second major factor is that 108 million people voted early, nearly 70% of all votes cast. Those early ballots (and millions of other votes cast in voting booths on election day) were all paper ballots that could not be compromised or flipped by corrupted machines (as they certainly were in many states).

Certainly, an astonishingly large number of people still preferred Trumpus. But he didn’t receive 74 million votes. The official number was greatly swelled (and Biden’s greatly reduced) by those same corrupted machines (see below) in the 26 states ruled by Republicans. We will never know the actual numbers, but it’s clear that Biden won by even more than the official numbers. However, this leads to a deeper question:

Third Question: Why did the Democrats perform so badly in the House and Senate?

Why didn’t the biggest turnout in history sweep the Republicans away? Why didn’t the Democrats clobber this buffoon and his allies in massive landslides at every level? What happened to the expected “blue wave”? Why (once again) were the polls so wrong? Why did millions of people apparently split their ballots, rejecting Trumpus but re-electing Republicans who supported his policies?

Despite the heroic efforts of Tracey Abrams and countless others, voter suppression was still a major factor. The biggest turnout in history was still much smaller than the numbers of people who actually wanted to vote or thought that their votes had been counted. We know for example that over 300,000 ballots were checked into the mail system but not checked out of it. As Palast reminds us, 22% of all mail-in votes never get counted.

And there were other factors.

1 – Fraud: Can any reasonable person believe that over a million Floridians voted for raising the minimum wage but also supported Trumpus over Biden? In Kentucky, as I showed in Part Twenty, McConnellhad under 40% approval on election day, but beat Amy McGrath (who received more votes than Biden in in 119 of 120 counties) by 19 points. And, we are told, McConnell won by landslides in heavily Democratic areas, most of them using the easily hackable ES&S machines. In South Carolina, Lindsay Graham won in the same dubious manner. The pattern was repeated in Maine, Texas, Iowa, Florida and other states.

I think we can say that election commissioners in most of those 26 Republican-controlled states gamed the electronic voting machines to flip five percent of the votes. If we were to subtract 5% of Trumpus’ national totals – perhaps four million – and add them back into the other column we might have a clearer idea of Biden’s victory. And we’d have a clearer sense of what happened in the Senate and House.

Going forward, there have been two unanticipated result of Trumpus’ constant predictions – and then claims – of voter fraud. One is that millions of right wingers have been confirmed in their sense of victimhood. They have a new “Lost Cause” to organize around. The second is that once again, liberals find themselves on the defensive and have been forced to insist that there was no fraud, thus repressing, once again, the issue of the massive crimes that actually did occur and will occur next time.

2 – Apathy and voters’ distaste for moderate Democrats. About 67% of eligible voters cast ballots, but that still means a third – eighty million adults – did not. A majority of these non-voters believe it makes no difference who is elected president and that things will go on just as they did before. They also, as I wrote throughout the campaign, tend to be Latino. Only 52% of Latinos surveyed said they were registered to vote, compared to 80% of whites and 78% of Blacks.

A strong endorsement of Medicare For All would have made a major difference. As mentioned before, progressives won almost all their races, while many of the Dem losses were by moderates and freshman congresspeople in essentially blue districts. And there was much vote-splitting, in which people voted against Trumpus (rather than for Biden) and left the rest of their ballots empty. Susan Collins, for example, won by 55,000 votes. But 50,000 voters who voted for the top of the ticket failed to cast a vote in that Senate race. Early in the Georgia (pre-runoff) count, Jon Ossoff trailed David Perdue by 90,000 votes. But 98,000 voters who voted for President failed to vote in this race.“Hidden Trumpers”? Nope. I dealt with that issue in Part Twelve.

3 – Ignorance: The government provided enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus checks (even if it provided for no taxes to pay for them) to millions of households. Partially as a result, 40% of polled voters thought they were better off financially than they were four years ago and apparently saw little reason to vote for change.

4 – Fear: The Dems allowed the Repubs to reframe the BLM protests and the “defund the police” issue into the old standby of “law and order.” As a result, Trumpus won a higher percentage of white women than he did in 2016. And although 55% of registered young voters turned out, a much higher number – 65% – of elderly people responded to the fearmongering and chose to vote for policies that might protect their investments and privileges but would most deprive their own grandchildren of a future. Once again, we find ourselves in the realm of mythology – the killing of the children.

The Inauguration: The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

So where does this whole election cycle – and the $14 billion that was spent on it – fit into our understanding of myth? The most basic narrative at the base of the American story is that of the killing of the children. What lies on top of that within our psyches is American innocence. So at the end, I refer back to the questions I ask in interviews: When did you lose your innocence? and When did you lose it again?

When innocence is the foundation of a belief system, when a culture refuses to offer its young people the initiatory rituals that affirm their unique gifts and permanently erase their childhood innocence, people have little choice but to live lives of denial and perpetual childishness. When the inevitable tears in the fabric of the myth of innocence appear, it quickly closes back up, and each loss of innocence, no matter how old we are or how often it happens, feels like the first time. So only the most naïve among us should be surprised to see that Nancy Pelosi’s initial statement about the Capitol insurrection was: We’ve really lost our innocence.

Conclusion: Auguries

After five years of non-stop lies, insults, boasts, threats, buffoonery, misogyny, racism and gratuitous cruelty, Trumpus had so alienated so many of us that exhaustion, massive anxiety and a collective PTSD had set in even before the insurrection at the Capitol. Brand Trumpus was so toxic to all but the legions who had turned him into a cult leader that it actually had the effect of building up Brand Biden. By inauguration day, liberal America had conjured up an image of a kindly, religious, poetry-spouting, emotionally accessible – yet determined, laser-focused, purposeful leader. A public servant and “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief,” whom the San Francisco Chronicle called our “mourner in chief.”

The sentiment was authentic, even as we know (or should know) his deepest allegiances. We know of course that the Empire will abide. We know that the military-industrial complex was happy with either candidate. We know that the incomprehensively expensive and cruel “War on Terror” will continue. We know Biden’s long history of facilitating mass incarceration. We know that 24 hours after presiding over a memorial to the victims of the pandemic, the new administration announced that it will continue Trumpus’ murderous policies in Palestine and Venezuela. We know that one of the invited guests listening to Biden’s denunciation of fascist violence was Carlos Vecchio, who in 2014 had fled to the United States to escape “incitement of violence” charges in Venezuela. And we remember Noam Chomsky’s quote: If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.

But – for one moment at least – having left his stuttering and self-sabotaging behind him, Biden stepped into the role of Sacred King, or at least a guy you might actually want to have a beer with.

The word inaugurate (“induction into an office with suitable ceremonies”) comes from the same root as augury. An augur was a religious official in ancient Rome who foretold events by observing and interpreting signs and omens. The deeper root may be avis (bird), since the flights, singing, and feeding of birds were important objects of divination, leading to words such as auspicious. One of ancient Greece’s greatest mythmakers, Aeschylus, said of another one, Euripides, “He shows people who they are, and I show them who they might be.” The essence of the ritual imagination may well be the willingness to hold the tension of the opposites while still imagining a positive outcome. May it be so.

The end of this election cycle leaves us exhausted, fearful, sick and broke, yet relieved to put Trumpus (if not the conditions that led to him) behind us. We know we felt this way when Clinton replaced one Bush and Obama replaced another. We know that they manipulated our innocent expectations of a happy ending. Looking back, we know that they served the Empire just as their predecessors had. And we know that we have no choice at this point but to imagine something better. May the birds return and show us the signs.

