Greed changes Amazing Grace to a deadly virus
Social minimalism, prosperity gospel
are bad signs
“A petty, narcissistic, pridefully ignorant politics has come to dominate and paralyze our government, while millions of people keep falling through the gaping hole that has turned us into the United States of Inequality.”
Longtime Broadcasting Journalist Bill Moyers “Bill Moyers Essay: The United States of Inequality” – 4-12-13
“In the richest country in the world, 1 in 6 people are in danger of going to bed hungry tonight, and half of those people are children. But despite these sobering numbers — and despite the difficult economic times — House Republicans… are determined to gut the nutrition assistance program.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 9-19-13 “House bill would take 3.8 million off food stamps,” CNN
By Dan Bodine
“Social minimalism” (SM)is a behavior descriptive term used by Canadian Sociologist Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann in her 1995 book, Human Rights and the Search for Community (Westview Press). A university professor, she’s pretty much a straight shooter, stays away from soapy political endorsements, and analyzed world political scenarios then basically as they were. If anything, times have worsened gearing up for the 2016 elections.
She calls SM a “behavior manifestation of radical capitalism (RC) in North America,” (my emphasis) whereby certain citizens of wealthy, comfortable incomes deny both constitutional and moral economic obligations to help the poor and the less fortunate in society. It’s come upon us in the wake of the Sunbelt’s rapid, aggressive corporate expansion, for one.
In RC human rights are diminished; property rights — as in owners of means of producing wealth — are elevated. Manipulating markets for profit (Wall Street’s current financing chic), i.e., tend to bypass traditional ethics and morality checks.
I’ve made the topic the focus of this site because…Well, even in my 70s it still bothers me some. A Catholic and political progressive now, my rearing nevertheless was Baptist fundamentalist. The basics of your formed conscience in childhood stays with you throughout life!
Too, embracing the humanities — the core of this nation’s founding — usually is indicative of whether or not a people under God can call themselves benevolent — which once characterized us as a people. Thus my objection to what’s happening now.
The dangers of unchecked social minimalists to a society include pulling in to ourselves and our own agendas, at the expense of common care, humanity’s safety net. That’s your problem! thus becomes too much stylish, empty rhetoric, i.e., in our social psyche — the way we relate to each other.
The free-flow of commerce tends to become affixed in Suburbia. Main Street businesses struggle to survive, as corpocracy‘s expands into world markets and threatens us even more with floods of mostly feel-good stuff, devoid of social contact purposes. Further hemming in our individual identities and separating us even further from each other.
Admittedly, we’re in a transition time, too. Hoping to counter the extreme piety of religious hucksterism, economic gurus lavish us with sky-not-falling reassurances. Bank of America’s Merrill-Lynch, for instance, in a wealth-management paper to shareholders in November, 2013, boldly claimed “an economic revival is taking hold in America” at that time — led by “an energy revolution, significant labor-market shifts and massive technological innovation…” services. Anyone seen it?
But there’s a fascist glow to all this backwash, too, and it’s added more fears. Indeed, when you throw in how prosperity evangelicals, for instance, feed this trait by using their wealth status to both disassociate themselves from, and glorify themselves over, the “less chosen,” then you’ve got the makings of an explosive concoction straight out of the bowels of hell itself. Such loyal lunacy is exactly what led to Hitler’s climb.
Looking at Democracy deteriorating in our nation’s capital now up against swelling Corpocracy, Howard-Hassmann appears to’ve been right on target. This growing zealousness of social minimalists to not just excel over their enemies but also minimalize them as losers in Life masks what many see as a growing fascist movement.
Well-known writer and foreign correspondent Chris Hedges described what’s happening as no less than “Christian Fascism” in OpEdNews.com in early October, 2013, as the government shutdown in Washington appeared stalemated:
“There is a desire felt by tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, to destroy the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment, radically diminish the role of government to create a theocratic state based on “biblical law,” and force a recalcitrant world to bend to the will of an imperial and “Christian” America. Its public face is on display in the House of Representatives.”
Many corporate CEOs drawing obscene salaries for axing several thousand employees, i.e., or drug lords who order obscene killings and mutilations to guarantee or protect their profits, both can be linked to this frothy-mouth radical capitalism disease.
Labeling it as such makes it easier to understand. Unchecked, it will continue to spread. Thus Dr. Howard-Hassmann’s analogy, in helping to understand our turbulent politics, fit for me!
As this most recent outbreak of concentrated, personal wealth-building spread with the Sunbelt, I became not just a news writer of it but also a participant in it. (See About Us) Left my job as an editor to become a weekly publisher and then a chain publisher. Hoping the advertising dollars would flow! Instead it became a nightmare!
It seems RC slowed some during the term of President Jimmy Carter (’76-’80), but with an oil embargo fueling spiraling inflation, caught a new headwind toward the end of his term.
