January 11, 2016

Crisis: Civilization, Sanders & Clinton, Ordinary People, Perestroika & Medicine
Sections                                                                                          crisis index       

The Great Forgetting
2. Bernie Sanders Is Right About Clinton and Big Banks
3. How We Learned to Stop Worrying About People and
     Love the Bombing
praying for perestroika…

This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 11, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges, that is true, interesting and important, though I guess it will not be popular, which is a pity; item 2 is mostly about the earnings of Bill and Hillary Clinton, who got a mere $ 139 million dollars by lying for the big banks; item 3 is about an article by Tom Engelhardt that poses a fundamental question to which I think I have a good (but impopular) answer; and item 4 is about an article by 1 boring old man who compares the practices of the modern American pharmaceutical corporations with Stalin's policies - and rightly so, in my opinion.

1. The Great Forgetting

The first article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
America’s refusal to fund and sustain its intellectual and cultural heritage means it has lost touch with its past, obliterated its understanding of the present, crushed its capacity to transform itself through self-reflection and self-criticism, and descended into a deadening provincialism. Ignorance and illiteracy come with a cost. The obsequious worship of technology, hedonism and power comes with a cost. The primacy of emotion and spectacle over wisdom and rational thought comes with a cost. And we are paying the bill.
I think that is basically true, but it also doesn't mention two points that are surely relevant:

(i) the "intellectual and cultural heritage" of the Americans (like that of any other country) that indeed has been for a good part destroyed, it seems on purpose, never was the heritage of more than a fairly small percentage, and

(ii) the percentage that did have some intellectual and cultural heritage - say: 1 in 10 of all adults - was simply more intelligent and therefore more interested in culture, art or science than the other 90%.

You may doubt this, but since I am the child of very poor communist parents who were quite intelligent but did not have the money to go to school or study after they were 15, which again made it difficult for me to study (though I succeeded and got one of the best M.Sc. degrees), I am quite certain of this, indeed as certain as I am also in fact one of the few with a really proletarian background who could and did study, even in the Netherlands, that is supposedly,
but not really, a paradise of "equivalence". [1]

Then there is this:
The decades-long assault on the arts, the humanities, journalism and civic literacy is largely complete. All the disciplines that once helped us interpret who we were as a people and our place in the world—history, theater, the study of foreign languages, music, journalism, philosophy, literature, religion and the arts—have been corrupted or relegated to the margins. We have surrendered judgment for prejudice. We have created a binary universe of good and evil. And our colossal capacity for violence is unleashed around the globe, as well as on city streets in poor communities, with no more discernment than that of the blinded giant Polyphemus. The marriage of ignorance and force always generates unfathomable evil, an evil that is unseen by perpetrators who mistake their own stupidity and blindness for innocence.
Again I mostly agree, with a small difference and a small precisification.

The precisification is that this "decades-long assault on the arts, the humanities, journalism and civic literacy" was part of the handiwork of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who started it, very consciously also [2], around 1980 (with help of the quasi-leftist postmodernists in the universities).

The small difference is the remark I made above: It is not as if the USA was ever driven, in majority, by "the arts, the humanities, journalism and civic literacy". This always was a minority effort that did not reach considerable portions of the majority.

But it is true that at present most of the influence of (really) leftist and/or (really) liberals [3] is far more muted than it was before 1980, and this is in considerable part due to the enormous decline in free and honest news, in part because of less money due to less advertisements, and in part because rich rightist tycoons have been buying up papers and changing editors, staffs and policies.

Next, there is this, which is fundamentally correct:

Those few who acknowledge the death of our democracy, the needless suffering inflicted on the poor and the working class in the name of austerity, and the crimes of empire—in short those who name our present and past reality—are whitewashed out of the public sphere. If you pay homage to the fiction of the democratic state and the supposed “virtues” of the nation, including its right to wage endless imperial war, you get huge fees, tenure, a television perch, book, film or recording contracts, grants and prizes, investors for your theater project or praise as an pundit, artist or public intellectual. The pseudo-politicians, pseudo-intellectuals and pseudo-artists know what to say and what not to say.
I think that is fundamentally correct, and it is mainly due - again - to the enormous decline in free and honest news, which indeed also means that
the liars, the frauds, the pseudos, and the sincere rightist propagandists got virtually free play in the main media.

