Mitakuye Oyasin

That Lakota phrase reflects the Great Truth – We Are All Related.
The denial of that truth, the failure to honor it is at the root of most of our self-inflicted problems.
It permits us to commit all sorts of evils, injustice, rapine, fraud, bigotry.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have views we have internalized to become our beliefs; we each have our individual-specific ‘confirmation bias’; our own intellectual filters which affect what we see and how we see it.
If we’re lucky, we get a little glimpse of the truth, and for most of us that’s about all we can tolerate at any one time.

The disparity between facts and our beliefs fosters the delusion of infinite growth with finite resources; the delusion that one person has more inherent worth than another; the delusion that some are entitled to a lions’s share of the world’s wealth; and the list goes on.

Those who benefit from the delusions are often not personally deluded. They know there will be a day of reckoning vis-a-vis the climate, the ecology, the economy. It’s just that they figure that whatever happens, their wealth and power will insulate them from the consequences; that only the Great Unwashed will suffer.
This is called sociopathy.

The question is what can be done to puncture the delusions – our own and others – to learn and to teach, so that people are motivated to demand and establish a better, more human and humane political, economic and social infrastructure?

As bloggers, what can we do? How can we change the mind of others?

Let me tell you a tale of a successful and totally unintentional persuasion.

In college, I majored in Linguistics and the lone professor was a very scientific chap. The department had only recently been established and the school still had several profs in the English Department who really didn’t understand the difference between the Science of Linguistics and a scholarly interest in word origins or old place names. As part of my major, I was required to take a class under a very kindly old gentleman who had always considered himself a linguist, by his definition, if not my mine. I really didn’t pay much attention in his class and did a half-assed term paper, expecting to end up with a B or even a C in the class and I was okay with that.

At some student/faculty soiree, we happened to get to chatting and I expressed an interest in word origins and how words change as languages change. This interest on my part was genuine and connected to his interest purely by coincidence (?). As we parted company he asked if his course counted toward my major and I told him it did. It was only when he asked that question that I realized I had manipulated him into giving me an A instead of the B or C I had earned.

To this day I’m not quite sure how I did it, but I know what I did: I took advantage of our common interest to establish us as ‘fellow scholars’ at some level, then somehow planted in his mind the belief that giving me an A would reaffirm his self-image as a linguist and scholar who could help another scholar.

When I look back on the process, I’m still flabbergasted and can only say, “Boy, I wish I knew how I did that!”.
I could have gotten promotions, made a fortune as a salesman or become president, depending on how high or low I set my sights.

If we can figure out how to establish a sense of commonality with those we wish to talk to and get them to accept us as equals, we may be able to bypass some of their knee-jerk responses and be a bit more open to alternative views. In this regard, the greatest failing of the Contemporary Left is having lost their ‘street creds’. We sympathize with the poor, with Labor and minorities, but we no longer share common ground simply because we do not share their plight. Beaten and jailed union pickets, Julian Assange & Bradley Manning, maced and beaten OWS protesters; people who ‘speak truth to power’ and live with the consequences, deserve and get respect.

A blog may be an odd place to say so, but laying out opinions online simply isn’t enough.
We owe the future our best effort. As someone remarked, “If we don’t change where going, we’re likely to end up where we’re headed”.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my great-granchildren to inherit the world I see looming on the horizon if things don’t change.

As people concerned about our country and our world, we need to take the gloves off and get down-and-dirty with the Power Elite.

Participate in the political process beyond just voting.
Investigate public and corporate activity when possible.
Publish wrong-doing when encountered.
Support appropriate groups.
Learn from the people who are doing it, the people who know.
Somewhere out there is an answer to every question. Find it.
Propagandize, preach, teach.
It’s the only way to change what needs changing.

It may not work, at least on your time schedule and certainly not mine (I’m an old fart), but it’s better to try something worthwhile and fail reaching for a good cause than to kick back with a glass of Montrachet and bemoan the state of affairs.

Believe me, the Koch brothers and their Think Tank intellectual goons, the fundamentalist Dominionists trying
to replace the Constitution with the bible, the Grover Norquists of the GOP don’t take the world as lightly as progressives seem to.
They work hard at keeping the world running to their benefit.
We need to work equally hard to make it run for the benefit of the larger population.
They have money and the MSM it buys.
We need to counter that by mobilizing sufficient numbers to make their billions ineffective.

And that will give us something real to blog about.

14 Replies to “Mitakuye Oyasin”

  1. I find it difficult to sit at the same table with the authors of such blatantly false constructs as the war on drugs or other imperialistic endeavors like the current assault on Syria, or the ongoing bailouts of financial fraudsters.

    But I know that I should.

    Thanks for reminding me.

    1. You’re missing the point. The above is not an appeal to break bread with these people. It is an appeal to focus above all on out-competing them in the marketplace of ideas, political rhetoric and citizen mobilization.

      The most immediate implication is that every time someone sits down and pounds out a missive that does not accurately reflect reality (NATO is intervening to overthrow the Syrian government) or sells a conspiratorial view of things (the CIA actively seeks to subvert the war on drugs, etc.), they are doing these peoples’ work for them. The folks pushing these weak ideas may feel good and they may get them positive attention from their cultivated audience of like-minded persons, but they aren’t doing themselves, their audience, or any of the people they purport to support any good (and likely a good deal of harm) in the long run.