A “New Right” business coalition used religion and the “conservative” coattails of Ronald Reagan to spread it rapidly. It turned people’s outlook, yes. Mine, too.
I’d gotten off earlier into this religious component somewhat out of curiosity. Maybe just a certain odor! It happened several years before I’d break from daily newspapers, in early 1980. While I was city editor of a 10k-circulation Texas daily newspaper in Cleburne, just south of Fort Worth.
I’d become suspicious of certain “junk mail” coming across my desk. The Sunbelt economy was cooling a bit admittedly. Perhaps not corporate revenues per se, but residential and commercial construction. There was still Growth though. It just needed extra fuel. Some things you feel!
In chambers of commerce and such organizations in D-FW then — for scribes closely covering the currents — one could sense this, for instance. Sunbelt growth had brought so many smiles it’d become a thee word! Messing with it was something akin to sacrilegious!
Indeed, static electricity — this cooling off — was a bad omen. Worry was on brows. You’d even hear it mentioned at luncheons, say: Business leaders and politicians need to step in and get this out! Clear the air of it!
Economic activism in religious America is an old, old theme, then. Long before neoliberalism became a moniker for so many heady, right-wing libertarians throughout the South, there was the kick-start phrase, “Somebody needs to put the juice to it!”
Folks were looking to the skies, yes!
I was still a political science graduate student, too, in the evenings at nearby University of Texas at Arlington. In need of a topic for a research thesis, to finish the M.A. curriculum.
What was the paper to be on, I asked myself many times?
The answer came in this “junk mail” flooding my desk!
With that November’s presidential election approaching, a group of conservative businessmen who’d organized earlier under the New Right banner, jacked up the publicity on their Republican campaign. An angry, raging stream, it became.
But excellent politics! The juice!
The New Right recruited an unhappy evangelical group into their ranks called The Moral Majority. And built a fire under it. Chapters were organized across the country. Before the Rev. Jerry Falwell was finished, President Carter would be outside looking in!
The “junk mail” I was receiving—New Right and Moral Majority press releases flooding daily newspapers across the country—hit a crescendo leading up to the week-long National Affairs Briefing, scheduled that August in the Convention Center in Dallas. Candidate Ronald Reagan was to address the gathering on the final day, it seems like.
With so much ballyhoo, obviously something was amiss, it was to me. Curious, I attended several of the days as “press.” And all the blustery talk about mobilizing for a war actually scared me.
Out-front religion as thunder was heading to political ballot boxes! Millions of evangelicals were being contacted and instructed it was their religious duty to vote only for a conservative slate. The driving of the herd!
On the last day, I can still remember leaving saddened. The United States was about to be hijacked! Practically that entire “Briefing” had been similar to one of the brush-arbor Baptist revivals I’d remembered attending as a kid there in Cleburne – only “the devil” had been taken out and President Carter and the Democrats had been put in, in its place.
And with fists raised high, they were going to beat them out of the country. To save it! Onward Christian soldiers! Marching off to war! The event hadn’t been planned as a “briefing” at all; it was to launch another Inquisition. Against the president himself. And his democratic sympathizers.
This whole week-long affair had been a declaration of war, in fact. Take no enemies! New definitions of citizenship had been drawn up and embraced. And the stridency itself symbolized new mores for our society. For a conservative society. Obtained at the ballot boxes thru sheer, galled anger!
“What’s the hell’s going on in this country?” I can still remember wondering, walking back to my car. “This sounds like the beginning of Hitler’s fascism! Here! In America!”
So I wrote my thesis on the New Right’s use of Reagan and the Evangelicals at the 1980 polls. And then got on with coping with the up‘s and down‘s of my life. Which had become bumpier. That 1980 election turned the country around though. I found work elsewhere; Life went on.
The decades since has seen an even newer New Right evolve now– continuing in a step-by-step process thru city halls, courthouses and statehouses across the land, to eventually taking over Congress – to move the United States even further to the “Right.” It’s to the point they’ve moved the Republican Party to the “Extreme Right.”
What can be done? Anything? We’re all hapless pawns? Is the replacement New Right’s fire so out of control it can’t be stopped? Total destruction of the liberal ethos — that foundation of educated, enlightened voters that defines a democracy — is it’s end game? Indeed, those are the fears of many, real fears, yes.
Richard A. Viguerie, a mass-mail whiz and one of the key principles I credited in the thesis as having put the original New Right together, lamented in the subtitle of his follow-up 2006 book, Conservatives Betrayed, that “…George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause.”
Referring to either a rising neoliberalism or his ensconced but tarnished neoconservatism either one, was he attempting to clean his hands?
Oh, how he wishes he could wash his hands of all of this! You can just imagine!
But Howard-Hassmann’s book, the further I read and digested it, more or less made things click for me, yes. Thus I’m using the two terms she coined, with credit to her.
This website became the better idea to “wringing hands.”
We welcome your comments.
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