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View Diary: Anti-Capitalist Meet Up: Let's Talk 'Decolonization' (87 comments)

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  •  I find this problematic. (11+ / 0-)
    We are rising up against the selves we have been molded to become. From the moment we were born we were trained and brainwashed and 'normalized'. A particular lens was fused to our eyes through which we are forced to perceive the world. Underneath all that is an original self, who can still look at the world in our innately natural way if we can remove those lenses.
    Even if there is some "essential self" that exists beneath our rhetorically-based understandings of who we are and the context in which we exist, then it is absolutely unknowable, because it could be described and understood, even within ourselves, only through our own use of rhetoric—at which point it becomes simply another rhetorically-based understanding of who we are and the context in which we exist.

    Culture, language, and rhetoric are not trappings we add to some kind of innate and "original self," things that can be stripped away to get at the "real" underneath; rather, they are the only ways we have in which we can understand ourselves, and the only ways by which we can make sense of the real.

    To dismiss those things as "brainwashing" and "normalization," in the context of this piece, is to imply that they are somehow uniquely the products of capitalism. They are not. Every single human being that has grown up in any culture, everywhere, for the tens of thousands of years that our species has had language, has undergone that same process—because we do not, and cannot, understand the world around us without it.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Sun Jul 15, 2012 at 03:29:29 PM PDT

    •  Critical reflection (8+ / 0-)

      can lead to some very uncomfortable conclusions. For example, when it extends to understanding how the air conditioning which makes our own life bearable also kills swathes of the ecosystem, we tend to justify it or deny it.
      Up until the recent past, and by that I mean the 1600s on, the predatory, selfish nature of our species didn't matter in terms of the Earth in general, though it has and continues to cause wars, genocide, and general misery for those humans considered "losers". At this point though, human competition really has become a zero sum game. We have been brought up to understand societal winners and losers through our history classes, while discounting environmental context. If we continue to do so, we all lose in the end.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Sun Jul 15, 2012 at 03:56:04 PM PDT

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    •  An interesting conundrum to your position - we (4+ / 0-)

      actually live in two envirnoments (although they increasingly overlap)--the market economy and the "private" nonmarket economy.  Granted the non market economy is shrinking and higly determined by the market economy--but there are still sme aspects of being a parent where we have feelings and relations with our children that are not solely based commodity values.  Perhaps that is why women and children may be the Trojan Horse in this system.

    •  Capitalism Molds The Competitive Mindset. (8+ / 0-)

      UnaSpenser describes this very well.  In cooperative communities, the values which are promoted are those which benefit the majority of the community which means the improvement in the lives of each of its members.  People are encouraged to work together cooperatively to meet democratically arrived at social goals.

      Under capitalism, individuals are in constant competition against one-another to "win" a few coveted places, he or she who gets the most money is awarded the prestige and respect, while in cooperative communities, those whose work or actions help the entire community gain the most respect.

      Yes, all children are enculturated to the values of their communities, but there are vast differences in the values of capitalism and those of socialism.  

      We have seen where the values of capitalism leads -- to corruption and cruel exploitation of the majority.  

      It is past time to establish communities in which improvement in the lives of human beings, not enlargement of a few individuals' bank accounts, are the dominant values.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Sun Jul 15, 2012 at 04:17:08 PM PDT

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      •  Can you name a successful (0+ / 0-)

        "cooperative society"?  Point me to one that still exists.. and it must be large-scale, an entire country.

        The theoretical utopian nature of these "cooperative societies" are inevitably brought forth in these discussions.. like clockwork. But, all of the experiments in "cooperative society" have failed miserably - because they do not take into consideration human nature.  Humans are competitive by nature.

        There is nothing intrinsically wrong with capitalism.  However, the practice of it in the 21st century (and late 20th century) has corrupted it to benefit only those at the top of the financial end.

        We had the perfect opportunity to practice free market capitalism in 2008.  The financiers and bankers made bets on crappy investments - insubstantial equities that were not worth the paper they were written on.  But, did we let them fail?

        Hell no!  The whole financial system should have crashed, and should have left the practitioners of finance and banking penniless - and many should have been prosecuted criminally as well.

        We bailed them out instead!  Capitalism does require losers.. but it is no longer capitalism if we don't allow bad decisions to lead to failure.

        •  If humans are "competitive by nature" (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Justina, zedaker

          why doesn't the entirety of human history bear that out? Up until roughly 300 years ago, the idea of a competitive society had little to do with the way human cultures and civilizations were structured. To the contrary, human societies were organized on the assumption of stable hierarchies in which there was a place for everyone and everyone was expected to remain in their place.

          Yes, there were always exceptions to the general rule but they were the exceptions that proved the rule.

             

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 12:56:22 PM PDT

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          •  mobility, for one. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WB Reeves

            All but the last 150 years of humanity existed with almost zero mobility.  You were stuck in the life you were born into.

            The Industrial age and faster/cheaper ocean travel finally allowed a poor person in Europe, for instance, to save up enough to travel half-way round the world in a relatively short time.

            To the contrary, human societies were organized on the assumption of stable hierarchies in which there was a place for everyone and everyone was expected to remain in their place.
            They may not have been competitive, but they were not co-operative in the least.  The "haves" had laws passed to make sure the "have nots" were kept in their place.  Even the settling of North America was only accomplished because of forced labor in the form of indentured servitude.

            However, once free from their indenture, these colonist became very competitive, as labor was in high demand.

            •  But you really haven't answered the question. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              zedaker

              You cite circumstances as having precluded the expression of what you described as "human Nature." Human nature is by definition a universal human trait. If you claim that basic, innate characteristics can be negated by circumstance, then saying that "you can't change human nature." is clearly false. It's worthless as argument for or against anything.

