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I Was Framed!

October 20, 2011

    “About framing: It’s normal. Everybody engages in it all the time. Frames are just structures of thought that we use every day. All  words in all languages are defined in terms of frame-circuits in the brain. But, ultimately, framing is about ideas, about how we see the world, which determines how we act.”

–George Lakoff

Framing…We all do it.  As I sit down to write this blog I see myself as someone who speaks for the better angels of our nature, one of the good guys (friends and family may have a different opinion).

I have a degree in Social Welfare and know a bit about the history of and debate over social welfare programs.  There is no doubt that a certain percent of the population of every society cannot survive without the aid of that society.  Five percent of the population has an IQ below 70, which designates them as mentally retarded.  One half of one percent of the population suffer from severe mental Illness. Overall, about twenty percent of the population are designated as permanently disabled.  This means there is a baseline of social need intrinsic to every society, and every society has to make a decision as to whether society has a duty to ameliorate these needs or ignore them.  So the idea that social welfare creates the need it seeks to alleviate is nonsense.  This doesn’t mean that simply throwing money at problems is always the best way to solve them, or to deny the possibility of making problems worse by empowering a debilitating sense of victimhood.  It just means I feel society does have a responsibility to care for those unable to care for themselves; Republicans, not so much.

Conservatives have figured out their moral basis and you see it on Wall Street: It includes: The primacy of self-interest. Individual responsibility, but not social responsibility. Hierarchical authority based on wealth or other forms of power. A moral hierarchy of who is “deserving,” defined by success. And the highest principle is the primacy of this moral system itself, which goes beyond Wall Street and the economy to other arenas: family life, social life, religion, foreign policy, and especially government.”

–George Lakoff

So this amounts to a ‘moral’ hierarchy that stigmatizes anyone in need, who is not ‘successful’–a Charly Sheen ethos–“WINNING! TIGER BLOOD! DEFEAT IS NOT AN  OPTION! Anyone in need is not successful, not one of us, and therefore not worthy of help.  But this is not the bottom of their moral barrel.  In his book ‘Power Down’ Richard Heinberg gives an overview of the Machiavellian nature of the neocon far right.

“Neoconservatism is the intellectual offspring of Leo Strauss (1899-1973), a Jewish scholar who fled Hitler’s Germany and taught political science at the University Of Chicago. According to Shadia Drury in Leo Strauss and the American Right, (Griffin, 1999), Strauss advocated as essentially Machiavellian approach to governance.

He believed that:

A leader must perpetually deceive those being ruled.

Those who lead are accountable to no overarching system of morals, only to the right of the superior to rule the inferior.

Religion is the force that binds society together, and is therefore the tool by which the ruler can manipulate the masses (any religion will do).

Secularism in society is to be suppressed, because it leads to critical thinking and dissent.

A political system can be stable only if it is united against an external threat, and that if no real threat exists, one should be manufactured.

Drury writes that “In Strauss’s view, the trouble with liberal society is that it dispenses with noble lies and pious frauds. It tries to found society on secular rational foundations.”

Among Strauss’s students was Paul Wolfowitz, one of the leading hawks in the US Defense Department, who urged the invasion of Iraq; second-generation students include Newt Gingrich, Clarence Thomas, Irving Kristol, William Bennett, John Ashcroft, and Michael Ledeen.

Ledeen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli’s Iron Rules are as Timely and Important Today as Five Centuries Ago (1999), (was) a policy adviser (via Karl Rove) to the Bush administration. His fascination with Machiavelli seems to be deep and abiding, and appears to be shared by his fellow neocons. “In order to achieve the most noble accomplishments,” writes Ledeen, “the leader may have to ‘enter into evil.’ This is the chilling insight that has made Machiavelli so feared, admired, and challenging. It is why we are drawn to him…”

Machiavelli’s books, The Prince and The Discourses, constituted manuals on amassing political power; they have inspired kings and tyrants, including Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin and Stalin. The leader, according to Machiavelli, must pretend to do good even as he is actually doing the opposite. “Everybody sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose themselves to the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them…Let a prince therefore aim at conquering and maintaining the state, and the means will always be judged honorable and praised by everyone, for the vulgar is always taken by appearances…” It is to Machiavelli that we owe the dictum that “the end justifies the means.”

In her essay “The Despoiling of America,” investigative reporter Katherine Yurica explains how a dominant faction of the Christian Right, which she calls “dominionism,” has found common cause with the neoconservative movement. Dominionism arose in the 1970’s as a political religious reaction to communism and secular humanism. One of its foremost spokespersons, Pat Robertson (religious broadcaster, former presidential candidate, and founder of the Christian Coalition), has for decades patiently and relentlessly put forward the view to his millions of daily television viewers that God intends His followers to rule the world on His behalf. Yurica describes dominionism as a Machiavellian perversion of Christianity. For the Christian right, neoconservatives like George W. Bush and John Ashcroft can do no wrong, because they are among God’s elect. All is fair in the holy war against atheists, secular humanists, Muslims, and liberals.”

  This gives some idea of how naive Obama is in his belief he can negotiate with Republicans.  You cannot bargain with people whose political philosophy is rooted in lies and deceit, whose only real principle is an amoral will to power.

  A former  linguistics professor began the first day of class with two questions, “What is linguistics about?” (answer, ‘communication’) and “What’s the best way to destroy communication?” (answer, ‘a lie”).  So Republican discourse is a discourse of deceit designed to destroy discourse.  If you want to see these qualities chillingly embodied in a dramatic character see Ian Richardson as British politician Francis Urquhart in the BBC drama ‘House of Cards.’

   So, yeah, I’m probably not not always on the side of the angels.  I don’t always do everything I can for those in need.  And, in this era of moral relativism, it would take something of book length to plumb the depths of what might constitute a moral stance.

  But this isn’t about morality; it’s about garden variety truth and common decency, and the need to expose those who oppose it.

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