January 25, 2016

Crisis: Liberal Church, Cruz, Trump, Sanders, Apple & Jobs
Sections                                                                      crisis index    

The Suicide of the Liberal Church
2. Five Reasons Ted Cruz Is Even More Dangerous Than
     Donald Trump

3. 18 Reasons Why Donald Trump Is a Vulgar, Two-Bit
     Caesar, According to America's Conservatives

4. What the Mainstream Doesn’t Get About Bernie Sanders
The Real Legacy of Steve Jobs

This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 25, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges (who is a minister) about the churches (in the USA) with some notes on my own total lack of religion; item 2 is a brief article by Robert Reich who argues Cruz is more dangerous than Trump; item 3 is about an article with plentiful conservative reasons not to vote for Trump; item 4 is about an article that gives two reasons the main media miss about Bernie Sanders; and item 5 is about a long article by Sue Halpern that I recommend to lovers of Apple and Steve Jobs (neither was loved by me since 1981, and Jobs indeed never).

1. The Suicide of the Liberal Church

The first article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
Paul Tillich wrote that all institutions, including the church, are inherently demonic. Reinhold Niebuhr asserted that no institution could ever achieve the morality of the individual. Institutions, he warned, to extend their lives when confronted with collapse, will swiftly betray the stances that ostensibly define them. Only individual men and women have the strength to hold fast to virtue when faced with the threat of death. And decaying institutions, including the church, when consumed by fear, swiftly push those endowed with this moral courage and radicalism from their ranks, rendering themselves obsolete.
As I have said several times, I like Chris Hedges because he is smart and he has courage, and both are - in my opinion - fairly to very rare personal qualities,
which are admirable. [1]

But I don't agree with everything he says (in good part because I am a thinking person, I cannot agree on everything with anyone else), and  one of the disagreements I have with him is on religion.

In fact, there are at least two basic and rather large disagreements I have with him: First, I am a philosopher and a psychologist who is completely and totally
non-religious since I was born (meanwhile nearly 66 years ago). And second, Chris Hedges does not believe in atheists - which means in my case he does not believe in me, in my parents, in 3 out of 4 of my grandparent, in the parents of two of my grandparents, and in their parents - for the atheism on my mother's side of the family goes back to the 1850ies.

There is more below on my complete lack of any religion. First a brief sketch of the situation Chris Hedges complains about - and I should say that he is now also a Protestant minister:

The number of adults in the mainline Protestant churches—Presbyterian, Unitarian-Universalist, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, Congregationalist—decreased from about 41 million in 2007 to 36 million in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. And the average age of the congregant is 52. The Catholic Church also is being decimated; its decline has been exacerbated by its decades-long protection of sexual predators within the priesthood and the Vatican’s relentless campaign, especially under John Paul II, to force out of the church priests, nuns and lay leaders who focused their ministries on the poor and the oppressed. The Catholic Church, which has lost 3 million members over the last decade, has seen its hold on the U.S. population fall to 21 percent from 24.
Actually, these numbers are far better (for religious folks) than the Dutch proportions of religious people, and also better than the European proportions. Also, I think falls of respectively 1/7th and 1/8th part in Protestant and Catholic members in the USA, while considerable, do not amount to their "being decimated".

But what Chris Hedges is really concerned about is not so much the decline in Christian faith, as the decline in Christian liberal faith, in which I think he is correct, at least in part:

The self-identified religious institutions that thrive preach the perverted “prosperity gospel,” the message that magic Jesus will make you rich, respected and powerful if you believe in him. Jesus, they claim, is an American capitalist, bigot and ardent imperialist. These sects selectively lift passages from the Bible to justify the unjustifiable, including homophobia, war, racism against Muslims, and the death penalty. Yet there are more students — 2,067 — at the evangelical Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary alone than at the divinity schools and seminaries of Yale, Harvard, Union, Vanderbilt and Chicago, whose combined enrollment is 1,537.

The doctrine these sects preach is Christian heresy. The Christian faith — as in the 1930s under Germany’s pro-Nazi Christian church — is being distorted to sanctify nationalism, unregulated capitalism and militarism. The mainstream church, which refuses to denounce these heretics as heretics, a decision made in the name of tolerance, tacitly gives these sects credibility and squanders the prophetic voice of the church.

I am not saying Hedges is mistaken, though it seems to me - who is indeed
a complete religious outsider [2] - that the liberal faction in Christianity always has been in a minority, not only now, but also in the 1930ies, in the 1830ies etc.

