Heads Up: People are not stupid, and they don’t suck

Rant on

I am utterly out of patience with these, “humans suck” “people are stupid” sorts of comments. The very kindest thing to be said is that they’re shallow and unscientific. Humans are resourceful in problem solving, self-sacrificing in disaster, passionate in creating art, ingenious in developing technology, determined in fighting injustice. For every government you show me that is refusing refugees, I’ll show you thousands of their people in the street protesting against it. For every backward comment from a Trump supporter, I’ll show you dozens of outraged responses. For every child murdered by drones, I’ll show you scores of people who are appalled.

Even in this ugly, degenerated capitalist system that builds greed and selfishness into every aspect of life, that forces every relationship between people to be mediated by relationships between things, that turns the struggle for existence into a zero sum game, human beings have never stopped fighting to make things better, to expand basic rights, and to increase equality. Cynicism is the result of ignorance, cowardice, or knavery.

Rant off

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84 thoughts on “Heads Up: People are not stupid, and they don’t suck”

  1. Am I to infer that skzb is not an adherent to the philosophical stylings of Thomas Hobbes?

  2. >this ugly, degenerated capitalist system that builds greed and selfishness into every aspect of life

    While I’m not going to foolishly claim that the median human is “stupid” (what could that possibly mean in any but a relative sense?)… It’s not only fair, but tautological, to say that half of them are stupider than the median.

    Regardless, this observation takes on an interesting… let’s be generous and call it irony… when you consider that practically none of them supports socialism (which hopefully we can all agree is completely distinct from social democracy).

  3. Kragar: Good call.

    hacksoncode: Yes. Most people do not agree with me. That does not mean I consider them stupid. Without going into an epistemological discussion of the relationship between our thinking and our conditions, I’ll just say that it is possible to believe people are wrong in any number of ways on any number of subjects without thinking them stupid.

  4. Like many words used by elitists, “stupid” is ultimately meaningless. Does it mean ignorant? Does it mean mentally deficient? It seems to mean “Shut up. I know best.”

  5. I guess my question would be what word you would use to describe people that are so easily convinced to believe in and support a such a system, and as a result behave in a manner so much against the socialist view of their own self-interests?

    At some point, being too easily misled (or willfully ignorant) is functionally equivalent to stupidity, at least in some kind of relative sense compared to those doing the misleading.

    (Probably it will come as no surprise if I say that I’m taking this stance at least somewhat ironically… but often that doesn’t come across well in text…)

  6. Agreeing with Will here, which isn’t something I do every day. Different people have different skill sets. People often call other people stupid (or weak, or any of a number of other epithets) who are not good in the same way that they themselves are, and which they therefore think is the only valuable and important way.

  7. hacksoncode: In my opinion, you’ve asked a very good question. I think the whole point is, there simply isn’t “a word” to describe that, nor should there be. It is the result of many factors, only a few of which are under the individual’s control. How quiescent is the class struggle at the moment? How about during that person’s formative years? What sort of education does the person have? Is the person surrounded by people who accept everything they’re told, or by people who question it? Has that person been betrayed, politically, by someone he or she trusted? If so, how clear and obvious is the betrayal? How much outrage against injustice is there in that person’s immediate community? How much access does that person have to news beyond his or her immediate locale?

    Most of these factors change over time,thus causing people’s thinking to change, sometimes in drastic ways, apparently overnight. Engaging with that person can, one day, be a complete waste of time, and the next day you might find him or her receptive to whole new ways of looking at the world.

    But, in any case, blaming that individual is pointless, self-defeating, and indicates a deep lack of understanding on your part.

  8. Oooooh I have a thought on this that I’d like to get out, but I’m not sure it will articulate.

    I’ve been talking about religion and proselytizing lately, and it kind of fits into that.

    In past years, I’d fallen into a bit of a trap, politically, the way one does. Like people think of feminism as “shrill and humorless” without considering why, I thought of revolutionaries as “angry,” and brushed off all revolutionary politics without critical engagement.

    Then I met Steve. In person, rather than in blogspace. And I was immediately impressed by how, well, *kind* he was. I’d expected sharp grasp of rhetoric, and got it. I’d expected self aware Vlad Taltos-esque snark. I’d expected smarts. The open-ness and compassion (which this post, at least, makes obvious) jarred against the image in my head. Now I knew someone with revolutionary views who I could not dismiss as angry. The arguments Vlad makes against Kelly in Teckla, I could not make. There was a human face to the politics I hadn’t expected, and I found myself looking for, and finding, the congruities between the views and the person.

    I’m still not a revolutionary. I still disagree with a lot. But I’m listening, in a way I wasn’t before.

    There are a lot of things our society and surroundings train us not to listen to. Doesn’t make us stupid. Makes us habituated to project our expectations onto our reality. We haven’t learned that the mirror has a blind spot, and every so often we have to turn and glance into it.

    I know two wonderful guys, both conservative Christians, childhood friends, same background, always present a united front. One of them regularly makes ignorant and hateful statements about queer folks. One doesn’t. Neither is a hateful person by nature. Neither is stupid. But the one who doesn’t make dumb remarks – he knows a lot of queer folks. The guy who does, well, his circle of friends is different. That’s all this rather huge difference in outlook and behavior comes down to – being able to put a human face on a perspective, rather than assuming we know what “those people” are like.

    Politically, people reject certain views because they don’t fit with the image of “those people.” People love the Affordable Care Act until they realize the provisions they support and know we desperately need are part of ‘Obamacare,’ because they’ve been trained to hate Obamacare.

    Anyway. it’s not about stupid. It’s about the perception of certain categories, and whether we see those categories through human or ideological lenses. If that’s making sense.

  9. I see what you’re getting at, Matt, and in large part I agree. We tend to have lazy brains, and I’m no exception. My only caveat is that events in the world around tend to have a huge impact on our thinking. We are living (in terms of how people are thinking, here in the US of A) in a completely different world than we were before the crash of 2008 caused the latest spike in income inequality, and before Ferguson. Big events shake us up.

  10. Oh, absolutely! I didn’t mean to imply that was the only factor. Just that small-scale personal experience and acquaintance are one of those hard to measure variables, and demographically, they’re huge in reinforcing our attitudes and shaping our blinders.

    One of the reasons big events shake us up, though, is that, unlike smaller events, we’re more likely to know someone affected by them.

    Anyway, the point of my comment was simply to provide simple socialization as another alternative thesis to ‘stupidity.’

  11. Well, gosh. In order to study up for that, to really speak to the man, I’ll definitely need another twenty, thirty years of study, and to see all the Vlad novels published, you know, to be able to talk about theme and narrative arc and the difference between imposed meaning as a postmodernist delusion and the interior blossoming of meaning from a study of material conditions. Stuff like that. ;-)

  12. How about quantifiers? Some people are stupid. Some people suck. Some people are smart and admirable. In my experience and according to my judgement, most people do some stupid things and some smart ones, and are admirable in some ways but not others.