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Welcome to 2021, or 2020.2

Be there, be wild! – Trumpus

I beat the socialist! – Joe Biden

This election will not be over until the Bidens move into the White House. Prior to that event, with its possibility of bringing some degree of calm, two main events occurred. The first showed us who we might be, while the second reminded us of who we are.

Georgia: A victory over racism

Trumpus brazenly tried to force Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to flip the election results. Was Trumpus, knowing that the conversation was being recorded, unconsciously attempting once again to destroy himself? In another example of a broken clock being right twice a day, Raffensperger refused, instantly becoming a hero to liberals. Greg Palast, however, reminds us that Raffensperger had been at the very center of massive voter suppression, “misleading a federal court to keep 198,000 Georgians from voting” in the run-off. Palast also points out that the Georgia Repubs were working directly with provocateur extremists who went on to lead the riot in Washington.

But the faithful found themselves in a bind (one that Black people are very familiar with): if the other side had stolen their democracy, was there any point in voting? Trumpus helped out (“We’re all victims here.”) The night before the election he told a Georgia crowd, “The deck’s stacked against you. They’re cheating and stealing it. Go vote anyway.” Marjorie Taylor Greene, congresswoman for Northwest Georgia and noted QAnon sympathizer, was equally vocal about the “fix.” The result? Her heavily Republican area became the worst-performing area of the entire state. Perhaps there is a God.

Once again, people of color saved the day. But there was a deeper issue to be learned from this madness. Throughout the campaign, Biden and most the leading Dems had steered clear of any possible accusations of “socialism.” Then came December and the debate over pandemic stimulus checks. Keaton Weiss writes:

Enough voters realized that, because House Democrats backed Trump’s $2,000 proposal and Mitch McConnell didn’t, that they would need to elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock if they hoped to see more stimulus money…Then, as election day drew nearer, Democrats made their promise of $2,000 payments central to their closing argument…The GOP incumbents held a small but steady lead until it was made entirely clear to Georgians that they would receive more government assistance if they voted blue.

The lesson? Just as in the general election, when moderate Dems usually lost and almost all progressive Dems won, people get excited when politicians listen to people’s needs and promise to redistribute the wealth for the greater good. It’s called democratic socialism.

The real winners? My inner idealist says: Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris and the people of Georgia, of course. My inner cynic says: Joe Manchin. You haven’t heard of him? He’s the most conservative Democrat in the Senate. Sensing the moment, he came out against the proposed $2,000 stimulus checks to his own suffering people in West Fucking Virginia. This was a personal message to Biden: You are going to have to come through me to get anything passed in the Senate. As the swing vote in a perfectly divided body, he will be the new Mitch McConnell.

Washington: A victory for racism

Let’s be clear about what, several days later, still isn’t obvious to the mainstream media.

First: This was a riot of white supremacists led by members of well-known hate groups who, compared to almost any BLM activists, enjoyed the privilege of gentle treatment by law enforcement (82 arrests as opposed to hundreds).

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Indeed, many of the participants were off-duty police and military who flashed their badges and ID cards as they entered the Capitol building. The mob included at least six Republican officeholders, one of whom later claimed to have no regrets for having attacked the Capitol. Another resigned after posting video of himself.

Second: Responses by the various security agencies in this most-surveilled city in the world were shamefully slow. This was despite the fact that right wing websites had publicized their plans for the event long before Trumpus incited the crowd and retired to his tent party to watch it on TV. Afterwards, with hundreds of videos available, the FBI, in an insult to the entire nation, claimed to require public assistance in identifying them.

The Metropolitan Police Department claimed to have had “no intelligence” suggesting “there would be a breach of the US Capitol.” The Capitol Police knew about the threat days before it took place, but reportedly rejected offers of help. Officials explained that they wanted to avoid using federal force against Americans! Mayor Muriel Bowser requested support before the rally, but the Pentagon limited the local National Guard to managing traffic. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan tried repeatedly to send his state’s National Guard, but the Pentagon would not authorize it. When the Capitol Police finally requested aid early Wednesday afternoon, Defense officials held back the Guard for about three hours before ordering it in.

I suppose it’s possible that some of the leadership were truly naïve about the intentions of the fascist leaders, well-publicized as they were. But more likely, both their lack of preparedness and their tepid response are evidence of a deeper problem that some of us have been noting for two decades: the infiltration of police departments by white nationalists. No centralized recruitment process or set of national standards exists for the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. Since at least as far back as 2006 the FBI has been aware of the term “ghost skins,” used among white supremacists to describe “those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.” It has also known that skinhead groups have encouraged ghost skins to seek employment with law enforcement agencies.

It’s much worse when leadership shares their values. “You don’t get to ransack the Capitol for hours, then calmly walk away, unless law enforcement and its command share your views,” wrote Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America. “What we saw yesterday was tacit approval of the rioters.”

Who exactly was responsible? Federal officials who still supported Trumpus, or local officials (a few blocks away) who knew very well how tenuous their control over their own racist cops actually was? Or were even these leaders complicit? Consider for example New York City’s profoundly racist Police Benevolent Association with its 24,000 members and its leader who endorsed Trumpus.

Third: Most of the day was performative rather than goal-oriented. Yes, many people were hurt and five died (including a woman carrying a “Don’t tread on me” flag who was trampled to death). But once the cops allowed the crowd into the building the violence dissipated. Then it quickly became clear that almost no one had any political agenda other than Confederate flag-waving, petty theft, vandalism, posing in outrageous costumes for journalists, smearing of graffiti and feces, exploring of government computer screens, selfie-taking (in at least one case, with a cop), racist slogan-shouting and live-streaming of their exploits. Supporters of Israel displayed anti-Semitic T-shirts. “Blue Lives Matter” fans pissed on symbols of authority. It appeared to be a party atmosphere reminiscent of tourists at Mardi Gras, frat boys at Spring Beak, live action role-playing games, or a twisted version of Burning Man.

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From a psychological perspective, this release of inhibitions was an example of Freud’s phrase, “the return of the repressed.” Mythologically, it was an expression of what Robert Johnson called “low-quality Dionysus.” For much more on this issue, see Chapters Four and Ten of my book, or my essay, The Dionysian Moment. Trump Lets the Dogs Out. There is a profound, and profoundly dark potential in this story, as I acknowledge in Part Seven:  

Here I must confess to a certain naiveté. In much of my writing I’ve tended to see the return of the repressed as a good thing, as in liberated sexuality, as the return of the Goddess or as political revolution. And I still think that way – in the long run. But perhaps I’ve been ignoring my own text: What was a human impulse can become monstrous.

And one of the most welcome – and most dangerous – characteristics of demagogues from Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler to Reagan to the architects of the Rwandan and Armenian holocausts to Trump has been their ability to “lift the burden of individual responsibility” from their followers, to dissolve their isolated egos. It is to grant them permission to let out the dogs of their most repressed, violent fantasies that had previously been held in control by superficial notions such as goodness, fair play, tolerance, rationality, justice – and democracy.

But curiously, it was Trumpus who helped out again, this time by inciting the riot in the first place and making it easy (once the danger passed) for even thugs like Lindsay Graham to emerge from their thick cocoons of hypocrisy and denounce him. This ensured that the Presidential confirmation vote would flow smoothly – precisely what the mob had been trying to stop.