Here is one of the consequences:

Amid the swelling disparity between reality and reality as the corporate state seeks to have it portrayed, the idiocy and mendacity of the elites and their courtiers grow more ludicrous. The institutions that educated the public and fostered the common good are even more fiercely attacked, defunded and rendered anemic. The dumbing down of the country—fed by the crippling of the safe spaces where ideas, dissent and creativity could be expressed, where structures and assumptions could be questioned—accelerates.
Incidentally: There is a real and massive dumbing down, also in the Netherlands:

The Dutch universities have halved their years for "the same" (supposed) degrees, while they receive 18-year olds who did learn less than half of what I had to learn to get into university - and these 18-year olds spend the first of their three years in some studies mostly in learning the stuff they did not anymore get in high school, like decent reckoning and simple algebra and geometry.

All of this is as true as is the fact that almost no one cares, and especially not in Holland, where everyone has learned that "everybody" - these days: with four grandparents with real Dutch names - "is equivalent to everybody", which means all moral and all intellectual differences are denied to exist, simply because these indeed hardly do exist for the IQs of a 100 or less, which make up half or more of the population.

My last quotation is about Trump and Hillary Clinton and is quite just:
Presidential candidate Donald Trump may be boorish, narcissistic, stupid, racist and elitist, but he does not have Hillary Clinton’s carefully honed and chilling amoral artifice. It was she, and an ethically bankrupt liberal establishment, that created the fertile ground for Trump by fleecing the citizens on behalf of corporations and imposing the neoliberal project.
Yes, indeed - and the last link (neoliberal) is excellent. There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended (though I disagree with Hedges about Sanders).

And in case you still like Hillary Clinton, consider the next item:

2. Bernie Sanders Is Right About Clinton and Big Banks

The second item is by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
The Vermont senator recently pointed to how Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Wall Street becomes clear when you look at how much she’s charged for speeches to Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and big banks. As an Intercept article puts it in a headline, her fees for just 12 speeches amounted to “more than most of us earn in a lifetime.”
Indeed, and what Hillary and Bill Clinton got from the big banks for defending their interests is pretty obscene. This is quoted from the Intercept article:

According to public disclosures, by giving just 12 speeches to Wall Street banks, private equity firms, and other financial corporations, Clinton made $2,935,000 from 2013 to 2015 ... Clinton’s most lucrative year was 2013, right after stepping down as secretary of state. That year, she made $2.3 million for three speeches to Goldman Sachs and individual speeches to Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Investments, Apollo Management Holdings, UBS, Bank of America, and Golden Tree Asset Managers. ...

To put these numbers into perspective, compare them to lifetime earnings of the median American worker. In 2011, the Census Bureau estimated that, across all majors, a “bachelor’s degree holder can expect to earn about $2.4 million over his or her work life.” A Pew Research analysis published the same year estimated that a “typical high school graduate” can expect to make just $770,000 over the course of his or her lifetime.

Altogether, the couple are estimated to have made over $139 million from paid speeches.

Which is both obscenely much, and clearly point to what the Clintons are: Rich clever frauds who operate for the banks and the rich, while pretending to work for the poor and the middle class because there most votes are.

3. How We Learned to Stop Worrying About People and Love the Bombing

The third item is by Tom Engelhardt on TomDispatch:

This starts as follows, and in fact poses a very fundamental question that I have been concerned with most of my life:

Torturers, rapists, murderers: for more than a decade as I researched my history of the Vietnam War, Kill Anything That Moves, I spent a good deal of time talking to them, thinking about them, reading about them, writing about them. They all had much in common. At a relatively young age, these men had traveled thousands of miles to kill people they didn’t know on the say-so of men they didn’t know, and for a mere pittance -- all of it done in the name of America.

