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View Diary: Book review: The balance and battle between individualism and community (88 comments)

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  •  Words as weapons, PR armies, masked intent (2+ / 0-)
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    Rick B, basket

    I think Rick B has some good analysis.  I grew up in the South and appreciate that Bush came from an Oligarchy based on worship of Certain Families.  

    But it isn't intellectually neat and simple.  These people are full of contradictions and hypocrisies that they dare not analyze.

    Individualism, or Libertarianism is a conceit that is especially popular in the Southwest as well as the South.  There is a sort of cowboy idea that to this day makes it difficult to talk about important community involving issues such as the limits of the water supply on development and growth.  

    In this mix, evangelical Christianity is an ingredient that helps the cause of supporting the rich getting their way by disabling critical thinking and promoting conformity, through a belief in contradictory things.  

    What drives a lot of these people is fear.  They fear science because they don't understand it.  They fear what Wall Street fears because their investment newsletters tell them, they fear the future because they feel it is all moving too fast.  The people in the rural communities, especially across the West, fear people in the big cities because those places are so big and so full of different minorities.  They fear minorities.  None of that is in the Bible, but that doesn't stop people from using the Bible - especially the Epistle by Saint Norquist or the Gospel according to the American Heritage Foundation.  

    Mark Twain would love it.  If he came back today, he would not need a briefing.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Sun May 27, 2012 at 11:04:57 AM PDT

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    •  I grew up in a similar South (2+ / 0-)
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      joe wobblie, basket

      Stuart, you've got it! Thank you for the support.

      I grew up in Beaumont, Texas where Spindletop Oil Well in 1901 brought the oil revolution to Texas. Beaumont after WW II was about 100,000 people and was run by about four or five very wealthy families. It was tightly controlled. I was told that the railroads considered running tracks to Beaumont to make it their southern port city, but those families knew they would lose control of the city and did not permit the railroads in. So the railroads chose Houston instead and created what is now the 4th largest city in the U.S.

      Beaumont today has a population of a little less than 120,000 people.

      I used to wonder why the TV shows which had been dominated by westerns seemed to all of a sudden in the 60's became dominated by cop shows. I now think that was when Hollywood decided it was a major urban area and no longer rural. Texas itself ceased to be an agricultural - oil dominated state sometime in the 70's or 80's and now all the metropolitan areas except Fort Worth are strongly Democratic. But the rural politicians don't want to lose power, so they continue to dominate state-wide politics here.

      You are right that the Libertarian ideas predominate in the rural areas along with fear of "the Other." That's the source of right-wing idiocies (see Congressman Louie Gohmert of Tyler, TX or Paul Ryan of Janesville, Wisconsin. The Republican conservatives are almost entirely from rural backgrounds which is where the Libertarian fantasies still are quite powerful.

      The Democrats represent the needs of the urban population of America, and that includes Social Security, Medicare and universal health care. The rural "aristocrats" hate the takeover of so much social stuff by the Federal government because it puts limits on their ability to be the local landlords, much as the English Justices of the Peace used to be in England.

      The demand for social equality, absence of class distinctions and social mobility is a bedrock requirement for the workforce of an industrial urban population. These workers work in highly specialized extremely productive jobs, but need a bureaucracy to coordinate the work. That's why those jobs are found in cities. Rural jobs are much less specialized, require less education generally and tend to pay less as a result. As a result we have two different cultures in America.

      The main places the rural culture still predominates (other than the red counties in the Presidential election map) are the Old South and the flyover states in the center of the country. They don't need minorities who have the idea that they should have social mobility. They need a peasant workforce with low education requirements.

      This election is another which will be dominated by the battle between America's rural and less productive political culture and America's much more productive and egalitarian urban culture. Just read the state Republican Platforms of the rural states and you will see that rural anger and fear of minorities and of change oozing off the page.

      This is not a war of ideas. It's entirely a war between two cultures.

      By the way, the battle between the rural culture and the urban culture does appear in the Bible. Max Weber pointed out that the prophets were representative of the Jewish farmers who often had to borrow money from the city bankers for seed and such. A bad harvest resulted in loss of the farms and increased wealth shifting to the cities. There's a reason why the prophets told tales of the nasty goings on in Sodom and Gomorrah. That's where the bankers were.

      The US Supreme Court has by it's actions and rhetoric ceased to be legitimate. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - over

      by Rick B on Sun May 27, 2012 at 12:22:15 PM PDT

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      •  I grew up in Waco (2+ / 0-)
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        Rick B, basket

        You probably know something about this central Texas town that likes to call itself "The Buckle on the Bible Belt."

        A lot of people remember the name because of the episode with David Koresh.  This sect was not really all that strange in the context of a very Revelations oriented Baptist culture.

        However, I grew to see the real truth.  Back in the 1920s the KKK had local units that posed for pictures much like company Kiawinis leagues.  I particularly remember a group photo for a church furniture manufacturing company.  

        There were a few leading families with names like Cameron and Lacy.  

        There was an opening for an Art Center, high on a western hill that featured home movies shot around the spectacular swimming pool with its colonnades during the height of the Depression.  