Fourteen Republican senators had announced they would object to counting the certified votes; in the evening count the number dropped to six, most notably Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. But in the House, 138 Republicans, more than half the Republican caucus, doubled down and stuck with Trumpus, even after the riot.

For five years the Repubs and their corporate owners have allowed Trumpus to serve their interests by letting the dogs out, but they may have painted themselves into a corner. Now it appears that they are divided into two groups. One is composed of true believers in various versions of the Trumpus / QAnon narrative – none of whom hold any real power in the party.

The second, the great majority, are absolutely non-ideological, lying con men who have utilized the first group as their useful idiots. Here’s a rule of thumb: the higher the visibility and influence, the less sincere their rhetoric. This group includes several Senators and Congresspersons vying to lead the last-ditch effort to derail the election results. It is obvious that none of them give a damn about Trumpus. Aside from the money they continue to fleece the true believers out of, this has been nothing other than a PR stunt (one that resulted in five deaths). Their only motivation is in building brands that might identify them as inheritors of his base. Trumpus has taught them well – their first principle is how can I take advantage of this?

Even if Trumpus keeps his own candidacy alive (to grab more money), each of them wants to be the best-known right-wing loony when and if the boss retires (or goes to jail). This has nothing to do with 2020 and everything to do with tactics regarding 2024. Some of those tactics involve low comedy. Cruz tweeted that Biden was not working hard enough to “bring us together or promote healing” and that “vicious partisan rhetoric only tears our country apart.”

Others took the opportunity to claim the high road and denounce Trumpus. Some (including the rulers of Facebook and Twitter ) waited as long as possible to drop off his money-raising tit, as did Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos, who resigned from the Cabinet (possibly to avoid having to vote on deposing him under the 25th Amendment).

Speaking of con men (and women), most Evangelical leaders, watching which way the winds were blowing, initially kept quiet. Eventually, most expressed mild condemnation of the riot, without acknowledging their own complicity in creating the conditions that led to it. Some put out false equivalencies about BLM events. Most avoided linking Trumpus to the attack or criticizing him personally. By the end of the week, with the political winds becoming clearer, they, like many of the GOP leaders, began to distance themselves from him.

At this point, absolutely anything that any Repub official has to say, whether pro-Trumpus or anti-Trumpus, is about 2024. One poll indicates that 45% of Republicans approve of the storming of the Capitol. Another poll claims that Trumpus is the most admired person in America. And regardless of Democratic talk of impeachment, he still has ten days – and beyond – to lurch through our nightmares like Frankenstein’s monster. And it’s a serious question whether his thugs will go away once he does. As Richard Seymour writes,

Trumpism is not an aberration, but a mass phenomenon. Trump greatly expanded his base between 2016 and 2020, adding more than 10 million votes to its total. He expanded into places and demographic constituencies thought to be closed to him. No other Republican presidential candidate could have done this. And it was achieved precisely through the same means that led to the spectacle in the Capitol. To hope that Joe Biden can defuse this by restoring civility and bipartisanship to Washington would be unforgivably complacent.

First as farce, then as tragedy. But this week let’s remember Georgia.

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Part Twenty-One: 2021

Ah yes, America. The country where Republicans spend all day screaming that socialism is happening and Democrats spend all day making sure it never does. – Caitlin Johnstone

The eternal mystery of Trumpus. Of course, he’s a gross misogynist, a sadist and a racist who appears to hunger for opportunities to exert gratuitous cruelty. But for five years, liberal commentators have wavered between two major views of what he is at the core, each of which has been backed by mounds of evidence. Is he shamelessly ignorant, a steaming cesspool of idiocy and denial who believes the image that the media has created for him? Or is he a brilliant con man, plotting several moves ahead, the leader of an organized crime family who’s made an entire career of stealing from those who most adore him?

The final weeks and now days before the inauguration have him displaying both sides. Is he hiding out at Mar-A-Largo playing golf, emerging only to tweet nonsense or berate subordinates, or is he slyly continuing to exhort his base to protest the election, even as he pockets over $250 million from them?

For those of us who can avoid the temptation of easy demonization and take a step back into American myth, there’s a third possibility: yes / and. Behind our superficial religiosity, aren’t we all at the core both materialists hoping to “get ahead” and astonishingly stupid (see Parts 16 and 17)? No con man or any other kind of celebrity can exist for long in our culture without the collusion of the public. Trumpus is the essential American. He is us. We needed him to arise in these years. We dreamed him up and vomited him out onto our projective landscape of the imagination so as to bring out the darkest truths of our collective racial and military madness, our culture of uninitiated adults,

Republican Corruption: Over two million people have voted prior to the January fifth Georgia run-offs. A judge has ordered officials in two rural counties to stop invalidating voter registrations due to so-called “unreliable” change of address information, a ruling that could protect over 4,000 residents from voter suppression. Meanwhile, in Cobb County (whose half million voters had preferred Biden over Trumpus by 56% to 42%), officials cut the number of early voting stations from eleven during the general election down to five for the runoff. And over 120 counties simply and illegally closed polling stations on the weekends. 

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It’s hard to keep up with Trumpus’ level of sleaze, but Ted Cruz is trying. He is raising money for the runoff – but the actual beneficiary is his own campaign committee. And he’s not the only one, writes Lachlan Markay. The National Republican Senatorial Committee “encouraged its members to use grassroots donor enthusiasm surrounding the runoffs to help build their own fundraising programs.” Several politicians, including McConnell – and Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York – have lined up to feed at this particular trough.

How would you like your sleaze? The previously disgraced and recently pardoned General Michael Flynn (whom many believe is Q himself) is now hawking QAnon merchandise.

Meanwhile, speculation continues about what Trumpus and friends will do on January 6th, when Congress is supposed to count the electoral ballots and give final confirmation for Biden:

Here’s how the rest of Trump’s desperate effort to stay in power will play out

Conservative writer reveals 3 main fears insiders have about Trump’s last days in office

Trump Encourages ‘Wild’ Protests in D.C. on Date of Electoral College Vote Count

Pro-Trump Missouri senator announces he will contest Biden’s certification

Gohmert suit may force Pence’s hand in effort to overturn Trump’s defeat

Once that date passes, there will still be two weeks of crazy before the inauguration, during which Trumpus can still make his last stand. The U.S. military has sent missile-laden cruisers to the South China Sea and B-52 bombers over the Persian Gulf. Iran’s foreign Minister voiced what is obvious to anyone but believers in American innocence, that Trumpus is fabricating a pretext to attack Iran. Although last year’s widely feared October Surprise never happened, anything could still happen, because it has happened in the past.

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Got Democracy? Yes, there was a large increase in voters in November. About 67% of eligible voters cast ballots, but that still means a third – eighty million adults – did not. Finally, somebody (the Medill School of Journalism) has surveyed non-voters, and the results should not surprise critics of the Democratic National Committee.

Twenty percent disliked both candidates. A majority of those eighty million people believe it makes no difference who is elected president and that things will go on just as they did before. They are less likely to say that elections in this country are free and fair for all. They are also more likely to be younger and make less money than voters – and they are exactly the demographic the Dems might have been interested in. However, fewer than a quarter of them (compared to almost half of voters) said any political campaigns had reached out to them. They also, as I wrote throughout the campaign, tend to be Latino. Only 52% of Latinos surveyed said they were registered to vote, compared to 80% of whites and 78% of Blacks.