I also spent time talking to another group of men, a much larger contingent who stood by and watched as those beside them tortured or raped or murdered. Some heartily endorsed these acts, some seemed ambivalent about them, some were appalled by them, but none did much of anything about them.

Then there was a third contingent of men: those who witnessed the torture, rapes, or murders and couldn’t -- wouldn’t -- abide by that conduct. This tiny group spoke out about what they had seen, often at the risk of their own welfare, sometimes their very lives.

What differentiated these men from each other? They had all been raised in the same country, had been subject to the same laws and norms, including prohibitions against torture, rape, and murder. Many, if not most, had grown up in similar socio-economic circumstances, received comparable educations, and at least nominally belonged to churches with strict moral codes and an emphasis on doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Why then did so many of them commit horrendous acts or stand by while others did? Why did so few speak up?

I never came up with satisfactory answers to these questions. What I learned instead was that almost any man might be a torturer or a rapist or a murderer if given the chance. I learned that most men will look the other way if at all possible. And I learned that shockingly few men are capable of the courage and the empathy necessary to stand up for those that their brothers-in-arms would just as soon kill.

I did come up with what seem to me rather satisfactory answers to these questions, more of which anon, but I know my answers are far from popular, and are very probably due to the fact that my parents were both revolutionary communists (each for 45 years), my grandparents were - 3 out of 4 - either revolutionary communists or anarchists, and all of them were quite intelligent (with IQs above 130 in any case, I think).

In fact, I do not know of anyone with such a family, and indeed I also deny that these people (most of whom I have personally known) "might be a torturer or a rapist or a murderer if given the chance" or did "look the other way if at all possible" or lacked "the empathy necessary to stand up for those that their brothers-in-arms would just as soon kill".

Then again, I agree with Engelhardt that what he says is true of most ordinary people - and here is part of my End of year notice: The world, the people, the disease that I have republished several times, simply because I think it is both true and not often seen:

One way of understanding society - any human society anywhere, of sufficient size, say 10 or a 100 or more not specially selected persons - is that the good : the bad : the stupid = 1 : 9 : 90. Alternatively expressed but to the same effect: the intelligent : unintelligent = 1 : 9 and the unegoistic : egoistic = 1 : 9, and intelligence and egoism are independent.

Note that part of my meaning is that the bad is normally the harm that is done actively or  passively to others because of egoism, indifference or malevolence, and that it is for the most part due, in everyday human practice, to indifference, convenience, or conformism:

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men  
  to do nothing."
   -- Edmund Burke

With this understanding, viz. that it is normally a lot easier to leave the good one sees that one should do, on one's own principles, undone - because leaving it undone is very often easier, more convenient, better paid, or more normal or correct.

Putting it all in a table with percentages (while remembering that intelligence and moral courage are probably for the largest part determined by innate factors, and non posse nemo obligatur):

intelligent good 1
intelligent not good 9
not intelligent good 9
not intelligent not good 81
all   100

That is one important part of the reason why Hazlitt was right and so much of human society so often is in such a mess, also because intelligence is mostly innate, but goodness is mostly a matter of personal choice:

"If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are prone to mischief, 'to every good work reprobate.'"

Next, another important part of the reasons why man's inhumanity to man is so common is that all members of society have a public and a private face and role, and the public face consists mostly of deception.

The public character people assume is usually

1. composed of lies that are derived from what they think is supposed to be desirable behaviour of members of their society
2.  it is a role played by an actor for the rewards one's society provides for playing this role or for the punishments one's society provides for not playing the role and
3.  it consists of deception even if one's deceptions happen to be the true: one knows one is playing a role.

Seen in the light of these important points - the distributions of intelligence and egoism and the fact that all social acting consists of role-playing in which deception is the norm - it is not so strange nearly all social and political analyses are false, phoney and illusory, and also part of role-playing and delusion or deception.

And - it seems - (3) is important: Those who make a career are those who are known to be liars by those who already have made a career. Somebody who is honest won't get far in any society or group, even if - very privately - many will agree he is honest and truthful.

You may disagree, and I take it most do. Then again, I do not know anyone (other than my brother) who had a family like I had. (And this was stated in the past tense  because nearly everyone is dead.)