  13. The net result of our activities as a whole would seem the best indicator, either way. Overall, do we the species do more harm or good? Granted, that can instantly devolve into differences of opinion over so simple a follow-up question as “to whom?” A steak-loving humanist and a member of PETA will likely disagree on the answer to that one. But still, we can look at our world overall, and maybe lean one way or the other.

    On the one hand, I gather that we live generally longer than, say, a hundred years ago. Or a thousand. Most countries have some semblance of police, firefighters, doctors, like that. Charities abound, and there’s the outside possibility that while you’re at your local mall, several of the other mallgoers might suddenly transform into a flash mob. (The singing kind, not the beat-you-down variety, whose inclusion we’ll lump into the next paragraph, right? The point being… it happens. I’ve seen the YouTube footage confirming it. Sudden song! Aaaaah, lovely humans…)

    On the other hand, war, war, WAR, throughout human history, WAR. Gradually poisoned ecosphere, shoals of trash spreading across our ocean floors, homeless people freezing to death in alleys, this nation’s atrocities, that nation’s callous greed, suicide bombers, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda, and some jerk even thought it would be smart to occasionally put anchovies on an otherwise perfectly good pizza.

    We could be mining the asteroid belt by now, and we’re not even close to doing so. Mr Fuller suggested that with the robotics at our disposal, we could all… ALL… be living lives of general luxury by now, but we’re not.

    In light of this… of just staring at the scales and seeing where our behaviors overall have left us… it’s hard to write off “stupid species” entirely. As catchall descriptives go, that one feels awfully compelling. But I guess I can stand “nah, just shallow and unscientific” instead… if we might possibly be willing to add “shortsighted”…? Isn’t that maybe fair?

  14. That isn’t about being stupid, that’s about being young. As a species, we’re still infants. And look what we’ve accomplished.

  15. Steve, extremely well said. That stuff really ticked you off and you may be at your best when riled up. Overwhelmingly the working class is generous. The support and sympathy from “common folk” in Germany for the Syrian refugees was (is) a good example. The stupidily and cynicismy ou rant at is of the “that’s human nature” outlook at its worst. There is no innate “human nature” aside from the evolution of humankind as a ‘social” being arising out of the need to extract sustenance from the environment. Hence the evolution of the physical attributes (larger brain, opposable thumb for tool-making and upright stature) of genus homo to increase the ability to conquer nature (the natural world) in a way that no other animal species has been able to. This leads to cultural evolution and with it language, technology, art, science, etc–all the developments that led Shakespeare to write “what a work is man…” my quote may be a bit off but you get the point. Ultimately these physical and social abilities of homo sapiens has resulted in the theory and understanding of historical materialism and the understanding that history proceed through class struggle—pioneered by Marx and Engels. Danny

  16. skzb: I agree that those who honestly believe humanity as a whole is stupid are themselves foolish, but not with your conclusion that “Cynicism is the result of ignorance, cowardice, or knavery “. Cynical people I’ve known were basically disillusioned, and their main problem was one of perspective. That is, they weren’t hurt enough to hate everything and say “humans suck”, but they couldn’t emphasize the positive side of anything, either. On the other hand, if you were to say that the *affectation* of cynicism is cowardice or knavery, I’d agree.

    Mr. Freeman: You’re attributing agency to a natural process. There is no goal to evolution. We did not evolve any characteristic in order conquer nature. The traits that did appear that were useful helped our ancestors to survive and were passed on by those survivors; they were not planned.

  17. L. Raymond: I am always tempted (and am now giving in to that temptation) to point out, in response to the challenge of “attributing agency to a natural process,” that it “seems” to me that human beings are, in fact, the very personification of anthropomorphism.

  18. Danny: That is exactly on point; it is going back to the idiotic “human nature” argument again, and in a particularly toxic form.

  19. Three quarters of eligible voters in 2000 either didn’t vote or voted for George Bush.

    Two thirds of eligible voters in 2012 either didn’t vote or voted for Mitt Romney.

    In 2016 we can expect a repeat with the name being Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush.

    This is prima facie evidence that collectively, Americans eligible to vote are ignorant, stupid, insane, or just plain evil.

  20. Interesting argument. I would say that your conclusion is prima facie evidence that you have much of less of an understanding than these “two thirds of eligible voters” do of the role of the Democratic Party in waging war for oil, domestic spying, militarizing the police, and defending income disparity.

    I would not, however, take the next step and claim you are stupid, or that you suck. I simply believe you are incorrect on this point.

  21. Who said anything about “planned”? I think you are grossly misinterpreting what I said–and “beating a dead horse” By “agency” do you mean something like “God”? I don’t see where I indicated anything about this process akin to “creationism” or teleology. It is the process of evolution , the core of which is “natural selection”. Engels who did not have the benefit of subsequent knowledge in the field of physical anthropology made an important contribution in his (apparently) unfinished essay, “The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man”. Check it out along with his pamphlet “Socialism Utopian and Scientific” if you have any interest in seeing how Marx and Engels developed their method of “historical materialism” to understand and change the world. (And you can call me “Danny” rather than “Mr. Freeman” although I am getting close to my 82nd birthday.)

  22. I agree with this post. I will mention, however, that I’d add “despair” to the list of ignorance, cowardice, and knavery. And like those three conditions, it keeps its victim from acting to fix the thing that caused it.

  23. Danny, I don’t believe people are stupid. But I’m pretty sure I get smarter every time I read one of your comments here. Thank you.

  24. In terms of the U.S. population, it seems a large percentage have concluded that the two-party stranglehold at the national level of politics has transformed voting into a useless act. This is confirmed when you examine the preferences of the public and compare them to the bills that are actually passed and signed into law. I would never fault a U.S. citizen of voting age for failing to excercise that purely symbolic choice between the two parties of murderously psychotic foreign policy and slavish devotion to Wall Street and multi-national corporations.

    Nor would I consider a person choosing to spend their time otherwise on the first Tuesday in November to be stupid.

  25. SKZB – what does the Democratic Party have to do with nearly 50% of eligible voters not voting? They can vote for anyone they choose; Libertarians, Greens, Socialists, Donald Duck, their mothers, etc.

    I fail to see the connection.

  26. I should add that the theory makes even less sense when you consider far fewer people vote in primaries than in general elections. Logic would dictate that if narrow choices dictate fewer voters, then the general election would have fewer voters than the primaries. Of course the opposite is true.

  27. Given they have no one to vote for, why should they vote? Given that all of their lives they have seen conclusively demonstrated that nothing in their lives gets better no matter how they cast their ballot, one might make the argument that one would have to be stupid to vote. Now, I don’t make that argument–I don’t think stupidity has anything to do with it. But it is certainly the case that those who don’t vote are demonstrating a certain level of awareness that is lacking in those who keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

  28. SKZB – The claim that narrowed choices makes for fewer voters is contradicted by the difference between primary turnout and general elections.