Although Latinos heavily favored Biden, the DNC’s still-incomprehensible unwillingness to reach out to them with appropriate vigor and raise their voting numbers certainly cost them the Senate. With real Latino turnout, the Georgia runoffs would be an afterthought.

Read more…

https://madnessatthegates.wordpress.com/2020/12/21/barrys-blog-359-a-mythologist-looks-at-the-2020-election-part-twenty/

Winter Solstice

I’m very, very concerned that if you solicit votes from typically non-voters, that you will affect and change the outcome. – United States Senator Rand Paul, 12/17

Republican Corruption: Timothy Noah asks: “How can you tell that the GOP has accepted Biden is the duly elected president?” His answer: “They’re trying to destroy the economy.” These thugs in black suits have squeezed what they could out of the economy for their corporate masters, and now they are shifting their focus to sabotaging the transition, prolonging the recession and convincing the base that Biden will be responsible.

And more statistics have arisen showing what that base is composed of, what color they are and why Trumpus came so close (in the Electoral College) to winning. I take these numbers with a grain of salt, because no one really knows the opinions of those who voted by mail; but clearly it’s all about race, as Dan Siegal summarizes:

The election was close only because Trump won overwhelmingly among white voters, who cast two-thirds of the votes nationally…(White evangelicals) made up 28%of the electorate, and Trump won 76% of their votes, his largest bloc by far. Biden won among all other voters by a margin of 62-36. In other words, Trump’s near victory was the result of his support by white evangelicals…Trump won a majority of the votes in 15 of the 17 states where evangelicals make up 21 percent or more of the population…

Sixty-nine percent of voters say that racism is an important problem in the U.S. These voters supported Biden, 68-30. The voters who believe that racism is a minor problem supported Trump 84-14. Voters with favorable and unfavorable attitudes about Black Lives Matter split along almost identical lines. The most accurate predictors of who would vote for Trump were (1) identifying as White; (2) membership in evangelical churches; (3) residence in the South or Midwest; and (4) attitudes about the importance of racism.

How close did Trumpus come? The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected his lawsuit, bogus as it was, by a margin of only 4-3, with the swing vote coming from a right-wing judge suffering from a rare case of cojones.

And let us not forget that Trumpus’ attempts to steal back the election – incompetent and laughable as they are – have been entirely about race. As Elie Mystal writes,

This election witnessed new and destructive attempts by the GOP to win: Instead of merely trying to suppress the votes of Black people, the party tried to nullify those votes altogether. In predominately Black city after predominately Black city, Republicans urged courts, state boards of elections, and secretaries of state to throw away ballots cast by legitimately registered voters on the basis of “voter fraud.” They offered no evidence for these allegations but expected officials to throw out literally hundreds of thousands of votes anyway.

And it almost worked. In Michigan, for instance, the two GOP members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers…initially refused to certify the results in their county, which includes Detroit. Palmer indicated she’d be willing to certify results everywhere in her jurisdiction except for precincts in that predominately Black city.

But it’s much weirder than that. We need to address an even deeper level of rot. I predicted all through the election cycle that the Repubs would corrupt the voting machines and flip votes in all or most of the 26 states where they control the counting process, and that individual Democratic candidates would need at least a 5% lead in the polls in order to offset the vote theft. By October it was clear that the vast numbers of people voting by mail would make comparisons between official results and exit polls useless, and that’s what happened. Exit polls only tell us so much.

But now we have the first analysis of actual vote patterns, not exit polls, showing that electronic election theft is precisely what happened, and it happened on a massive scale just as it did four years ago. This article by Alternet – Busted? Why the numbers behind Mitch McConnell’s re-election don’t add up  goes into deep detail:

In Kentucky, McConnell, with under 40% approval on election day, beat Amy McGrath by 19 points. “Hidden Trumper” votes? I’ve already debunked that theory, but even if they existed, in 119 of 120 counties, McGrath got more votes than Biden. Evidently, one in five Kentuckians voted for both her and the pussy-grabber Trumpus! It also appears that McConnell won easily in Democratic strongholds, including counties that he had never before carried, some of which had voted overwhelmingly for Democrats as recently as last year. For example, in his six previous Senate elections, Elliott and Wolfe counties had never voted for McConnell. Yet in November, McConnell won 64% of the votes in Wolfe and 66% in Elliott. Or so we are told.

Landslide winner in Democratic counties

In one of the looniest and most incompetent post-election lawsuits, the Trumpus team may have intended to accuse Dems of election fraud, but in describing a possible plot, they actually attributed the cheating to themselves and inadvertently revealed their own con game. In a Dec. 4 filing in Georgia, they referred to a “machine-controlled algorithm deliberately run” by a voting machine vendor that “generally took more than 2.5% of the votes from Mr. Biden and flipped them to Mr. Trump.”

The article goes on to generalize to the entire political map. It would appear that the electronic culprit was not Dominion, as Trumpus has been claiming, but another company, ES&S.

McConnell had his biggest percentage of registered Democrats voting Republican in counties using ES&S machines…Other Republican incumbents, whom polls indicated would have close races, had similar luck to their majority leader on election day…Lindsey Graham’s race in South Carolina was so tight that he infamously begged for money, yet he won with a comfortable 10% lead—tabulated on ES&S machines throughout the state. In Susan Collins’s Maine, where she never had a lead in a poll after July 2, almost every ballot was fed through ES&S machines. Kentucky, South Carolina, Maine, Texas, Iowa and Florida are all states that use ES&S machines…when Trump calls this the most fraudulent election in our history, maybe he knows of what he speaks.

The Democrats: A tale of two appointments — Pete Buttigieg (who has never administered anything larger than a city with a population of 100,000) received Biden’s nomination to run the Department of Transportation (with a $73 billion budget and 55,000 employees). First gay cabinet member? Great! Payback for entering the presidential race with the sole intention of helping defeat Bernie Sanders? Bet on it.

Biden also nominated Congresswoman Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary. First Native American cabinet member? Great! She could be his most progressive choice so far – and there’s the rub. This decision could be just what it appears to be, the right choice at the right time. But Biden is nothing if not a politician, and this will be a win-win (maybe a rare one) for him. If the Dems win both Georgia races, he gets his way with all his nominations, including his atrocious war hawk foreign policy picks. If they don’t – consider the quote in Part Eighteen of this series about Neera Tanden. If the Repubs consider this person a “leftist” who “stands zero chance of being confirmed,”then Haaland shouldn’t even bother attending her confirmation hearing. But Biden will receive mucho acclaim for having nominated her.

Read more…

https://madnessatthegates.wordpress.com/2020/12/16/barrys-blog-358-a-mythologist-looks-at-the-2020-election-part-nineteen/

Mid-December

Some people take, some people get took, and they know they’re getting took, and there’s nothing they can do about it. – Shirley MacLaine, in The Apartment”

The Supreme Court rejected the Texas lawsuit. Supported by 17 Repub attorneys-general and over a hundred congresspersons, it was absurd and had no legal standing. But with all those reactionary justices, including three who had helped G. W. Bush steal the 2000 election from Al Gore, this was no forgone conclusion. But they actually did the right thing legally, and to many innocent liberals, it appears that they are now more respectful of the Constitution than the majority of Repub elected officials (or that, by “resigning”, Bill Barr has suddenly been infected by an ethics virus).

