Socialism As A Weltanschauung - 6rd Edition with Conclusion
November 8, 2008
How does one form a world view or weltanschauung.? Our world view is patterned upon us by the zeitgeist or cultural screen. What are the dominant views imposed upon us by mass media?
Columbia University Professor Richard Hofstader has written about Social Darwinism in American life. Social Darwinism, as initially presented by English sociologist Herbet Spenser and later interpreted by Yale Professor William Graham Sumner, seems to be in harmony with the the work of a father of sociology, Max Weber. Weber wrote about the Protestant Work Ethic. These are the twin pillars of the American weltanschauung. Social Darwinism and the Protestant Work Ethic are imposed upon us by the zeitgeist (mass media\'s cultural screen). Psychiatrists might say we are "patterned" by mass media or the more all inclusive term - zeitgeist.
Both Social Darwinism and the Protestant Work Ethic are myths or illusions. They are the Grand Illusions taught and reinforced by the institutions of society: family, education, religion, military, corporations, etc. What do these twin pillars of belief have in common?
Both glorify the rich and denigrate the poor and lower middle class. It\'s that simple. Those who need to know more can use the Search facility on this website, as I have written about Social Darwinism and the Protestant Work Ethic before. However, it\'s best to read Hofstader and Weber. In the end, there is always Google.
America is a one dimensional society based on two very similar myths. When I use the phrase one dimensional, I refer to the fact that these twin myths remain unchallenged by the diversity of alternative views that make up reality.
Those of you who are poor or lower middle class will rarely see yourselves glorified on TV Sit Coms or in America\'s absurdist propaganda movies. According to Socialist Professor Michael Harrington writing in his book: "The Other America," the poor are unseen. Somehow, American society has managed to hide poverty by simply ignoring and denying it. We have turned our backs on perhaps 50 million Americans.
Unlike poor folks in Latin America and Europe, American poor folks don\'t get angry. I have never heard of a mass demonstration by the poor in America in my lifetime. Rather then anger, American poor folks sit alienated in shame. American poor have been taught to feel ashamed of themselves by Social Darwinism and the Protestant Work Ethic.
What is it that allows Latin Americans and Europeans to organize and demonstrate with pride and without any sense of shame? It\'s a matter of different intellectual traditions. According to Professor Richard Hofstader, America is Anti Intellectual in the extreme. Therefore, no thought is given to America\'s two dominant myths or illusions. The poor continue to be disenfranchised by social injustice.
Latin Americans and Europeans both have very rich intellectual traditions that include alternative views of life. One of these alternative views is Socialism. While Socialist political parties govern many countries in Latin America and Europe, Socialists need not ever be in power in order to exert an influence on government. When Americans voted for a Socialist candidate for President (Norman Thomas) in the millions at the height of the depression, both Republicans and Democrats received the message and Social Security became law.
However, it is as a personal aspiration or weltanschunng that Socialism is most useful. If one reads the writings of Socialists, their ideas in almost all realms was totally different from bourgeois life. Socialist education would be very different from the Hitler Youth program that is American education. Freedom would reign in a system of Socialist education. The management and goals would be totally different then bourgeois education. Bourgeois education is nothing more then a fascist behavior modification and control program that destroys innate confidence. Children are punished by teachers and administrators. Some call it torture.
This could not happen in a Socialist system of education where children would manage their school by hiring and firing teachers. All management decisions would be in the hands of children such as whether or not to require attendance at class and whether or not to have tests. The goals of such education would be confidence and a sense of Solidarity with each other. Solidarity would prevent the bullying that is inherent in the bourgeois lifestyle. Those of you who may be part of the bourgeois syndrome may not understand Socialism and Solidarity. In order to bridge this divide, may I suggest a book about the Spanish Civil War by George Orwell entitled: "Homage to Catalonia." Orwell does the best job of contrasting bourgeois and Socialist life. President Bill Clinton claims it is his favorite book.
On a national level Socialists would eliminate war because they are generally against ordinary folks fighting each other. Socialists understand that ordinary folks are used as cannon fodder by the Power Elite that controls America. Wars are fought to secure profits for the very rich, rather then any American strategic interest.
Furthermore, Socialists understand that 40% of the American budget goes to prepare for wars and to fight wars America starts by continually invading other countries. The American "Defense" budget is larger then all the countries of the world combined. By contrast, the American people only receive benefits amounting to 1 or 2% of the budget. Socialists like to think about how much education, health care, affordable housing, affordable transportation and giant tax cuts for the middle class could be purchased if the "Defense" budget were sliced in half.
While the poor and lower middle class in America sit in a pattern of shame believing they lacked the merit of natural selection (Social Darwinism) and the selection of God (the Protestant Work ethic), Socialists understand the rich are thieves. 250 years ago Enlightenment scholars believed the rich form governments to seal from the poor. Meanwhile, Post Modern economists see the data that proves income and wealth are continually being transferred from the poor (and middle class) to the rich.
What good does it do for a poor or middle class person to know this? Let\'s examine the dynamic. An American poor or middle class person sees their situation as being the result of a personal failure. They have been patterned (largely by teachers) to believe they either failed to be selected by Darwin\'s system of Natural Selection (Social Darwinism) or God. The Latin American or European poor and lower middle class person has a 250 year old system of thought called Socialism that teaches the reality of social oppression and social injustice. Naturally, such Socialist thought has become part of Latin American and European education.
It is impossible to receive a Socialist education at an America college or university. At the end of WW II a system of American oppression called McCarthyism was begun by President Harry S. Truman. McCarthyism required a purge of all Socialist thinkers. The last Socialist thinkers I know of were UCLA Professor Herbert Marcuse ("One Dimensional Man") and CUNY Professor Michael Harrington ("The Other America"). That was a generation or two ago. I know of no Socialist thinkers currently teaching in America. Ours is a One Dimensional system of thought.
This is one of the reasons MIT Professor Noam Chomsky ("Manufacturing Consent") asserts America is the most propagandised place to have ever existed. We are the new Sparta. Education and thinking are not required and can be a problem.
One might consider MIT Professor Noam Chomsky a Socialist teacher. In earlier books, Chomsky was fond of referring to himself as an Anarcho Syndicalist. This is a form of anarchism that replaces government with labor unions managing the show. In the intervening years, we have all seen the power of unions disappear. At the height of the American union movement, the leadership was conservative in the extreme. Therefore, I must attribute Chomsky\'s mindset at the time to his reading leftist literature at his uncle\'s newstand at the back of the B\'way & 72nd Street subway staion when Chomsky was a teenager.
However, Chomsky\'s interest in Socialism continued into the early 1950\'s when he considered living in Israel on a Socialist "kibbutz." In the end, it might not be to far of a stretch to say Chomsky\'s vigorous and rigorous pursuit of truth was inspired as much by his uncle\'s newstand as it was by his father\'s role as a Jewish educator.
In the end, one might categorize Chomsky as a Socialist thinker. Although he has long had tenure at MIT, one almost never sees Chomsky on American TV. Few Americans know Noam\'s name. It is very different in all other parts of the world. In Europe everyone at a cafe\' table has heard of Noam Chomsky as one of the world\'s leading intellectuals. He is seen on TV in all countries as his opinions are egarly sought. Venezuelan Socialist President Hugo Chavez recently held up a Chomsky book at the United Nations. Yet, in America Chomsky is unseen.