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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Is There Any Hope Left For The US?

Is there hope left for this country is a question a friend of mine recently asked. I said that it might be that we have to go the way of Europe before there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What is the way of Europe? The way of Europe was WW I and WW II. There use to be quite a bit of intolerance, infighting, and the desire for control before that war. But the devastation that resulted from both wars at least temporarily changed Europe into becoming a more tolerant place. So when we question other regions in the world for their perpetual fighting, we need to realize what it took for Europe to become as peaceful and tolerant, at least within its borders, as it seems to be today.

But what threatens our hope is what is happening within our borders, even after the Civil Rights Movement. We have at least two strikes against us. For the first strike, we should note that Martin Luther King Jr. warned us that for as long as we value things, which are gadgets, profits, and property rights, over people, we will have racism, war/militarism, and economic exploitation/materialism. Note that in 2 cases there are 2 options given because King expressed what is invevitable in 2 different but related results.

Our second strike is what naturally proceeds out of the first strike: that is tribalism. For if things are more important than people, we should note that we will compete for those things in groups. And as loyalty to those groups increases, tribalism emerges and increases. 

What is tribalism? It is when loyalty to a group becomes so great that one loses their objectivity in judging both themselves and those outside their group. When one loses objectivity in judging themselves, they fail to see the weaknesses and faults of their own group. When one loses objectivity in judging those outside the group, they become unable to recongize the merits of those outside their group. Thus, what is right and wrong is determined by who does what to whom. This is moral relativity. Another term for this moral relativity is a 'gang mentality.'

And with tribalism also comes a group authoritarianism where failure to agree with or support one's group causes one to be angry and hostile toward others. The past and current reaction of some "patriotic" Americans to Colin Kaepernick's protests during the playing of the National Anthem is just an illustration of group authoritarianism. But that isn't the only example. The hostility that results from the sharp divisions between the police and minorities or the police and citizens who only verbally object to or question their actions provide other examples of authoritarianism. The sharp ideological divisions exist and the hostility between rival ideological groups withing our nation provide other examples of group authoritarianism. And the economic apartheid that exists between the upper economic class and the other classes or the disdain that some in the middle class have shown toward the lower economic class also serve as examples of tribalism.

As we can see, tribalism so permeates both the American society and it also does the same in the world. The current pending legislation that criminalizes support for BDS because it targets Israel in order to stop its Occupation against the Palestinians can provide multiple examples of tribalism both in terms of the loyalty some lawmakers have to Israel and also by some in the BDS community as they react to those not following BDS. And it isn't too difficult to see the tribalism that exists where there are violent clashes in the world.

Now whether or not we've struck out and are doomed depends on whether our current embrace of authoritarianism is a strike or is merely a foul ball hit out of play. For, as just described, authoritarianism is a part of tribalism as it exists within groups. One of the signs of authoritarianism is the showing of hostility to those who do not follow the traditions or recognized authority figures of one's group. Another sign of authoritarianism is that of viewing the world in black/white concepts where one is either right or wrong without having any partial merit or nuance. Signs of authoritarianism are listed at the following website but we should note that that perspective of authoritarianism was written to target conservatives. Authoritarianism exists in liberals and leftists as well (click here).

We see this authoritarianism in how willing people are to break convention or in how they react to the breaking of convention. An example of this authoritarianism exists in how we vote. When presented with the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, very few people voted for third party candidates. In fact, those who did were told that they were throwing the election to one of the two major party candidates. Granted that none of the third party candidates were prize candidates, still that both of the two major party candidates posed more as threats to our society than as merely options for candidates for office was rather obvious.

Donald Trump's tweeting temper tantrums to any who questions him also becomes another side of authoritarianism. For there are two sides of authoritarianism: the active and passive sides. Those with power who are hostile to dissent show the active side. Those who are reluctant to or are even afraid to question the traditions or recognized authoritary figures show the passive side of authoritarianism. 

With authoritarianism comes the practice of determining truth not by examining the facts and logic involved in a statement or argument, but by the credentials of the source. Thus when Trump tweeted that Meryl Streep was an overrated actress after she spoke against his imitation of a disabled reporter, instead of challenging how she interpreted what he did, he attacked her credentials hoping that passive authoritarians would then ignore her. Authoritarians prefer to discredit their opponents rather than to engage in any kind of discussion with them.

By embracing authoritarianism, we lose the ability to challenge the abuse of power. And indeed, what we are seeing is a sharp rise in the abuse of power whether that power is exhibited by local police or those with supervisory positions at work or school, or it is exhibited at the national level. And with the other two strikes, we lose the motivation to challenge the abuse others as they exercise authority. We can see that loss of motivation even in those we might think of as rebels. For how many millennials do we see who are so glued to their gadgets that they become less and less aware of the world around them and start to lose ability to interact with people personally?

So we have at least two strikes. And whether we are denial of having struck out or we have merely hit a foul ball out of play remains to be seen. In any event, hope for substantial change without having to go through devastation and tremendous losses as has been suffered in the past is dwindling. What better time there is to take a blog break.

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