On Personal Responsibility and Careerism

For decades, we've been hearing how everyone should 'take responsibility for their actions,' and that we are each responsible for our 'success' (or lack thereof). And because this is obviously pretty glib, it's fostered a kind of reflexive denial in others. As such, we seem to me stuck in a false dichotomy, which leads us us to ignore a very important point. Namely, that we are actively socialized not to take responsibility for our actions, and not to apply our values, for a large part of our lives. Namely, when we perform institutional roles, especially but not limited to when we do 'our jobs.' And that seems to me a pretty important omission, given the amount of time we spend acting out such roles (aside from 'worker', 'boss' or 'manager', also 'student', 'teacher', 'parent' and so on), because of how influential those institutions are, and because what we do while working for institutions tends to affect how we think and act 'privately'.*

On Myths, Religion and Innocence

As I've argued elsewhere, we are all taught to reason meritocratically. That is, we all learn to embrace notions such as that our moral value depends on whether and how highly others value us and our actions (rather than simply on whether we value our own existence), and that the institutionalized oppression and exploitation of those below us -- or at the bottom -- are proper features of human society. And since we are also taught that there are (many) circumstances in which we may use violence to attain goals, the logical outcome is that at least some of us will feel free to disregard the equal needs of others wholesale, and murder, make war on, genocide, and systematically enslave others; thereby enacting the conviction that it's okay to treat others as property, a pest, relics, and so on.

Linking (Neo)Liberalism, Identity Politics and Bureaucracy

Both David Harvey and Noam Chomsky have done a lot to analyze and explain the rise of neoliberalism. Both agree that it should primarily be understood as a political project, aimed at discouraging and disfranchising 'ordinary' people, which started shortly after the events of the 1960s.* Harvey has frequently pointed out that the neoliberal counterrevolution was kicked off by the publication of the conservative 'Powell Memorandum'. Chomsky (who prefers to expose the conservatism of liberal elites) adds that they were equally outraged by what they termed "an excess of democracy". He's described the liberal Trilateral Commission's The Crisis of Democracy this way:

This is a consensus view of the liberal internationalists in the three industrial democracies. They—in their consensus—concluded that a major problem is what they called “the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young.” The schools, the universities, churches, they’re not doing their job. They’re not indoctrinating the young properly. The young have to be returned to passivity and obedience, and then democracy will be fine. That’s the left end.

Remarks on Violence, War and Terrorizing

As Walter Wink has pointed out, violence is a tool that allows us to realize certain outcomes that seem desirable to us: to change either the person we inflict it on, or those around them, by 'making an example' of them. Resorting to violence as a matter of policy (as our current justice system does) presupposes that people willingly act badly, so that there's no point trying to change their thinking: all we can do is declare undesirable behaviors 'punishable offenses,' so that the 'bad people' will have 'reasons' to not do the thing. Yet, as Marshall Rosenberg has noted, if fostering lasting behavioral in people is our aim, then violence never works, because while people may comply, they lack intrinsic motivation to act differently. For that, we need to ask -- and care about -- why people choose to harm others, so that we can to try and show them ways to meet their own needs in ways that don't involve harm to others.*