    It is also difficult to reconcile mid-term election turnouts with this theory. Obviously most voters fixate on the Presidency, whereas state and local elections typically have more effect on their lives.

    If they don’t like the slate of candidates they should organize their own party or run themselves. The fact they *don’t* do this requires an explanation. They don’t vote, they don’t organize, they don’t run.

    I’ll stick by my earlier assertion until someone can offer a theory that explains it better.

  29. “The claim that narrowed choices makes for fewer voters is contradicted by the difference between primary turnout and general elections.”

    Seriously don’t know what you’re talking about it. I assert that there is no candidate available to vote for, and no possibility of there being one, and therefore people become discouraged with voting, which to me makes them smart, not stupid. How does it matter whether they are not voting in a primary, in a general election, or in a midterm?

  30. SKZB writes: “I assert that there is no candidate available to vote for, and no possibility of there being one ….”

    This is absolutely wrong. They can always run themselves. The possibility of finding the candidate is *greater* than 100% – we start with a baseline of 100% (ourselves). Everyone is always guaranteed a candidate they agree with :)

    Your whole argument rests on the assumption that voters and candidates are different pools of citizens. That is incorrect. Every voter is a potential candidate. If a voter doesn’t like the prospective field then they need to jump in themselves.

    It appears you didn’t understand the logic:

    Premise: they have no one to vote for
    Given: Primaries have more candidates than general elections
    Then: Primaries will have higher chance finding of ‘candidate to vote for’ than Generals
    But: This is contradicted by turnout – Primaries have lower turnout than Generals
    Conclusion: Availability of ‘candidate to vote for’ is not significant factor in turnout

  31. Oneill, It seems likely you have never attempted to run a viable campaign. Nota bene: i’m a community organizer with seven campaigns under my belt. Even for local office, the minimum you need to be a viable candidate in a city of 100 is ten thousand dollars, and existing network of media, business, and political connections, and the ability to rake three months off your job.

    If you cannot muster those resources, you can not reliably become a viable candidate. Lightning may strike, circumstances may conspire, but success without that minimum is an accident.

  32. This argument has now reduced itself to the following: People can always run for office. They do not choose to do so, so they must be stupid.

    I’m going to lie down now.

  33. Matt – “..it seems likely you have never attempted to run a viable campaign.”


    I used to be heavily involved in party politics – spanning 25 years. I started at the bottom — handing out leaflets, knocking on doors, manning phones, etc. By the time I walked away from party politics I was putting out a monthly party newsletter, built the county party’s website (pop. 300K +), upgraded the party’s computers, computerized the walking lists and phone lists (and made them available to all party candidates), and worked the boiler room in gubernatorial and congressional campaigns. Eventually managing a congressional campaign.

    The county was in a deeply red state, i.e., I know just as much about tilting at windmills as Don Quixote.

    I also was willing to put up my life savings at the time to make a run for congress, but was persuaded to withdraw (literally minutes before the filing deadline closed) by the county party chairman.

    I’ve seen many campaigns win that were outspent 2:1, 5:1, even 10:1. Considering that a small corps of dedicated people willing to invest time and energy can ‘take over’ most party organizations at county level, it’s not (at least initially) about numbers — people or money.

    If everyone takes the position that only a select few can run, and we define those select few as those that have money and connections, then it should be expected that those are the people we eventually elect.

    If you want to change that you have to find alternative ways to win that don’t require big money or tons of political connections. Not voting, not organizing, not running is not a solution. In fact, I’d call it stupid, ignorant, insane, or just plain evil.

  34. SKZB -“This argument has now reduced itself to the following: People can always run for office. They do not choose to do so, so they must be stupid.”

    Not my argument. I think you’re comprehension skills are better than this.

    Not voting, not organizing, not running is a beautiful philosophy — if one has no interest in the society/community to which one belongs. Hey, it’s not my fault, they didn’t put up a candidate I agreed with 100% — or is it 90%?, 80%?, 50%? – what is the acceptable limit for quitting and giving up?

  35. If you know the kind of dedication it takes, you cannot honestly be making the argument that the average voter would feel running to be a sane investment of time and energy. Why would most people want to devote themselves to tilt at windmills?

  36. Matt – I have consistently said that *voting* or *organizing* or *running* is the commitment that we should expect from every citizen.

    Why do you and SKZB both drop the *voting* or *organizing*?

  37. You were discussing the alleged ease of finding good candidates, which is what I dispute, hence my focus on running. And without good candidates, why vote?

    I agree that organizing is the obvious step. But most people have never seen effective organization and seen what it can do, and how they can do it. Your insistence on negatively characterizing people for feeling discouraged about civic participation seems oddly dissonant, given your familiarity with the system.

  38. Matt & SKZB – I see 3 options: Voting, or organizing, or running.

    SKZB’s excuse for non-voters is “there is no candidate available to vote for, and no possibility of there being one”

    That’s hokum. If you don’t like Dems or Repubs then you organize your own party or seek out one of the others that already exist (Libertarians, Greens, etc).

    Running for office yourself is just a way to show that there is *always* an available candidate – as opposed to SKZB’s assertion that there not only isn’t one, but no *possibility* of there being one. My name has been on the ballot for local office more than once. And as I mentioned, I came within minutes of being a candidate for congress – an endeavor in which my wife had approved – though we knew it would empty our life’s savings.

    The alternative is despair, cynicism, giving up and/or divorcing yourself from political society. That is what I have called ignorant, stupid, insane, or just plain evil.

  39. Matt – the old saying goes, If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

    I know how much impact *one* person can make. I’ve *been* that person. I’ve recruited volunteers and candidates. Sought people out based on newspaper ‘Letters to the Editor’ or stories on their personal accomplishments. My salespitch was always pretty simple; I already knew what they believed in, all I had to do was ask them to join with me (or the party) to help change our community.

    It always amazed me that there were dozens of passionate, intelligent, like-minded people basically advertising their beliefs – but no one in the party ever approached them and they never approached the party. I took it upon myself to do so. That has always been the ‘trick’ to winning elections – not persuading people to your side, but identifying the people that are already on your side and making the best use of them.

    I suspect that most non-voters have never been active participants in the system. Our likely voter lists showed every time a voter had voted (primary of general). What I saw back then (for general elections) was one-third that always voted, one-third that irregularly voted, and one-third that rarely or never voted. Primaries were of course much smaller percentages.

    In my experience, it is people that have never been part of the process that underestimate how much difference even one person can make.

  40. I understand that some people have bought so completely into the system that they feel the electoral process is not only a way to make change, but is THE way to make change. I think they’re wrong, but that doesn’t make them stupid.