Bullshit. These same thugs in black gowns are planning to destroy abortion rights sometime next year. If they decided to put a legal seal on Trumpus’ fall from grace, we should assume that they were simply acknowledging that the useful idiot is no longer useful to their corporate masters – or that he will be more useful as a vengeful, fund-raising ex-president with his own TV network threatening to run again in 2024.

Republican Corruption: Trumpus is reportedly dangling Presidential pardons like Papal indulgences for people who haven’t even been accused of anything, even as he expects to execute thirteen federal prisoners this year. Meanwhile, he and the entire Repub leadership thrive on the creation and maintenance of anxiety. This is who they are and what they do – and how they raise money. So it appears that some of them will contest the election right up to the Georgia primary on January 5th (which will probably not be decided that day), and into the 6th, when some of them will probably stage a final challenge on the floor of the House of Representatives.

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Officials in another Georgia county (Camden) took voter suppression to a new low by ordering that voters would have exactly one day of early voting. In the long run, we should take note of how their policies have and will continue to infect the public’s confidence in the political process. Palast quotes James Kwak’s Washington Post article (yes, this broken clock can be right twice a day):

For years, it’s been clear that American democracy faces a real threat: voter suppression policies (generally implemented by Republican state legislatures or governors)…But today, Trump has shifted the frame: Many of his supporters believe the conspiracy theories he tweets and retweets, forcing Democrats and state election officials to declare that the electoral process is healthy and robust simply because it is not contaminated by widespread fraud.

For the next four years, it’s likely that debates about elections will focus on the nonissue of whether the 2020 presidential election was stolen. In the meantime, real voter suppression will continue, largely out of sight and out of mind…Now Trump has truly hijacked the conversation.

Democratic Corruption:

The Georgia Senate race is offering us yet another view of the rot at the core of the Democratic Party. Even as Abrams builds her well-deserved reputation as the leader of the fight against voter suppression and female people of color establish themselves as the activist base of the party, Reverend Raphael Warnock has responded to Kelly Loeffler’s anti-Semitism-baiting by rejecting his previous criticism of Israel:

I condemned BDS, its refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. And I support President Obama’s memorandum of understanding [$3.8 billion in aid a year], it’s the largest such commitment made in history…Our aid and support to Israel is something I would advance as a member of the Senate. And there’s no question that Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon.

His statement had its intended effect, as he won the endorsement of a well-healed Israel lobby group. Yes, yes, I know – one does what one has to do to gain power, including trashing one’s principles for incremental gain, and the perfect is the enemy of the good, etc, yadda, yadda.

And Palestinian children will die because this “progressive” gave in to the warmongers.

Censorship: On December 9th, after the states had certified the election, YouTube announced that it was deleting any user videos that claim the election was fraudulent. Good idea, huh? But consider that the statement never claimed that any of the videos (loony as most of them undoubtedly are) endanger anyone’s health, incite violence or mislead voters (six weeks after the election). As Johnstone writes,

It’s simply deleting the videos because they are believed to be wrong. This is an important distinction, because it’s a marked deviation from the previous policy of content deletion used by YouTube and other new media platforms.

Taibbi agreed, insisting on a tech-supported double standard. Democrats and most of the MSM have pushed their own unprovable narratives about Trumpus’ collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election for four years, while Trump supporters are now banned from doing essentially the same thing.

Intelligence agencies, think tanks, and mainstream news agencies have been preparing us for this concept for years as well. This dates back to the infamous 2016 Washington Post story hyping PropOrNot, a shadowy organization that identified a long list of homegrown American news sites like Consortium, TruthDig, Naked Capitalism, and Antiwar.Com as vehicles for “Russian propaganda.”…(Meanwhile) Unrestrained speculation about the illegitimacy of the 2016 election had a major impact on the public. Surveys showed 50 percent of Clinton voters by December of 2016 believed the Russians actually hacked vote tallies in states, something no official agency ever alleged even at the peak of the Russiagate madness.

Right-wing media distracts right-wingers and mainstream media distracts liberals. As I argued at length here, it wasn’t the Russians but the Republicans who hacked that election. But the combination of Russiagate and the marginalizing of legitimate progressive news served to keep the public from a much-needed discussion of the real reasons while Clinton lost, including her party’s abandonment of its working-class base.

In sum, it’s okay to stoke public paranoia, encourage voters to protest legal election results, spread conspiracy theories about stolen elections, refuse to endorse legal election tallies, and even to file lawsuits challenging the validity of presidential results, so long as all of this activity is sanctified by officials in the right party, or by intelligence vets, or by friendlies at CNN, NBC, the New York Times, etc…If, however, the theories are coming from Donald Trump…then it’s time for companies like YouTube to move in and wipe out 8000+ videos and nudge people to channels like CBS and NBC, as well as to the home page of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. This is a process YouTube calls “connecting people to authoritative information.”

With the press, we put up with gossip and errors and lies not because we think those things are socially beneficial, but because we don’t want an aristocratic political establishment having a monopoly on those abuses. By allowing some conspiracy theories but not others, that’s exactly the system we’re building…Acts like the YouTube ban…(will) almost certainly further radicalize this population…now you’re removing some of the last incentives to behave like citizens…This is a stupid, dangerous, wrong policy, guaranteed to make things worse.

Liberals don’t care about censorship, as long as it’s the right kind of censorship. Meanwhile, the big news is that three days after the Supreme Court refused to hear the Texas lawsuit, the Electoral College certified the election. The next day, McConnell congratulated Biden. And if the Dems don’t run the table in Georgia, Biden ought to return the favor, as he will have about as much power as a constitutional monarch, and McConnell will be the de facto President.

Read more…

December 8th

Republican corruption: There are still a few days until the Electoral College meets. We itch with uneasiness as we watch Trumpus flailing about in his tragicomic, slow motion coup, and there are some forty days of non-specific crazy left until the inauguration. Many Repub diehards, such as those on the bipartisan House and Senate Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, refuse to certify Biden’s victory. Then we have the recently pardoned Michael Flynn, who has implored Trumpus to suspend the Constitution and declare martial law. Newly elected Michigan state representative Abraham Aiyash, a Muslim, has received over a thousand online threats of violence.

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As his legal chances grow dimmer, however, it’s becoming clearer that the coup is not against Democrats, or democracy itself, but against his own supporters. It’s a grifter’s coup, and the con has been extraordinarily lucrative, with $200 million taken in so far. Indeed, according to one strain of speculation, Trumpus will declare his candidacy for 2024 right after (or during) the inauguration. This would ensure the continuation of both the gravy train and the media circus, and it might provide an excuse of politically motivated prosecution (or persecution) if New York continues its probe into his tax schemes after he leaves the protection of the White House. I doubt if any of that money will end up in Georgia. No problema. The Repubs have plenty of money to spend on the Georgia Senate double-header runoffs on January 5th. Welcome to 2021!

That anxiety will last several days longer until the final tally. The people of Georgia will have to endure a non-stop ad blitz, as the campaigns are collectively on pace to spend a half a billion dollars. Nationally, over $14 billion will have been spent on all Federal-level campaigns, doubling what was spent in 2016. There is some small consolation to see the Repubs beginning to eat their own, as they trade increasingly bitter threats at each other. Meanwhile, Greg Palast and Stacy Abrams are suing to re-instate those 200,000 purged voters. The Repubs have responded by cutting the number of early voting sites in Cobb County in half.