        The real history there is that Waco, at the turn of the century was the dynamic heart of the Texas economy, as it was in the center of cotton growing country.  However, the big fish wanted to stay the big fish there and refused to bring in railroads, which then went to Dallas.  

        I learned about a specialized sort of preacher that would go into the death beds of the rich and persuade them that God had gifted them with wealth and that they needed to arrive in Heaven unburdened.  Deathbed codicils are one of the ways that the far right have been funded.  

        I think that for most progressives who never lived in Texas it is hard to believe how much money comes from this source and how much influence this confluence of special interests and evangelism has on American politics.  

        I have tried to explain this in places like Seattle.  In a more rational, perhaps Lutheran and West Coast environment it is hard to believe.  Nobody up there is so hard bitten.  

        I think that the reason for this is that Texas in the past was truly a harsh environment so people had to be fiercely aggressive to survive.  That is what creates the evangelical culture.  Even people who are not religious are affected.  

        I have been to Beaumont and the Houston area.  Do you remember when Bob Eckhardt lost in 1982?

        hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

        by Stuart Heady on Sun May 27, 2012 at 02:42:34 PM PDT

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        •  Bob Eckhardt (1+ / 0-)
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          was my adopted Congressman. He lost to Jack Fields in 1980.

          If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

          by texaslucy on Sun May 27, 2012 at 07:35:04 PM PDT

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        •  I somewhat remember Eckhardt (2+ / 0-)
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          basket, joe wobblie

          I was attending the University of Houston at Clear Lake City at the time working on my MBA. I never took too much notice of him when he lost.

          So now we have established that the local powers that be in Beaumont and Waco created Houston and Dallas rather than build up the cities they ran. I hadn't heard the Waco story but it is quite typical.  Sort of typical for conservatives and aristocrats. They fight change even when it is good for them.

          The thing about the Texas evangelical culture is that it is primarily rural. It has lost a lot of control of the people who have moved to the major cities, but only after the second generation grows up in the cities. In my opinion it's that loss of control that the radical preachers are reacting to. That's the basis of Creation Science and the radical view of the bible (biblical inerrancy especially.) The preachers didn't used to have to get so radical because, as you say, the climate was quite harsh, especially west of IH 35 towards El Paso. That area is also the Libertarian center of Texas, though the idiocy does spread all over the state.

          Waco, of course, it where Baylor University the Baptist college is located. It's also where Rand Paul attended for three years before going to Med School without an undergrad degree. That's still done rarely, especially if your father is an MD and a congressman. Nepotism is popular if you are rural and from a well-to-do family.

          The US Supreme Court has by it's actions and rhetoric ceased to be legitimate. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - over

          by Rick B on Sun May 27, 2012 at 08:59:12 PM PDT

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          •  Peoples Republic of Austin (1+ / 0-)
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            Rick B

            I just have to add that after I left Waco behind, I spent a little time in San Francisco and then moved to Austin where I was involved with progressive community politics for about 20 years.  

            Every now and then when I visited in Waco, I would pick up the Waco Tribune Herald and find an editorial in which Austin was referred to as "The Peoples Republic of Austin."

            This was only partly a reference to progressive policies on such issues as growth management.  

            Really what was going on is that in towns like Waco, anyone with any smarts as a high school student contemplates the idea of staying in the hometown beyond graduation.  If you want a life of the mind, if you want to broaden your horizons and have some scope you have got to leave town.  

            There is a terrible "brain drain" from these towns to the bigger cities like Austin, or places like LA, San Francisco, Seattle or New York, etc.  This is an abiding heartache for the folks who can only yearn for the bright kids who aren't there to take up leadership positions in the community, and who could perhaps have stood for betterment of things.  

            That heartache turns into an acid resentment of anything progressive, and it turns the fellowship of religion into something bitter and angry.  

            I have no doubt that is a large ingredient and what people really mean when they rant about the stuff they rant about and it is a mistake to take this literally.  

            The money that is out to exploit this is completely without scruples.  They'll say anything.  That is one reason why progressives who live elsewhere scratch their heads and can't seem to get what is going on with these people.

            hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

            by Stuart Heady on Mon May 28, 2012 at 07:51:54 AM PDT

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            •  Stu you have triggered a lot of memories & ideas (2+ / 0-)
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              joe wobblie, DemFromCT

              "The Peoples Republic of Austin." The Jewish rural prophets would have happily used that as an insult towards Sodom and Gomorra had they been aware of Communism. The best those prophets could do was accuse them of libertine sex with little consideration of gender. What did they know?

              Beaumont, TX where I grew up had the same brain-drain you describe. The science nerds I palled with in High School all moved to larger cities with better education and with better access to the best education and the most current information. Those create the best paying and most productive jobs. Everything else is just routine. People with the education and the motivation to use it go to the place with the best information sources because the person who gets the information first gets paid the most. That is always a big city. It is never a slow-moving farm, nor is it a small town where farmers buy farm machinery or tractor rigs. It is also not the town where the operators who run the oil refineries live. The latter is Beaumont-Port Arthur.