    I understand that many people have been so battered and disillusioned by the false hopes of politicians that they’ve given up on the possibility of social change. I think they’re wrong, too, but that doesn’t make them stupid.

    I understand that some people are so arrogant in their convictions about how the system works that anyone who disagrees with must be stupid, and I don’t even think THEY are stupid.

    I think believing any of the above people to be stupid requires a certain sort of intellectual laziness, and/or a complete lack of understanding of the effect of philosophical method on the day to processing of experience. These sort of deep, methodological problems, and dismissing anyone who doesn’t see what is “obviously true” to you as stupid, is a particularly common disease among the American middle class—especially the smart ones.

  41. SKZB – “I understand that many people have been so battered and disillusioned by the false hopes of politicians that they’ve given up on the possibility of social change. I think they’re wrong, too, but that doesn’t make them stupid.”

    What does it make them? It may not be tactful to call someone ignorant, stupid, insane or just plain evil – but these cover all the possible reasons for being wrong.

    How can anyone give up on the possibility of social change? That is *exactly* what I’m talking about. Social change has occurred, will occur again, to give up on the prospect of it is …. tactless of me to reiterate.

    What is ignorance? What is stupidity? I define ignorance as a lack of knowledge. I define stupidity as, despite having the requisite knowledge, not coming up with the correct answer.

    If you are ignorant of how the process works, then you don’t know that one person *can* make a difference. If you *know* that one person can make a difference and you want to see change, but opt out, then you’re stupid.

    Battered? Disillusioned? False hopes? Jesus man, people have literally died fighting for social change and I’m supposed to have pity for people who feel emotionally abused by the process? Was this supposed to be a painless process? I don’t remember that being part of the deal. Tell then to get off their asses and fight for what they believe in instead of making excuses for them. I won’t make those excuses.

  42. Daniel Freeman:

    “And you can call me ‘Danny’ rather than ‘Mr. Freeman’ although I am getting close to my 82nd birthday.”

    Well, age has nothing to do with it. But since we haven’t met, and I’m not a fan of over-familiarity so I’ll compromise. I feel like I should mention my observation about your post was meant to be more of an aside, since it just happened to be right above the response form. That is, I didn’t set out to pick on anything. But…

    “Who said anything about “planned”?”

    You did, when you said that the our brains, thumbs and stature evolved specifically so we could conquer nature. You wrote: “Hence the evolution of the physical attributes (larger brain, opposable thumb for tool-making and upright stature) of genus homo to increase the ability to conquer nature (the natural world) in a way that no other animal species has been able to.”

    “By ‘agency’ do you mean something like ‘God’?”

    No, I meant your suggesting evolution occurs for a specific end, in this case to enable us to “conquer nature”. We didn’t evolve a thumb in order to make tools; our use of tools is a side effect. Nor did our bipedalism evolve for a specific purpose, nor our brains.

    “Engels who did not have the benefit of subsequent knowledge in the field of physical anthropology made an important contribution in his (apparently) unfinished essay, ‘The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man’.”

    I just read this essay this evening. It’s a very typical example of 19th century theory, and while it would be of interest to people studying Engels or early ideas of natural philosophy, it’s not useful as a scientific essay. His idea that humans are “the most social of all animals” is incorrect; the statement that religion only developed during the post-tribal rise of nations, states, laws and politics is inaccurate; his logic is often circular, such as saying we’ve “learned to live in any climate [and] spread over the habitable world” since habitable is defined as where we can live; and many of his basic facts are flat out wrong, such as saying adding meat to the diet “shortened the time required for digestion”, when in fact it extends it by almost 30% (per the NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, it’s 38 hrs to digest a typical high fiber meal vs. 48 hrs for one high in protein).

    “Check it out along with his pamphlet ‘Socialism Utopian and Scientific’ if you have any interest in seeing how Marx and Engels developed their method of ‘historical materialism’ to understand and change the world.”

    I’ve read that before. Right off the bat in Part III, he says: “The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged.”

    When I first started trying to figure out their ideas a few years ago, I was confused because I couldn’t see how anyone could possibly accept this interpretation of history. They’re like the people who claim the development of civilization is determined solely by cultural descent (i.e. those who say Europe is better than Africa because Caucasians have superior bloodlines) or only by warfare or only by religion. Economics is just one of many factors that go towards building a society, but it was their particular monomania so they elevated it all out of proportion.

    Now to backtrack just a bit, you wrote in your earlier post:

    “There is no innate ‘human nature’ aside from the evolution of humankind as a ‘social’ being arising out of the need to extract sustenance from the environment.”

    Out of genuine curiosity, what does a Marxist mean when referring to human nature? Most people using the term mean the innate qualities that evolved over millions of years, some of which we still share with related species, but you seem to be saying there is no such thing.

    As an example, have you read anything about Nataruk, recently determined to be the site of the earliest war in human existence? 27 skeletons, adults and children, a “heavily pregnant woman”, some bound hand and foot and all killed by blunt weapons or arrows about 10,000 years ago. From the given link:

    “This work is exciting and it suggests, at least to me, that this type behavior has deeper evolutionary roots,” says Luke Glowacki, an anthropologist with Harvard University’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology.

    We aren’t the only species to engage in such behavior, he adds. Our closest relatives, chimpanzees, regularly engage in lethal attacks. “To deliberately stalk and kill members of other groups, as the chimps do, that alone is very suggestive of an evolutionary basis for warfare,” he says.
    [end quote]

    Any behavior with deep evolutionary roots, especially one we share with related species, seems to me the definition of being a part of human nature. May I ask your thoughts (assuming, of course, skzb doesn’t think this is too far afield)?

  43. “What does it make them? It may not be tactful to call someone ignorant, stupid, insane or just plain evil – but these cover all the possible reasons for being wrong”

    If I accepted this method, I would think you are ignorant, stupid, insane, or just plain evil. I do not. I think you are incorrect in counting on the electoral system. Why are you wrong? That is very difficult to answer without being insulting, and I’m trying not to be insulting. One of the more common reasons is called impressionism, and it is a very common method in the United States: it means to accept the surface of things without digging under them for causes. Another possibility is simply lack of criticism; to accept what one is taught by schools and media and so on. Yet another possibility is pragmatism (unlikely in your case; it seems that you believe in an objective reality, as I do, which belief is incompatible with pragmatism).

    The point is, all of these are problem with *method*. In America, we rarely examine our method; we imagine we simply “see things as they are,” and philosophy is for eggheads and has nothing to do with our day to day understanding of events. But be that as it may, you simply have to deal with the fact that I believe you are wrong about the electoral system, and wrong about the nature of most of humanity, and yet I do not think you are stupid, or ignorant, or insane, or evil.

