Social Criticism

Social Criticism


Stress Distracts Us from Our Values

stress April 9th, 2019

I was recently watching an incisive, hour-long program on HBO called “One Nation Under Stress.” It is an investigative piece by head physician/journalist at CNN, Sanjay Gupta. The takeaway I perceived was that America is a nation under significant stress. If we were an individual lifeform, we would be said to be ailing, in great danger. I want to briefly take a look at some of the signs and symptoms, and take a glancing blow at some causes of stress, and highlight some of the costs. True to form, I will point out that this is based in part on cultural-political phenomena, primarily. Stress underlies it all. My ultimate point is that this is a shame, because some of the best that we humans can do is to keep our values “in front of us” and focus on what makes life worth living, and not get ulcers and become alcoholics as we focus on the ever-present hum of chronic stress that plagues most of us. 

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Patriotism: Liberal & Conservative Viewpoints

patriotism April 1st, 2019

Colin Kaepernick has done what many an African American has done in America’s long and tumultuous and somewhat ignominious history: made us all look at the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and centuries of legal precedence in a new light. He has an outstanding foil in the vacuous President of the United States, I am ashamed to say. Both representatives of polar-opposite points of view tout patriotism – though of a very different stripe. It’s an interesting, critical, and telling public debate that I suggest we all weigh in on. At best, we can progress toward higher levels of legal, societal, and emotional development if we accept America’s liabilities and mistakes and move forward with dignity and grace.

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Society Needs Economic, Social, Political Change

society January 29th, 2019

Three things came across my desk in a mere two days that made me feel like I needed to blog about capitalism again. I have critiqued America’s capitalistic society many times under the heading Social and Economic Justice here on this blog. The three sources that inspired this blog are: economist and Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman writing a piece entitled “Elizabeth Warren Does Teddy Roosevelt”; a surprising critique of capitalism from none other than Tucker Carlson (!); and a wonderful statement by “The Wizard of Omaha”, Warren Buffett. Here is enough about each of these surprising and refreshing ideas about the limits of capitalism in modern American society.

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Fake News in Trump’s America

fake news January 26th, 2019

Throughout the country’s short existence, the most authoritarian Presidents have been, in order: John Adams, George Dubya Bush, Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Jackson, and Donald Trump. There are grumblings on the Right that Obama was somewhat abusive of his power, and I think that case can be made (certainly, journalists and Freedom of Information Act seekers were very disappointed in him). I intend this essay to be about the psychology underlying political beliefs, and the hot-button topic in this realm is, perhaps with a plethora of absurdity, uttered by Trump almost daily: the term fake news. Trump most likely coined the term fake news, and though he is but a con-man, truth, lies, and deception predate him – laying bare the idiocy of our whole politico-cultural system.

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The Profit Motive, Deregulation, and Financial Crisis

December 20th, 2018

I just watched a great documentary by Vice on HBO called Panic: The Untold Story of the 2008 Financial Crisis. Anyone who watches that, The Corporation, Inside Job, Margin Call, and The Commanding Heights will be well-schooled on how the financial services industry works and how it fails to work. In this blog, I want to briefly describe the Great Recession and the resultant Tea Party movement, which is tied in to the Trump phenomenon. The profit motive, financial deregulation, elitism, politics, and the Great Recession have something to teach us if we are to avoid another, potentially catastrophic meltdown. 

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Do Politicians or Wealthy Activists Sustain Political Dysfunction?

politicians December 14th, 2018

I aim to approach the question, Is it politics that is causing the heart of the problem in America? Clearly, when the approval of Congress is below 25%, most people think that the first branch of government has some serious structural and/or functional flaws. However, when one looks at the influence of unregulated money in politics, one can see that perhaps it is the great wealth of that 5,000 American movers and shakers who wish to drastically affect the political process in a way that the founders of this country could not have imagined. So, which should we change to make the most, lasting change: reform politics as usual, or prevent the wealthy and powerful from having an outsize influence on politics? 

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“Anti-Intellectualism”: A Rejection of Critical Thinking

anti-intellectualism December 13th, 2018

Attorney, activist, author and secular humanist David Niose writes about one of the fundamental issues underlying much of the social dysfunction we see every day now in America: anti-intellectualism. What does this mean? This snippet captures his thesis well: What Americans rarely acknowledge is that many of their social problems are rooted in the rejection of critical thinking or, conversely, the glorification of the emotional and irrational. What else could explain the hyper-patriotism that has many accepting an outlandish notion that America is far superior to the rest of the world? Love of one’s country is fine, but many Americans seem to honestly believe that their country both invented and perfected the idea of freedom, that the quality of life here far surpasses everywhere else in the world.

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Trump and the GOP: When Ignorance is Dangerous

ignorance is dangerous December 10th, 2018

There have been disturbing examples around the 2018 midterm elections of the depravity of the Republican Party, not the least of which are the Georgia debacle and the North Carolina outrage. However, the GOP’s and Trump’s biggest failure and most egregious eschewing of responsibility and honor will probably turn out to the be way they have stacked important non-elected federal government positions with hacks, fools, and frauds. In this way, the GOP’s attempt to prove that government is ineffectual and inept by making it so is a stunning example of the idea that ignorance is dangerous.

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Paternalism: The Individual Vs. The People

November 21st, 2018

Paternalism is the idea that the State (one’s country) has a right to determine some rules that citizens are obliged to follow because the State knows better and something important is on the line. So, stopping at a traffic light might simply be a law – and one that everyone can agree with. Libertarians, however, object to some laws made by lawmakers on the grounds that they are unnecessarily paternalistic, and sap the liberty of the individual. Wearing helmets during motorcycling is a good example of an issue that is debated between libertarians and those who feel that the individual is not necessarily the best decision-maker when it comes to things such as safety. Clearly, gun rights are the issue du jour. Here are some thoughts about who gets to decide what, how, and why.

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GOP Chicanery is Really Treachery

November 13th, 2018

“The 2018 midterms were about voter suppression, which is also to say about robbing swaths of Americans of their constitutional rights, which is also to say about structuralized inequality. They were about enfranchisement and its opposite. They were about progress. They were about backlash. They were about women winning. They were about women losing. They were about compassion empowered, and racism rewarded, and hard work realized, and cruelty weaponized, and corruption unpunished. They were about hatred. They were about love. They were about history made. They were about history ignored. They were about American exceptionalism in the best sense and—at the same time—in the worst.” ~ Megan Garber

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