Here is the last quotation I will give from Hedges' three pages, and this sounds quite true to me:

During the rise of the American species of corporate fascism — what Sheldon Wolin called “inverted totalitarianism” — the liberal church, like the rest of the liberal establishment, looked the other way while the poor and workingmen and -women, especially those of color, were ruthlessly disempowered and impoverished. The church and liberals were as silent about the buildup of mass incarceration as they once were about lynching. The mainline church refused to confront and denounce the destructive force of corporate power. It placed its faith in institutions—such as the Democratic Party—that had long ceased to function as mechanisms of reform.

The church, mirroring the liberal establishment, busied itself with charity, multiculturalism and gender-identity politics at the expense of justice, especially racial and economic justice. It retreated into a narcissistic “how-is-it-with-me” spirituality.

For one thing, I agree that "corporate fascism" is a better term than "inverted totalitarianism", indeed in considerable part because the former identifies those
who run corporations for their own mega-status and their own mega-riches, and also in part because
"inverted totalitarianism" is more a name for a technique of control they used, rather than of a real - conservative, greedy, egoistic, immoral - political philosophy or ideology (which is what fascism is).

Then again, that is less important - in the course of Hedges' arguments - than the turning away from liberalism and the turning towards power that he sketches, and in which he seems to be right, although with my side-note that this always has been the case, and not only in the Christian churches: Christianity, like religion in general, is not predominantly liberal or democratic, but tends to be, and tended to be for a very long time, towards the illiberal and the non-democratic.

Again, Hedges is also right in his last quoted paragraph, but the decline or indeed the inversion of genuine liberal standards and their replacement by "
charity, multiculturalism and gender-identity politics" not only is true of religion but happened in politics as well, and on a larger scale: This is not real leftism anymore, it is part of the mock "leftism" that has been growing over the past 35 years, and that mostly replaced the real leftists, who indeed are mostly inspired
by truth and justice.

Finally, about my own complete lack of any religion: I think Chris Hedges is simply mistaken and also morally wrong in insisting that he does not believe in atheists. (And I do have degrees in philosophy and psychology.)

It is a logically much better tenable position than that of any of the more than 3000 factually existing and each other factually contradicting religions, and it simply is nonsense to insist that anyone who chooses one of these 3000 different divinities must be more right than any atheist.

Also, it is not polite to atheists (and I never said I do not believe in religious people either).

2. Five Reasons Ted Cruz Is Even More Dangerous Than Donald Trump

The second item is by Robert Reich on Truthdig, and originally on Reich's Facebook page (which I never read since I detest Facebook):

This starts as follows - and I give excerpts of the points. For the full text, click the last dotted link:
Five reasons Ted Cruz is even more dangerous than Donald Trump:

1. He’s more fanatical. (...)

2. Cruz is a true believer. Trump has no firm principles except
    making money, getting attention and gaining power. (...)

3. He’s smarter. (...)
4. He’s more disciplined and strategic. (...)
5. Cruz is a loner who’s willing to destroy institutions. (...)

Both men would be disasters for America, but Cruz would be the larger disaster.

I agree.

3. 18 Reasons Why Donald Trump Is a Vulgar, Two-Bit Caesar, According to America's Conservatives

The third item is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:
The Republican Party’s “serious people” wing has issued an anti-Donald Trump manifesto in the vaunted conservative journal, National Review. The piece is filled with irony, humor and blunt assessments of how the GOP is crumbling from within. But it’s all there, confirming everything that’s been said about what Trump represents and how he has exacerbated the Republican Party’s identity crisis. 
I say. I did not know that. Also, I will not quote all 18 reasons, and the 9 reasons I do quote, which follow, are all quoted without text, which you can find, if interested, by clicking the last dotted link.

Here are 9 of the reasons (none of which was thought up or phrased by me):

3.   A Republican politician who doesn’t read what we write.
4.   He’s a boor, a creep, a louse and political fraud.
6.   He's an egomaniac who changes his mind too much.
8.   He lacks every important qualification for office.
9.   More vulgar than an “American Mussolini."
12. He’s a poser who’s trashing the Republican Party.
14. He’s a sexist pig and a predatory businessman.
16. He’s mentally ill and would be worse than any

18. He’s a thin-skinned crybaby and bully.
I don't think they are all true, but it is nice to know there are quite a few Republicans who are rather insistent that Trump does not represent them.

Here is the lesson Steve Rosenfeld draws:

The Takeaway

If Trump snares the GOP nomination, the nation’s leading conservatives have given a great gift to his Democratic Party competitor. They need not look any further than the National Review anti-Trump manifesto to confirm everything Trump’s critics have been saying.

I think that is also a bit of an exaggeration ("everything"?) but it is true that Trump does not seem to be much liked by many Republican conservatives.