  44. SKZB – “… I do not think you are stupid, or ignorant, or insane, or evil.”

    Yes, you do. You think I’m ignorant of how the method ultimately works. Ignorance is not an insult per se – it’s merely a statement regarding a state of knowledge. Each of us is ignorant on one subject or another. There’s no crime in ignorance. Obviously I disagree that on this particular subject my knowledge is deficient.

    Assertions like “…there is no candidate available to vote for, and no possibility of there being one” or “…many people have been so battered and disillusioned by the false hopes of politicians that they’ve given up on the possibility of social change…” I find to be contradicted by logic and history.

  45. O’Neill- You might not be completely binary in your thinking, but you are certainly overly fond of a limiting others to your assessment of the possibilities. You and Steven disagree about the nature of civic responsibility and the electoral process. You want to insist that one of the two of you is both “wrong” and therefore “Stupid, ignorant, insane or evil”. That is how you see the options and how everyone else in the world has to as well, right?

    What about saying that effecting real change in a complex society with the goal of acheiving an increase in social justice is the very definition of a non-trivial problem and that any human mind is only going to be able to approximate a solution? That disagreeing on the true nature of the problem and the possibilities for correcting it is, in fact, to be expected even among people who share roughly equal levels of intelligence, education, sanity, and goodness, however you manage to define them?

    I don’t share Steven’s belief in the Dialectic as an ultimate means of understanding and directing human society, but I don’t think he is stupid, ignorant, insane or evil for having it. I think he has looked at the same facts I have and reached a different conclusion. And while I have a stubborn faith in the value of democratic processes, I certainly don’t share your convictions that the current US electoral system is giving more than lip service to the ideals of democracy. I definitely don’t think you are stupid, ignorant, insane or evil. You are giving me the impression that you are excessively doctrinaire, for my taste, and that you may have had a bit too much Koolaid along the way, but I think you are almost certainly an intelligent person of good will with whom I find myself in disagreement. That is a lot harder to phrase succinctly than “stupid” and less satisfying to the giant, self-righteous part of my persona, but a healthier view if we actually want to make the world a better place.

    As a guy that has found himself despairing for the hordes of political pundits, candidates, a virulent supporters I’ve been fed lately through my TV, I’m glad Steven reminded me that I’m essentially pro-human, and it does me good to remember that. I’d quote Hamlet’s sarcastic speach about “What a piece of work is man” and, like Captain Picard, affirm that I actually take it seriously, but I’ve already been nerdy and pedantic enough for one day.

  46. I read Understanding Power, a collection of several speeches of Noam Chomsky adapted into essay form, around 2003, and it opened my eyes to a great many ways that the current system has the U.S. public enthralled. Chomsky agrees with Steve insofar as Chomsky says human beings are naturally wise, generous, hard working, and peaceful. Since these characteristics are not very profitable, so the argument goes, the public must be constantly bombarded with propaganda to suppress their naturally open and kind proclivities. That propaganda is very sophisticated and very effective in its work: to create terror, fear and hatred of ‘the other,’ which even includes people from the same community; and that, since greed is good, look out for number one. Politics at the national level, at least since the end of WWII, has been one of the key components in the multi-faceted propaganda system.

    Seen through that lense, it suddenly made sense to me why so few vote, and why the system so ridicules and mocks those who decline to participate.

  47. Lars: ” That is a lot harder to phrase succinctly than “stupid” and less satisfying to the giant, self-righteous part of my persona, but a healthier view if we actually want to make the world a better place.”

    Yes, that’s what I was trying to get at. Well put.

  48. Rather than politics, think of something that at least seems (on the surface) as more amenable to understanding. Let’s take fusion technology as an area of discourse.
    Right at this moment, no one has a working, commercially feasible fusion reactor. Does this make everyone stupid? No, of course not. An answer isn’t known, so a label of ignorance could be applied although that seems to stretch the general meaning of the word. “Everyone is ignorant of how to build a fusion reactor”, is a statement that is technically true, but doesn’t really add much to a discussion.
    If people are actively engaged in the pursuit of an unknown answer, we would usually say something like, “They are actively searching for a solution.” In other words, they are using Science.
    Labels like “stupid, or ignorant, or insane, or evil” at the best, carry negative connotations that are unhelpful and at the worst are completely wrong and harmful to a general discussion.

  49. Lars, there are facts and there are opinions. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, they are not entitled to their own facts. We are all ignorant on some subjects. Many of us are stupid on some subjects. The fact you are adept in one area does not make you adept in all. The fact you are inept in one area does not make you inept in all. These are just the facts of life.

    If you ask the typical three-year old what the square root of 6.25 is you’ll likely get an incorrect answer (“Ice-cream, I want ice-cream” is *not* the correct answer). The child is ignorant of the necessary math. If you ask the same question of a high school student who just completed a year of advanced algebra and they answer ‘3’ – then my first guess is they either weren’t paying attention or they’re stupid. If we ask the same question of a retired engineer and he goes off on a long rant about how he can tell you what all the textbook answers are and what a computer or calculator would tell you, but that in reality square roots are the creation of a cabal that somehow involves Freemasons, the Illuminati, Brian Epstein and Ginger Spice – well, this man is insane. Finally we ask a PhD professor of mathematics; he tells us that there is one square root for every number and the answer to our question is: the square root of 6.25 is 2.5. We pause for a second and then ask, but isn’t -2.5 also a square root of 6.25? The Professor looks at us and replies, Hmm .. you know more math than I assumed. Yes, -2.5 is also a square root of 6.25. We ask, then why did you give us the wrong answer? He smiles and says, no good reason, I just felt like it. This man is evil.

    Now, is there another category of wrong answers besides ignorant, stupid, insane or just plain evil? I don’t know of one.

    Obviously this doesn’t apply to *opinions* or subjective questions. Who would you rather be, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones? It might be a great argument over a couple of beers, but nothing can be proved. Logic and facts don’t really have any role here.

    But when Steven made the assertion that many people don’t vote because “…there is no candidate available to vote for, and no possibility of there being one” I showed the obvious answer that they could run themselves. The assertion is just logically *wrong*. Similarly, Steven said “…many people have been so battered and disillusioned by the false hopes of politicians that they’ve given up on the possibility of social change…” If they believe that they’re wrong. Plain and simple.

    One is not ‘pro-human’ by making excuses for inaction (unless one is holding a bomb that will be triggered by the slightest movement). Denying facts, or coddling those that deny facts is not ‘pro-human.’

    Wiki says that “to “call a spade a spade” is a figurative expression which refers to calling something “as it is”, by its right or proper name, without “beating about the bush”—being outspoken about it, truthfully, frankly, and directly, even to the point of being blunt or rude, and even if the subject is considered coarse, impolite, or unpleasant.