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Still, it is possible for the Dems to control both Houses of Congress and actually accomplish something. May the best-case scenario be so. If not, Mitch McConnel will be the de facto President, tens of millions of Americans will be cast down into deeper suffering, and nothing will be done about global warming.

Democratic Corruption: It could have been different. As I also suggested, Biden could have announced his support for Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. Had he done so, the Dems would have taken the Senate, despite the MSM consensus that the left caused the down-ballot fiasco. Real progressives actually kicked butt. It was Dem moderates who lost. And Biden himself would not have won at all (we finally have some statistical proof) if Trumpus hadn’t mishandled the pandemic so egregiously. As Jeremy Scahill writes:

For millions of voters, this was not a choice between Biden and Trump — it was a referendum on Trump, and Biden’s name on the ballot was a stand-in for “No!”…More than any administration in modern history, Trump’s tenure presented a clear opportunity for the Democrats to show the strength of their collective spine and serve as a moral alternative to the horrors of Trump and the Republican Party. Overwhelmingly, this did not happen.

Thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of people masked their faces, entered the polling places, held their noses, marked their ballots for Biden and not bothering to vote at all for Senator or Congressperson, walked right on out. Ballot splitting used to be no big deal. People would often go down the ballot considering the candidate rather than the party and vote accordingly. But they would vote for someone. Not any more.

So what about that huge turnout? Wasn’t it supposed to bring out millions of new voters who would vote Democratic? Well, yes, it did, raising the percentage of young voters to perhaps 55% of their registered numbers, many of whom were undoubtedly among those who hated both Trumpus and moderate Dems. But it also brought out 65% of elderly people, who, despite his mishandling of the pandemic and his hints about cutting Social Security, did what they have been doing for fifty years. The “greatest generation” chose to vote for policies that might protect their investments and privileges but would most definitely deprive their own grandchildren of a future. Once again, we find ourselves in the realm of mythology – the killing of the children. Timothy Noah writes:

The true age-demographic story of 2020 wasn’t that young people flocked to the polls in higher proportions than ever before. It was that this youthquake had no discernible impact on the makeup of the American electorate…No matter how you measure it, the elderly are still very much in charge of American politics.

Eventually we will (happily) turn our attention away from Trumpus. But we’ll (unhappily) have to look seriously at the corporate stooges and warmongers Biden has surrounded himself with.

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So far one of them is a perfect example of everything that could go wrong actually going wrong. Neera Tanden, who would be White House Budget Director, is president of the Center for American Progress, a “liberal” think tank funded by the usual oligarchs, including Facebook and the United Arab Emirates. She is the epitome of the Washington swamp who has spent years publicizing the Russiagate lies, and she has been (writes David Sorota), “…the single biggest, most aggressive Bernie Sanders critic in the United States of America” and (writes Greenwald) one of Sanders’ “most vicious and amoral attackers.” Taibbi writes:

Sanders is the ranking member (and, perhaps, future chair) of the Senate Budget Committee. Every time Bernie even thinks about doing Committee business, he’ll be looking up at Neera Tanden. For a party whose normal idea of humor is ten thousand consecutive jokes about Trump being gay with Putin, that’s quite a creative “fuck you.”

Johnstone adds:

After months of lying to themselves that lifelong warmongering corporatist Joe Biden could be somehow “pushed to the left” by progressives in order to make voting for him seem more palatable, the incoming administration has been seemingly going out of its way to prove them wrong in as spectacular a fashion as you could possibly imagine with its nominees and transition team of war whorescorporate sociopathsfree speech opponents and austerity enthusiasts. Tanden is just the diarrhea icing on the giant steaming shit cake.

Progressives, of course, are appalled by Tanden. And it gets worse. Evidently, those hefty investments from the United Arab Emirates paid off: her group backed away from criticizing the UAE’s and Saudia Arabia’s genocidal policies in Yemen.

However, this is so 2020. In this mad universe it’s no longer a simple thing to distinguish the bad news from the good. As I mentioned previously, there are hundreds of presidential appointments that must be vetted by the Senate – and in 2021, unless the Dems win both Georgia races, a very hostile Senate. As beholden as Tanden is to big business and the warmongers, the Repubs still consider her nomination “…more proof that @JoeBiden and the Democrats will continue to move further and further to the Left…(she) stands zero chance of being confirmed.” 

Read more…

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people – H. L. Menken

As freedom grows, the need to coerce and control opinion also grows if you want to prevent the great beast from doing something with its freedom. – Noam Chomsky

Public Education

Tens of millions of us are really dumb – or to be generous, profoundly misinformed – despite our educational system. Or, we have to ask, is it because of this system? In Chapter Five of my book I compare indigenous initiation traditions to mandatory – that is, forced – public education and refer to John Gatto’s classic book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, which asks, “Could it be that our schools are designed to make sure that not one (child) ever really grows up?”

The Social Darwinists and eugenicists who designed our educational system modeled it on the one used by the militaristic Prussian state. Since then, six generations of us have endured a routine carefully designed to restrain dissent, originality and critical thinking and reduce everyone to a uniform, standardized level. Gatto, once New York state’s Teacher of the Year, quotes from early texts and distills schooling’s intent into six functions:

1 – Adjusting: establishing fixed habits of reaction to authority to preclude critical judgment.

2 – Integrating: making people as alike as possible.
3 – Diagnosing: determining everyone’s proper social role.
4 – Differentiating: sorting children by role and training them “only so far as their destination in the social machine permits.”
5 – Selecting: identifying the unfit at an early age.
6 – Finally, the propaedeutic function: teaching a minority to manage the rest, who are “deliberately dumbed down and declawed…”


Regarding number 5: As Americans copied late 19th century German teaching methods, only a generation later the Nazis openly thanked American eugenicists for modeling the selection system whose terrible logic would eventually lead to Auschwitz. And the American system would return the favor. As I mentioned previously, a tenth of American adults have never heard of the Holocaust.

Gatto concludes that American public schooling was never intended to create citizens, but servile laborers and consumers. It teaches children that they can exchange obedience (including obedience to the military) for favors and advantages. It leaves them vulnerable to marketing, which ensures that they will grow older but never grow up.

From the indigenous perspective, it reverses the age-old tradition of identifying a child’s innate and unique gifts. Older cultures really did emphasize what the Romans called educare – to identify, lead out and welcome something important that already exists. America institutionalized something quite different: instruere (to build into, instruct). The Yiddish word is more effective: schooling assumes that children come into the world with nothing and then schtups them full of information.

The latest insult is standardized testing, which converts our natural curiosity into docility and narcissism and trains middle class students not in critical thinking but merely in how to take tests. For the rest, the cruel euphemism of “No Child Left Behind” relies on threats and punishment, imposes narrow agendas, overrules local control and punishes entire schools for the failures of the few. Finally, it completely ignores the impact of poverty, which leads to the vicious circle of inadequate funding.  

New ways continually emerge for the sins of the fathers to fall upon the young. “Zero tolerance” policies allow school administrators no leeway for interpretation. Examples are endless, if tragic. A valedictorian is charged with a felony and banned from her graduation for mistakenly leaving a kitchen knife in her car. A thirteen-year-old who brings a model rocket to show in class is suspended. An eleven-year-old is jailed for bringing a plastic knife in her lunch box. A ten-year-old girl is charged with sexual harassment and suspended for asking a boy if he liked her. Mall police turn away girl scouts for being “similarly dressed.” A third of the students of a Chicago high school are expelled because of zero tolerance. It began not through political correctness, but because governments that cannot enact real gun control for adults divert the spotlight onto children. And youths convicted of any drug offense permanently lose federal financial aid (over 130,000 when I wrote my book ten years ago), even if possession laws are later overturned.