4. praying for perestroika…

This fourth item is by 1 boring old man (in fact an American psychiatrist who has a good mind and who is honest, two characteristics that seem rare in his profes- sion):

He makes several points in his article. I will give two, and the first is indeed about perestroika:
I think that was the first time I really understood what the term, Iron Curtain, actually meant. It wasn’t made of bricks and mortar. It was control over the free flow of information in, out, and within the USSR, and it persisted from the end of World War II until the days I’m talking about – nearly half a century. Afterwards, all kinds of explanations for why the curtain fell circulated – Reagan’s rhetoric, the Internet, etc. But that was before there were PCs everywhere using the Internet. I was later told by someone who ought to know that the real chink it the armor turned out to be the fax machines that were, by then, everywhere. As soon as things started happening in Moscow, news was flying all over the USSR on the ubiquitous fax machines. Whatever the truth, the point is that the Iron Curtain finally came down when the Soviets lost control over the flow of information.
I understood the real character of the Iron Curtain and the USSR a lot sooner, but then I had communist parents, who sent me to the German Democratic Republic in 1964 (when I had just turned 14), which taught me (though not my parents) it was a militarist dictatorship.

Also, I do not think the fax machine was all that important: I think it was the combination of "socialist" repression together with - especially - the combined riches, freedoms and pop-music in the West that changed the ideologies of many
who lived under (false) "socialism" (and Chechoslovakia in 1968, and Solidarity in Poland in the 1980ies).

But this is the real point 1 boring old man made:

If you haven’t figured out the analogy I’m about to make, wipe the sleepy dust out of your eyes and think about the pharma- ceutical industry’s hold on the raw clinical trial data that’s the everyday topic here and elsewhere. It’s more than just an analogy, it’s a direct application out of Stalin’s playbook for holding onto his power. By taking advantage of the low efficacy standard for FDA Approval of a drug and publishing "uncheckable" articles in the medical literature, the companies can turn a weak statistical proof of a drug’s [perhaps trivial] effect into a campaign worth billions.
Precisely: The pharmaceutical corporations have falsified the honest medical judgements about a drug's efficacy by denying almost anyone the access to their data (which means that almost no one really knows these data) and have changed medicine's end of helping ill people to getting as rich as one can from ill people.

Also, while this is and was rampant in psychiatry since 1980, it now also has extended to the rest of medicine: Profit is the new norm in medicine, and it is gotten by fraudulence (by the pharmaceutical corporations) and by corruption (in medical men and women).


[1] Indeed I am one of the few with a really proletarian background who could and did study, and who got a fine M.Sc. degree. There are more like me (though they were not hindered by the fact that their parents were real and fairly well- known communists, as I was, repeatedly also), but (i) these could study only between 1975 and 1990 or so, without risking considerable loans, and (ii) there were and are always far fewer children of the many really poor who academically qualified than there were the relatively many children of the far fewer middle and upper classes who academically qualified.

In fact I did not meet anyone while I studied in university whose father was a house painter, like mine: Nearly everyone I met had middle or upper class parents, with more money and more education than my parents.

[2] Thatcher and Reagan did very consciously attack "
the arts, the humanities, journalism and civic literacy", but not - primarily - because they disliked them (though at least Reagan probably did), but because they did not like their leftist or liberal tendencies.

So what they did first was reducing them from intellectual disciplines to sources of leftist propaganda, and next they replaced the leftist propaganda by their own rightist propaganda, that was mainly furthered by the "neoliberal" lie that it was "pro freedom", while in fact it was only for the freedom of the rich to fleece the poor as much as they could, and as much as successive deregulations allowed.

[3] I have to qualify both "leftist" and "liberal" by "[really]" because there still are a few real leftists (like me) and a few real liberals (like me), but I know most "leftists" I have seen from the 1970ies onwards, like most "liberals" that I have seen from around the same dates, were in fact pseudos, who stole the names and falsified the messages, to make careers for themselves. (I will say some more about quasi-leftists and real leftists in a later Nederlog.)

       home - index - summaries - mail