    Now, some don’t want to call these people ignorant, stupid, insane or just plain evil. Then I suggest they come up with another category for wrong answers. Even Steven says he believes they’re wrong. He just doesn’t want to characterize their actions as I have – though he offers no alternative category. I call a spade a spade.

  50. ‘”…they should rune themselves”??? Are you serious or joking? Do you have any idea how difficult it is for an individual or political party not funded by the wealthy or even “middle class” is ro get on the ballot in most states such as New York or, even more difficult, California.? Perhaps you should look up the applicable election laws. Don’t you know that the Dems and Republicans will generally do whatever they can to prohibit independent, especially socialist third parties from getting on the ballot?

  51. Matt – and do you have an alternative category of wrong answers?

    Daniel – perhaps you should read the whole thread. And no, I don’t think they should rune themselves.

  52. Matt – courtesy the Huffington Post:
    “Obamacare has driven up costs, more guns make us safer, climate change is a fraud, tax cuts to the rich are the only we way we can have economic growth, foreign aid is consuming our budget, whites suffer more discrimination than blacks, Hurricane Katrina was Obama’s fault, crime is on the rise, unemployment is up, Obama is a Muslim, Russia humiliated America in the Ukraine, the Great Recession started in 2009, the deficit is growing, the economy is in shambles, abortion is out of control.

    Each and every one of those claims is not just untrue, but easily verified as such. And yet, if you add up the Trump/Cruz/Carson/Fiorina vote, almost 60 percent of Republican voters live in this offshored reality.”

    Yes, at times my world is unpleasant. It will become more unpleasant if one of these cretins is elected President. Ignorant, stupid, insane, or just plain evil?

  53. Jesus wept, YES. Mistaken. Anyone can make a mistake. It doesn’t imply a damned thing about them. People are wrong all the time simply because the world is complex and confusing. Stupidity, insanity, and malice are not required to miscommunicate, misunderstand, and misstep.

  54. oneillsinwisconsin: Not telling someone that +/- 2.5 is the square root of 6.5 doesn’t particularly through them into the evil category. Incomplete or lazy, maybe but not evil.
    You can have a fine discussion with the toddler on ignorance and square roots vs ice cream. Tell us how that goes for you.
    The high school student probably wasn’t paying attention to either the math or the question. That doesn’t make them stupid. Interesting that you picked stupid over inattentive.
    The engineer may or may not be insane, that’s a rather complex diagnosis that can’t be predicated upon a single facet of their behavior.
    Were they mistaken? Of course. Were they stupid and did they suck? No.

  55. In my last note is a nice example. I am aware that 2.5 is not the square root of 6.5, but rather 6.25. I intended to type 6.25 but in some fashion this intent did not translate into an actual key push.
    So, accidentally typing 6.5 rather than 6.25 would not seem to fall under the categories of ignorant, stupid, insane, evil or sucking. Rather, it was a simple mistake. So, it would seem there are other categories.

  56. O’Neill- I have a feeling that you are one of those guys who is willing to defend any statement you make to the death, but here goes: social problems are not as easy to solve as math problems. Finding the answer to the question “what the square root of 6.25?” is completely trivial. That is, there is only one correct answer, there are no partially correct answers, the method for determining the answer is well defined and invariable. If someone can’t find the asnwer to the question, I guess you would be well justified in calling them ignorant of math, although I would personally need a lot more evidence to decide if they were stupid, evil or insane.

    But when Steve says “…there is no candidate available to vote for, and no possibility of there being one”, he is making a much more complex statement, not amenable to simple, binary or even quaternary analysis. (Quaternary is a word, right? I know I could just Google it, but sometimes I like to fly old school and fall if I gotta.) He is discussing a non-trivial problem whose best answer would be very hard to define.

    The problem under discussion isn’t putting the right people in an office, as I am sure you know. The problem is effecting real, positive social change. Steve is making the assertion that voting in a current US election is a completely ineffective activity for pursuing that goal. That is because, again, as I am sure you realise, no candidate that will effect the changes that he wants would run for office here, or if they did, they would lose, or if they somehow did not lose, they would find themselves powerless to act in any meaningful fashion. As a guy who has been involved in so many campaigns, I am sure you have thought all this through before. As a guy who came close to winning, I am sure you have realised it is not as simple as just going out and making your case and sticking to your guns. But, as a guy who has been involved in so many campaigns, I think you have forgotten that voting for candidates or running for office are not the only two ways to change the world for the better. Believing that they are not and believing that your time would be better spent some other way is not an indefensible postion on a rational basis. It is not a simple fact that can be gotten wrong or right. Even if you aren’t a dedicated follower of Trotsky living in the 21st Century United Sates, choosing not to vote is, in fact, a rational choice that many economists would fully support, on a cost benefit basis if no other. The effect of one vote is so marginal compared to the cost of making the effort that it can easily be argued as a complete waste of time.

    Feeling powerlessness in a system designed to consolidate power in the hands of a tiny minority is not a proof of stupidity or insanity. Choosing not to participate in an election in which there are no candidates you are willing to support is not proof of a lack of social conscience (Is that a fancy way to say sucking? I might be going astray.) You can reject the American political system as broken and still be intelligent, good intentioned, and even not wrong.

    Look, 50% of all human beings are below average intelligence. 50% of all human beings understand less about any subject than the other 50%. 50% of all human beings are less nice than the rest. I defy you to point them all out. I doubledog defy you to say why pointing them out would help even one little bit.

    Yes, there are facts in the world. There are things that can be proven and that we all really should agree on. You listed several disputed topics that have pretty clear evidence but manage to befuddle Repubs anyway (you missed vaccination, by the way. Has that not come up in a debate lately?) But saying that anyone who doesn’t like politics in a America can just run for office themselves? That isn’t a fact. That is a blatant oversimplification bordering on total disengenuousness. Yes, there is no law stopping anyone from forming their own political party and running against the big blue and red dogs (although, depending on your political goals, of course, there are such laws). But just because you theoretically could, it doesn’t mean that is a reasonable or cost effective method to try to be the change you want to see. So, no, I don’t think anyone who opts out of the electoral system is necessarily stupid or wrong or evil or lazy or any other simple descriptive. Some are and some aren’t and I am pledging to make an effort to extend the benefit of the doubt a bit more often. Seems like a good start on making the world a little better.

  57. Oh, and I would clarify that there is a big difference between saying that Trump is stupid and saying that everyone that supports him is stupid. I mean, like you said, there are facts and there are opinions. There is ample evidence of Donald’s stupidity, Stupid, evil, ignorant and quite possibly insane, you bet. I don’t think that is what Steve was saying at all. The OP was just saying that his existence and apparent popularity doesn’t constitute proof that humanity itself worthless. That, in fact, however much we flail around as a group, our collective efforts tend for the good.

    I certainly hope so.