It gets crazier. We’re talking about public programs, but we’re also talking about those 25-35% of Americans who are evangelicals and who have strangleholds on state and federal budgets. Thirty-seven states require that when schools offer sex education, they must discuss abstinence, and 26 of them require that it be stressed, including censoring of textbooks. In 2017, a third of the $300 million federal funding for teen sexual health education programs was for abstinence education. All told, the feds have spent well over $2 billion on it. However, claims researcher Laura Lindberg, “…it leaves our young people without the information and skills that they need…We fail our young people when we don’t provide them with complete and medically accurate information.”

The government continues to throw money at these programs even though its own studies have shown that they have no effect on sexual behavior among youth. Worse, they generally withhold information about pregnancy and STD prevention. They don’t reduce pregnancy or STD rates, and they have no effect on adolescents delaying intercourse. However, when they do become active, many teens fail to use condoms, unlike their peers in other countries who have routine access to contraceptive education and counseling.

The final insult is that language used in abstinence-based curricula often reinforces gender stereotypes about female passivity and male aggressiveness – attitudes that often correlate with domestic violence. In Chapter Ten I assess the cumulative result:

It is likely in vast areas of the country for a girl who has been raped and impregnated by a relative to have no access to abortion (family rape is the source of 40% of teen pregnancies). She might run away with her child to escape the ongoing abuse, go on welfare (until the funds run out and the state takes the child) and become a homeless prostitute. She would be a sacrificial victim, no different in any respect from similar girls in the Middle East.

The Sacrifice of the Children: we are back in the depths of American mythology. Should we be surprised then that one result of this mad system of education has been an epidemic of illiteracy? In 1909, a century before we spoke of “white privilege”, the eugenicist and racist Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, told teachers, “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class…a very much larger class…to forgo the privilege…”

From precisely that point, just before World War I (when the system was installed universally), literacy declined from nearly 100% to a point when, in 1973, 27% of men were rejected from military service because of functional illiteracy. Now, 14% of adults, over 30 million – including nearly 20% of high school graduates – cannot comprehend texts that are appropriate for 10-year-olds, and almost half of us cannot read well enough to understand basic health information.

Forty-two percent of college graduates never read a book after they finish school.

The even poorer quality of inner-city education for students of color is part of a much larger discussion of race and segregation in America and the deliberately exclusionary policies pursued by generations at every level of government. Here are some of my relevant essays:

Affirmative Action for Whites

Blaming the Victim

Did the South Win the Civil War?

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: The Sacrifice of American Dionysus

For now, though, we can explain why white, suburban students perform so much better on the tests with the simple fact that their school systems spend far more per pupil than urban systems can. The reason is that the U.S., nearly unique in the world, requires local jurisdictions to fund education through local property taxes. And our national obsession with scapegoating, punishment and blaming the youthful victims of capitalism has produced a situation in which most states spend more on prisons than they do on education. California is the worst, investing $65,000 per prisoner compared to $11,500 per student.

To ask why they do that – and why we allow them to do it – is to question the most fundamental aspects of American myth.

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In certain respects, the situation in private, religious education is worse. Ten percent of the sixty million students in the country attend private schools, three-quarters of which are religious. Large numbers of these 4.5 million students learn in atmospheres that are strongly misogynist at best and racist at worst. Their parents are Trumpus’ base. According to Christian researcher Robert P. Jones,  

…white Christians – including evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics –  are nearly twice as likely as religiously unaffiliated whites to say the killings of Black men by police are isolated incidents rather than part of a pattern of how police treat African Americans…White Christians are also about 20 percentage points more likely to disagree with this statement: “Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class.”

What about higher education? Some studies have indicated that the more educated we are, the more likely we are to support America’s wars. To Chomsky, higher education is a system of imposed ignorance in which the most highly educated people are the most highly indoctrinated. At a certain level, the distinction between stupidity and ignorance slides into willful denial. For those privileged to attend the best universities and train to become the next generation of corporate, political – and especially media – leaders,

A good education instills in you the intuitive comprehension – it becomes unconscious and reflexive – that you just don’t think certain things…that are threatening to power interests.

This entire issue of how our institutions function to dumb us down is part of something even larger than the myth of American Innocence. The myth of the killing of the children is the most fundamental narrative upon which all of Western patriarchal culture is founded. In Chapters Six and Ten of my book I discuss the immensely long narrative – beginning with Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to impress his god – in which fathers learned to invert ancient male initiation practices into the literal sacrifice of male children in the cauldron of war. Beginning with mandatory public education and continuing with the spell of advertising and mass media, that process has resulted in conditions in which our innate intelligence – our ability to discriminate and think critically – has atrophied.

Indeed, even if we retain our belief in the value of public education, this process has produced a nasty feedback mechanism in which the most ethically-challenged and hyper-ambitious individuals rise to the highest corporate and political heights, and then we continue to elect them as they shamelessly, even proudly go about destroying that institution. Why? Because they work for people who know, as Aristotle and Jefferson agreed, that if the rest of us really learned how the world works, we’d rise up and and throw them out.

Please note that nowhere in this essay do I blame teachers, thousands of whom understand exactly what I’m talking about and work within the system to actually educate — rather than instruct — their students. But in our demythologized world, that system, like all of our institutions, was designed to bring out the worst in us, not the best. We need to imagine something better.

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Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it. – Mark Twain

Our government wasn’t set up for one group to have all three branches of government…You know, the House, the Senate, and the executive…my dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of socialism. – Tommy Tuberville

Mr. Tuberville is a retired college football coach, a climate change denier and Alabama’s new Senator. He is also an ignoramus, or at least he plays one on TV. Either way, he’s a perfect symbol for our next query: Are Americans really that freaking stupid?

I’ve explored a related question – Why are Americans so freaking crazy?  here. And I’ve argued that many New Age Yoga types have bought into the QAnon con job because they seem to lack the ability to discriminate between reality and convenient, self-serving narratives here.

It’s a no-brainer: an educated populace is a prerequisite for a functioning democracy. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” Long before, Plato argued that men who didn’t know right from wrong shouldn’t be allowed in government. But all Greek men were expected to participate in the public sphere. Those who didn’t were known as idiotas.

So what is a well-informed populace? How do we make sense of seventy million people voting for Trumpus, more than in 2016, when they had four years to hear at least some of his 20,000 lies? Yes, I try to have compassion for those who vote against their interests. But no, I don’t have the patience to talk about meeting such people halfway. Are they stupid or just terribly misinformed? And yet – what about all those Democrats who swallowed the Russiagate lies, or those who supported Bernie Sanders’ platform but allowed the DNC to convince them that he was unelectable?

In 2010, half of us believed the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. Seventy percent couldn’t name their senators or congresspersons. Twenty percent either thought that Barack Obama was the Anti-Christ or were not sure, and 40% wanted the government to “stay out of Medicare.” Forty percent didn’t believe in evolution and could name only four of the Ten Commandments. Nineteen percent thought that conservatives oppose cutting taxes. Twelve percent of American adults believed Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.