        1. Read it again, dk. JPD correctly understood that I do not seek or expect to find common ground with Fox et al but we must find common ground with their audience before they have any reason to listen to us. And we have to do that on their terms, not ours.

          To the average working mook or cubicle-dweller, the Left is at best irrelevant, at worst an enemy. If we can’t change that perception, why should they care about what we have to say?

      1. Non caffeinated reply;) So NATO and the GCC had nothing to do with the no-fly-zone in Libya. That was a purely humanitarian effort. NATO powers never demanded that Gaddafi leave.

        FURTHERMORE, the NATO/GCC powers – the US, France, UK, Qatar – never sought to establish a no-fly-zone in Syria with the same justification that used in Libya. Hillary, etc., never demanded that Assad leave. Built on the patently false assumptions (and others) listed above, one could argue successfully against any claims that the West along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia are engaged in an illegal and deadly intervention. From that, one could dismiss those who do argue these points.

        steeleweed makes a profound point. We need to engage people around us in a respectful way, regardless of their views, and live a life consistent with our beliefs.

        But I must stop because I broke the Mr. Coffee pitcher last night and have had no coffee today. What to do.

        1. I find it interesting that you do not mention the folks who have most prominently pushed for a no-fly zone in Syria – the Turks. They have been far and away the most vocal in pushing for this, followed by the Qataris and the French. The US and UK have been much more restrained, refusing to rule it out and being quite slow to come around to the idea as a potential official policy (as opposed to something bandied about by MPs and Senators seeking to curry favour).

          You speak of these powers as if they are a monolithic bloc, steadfastly pursuing settled policies established from the beginning behind the scenes. They’re emphatically not. This is simply not a scenario where the major NATO powers are in the driver’s seat – they are predominantly reactive and driven by concerns of what is happening on the borders of a treaty partner. NATO as an institution is pretty unenthused about this little idea, having learned a couple of hard lessons about out of area operations over the past decade and a bit.

          You are starting from the position of accepting your assertion (that the West, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are involved, apparently all equally, in an illegal and deadly intervention) and fitting chosen facts around it. That’s frankly not a good description of reality. The powers that are the most involved and that are driving this are the locals (Turkey, Qatar, Saudi), with the Western powers largely looking on making periodic harrrumphing noises, hoping that that might mitigate the costs of so visibly sitting on the sidelines for so long. Far from being concerned that the western powers are pulling unseen strings, we should instead be concerned just how very little influence the west has and how obvious it is. That’s the new reality of the middle east – anything else is simply out of date analytical tropes being force-templated onto the data.

          1. One thing that I would add (at risk of the vulgarity of replying to myself) is how this fits into the larger point advanced by steeleweed. In my view you are not doing the citizenry any favours over the long term by feeding them interpretations that systematically over-state the amount of power the west has in any given circumstance. The central reality that they have to adjust to is that their option sets are considerably more limited than they have previously presumed and those sets are likely to become even more constrained in the future. That means that they need increasingly to live within their geopolitical “means”. There is no such thing as magically stopping this thing just because western powers want it stopped (presuming they did). The local actors are paramount and that means understanding them (rather than what is western, near and familiar) is key.

          2. Dave, would these be the same Turks who proposed a an alliance with Syria in 2010 after a period of raproachment. If these are, indeed, the same Turks, what changed their minds? Could it be…the US, UK, France and the Gulf despots?

            Here’s how relations between Turkey and Syria were before the nastiness started. Erdogan talks a tough game but he has totally abandoned his foreign policy agenda and fallen in line with the war on terra agenda. Spiritual awakening, blackmail, no coffee…what’s his deal.

            “The rapprochement between Syria and Turkey started in the late 1990s, as part of Turkey’s broader strategic designs — in line with its plans to fulfill the Copenhagen criteria for membership in the European Union — to normalize relations with its neighbors to the East and South. Syria and Turkey have been relatively successful in improving their ties on three pivotal politico-strategic issues: territorial disputes, water-related disputes, and support for Kurdish rebels.

            “In the last decade, Turkey has been a major investor and trade partner for Syria. In 2009, the two countries engaged in some limited joint-military maneuvers with the defense ministers announcing plans to expand military relations in the future. However, Turkey’s strong ties with NATO members and still operational ties with Israel, Syria’s arch-foe, will remain a sticking point for any deeper partnership between the two.” Foreign Policy in Focus, July 19, 2010

          3. So these same Turks who were resolutely resistant to pressure from all of these powers on a range of key items as long as one’s arm (transit / landing rights for 4AD, pivoting on their alliance with Israel, continued focus on not isolating Iran, etc., etc.) fold on this, something right on their border? I say a big, big, Boooolllllshit! to that one.

            The simple fact of the matter is that they deal with folks who can carry off the good neighbour policy – Assad abundantly cannot, so they pivoted on him.

            Before one goes looking for mysterious causes “behind the curtain”, one needs to know the “in front of the curtain” show backwards and forwards. None of us are even remotely close to that level of knowledge.

  2. Native Americans were a lot more insightful and connected to the Earth than the Westerners who came to take their lands and exploit them. Maybe we knew that and hated them for that. Your last part about how hard people work to support their belief systems also rings true. Digby over at Hullabaloo writes a lot about this and how progressives must never give up because those who oppose us never will. Good post.

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