  58. Steve – is it really that hard to understand? You cannot provide the correct answer if you are ignorant of the correct answer. Taking the analogy literally is really a rather poor strategy and does not further the discussion. *Anyone* that is ignorant of math, be they 2 years of age or 92 years of age, cannot provide an answer they do not know. This is ignorance.

    “Not telling someone that +/- 2.5 is the square root of 6.5 doesn’t particularly through them into the evil category.” Evil knows. Again, you fail to understand the analogy. The intent to mislead or lie is the thrust of the analogy.

    The engineer is sane? That’s your argument? Further discussion seems pointless.

  59. Lars, let me requote what I posted above: ““Obamacare has driven up costs, more guns make us safer, climate change is a fraud, tax cuts to the rich are the only we way we can have economic growth, foreign aid is consuming our budget, whites suffer more discrimination than blacks, Hurricane Katrina was Obama’s fault, crime is on the rise, unemployment is up, Obama is a Muslim, Russia humiliated America in the Ukraine, the Great Recession started in 2009, the deficit is growing, the economy is in shambles, abortion is out of control.

    Each and every one of those claims is not just untrue, but easily verified as such. And yet, if you add up the Trump/Cruz/Carson/Fiorina vote, almost 60 percent of Republican voters live in this offshored reality.”

    The ideas quoted above are held my tens of millions of Americans – and they’re flat out wrong. It’s not a matter of complexity – few problems are more complex than climate change – it’s simply a matter of whether we know the answer or not. Obviously there are questions to which the answer is in doubt and just as obviously one then can’t give a ‘correct’ answer. And just as obviously you can’t use the categories I presented on questions for which there is no known correct answer. Arguing that some questions don’t have a correct answer is not germane to my categorization. **1

    But the assertion that there is no possibility of social change is *not* one of those questions. Would the Affordable Care Act be in existence today if GOP candidates had been elected in 2008 and 2012? Do we need to go back over the myriad of progressive victories throughout the decades? If you want to defend the idea that there is no possibility of social change, be my guest, it’s a losing argument. If you want to defend the idea that elections cannot lead to social change, be my guest, it’s a losing argument.

    We’ve just witnessed the first Presidential primary victory by A) a self-avowed Socialist candidate, and B) a Jewish candidate. In his presidential runs Eugene Debs never received more than 6% of the vote. The latest PEW pol shows that those under 30 have a more favorable view of socialism than of capitalism. But remember, there is no possibility of social change.

    **1) Even when the correct answer is not known it is still possible to know that some answers are wrong.

  60. “What I …demand is that conclusions be based on facts that are clearly laid out, that the … beliefs and programs be either clearly stated or easily deduced, that “inconvenient facts” not be omitted, and that the internal consistency of the narrative, built on verifiable facts, be laid out. “

  61. “Do we need to go back over the myriad of progressive victories throughout the decades” Well, okay, I admit, sometimes it IS ignorance. To attribute the gains of the working class to the politicians who enacted them,instead of to the mass movements that forced those concessions, is to display an ignorance of history that would astonish me if I did not remember that most people never study history beyond what they’re forced to in school. However, even here, it is even more a question of incorrect method than actual ignorance of facts; we are so indoctrinated with the notion that change comes because this politician was elected instead of that one, that many people just accept it without further thought. It is a bit like observing the tendency of objects to fall and concluding that this causes gravity.

  62. “To attribute the gains of the working class to the politicians who enacted them, instead of to the mass movements that forced those concessions, is to display an ignorance of history that would astonish me if I did not remember that most people never study history beyond what they’re forced to in school.”

    It is almost always an error to give credit for any society-wide changes to a single cause or movement, such as suggesting only working class mass movements secured labor rights. That’s as wrong as crediting everything to legislators. In the US, strikers, labor lobbyists and elected officials all contributed to labor’s advances, as did appointed officials, especially in the judicial branch, but also in the executive.

    And I’ve been staying out of the big argument, but I might as well toss in my own 2¢. Mr. O’Neill is wrong is to describe non-voters as ignorant, stupid, insane or evil as there are other options, but it is equally wrong to insist there’s no basis for criticizing whiners who won’t stand for election themselves, support others who agree with their stance or work to pass legislation or otherwise effect change that will accomplish their goals. If you don’t think quiet, relatively unknown, inexpensive-to-run-for elections can yield big results, you’re not familiar with the Texas Board of Education and its effect on the nation’s textbooks.

    Social change is the proverbial journey of a thousand miles, but someone has make that first step.

  63. oneillsinwisconsin: You may note that I didn’t choose to judge the engineer either sane or insane. For example, he may have been playing with you or be involved in a long running cosplay.
    In case you had forgotten, the actual post is on the topic of people neither being stupid nor sucking. Steven is quite right there, I believe. People are quite complex and while they may adapt positions that seem entirely at odds with reality, judging them stupid or sucky doesn’t help when dealing with them. Often the opposite.

  64. “Effecting social change=winning elections”, that is your false dichotomy, O’Neill. You can change the world by buying someone a cup of coffee. You can change the world by writing a letter to the editor (or a really kick-ass fantasy novel). You can change the world by recycling a bottle. Some of the changes will be too miniscule to be measured, much like the change brought about by a single vote, but they have a collective weight.

    You can completely ignore the election cycle as a meaningless sideshow orchestrated by media giants and power brokers and still bring about social change by staging a meaningful protest. Or by creating a viral video. Or just by not sucking and resisting the urge to make everyone around you miserable so that they lose hope in humanity and give in to pessimism, cynicism, and a belief that selfishness is the primary driving force in human nature.

    Just to be 100% clear, I do vote in all national and most state elections even if there is no candidate on the slate I think is worthy of the office, just to apply my unmeasurably small amount of pressure to bear against the most unworthy. Like I said, I have a stubborn belief in the value of democratic institutions, and I feel that maintaining the social form has a value in itself, like any other ritual. It is an affirmation of shared values.

    I also think we would all be better off if more people were better informed about that slate of hot button issues you bring up. But I don’t think there is a direct causal relationship between that and picking the right candidate for an office. I think the cause and effect goes the other way. Office holders don’t shape public opinion nearly as much as public opinion shapes office holders. Even the biggest whore in Congress will vote for a change if they feel like everyone wants it; and even Jimmy Stewart coudn’t get his Boy Scout camp until the people called for it.

    Of course, Mr. Smith wasn’t actually elected to office, so maybe he is a bad example.

    In any case, we have wandered far from OP. To get back to that, if you really are concerned about the state of the world, calling all the people who disagree with you synonyms for mentally incompetent and pledging to batter them into submission by making sure your team is the one to win the big game is probably not the best way to go about it. You seldom sway other humans by calling them ignorant, stupid, and yadda-yadda. Pretty much every time, you just convince them you aren’t worth listening to, that you’re one of “them”.

