December 15, 2007

Smart Lady

I always love reading Avedon Carol's blog because she is so good at finding good things to read. But even more, I find her arguments and extended comments to be some of the best essays on explaining the human condition and why things work they way the work. Today, she takes up the subject of what is wrong with those Democrats we sent to Washington and reminds people that there could be any number of reasons they are not doing what we need them to do.

I do think you're right about some of them, IOZ, but I think others have just fallen in with a bad crowd, and many are suffering from Stockholm syndrome, and most of them have forgotten that impeachment doesn't depend on the Senate being willing to convict before the end of the term.

And I think plenty of them are just cowards. Really.

To help explain the bad crowd she links to an old, but excellent post she wrote that showed how journalists come to believe the lies of the right-wing chorus and stop being able to see that they are getting conned.

Here's another part of the problem. The Democrats are up against people who will use anything to create a crisis and have no problem in having the entire country spiral out of control. And some of those we sent to Washington are just trying to keep things running until the next election.

As Altemeyer and others have said, we underestimate the power of situational pressures in shaping our responses. Ordinary people can allow and even participate in extraordinary evil when everyone around them is doing it. After describing the results of some of Stanley Milgram’s experiments Altemeyer wrote:

How people acted depended very little on what kind of people they were, and very greatly on the situation they were in – particularly on what their peers did… Milgram has shown us how hard it is to say no to malevolent authority, how easy to follow the crowd, and how very difficult it is to resist when the crowd is doing the biding of malevolent authority…The difference between low and high authoritarians is one of degree…Milgram has shown, most of us cave in…[I]t makes crystal clear…why we have to keep malevolent leaders out of power.

...Altemeyer has been studying authoritarianism since 1966 and has watched how much more receptive to authoritarianism Americans have become. And he has seen the diminishment of institutions such as a free and vigilant press that once kept authoritarianism at bay. Because of that, he fears the forces that have been driving the movement to make our government a true tyranny are close to obtaining their goal.

So what does he recommend? He’s found that one thing that is necessary to stop these forces is for a few brave people to stand up and say no – because their very act can empower others to say no as well. And he warns that it is dangerous to give into the feelings of cynicism and hopelessness.

You can’t sit these elections out and say ‘Politics is dirty; I’ll not be a part of it,’ or ‘Nothing can change the way things are done now.’ The social dominators want to you be disgusted with politics, they want you to feel hopeless, they want you out of their way. They want democracy to fail, they want your freedoms stricken, they want equality destroyed as a value, they want to control everything and everybody, they want it all…If you are the only person you know who grasps what’s happening, then you’ve got to take leadership, help inform, and organize others. One person can do so much; you’ve got no idea! And two can do so much more.

Avedon is right that just bitching about the Democrats isn't going to help change anything. And not voting won't help either. It's time for more good people to get into the race and for us to find candidates that can represent us. The Republicans are committing suicide as more and more people see who they really are, so getting that 60 votes in the Senate might just be possible in the next round. It is definitely not time to give up. The Democratic Party is our party even if the leadership isn't too pleased with the complaints they hear from us.

Posted by Mary at December 15, 2007 04:00 PM | Philosophy | Technorati links |