More recently, one in three Americans would fail the citizenship test. Twelve percent think Dwight Eisenhower led troops in the Civil War. One in three believe God decides who wins sporting events. One in four believe the Sun orbits the Earth and can name all three branches of government. A third cannot name any First Amendment rights. Eighteen percent say that Muslims don’t have the same rights as Christians. Forty percent (including 25% of those with college degrees) believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago. Forty percent believe that there is a war on Christmas. We think Muslims are seventeen times as large a portion of the U.S. population as they actually are, and we think, wrongly, that most immigrants are in the country illegally. A tenth of adults have never heard of the Holocaust. Only 15% of Republicans believe that climate change is a serious problem, and 75% of them believe that the recent election was rigged.

If these lists seem skewed toward evangelicals, well, duh! That “forty percent” keeps coming up. But such folks, numerous as they are (25-35% of the U.S. population), are not the only demographic to seriously misunderstand reality. We are similarly ignorant about one of our most fundamental mythological values: social mobility, or the opportunity to get ahead. The likelihood of advancing in social class has decreased significantly since the 1980s. But 56% of those blue-collar men who correctly perceived George Bush’s 2003 tax cuts as favoring the rich still supported them. In 2000, 19% of us believed we would “soon” be in the top one percent income bracket, and another 19% thought they already were. Two-thirds expected to have to pay the estate tax one day (only two percent will).

We could go on. Even without referencing the recent presidential vote, it’s clear that large numbers of us don’t know very much. But here’s the real question: are Americans really so naturally dumb, or have we been socialized to be both uninformed and apathetic? As a progressive, I side with those who argue that we are naturally intelligent, and that the few profit by keeping the many unaware. As a mythologist, I suggest that we are in a time when our myths are collapsing, and with them, our fundamental institutions, including media, religion and government. And as we’ll see, one institution in particular – public education – was specifically designed to dumb us down.

Media

James Madison agreed with Aristotle that full democracy would lead to the poor uniting and taking the property of the rich. Aristotle’s solution was to reduce inequality, while Madison, articulating the basic contradiction of American mythology, proposed reducing democracy. This originally meant keeping citizenship away from people of color and women, the vast majority of the population. Once legal discrimination ended, it meant keeping people from voting, or distracting people from caring about voting. It meant turning tens of millions of us into idiotas.

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The media, writes Noam Chomsky, functions “to keep people from understanding the world.” An efficient system of control, a brainwashing under freedom, combines relatively free speech and press with patriotic indoctrination and marginalization of alternative voices, leaving the impression that society is really open. By limiting debate to those who never challenge our mythic assumptions of innocence and benevolence, our system maintains the illusion that we all share a common interest.

Those who control government and media allow such debate, but only when the boundaries of acceptable thought are clear. In this context, the “loyal opposition” legitimizes these unspoken limits by their very presence. The system works precisely because of our traditional freedom of expression. It distributes just enough wealth to limit dissent, while it heightens anxiety, isolates people and turns them toward symbols that create loyalty.

Ignorance is a major component of the myth of American innocence, and for seventy years, television (a third of which is advertising) has functioned to keep it that way. American children view 20,000 commercials a year. The generations raised on TV have been the first to be less well informed than their elders. This is partially a result of the impact of technology and partially due to decades of well-financed right-wing shock jocks, the loss of the Fairness Doctrine, the rise of religious programming and Fox News – an entire industry, in Rebecca Solnit’s words, that is

…devoted to convincing white people that liberal elitists look down on them…plus a political party whose leaders all understand that that idea is key to their political project and so join in the chorus at every opportunity.

But it’s also partially due to the fact that the grand old giants of the mainstream media have long been complicit in keeping Americans unaware of the massive violence perpetrated by the American empire, and failing that, in justifying it in terms of American innocence and good intentions.

This is the original “fake news”, and it comes in two forms. The first, of course, is outright if discrete lying or propaganda. The second, more subtle, is censoring, ignoring and marginalizing of ideas until they can do so no longer, at which point they begin to demonize (often with false equivalencies). Bernie Sanders is only the most recent example. The MSM know very well what not to say, and who butters their bread. As David Rockefeller candidly admitted in 1991,

We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine…whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost 40 years. 

I’ve compiled many articles about how the MSM serve both the American empire and the myth of American innocence here. We know the purpose of fake news: to generate internet traffic and revenue. The worst offender, the Washington Post (owned entirely by the CIA contractor Jeff Bezos), regularly publishes terrible, sensationalistic articles that get massively re-tweeted, and then posts tiny retractions in its back pages. Glen Greenwald writes:

Whether the Post’s false stories here can be distinguished from what is commonly called “Fake News” is, at this point, a semantic dispute, particularly since “Fake News” has no cogent definition. Defenders of Fake News as a distinct category typically emphasize intent in order to differentiate it from bad journalism. That’s really just a way of defining Fake News so as to make it definitionally impossible for mainstream media outlets like the Post ever to be guilty of it (much the way terrorism is defined to ensure that the U.S. government and its allies cannot, by definition, ever commit it).

But this attempt to manage our minds is, of course, much older than the internet. And here’s an argument for our innate intelligence. Throughout the entire twentieth century, the mass media was forced to inundate the public with massive, daily anti-communist, then anti-Muslim and now anti-Russian and anti-Chinese propaganda in their effort to override our more cooperative and compassionate natures. But even so, by 2015, it was clear to millions that the MSM had long been the voice of the oligarchs. Trumpus flipped the notion to criticism of the “liberal” media and then shortened it to “the media.” And, since progressive news groups went underfunded and marginalized, Fox and its even loonier descendants appeared to be the only alternative.

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Now, the algorithms used by all the major social media platforms encourage rapid dissemination of unreliable information and the confirmation bias that results from seeing only what the viewer already believes in. Trumpus’ base have been in a curious position for years in this regard: they are intelligent enough not to believe the MSM, but having been propagandized by decades of right-wing media, they look at him and simply don’t believe their eyes.

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But let’s remember that in any large, capitalist nation the function of both mainstream and far right media is similar and twofold: to make money, and to serve the deep state by keeping people docile – or, failing that, by manipulating their prejudices. And we are not talking about something theoretical. Yes, it’s Thanksgiving and Trumpus appears to be conceding. But as Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting writes, the MSM have been

…slow to accurately convey the reality and significance of Trump’s election theft efforts…failure to report the facts much earlier is inexcusable…they cannot credibly feign ignorance…they have also run cover for the Republican Party’s complicity in enabling and actively assisting Trump’s efforts, as Trump cannot steal the election on his own.

The cliché is true; we are divided. Most of us now fall into two groups – those who consume the lies and denial of the MSM, and those who consume the lies and fear mongering of right-wing media. Since left-wing media is so underfunded, and since social media severely marginalizes it, most people are simply unaware of it. The second factor deeply impacted the past two elections in which 55% of white women decided that privilege was more important than reproductive rights, sexual autonomy, access to health and child care or solidarity with women of color. Even if such decisions produce short-term benefits, in the long run they’re killing us.

          Blame it on the black folks, blame it on the Jews, blame it on anybody not like you.
          You can blame it on the reds, you can blame it on the greens,
          But you never put the blame on the man who pulls the strings.
          …Why? Because you’re stupid. — San Francisco Mime Troupe

Next, Part Seventeen: Is it only the media, or is education itself the problem?

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