    Here is a process note from acting, which applies well to many human interactions:

    “No one is the villain of their own story.”

    All the Trumpeters you see interviewed on TV don’t think they are acting out of ignorance and prejudice against everyone that has browner skin or prays differently or speaks a funny language. Telling them that they are probably isn’t going to change their minds. They think you are the ignorant one, so blinded by your fear of being called politically incorrect that you can’t see the dangers right in front of you. So, you can scream about the imminent disaster caused by the ignorant masses following self-serving demogogues and hope that the team of right-thinking people is bigger than the team on the Right. You could also try sitting down with your Tea Party neighbor, listening to what they have to say and gently reminding them that their best friend in High School was from Mexico or that the doctor that took out their gall bladder was Muslim. Hell, even Cheney changed his mind about gay marriage once he remembered that his daughter is gay. It could work.

    My point is, 100 people having rational, non-judgemental conversations with their neighbors could easily have a larger, measurable effect than 100 people voting in a partisan election. And it starts with believing that humans aren’t, as a species, stupid, and that altruism is a primal drive built into our natures, not an artificial set of rules for behavior imposed by carefully constructing just the right political structure.

  65. From the 2008 survey of American Elections
    Table III-3. Reasons for Not Voting
    …………………………………..Major Factor Minor Factor Not A Factor
    h. Didn’t Like Choices ………………….31.2% 12.3% 56.5%
    f. Too Busy ………………………………..22.8% 9.6% 67.6%
    b. Illness ……………………………………16.0% 5.0% 79.0%
    g. Transportation ……………………….14.4% 5.2% 80.4%
    c. Out of Town …………………………..13.8% 3.8% 82.4%
    i. Registration Problems……………… 13.0% 6.9% 80.2%
    n. Did not receive ballot/not on time 12.2% 3.6% 84.2%
    l. Line too long ……………………………11.1% 8.9% 80.0%
    k. Bad Time/Location …………………..10.1% 9.5% 80.4%
    m. Didn’t know where to go …………..9.2% 10.4% 80.4%
    e. Did Not Receive Absentee Ballot ..7.8% 3.9% 88.4%
    a. Wrong Identification …………………..7.0% 3.4% 89.5%
    d. Forgot …………………………………….4.8% 4.2% 91.0%
    j. Weather ……………………………………2.5% 5.4% 92.2%

  66. Affordable Care Act? The one originally conceived by the Heritage Foundation? The one that forces people to buy a private product or pay a penalty? The one that was signed off on by the rapacious private health insurance and pharmacuetical industries in its final form? That’s your example of why voting for Democrats is the only way to avoid rightly being labeled ignorant, stupid, or evil?

  67. I asked a question: Would the ACA be in effect if the GOP presidential candidate had been elected?

    I see lots of noise, and beating around the bush, but no one willing to actually answer the question. Did the election effect social change? Yes. We demand facts, except when they are inconvenient.

  68. Kragar: Good point.

    oneillsinwisconsin: Unfortunately, we are not able to determine what would happen in alternate worlds, we are stuck with what actually happened. If you want my guess, I would say the question is backward: one reason the ruling class selected a Democrat was to put in place phony health-care reform in hopes no one would notice; having a Republican implement it wouldn’t have fooled anyone as to its nature.. But that is only a guess.

  69. O’Neill- we have answered you point by point. Sorry if we missed one… but, no, I don’t think electing Barack Obama lead to the passing of the ACA. I think that the majority of people were demanding a change in the way health insurance works, and had been doing so loudly since the Clinton administration (who failed to pass significant legislation, as you will recall).

    Finally, there came a confluence of interests among the lobbyists that allowed for some sort of health care reform that would increase the number of people covered while even lowering the cost for many (but not all, never all) and since there was this Republican plan for reform languishing in the halls of power, and since a truly embarrassing Republican was currently squatting in the Oval Office, and since it seemed as though it might be possible to pass some sort of plan without cutting into insurance company profits, people who claimed to want to fix the problem were able to get elected, and pass something that was a little better than the mess we had before. And thus the ACA was born.

    I like Obama, as a person. I think he takes integrity seriously and has a good heart. You will recall, though, I hope, that while the bill was in committee, everyone criticized him for expressing no opinion on what shape it would take. He only stepped in at the last minute to push some sort of compromise past the final roadblock of benchwarmers whose reputations depended on refusing to cooperate in any way with the “enemy”. The final product is, beyond question, a collaborative effort, a collective product, if you will, shaped as much by the opposition as by the loyalists.

    We could go on to discuss the Dem’s many other campaign planks, all equally important, that did not manage to turn into policy. It will be a familiar list. Addressing global warming, gun law reform, protecting entitlements, raising taxes to sustainable levels, finance reform, a permanent increase in government spending to boost the economy and rebuild infrastructure… every one of them gutted or ignored. Are there prisoners still in permanent detention without trial in Guantanamo? It seems there are. Do we still assassinate foreign nationals by remote control, also without trials? Apparently. Does our government routinely conduct massive, unnecessary surveillance of its citizens without judicial review? We all know the answer. Has anyone addressed the problem of immigration? No, no one.

    If all it took to fix a problem was to elect the right people who would hold our hands and lead us to Utopia, wouldn’t our saviors have a better track record? On the other hand, if any one politician’s power to direct the course of events were actually far more limited than they believe, wouldn’t we something more like the last 8 years?

    Look, vote! I haven’t said a word against voting, except to point out the mathematically obvious limits of your vote’s power to change the world. I really wish everyone felt like voting. It would mean that they all felt invested and heard, a part of something larger. But blaming non-voters for the problems of the system is, as I have said again and again, confusing cause and effect. I’m afraid your survey is psychologically meaningless. Only H matters. If people liked their choices and thought their vote actually mattered, then being busy, sick, not owning a car (didn’t think about the implications of transportation, did you?), etc… wouldn’t matter. If they felt empowered, all those obstacles wouldn’t stop them. But they don’t, and so they do.

  70. I’m not sure the ruling class did select a Democrat. I think so long as both nominees are sufficiently servile to them and act in their interest the power elite* is either indifferent as to which is elected or have a mild enough preference as to limit their action in support of their choice.

    *By power elite, i refer to the active members of the ruling class who invest time and money to advance what they see as their class interest. A majority of the ruling class devotes comparatively little time to politics, concentrating on their businesses or portfolios and limiting their participation in politics to voting and donations to organizations they trust to advance their interest. The power elite are people like the Koch brothers and Pete Petersen who actually found organizations and who solicit contributions from other wealthy people.

  71. “Stupidity, insanity, and malice are not required to miscommunicate, misunderstand, and misstep.”

    MattDoyle, I want this on a t-shirt. And in more people’s awareness.

  72. Emma: it being the start of an election year, I’m tempted to print some up! If I do, I’ll be sure to bring one to 4th Street. :D

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