              I'm glad that you recognize that competitive societies are a recent phenomenon. So ask yourself this question: If we are an innately competitive species; self interested, driven to demonstrate our own superiority, amassing material wealth and power, how is it that the great mass of humans allowed themselves to be eclipsed for so long?

                 

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 02:53:09 PM PDT

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              •  Competition took on different manifestations (0+ / 0-)

                before man was freed to compete in free trade (of goods and his/her own labor).

                Of course there was competition before that!  History is one long chain of competition in the form of war and conquest.

                I never said:

                I'm glad that you recognize that competitive societies are a recent phenomenon.
                Personal ability to compete was stifled by societal structures.  

                Primitive man competed for leadership of the clan and the right to mate.  As man progressed from hunter gatherers to farmers, their was fierce competition between the groups... resulting in massacres of entire villages.

                European history from that point on is one war of conquest after another..  fortresses of wooden pikes became stone walled towns and castles.

                Where did you ever come up with the idea that man was not competitive?

                What you have failed to show is any long-lasting cooperative societies.  There are none.  There may have been societies that had complementary skills performed by members of the society.  But no where in history can you show me a successful society where the majority of members subjugated their wants and needs to that of the society...  and by successful I mean a society that lasted and thrived. No where.

                •  I thought you were talking about individual (0+ / 0-)

                  competitiveness? That's certainly not what you're talking about now.

                  Of course there was competition before that!  History is one long chain of competition in the form of war and conquest.
                  Except, of course, war isn't an example of individual competitiveness. War is a collective endeavor and therefore an essentially cooperative effort.
                  Primitive man competed for leadership of the clan and the right to mate.
                  Really? What's your source for that?
                  As man progressed from hunter gatherers to farmers, their was fierce competition between the groups... resulting in massacres of entire villages.
                  Again "groups" are collective, not individual. Group competitiveness is not same as individual competitiveness. Groups require cooperation.

                  Your attempt to equate individual competitiveness with collective competitiveness is self-defeating. Collective action is only possible when individual competition takes a backseat to cooperation. In war, such cooperation can demand the ultimate sacrifice of the individual. Hardly a proof of the individual human's competitive nature. If anything,  it indicates that the cooperative trait can sometimes trump the urge for self preservation.

                  As for cooperative societies, that's redundant. All societies, including our own, are fundamentally cooperative. When people cease to cooperate, societies crumble.

                  It seems to me that you're conflating competition with aggression. In which case the only substantive question is how much aggression a given society is willing or able to tolerate.  

                  Nothing human is alien to me.

                  by WB Reeves on Tue Jul 17, 2012 at 03:39:05 AM PDT

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                •  early communal societies (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  WB Reeves

                  were based on group marriages, not on male competition for the right to mate.

                  Primitive man competed for leadership of the clan and the right to mate.  As man progressed from hunter gatherers to farmers, their was fierce competition between the groups... resulting in massacres of entire villages.
                  in prehistoric societies it was the women who chose the leaders of the clans. the earliest societies were matriarchal. farming led to slavery which did destroy earlier communal societies. we still live with the latest version of slavery: wage-slavery.
                  What you have failed to show is any long-lasting cooperative societies.  
                  Cooperative societies existed for thousands of years before farming began. Check any anthropology textbook.
                  There may have been societies that had complementary skills performed by members of the society.  But no where in history can you show me a successful society where the majority of members subjugated their wants and needs to that of the society...
                  Societies in which people use complementary skills to help each other....this is the same thing as saying a society where the majority help each other.
            •  you need to check up on basic economic theory... (0+ / 0-)

              when labor is in high demand there is less competition among workers. as when there is high demand for apples farmers have less reason to compete. When there is lack of effective demand there is a crisis and the Keyensians have to step in.

              What happened in the colonies was that once freed the colonists could start their own farms and became independent farmers. of course,  they also decided to use that most basic form of economy: slavery...and, as we know, in the south, slavery was defended at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives as a god given property right. After all, it was just competition: the slaves were just losers in the game of competition.

    •  each of us is part nature, part nurture. (3+ / 0-)

      The nurture, or acculturation, is like a suit of armor.

      It may take work prying it off, but you can decide to strip down to your natural self and then don a new suit.

      •  You say that as if it's easy to distinguish... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zedaker

        ...between nature and nurture, such that the self is essentially bifurcated—one part that is the natural self, the other that is the product of culture.

        And yet, even if that is the case—and I don't think it's anywhere remotely near that simple—it is still impossible to describe, or even meaningfully understand, the "nature" part without some use of the very tools that create the "nurture" part.

        Language is the first tool of acculturation; to offer up a description of the "natural self" is to indelibly and inexorably link it somehow to some form of cultural expression. And self-talk is no less linguistic than is our talk to others.

        In short: I don't think there is such a thing as the "natural self" apart from culture, and there is no such thing as a human being who is not acculturated.

        Even if you think you're stripping down to your "natural self"—and I won't even begin to discuss the rather shallow view of rhetoric displayed by the notion of culture as "clothing" one puts on or takes off—you're really not. You're just on some level attempting to alter your cultural programming, and in doing so using the tools of culture—and, thus, reculturating rather than deculturating.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 08:52:11 AM PDT

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        •  I tend to agree (0+ / 0-)

          but I have personal experience that renders a more ambiguous judgment. I have very clear memories of early childhood extending back to my third birthday. Consequently, I recall the process of acculturation as it unfolded for me and the conflicts that I had with it. Conflicts that produced active resistance on my part, almost from the beginning.

          Now I don't say that this proves the prior existence of a "natural self", whatever so amorphous a phrase might be taken to mean. However, I do think it calls into question traditional conceptions of the human infant as a Tabula Rasa on which we may write whatever we please.    

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 01:15:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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