4. What the Mainstream Doesn’t Get About Bernie Sanders

The fourth item is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The normally perspicacious Paul Krugman wrote a column on Friday entitled “How Change Happens.”

The last paragraph sums up his argument nicely:

Sorry, but there’s nothing noble about seeing your values defeated because you preferred happy dreams to hard thinking about means and ends. Don’t let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence.

Krugman seems to think that Sanders’ idealistic stands are “happy dreams” because change happens from the hard work of compromise and settling for half-loafs.  As a result, he suggests that Hillary Clinton and her pragmatism are the “adult” approach and the strategy most likely to lead to change.

I have treated this before, and my own point of view is simply that Krugman prefers Clinton to Sanders, and indulged in considerable bits of obvious propaganda, as is obvious from his terminology ("happy dreams", "destructive self-indulgence", "adult" etc.)

Also, I don't think this is very serious, unless you think Paul Krugman must be right and is too intelligent to use propaganda.

The following two points are more important:

There are two things the MSM and the punditocracy don’t understand.

First, Sanders isn’t simply trying to get himself elected; he’s trying to ignite a revolution that will snatch control of this country from corporations and the uber rich and hand it back to citizens. 

Second, the fact of the matter is that “none-of-the-above” has won every election since 1960, with some 40 to 50 percent of those eligible to vote not voting.  That is, the number of potentially eligible voters who stayed home was larger than the number voting for the winning candidate.  And the dirty little secret is that America is a left of center, progressive electorate on an issue-be-issue basis, and many of these are the ones who stay home in disgust at their lack of choice.

If Sanders is to win, he must get a sizable number of the disaffected and cynical voters to reengage in the political process.  If he does, he wins.
I would not have formulated it thus, but John Atcheson is right that Sanders does try to "snatch control of this country from corporations and the uber rich", who indeed got that control as a result of 35 years of intriguing, that also were mostly successful, and I guess he is also right in saying that if Sanders succeeds in getting great numbers of voters to vote, he will very probably win - and in saying (not quoted) that if he doesn't succeed in doing that he will very probably loose.

In short, it's all down to the intelligence and the morality of ordinary Americans...

5. The Real Legacy of Steve Jobs

The fifth and last item Sue Halpern on The New York Review of Books:

This starts as follows:
Partway through Alex Gibney’s earnest documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, an early Apple Computer collaborator named Daniel Kottke asks the question that appears to animate Danny Boyle’s recent film about Jobs: “How much of an asshole do you have to be to be successful?” Boyle’s Steve Jobs is a factious, melodramatic fugue that cycles through the themes and variations of Jobs’s life in three acts—the theatrical, stage-managed product launches of the Macintosh computer
(1984), the NeXT
computer (1988), and the iMac computer (1998). For Boyle (and his screenwriter Aaron Sorkin) the answer appears to be “a really, really big one.”

Gibney, for his part, has assembled a chorus of former friends, lovers, and employees who back up that assessment, and he is perplexed about it. By the time Jobs died in 2011, his cruelty, arrogance, mercurial temper, bullying, and other childish behavior were well known. So, too, were the inhumane conditions in Apple’s production facilities in China—where there had been dozens of suicides—as well as Jobs’s halfhearted response to them. Apple’s various tax avoidance schemes were also widely known.
There is a whole lot more in the article, which is especially recommended to Apple- and Jobs-lovers. I read it all, but I never needed any convincing that I do and did not like Jobs nor Apple.

In fact, the only thing I really liked about Apple was Wozniak's - the true genius behind Apple - Apple II computer, which a good friend of mine bought in 1980, and which did little else than run AppleBasic, but that was quite good and quite effective, even though you had to store everything on cassette tapes.

After that, all I saw of Apple were very expensive closed source machines that were very well propagandized, but since I much dislike both closed source and propaganda, I never was an Apple-fan or a Jobs-fan.


[1] One of the things I will never agree with is the Dutch very widely spread value that "everybody knows that everybody is of equal value". For me, that is a gross lie, that tries to bring down all individual human excellence, which is always rare and always individuial, to the level of the most common, the most stupid, the most greedy, the most egoistic and/or the most talentless.

Also, I am quite certain that in many who do insist that "everybody knows that everybody is of equal value" - you, me, Hitler and Einstein, to take four examples out of many more - do so on purpose, because they much dislike the idea that anybody (who is not a singer or a star (!)) is more talented than they are, and because they know there are many more stupid than intelligent people.

[2] I do or did have several friends who were raised non-religiously, more or less as I was, but who became Buddhists. I reject all religions, and always did: it's nonsense or false.

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