Skip to main content

Naming the Disease - Social Atomization

Henry Giroux writes in his recent Truthout article titled "Donald Trump and the Plague of Atomization in a Neoliberal Age" of Leo Lowenthal who warned back in the forties about the atomization of human beings under a state of fear. "What he understood with great insight, even in 1946, is that democracy cannot exist without the educational political and formative cultures and institutions that make it possible."

This confirms my sense that we are trying to fight a social disease with rational arguments while the supporters of fascist movements just want a messiah who will deal with the big problems so we don't have to, but who have no idea of the danger in giving unconditional power to a single ego. A functioning democratic society can be annoying and tiresome but it has many conditions that challenge power.

In a free and democratic society that pays taxes for education, justice, and social protections for the most vulnerable - we are continually being updated with facts that challenge assumptions of how we can instinctively know the leaders we pick will protect us. That we have social standards that can't be broken. Or that we will be okay as long as the economy is okay. Or, even that we have progressed and would never push a woman in front of a train because she was wearing a headscarf.

In the fifties and sixties I was given an education based on social justice. It wasn't in headlines but it underscored all that I learned. It didn't guarantee fairness or security but assumed we had a responsibility to care about one another. We didn't read Giroux, Lowenthal or Arendt, but we knew of Socrates and Orwell.

Yet many who graduated from this era were quite happy to throw it away because it wasn't perfect.

Now we are at such a stage of civil entropy we shrug while finance capital rules and public benefits are eroded. Those at the bottom are left without a means of earning a living wage, without hope, continually ground down by endless poverty and denied human dignity.

"Mass fear is normalized as violence increasingly becomes the default logic for handling social problems." Giroux writes.

If we stop to read this age and condense all the hostility around us, we will see that life itself is the enemy of fascism. Fascism silences conversation, it wants unquestioned obedience, human sacrifices, the glorious sunset, robotic armies.

Totalitarianism wants power without the human stain, without competing organisms, without reflection or question or thought. It is the muscle without a brain, The sperm without the egg. The knife without flesh. The future without compassion. The masculine without the feminine.

The corporate media keeps telling us this over and over again, in a thousand different scenes and sound bites.


Popular posts from this blog

About Humanity

"A chosen people is the opposite of a master race, first, because it is not a race but a covenant; second because it exists to serve God, not to master others. A master race worships itself, a chosen people worships something beyond itself. A master race believes it has rights; a chosen people knows only that it has responsibilities." Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God's Name, Schocken, New York. 2015.

As someone who does not identify as a chosen people or part of a master race, I ruminate about how to respond to the world, particularly that part of the world I cannot endorse. So I am comforted by the people who have taken on ministry and who feel responsible enough to care for community.

How do I act on a feeling of responsibility without assuming that I know what other people should do, or what we should do? It's very easy to slip into a political preaching that suggests I know, or that my being a good example means that others should follow it. Or worse yet, create…

Creating Chaos

A very important article in The Guardian analyses the rise of hyper-masculinity and the phenomenon of Angry White Men.  "Sociologist Michael Kimmel is one of the world’s foremost experts on the phenomenon. - His recent research has looked at topics including spree killers (who are overwhelmingly male and white), as well as the relationship between masculinity and political extremism."

In the article there is a report on a study on testosterone where 5 monkeys are observed. The one who rises to the top beats up number 2 and number 2 beats up number 3 - and so it goes down to number 5. 

"So the experiment is: he takes monkey three out of the cage and he shoots him up with testosterone, off the scale, and puts him back in. What do you think happens? When I tell this story my students always guess that he immediately becomes number-one monkey. But that’s not true. What happens is that when he goes back in the cage he still avoids monkeys number one and two – but he beats the …

Albert Camus: Our task