              I can remember three significant contemporaries. The first was Janis Joplin. I never met her and did not hear her music until she died, but we grew up 30 miles apart. With her artistic and emotional sensibilities she could not deal with Port Arthur, nor could Port Arthur accept her. It may have contributed to her talent, but it killed her. She wound up using drugs to deaden the pain of living in such a philistine culture.

              Another contemporary was Johnny Winter. He survived the rejection he faced both because of his albinism and his artistic sensibilities, my guess is because his family was artists. He probably has no clue who I am, but we graduated high school together. I was headed for the military so our paths wouldn't have crossed. I do recall him playing at a coffee house in South Beaumont and really enjoying his music, but I hadn't heard Joan Baez yet and didn't know what real music was. We didn't even have FM radio then.

              Then there was the other side of the culture wars - Paige Patterson. He also graduated in our class of Beaumont High School. He with Judge Paul Pressler went on to split the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) into the conservative SBC and the Moderate SBC. His belief is that the Baptists had abandoned the teachings of the bible. He is apparently a biblical inerrantist. This is the position of religious Christian leaders who reject modernism and the modern urban culture. Paige Patterson is a leader in the war against modernism. Janis Joplin and Matthew Shepherd are casualties in that war.

              To my regret I never met Janis Joplin, and I was merely a member of Johnny Winter's audience. I've met Paige Patterson and rather like him, but I'm on the other side of the Rural/Agricultural - Urban/modern/industrial  culture war from him. Texas is, in my opinion, ground zero in this war.

              The brain-drain you write about is the kind of separation in families that happened in the US before the Civil War, only this is more basic than merely pro-slavery and anti-slavery. This is about whether America moves into the modern industrial society or whether the conservatives can drag us back into their dominated class-ridden society with no economic and social mobility. Modernity requires, encourages and supports diversity and social mobility. The older rural society rejects those things and uses religion to enforce conformity.

              I think it was James Q. Wilson who pointed out that religion is a trailing edge social institution. It will always delay change and by doing so promote social stability. (The law is another such trailing edge institution, but not as much as religion.) The core element of conservatism will always be older people unwilling to sacrifice the power they maintain and the religion they profess.

              There is no question which side will win. The modern population is too great to be fed in a rural class-ridden society. The only question is how long the troglodytes can delay the economically required and socially demanded changes in society.

              I give the battle another decade at most, and I hope to live to see it end.

              It's taken me a fortunately lengthy lifetime to figure this much out. I don't think I am too far off.

              I can use these people by name as examples because they are all public individuals.

              The US Supreme Court has by it's actions and rhetoric ceased to be legitimate. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - over

              by Rick B on Mon May 28, 2012 at 12:14:45 PM PDT

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              •  Wow, very interesting thoughts (2+ / 0-)
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                DemFromCT, Rick B

                We must be pretty close in age.  I graduated from high school in 1970.

                As it happens, I went to Baylor.  The student body prez during my junior year was Jack Fields.   He ran against Eckhardt right after finishing law school.  

                My contention is that the drive that right wing Christians developed in the early seventies on college campuses like Baylor to overcome the progressive reforms of the era, became important a bit later.  

                In the Jack Fields v Eckhardt race what you saw was the new alliance between the Houston Ship Channel interests and the born again evangelicals.  Fields never showed at a public debate, but on Sunday mornings, church parking lots were windshield wipered with a simple message "Fields is a born again Christian.  You have to vote."  

                The special interests had a use for the massive mobilization that could come from riling up the born agains, since they don't question their leaders.  The evangelical leaders had a use for the special interests because of the money that could be put behind the cause.

                This may have been the first rollout of the East Texas Strategy that Karl Rove later used to elect Bush governor.

                I had thought that the stuff I heard at Baylor was pure sophomore bullshit.  A great dismay at societal changes like the sexual revolution and civil rights, etc.  A sense that one should dedicate one's life to doing whatever could be done to turn that around.  

                At the core, a sense that saying what one really believes is not likely to win elections, so lying is necessary.  That is OK, because for the Righteous, there is a different set of rules.  

                I think this would have died out with 8 track tapes except that quite a few of the kids I went to school with inherited money, some of them oil fortunes.  Some of them went out to make themselves rich and they did and then dedicated millions to the cause they were all motivated by in college.

                George Bush and the people around him all came from this culture.  

                These people still lust after power and will do what they have to do in order to get it.  

                There has been enough money dedicated to the cause that entire graduating classes of kids who majored in journalism and PR can be hired to produce a 24/7 noisefest in the effort to change America's course.  

                This includes everything from the money spent on climate science denial, to pushing creationism, to financing candidates are every level from school board on up.  

                But, you are right.  I think the fever will break at some point.  These people will be just flattened when Romney loses, as I expect him to.  That may cause a lot of people who invested in the GOP to rethink that whole idea.  

                I hope.

                My fear is that we are going to be in times that require steady nerves and a critical clarity of mind.  Those who don't repond well to stress may freak out and become less rational and not more.  That may advantage the party most associated with organized neuroses.  

                hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

                by Stuart Heady on Mon May 28, 2012 at 01:40:10 PM PDT

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