Monday, July 17, 2006

Interesting op-ed by John Dean

Promoting a new book, I guess. "How Conservatives Have Become Authoritarians and What it Means"

Authoritarianism is not well understood and seldom discussed in the context of American government and politics, yet it now constitutes the prevailing thinking and behavior among conservatives. Regrettably, empirical studies reveal, however, that authoritarians are frequently enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, antiequality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral. They are also often conservatives without conscience who are capable of plunging this nation into disasters the likes of which we have never known.

Although I have only recently learned the correct term for describing this type of behavior, and come to understand the implications of such authoritarian thinking, I was familiar with the personality type from my years in the Nixon White House. We had plenty of authoritarians in the Nixon administration, from the president on down. In fact, authoritarian thinking was the principal force behind almost everything that went wrong with Nixon's presidency. I had had little contact with my former colleagues, or with their new authoritarian friends and associates, until the early 1990s, when they decided to attack my wife and me in an effort to rewrite history at our expense. By then I had left public life for a very comfortable and private existence in the world of business, but they forced me back into the public square to defend myself and my wife from their false charges. In returning, I discovered how contemptible and dangerous their brand of "conservatism" had become, and how low they were prepared to stoop for their cause...

The rest is mostly a set-the-record-straight account of his own story.

I have no real opinion wrt Dean himself. It does make sense to me to differentiate between "conservative" and "authoritarian."

I like conservatives, real conservatives, even if I often disagree with them. Conservatives actually want to, well, conserve some stuff. Besides their own o'erswollen egos, that is.

They do seem to be a rare breed these days.

In other news: woke up around 4:30 ayem last night and had something of a panic attack. Ostensibly it was about the devolving situation in the Middle East. I suspect it also wasn't totally unrelated to the wretched, bonecrushing heat and humidity. Whatever it is: I don't like it. You'd think one would be, should be, even, used to feeling this way ever, especially if you've been living in New York since before 9/11 and have been paying any attention to world events and trends for, well. Quite some time.

All's I know is that I simply can't go to the sources I'm most familiar with for comfort or wisdom. Don't want to hear the talking heads, professional or amateur, poking around the spilled guts of the body politic and hazarding guesses about What It All Means, Dear. don't want to go to the family and compound the worries with personal shit about health and finances and "gee, I'm really Not Okay At All." Can't go to the "spiritual leader" I'd wanted to be a sort of mentor/group leader and instead turned out to be another garden-variety narcissist, even less emotionally evolved than a lot of not particularly "spiritual" folk I know. don't want to get into another pointless fight about stupid shit with people I don't know to take my mind off the larger pointless fights about (I suspect) stupid shit that have more weight simply because they're backed up with weapons of mass destruction (seriously, aren't *all* weapons pretty much by definition "of mass destruction?"

I went back to sleep saying a sort of prayer/mantra: "Please, please, please, please. Please calm down. Please let it go. Please cool off. Please. Calm. Listen: please, please, please..."

eventually the cat came and sat on my chest and purred, as he is wont to do, and that certainly helped.

I don't know. I suspect that what you put out does indeed return to you one way or another. I also suspect that there is a collective way in which this works and that the individual karma, or whatever you want to call it, can get swept away with the larger...motion.

At the same time: it couldn't hoit.

and if i can't get the world to calm down, at least maybe i can get myself to calm down enough to get some rest.


The Goldfish said...

I have been meaning to post about the difference between authoritarianism and conservatism, liberalism and socialism - no offence intended, but the American usages are extremely... uh, liberal. And these things lose their meaning, which confuses a lot of important discussion.

As for the Middle East - it sucks for sure. However, we live in a dangerous world. We were born into a dangerous world, even if those dangers have changed over the years. Fortunately, we both live in two of the less dangerous corners of the world.

All we can do is wait and see and make the most of today in case the whole thing goes 'pop' tomorrow (or we die in a humdrum domestic way that only our family and friends get to hear about).

Dan L-K said...

I think there are a lot of times when the most heartfelt, sincere, and powerful prayer is "Please help this not suck quite so much."

Hang in there. You're not alone.

midwesterntransport said...

oh, bd, i know what you mean. i've been wondering recently about the power of what folks call prayer, and how i just can't seem to get it up to know...implore some Great Grand Bigger Than I Force to change the world the way i'd like it to be changed. because i don't believe that any Great Big Force would a) get that involved with the daily minutiae of millions of lives, or b) care. know...plenty of folks have stories of how "prayer" helped a friend or loved one during an illness, and i do believe that the positive force of a group of people focused and directed might just be felt. sending all of that positive energy to someone might help them feel better for a day or a week or a month, however long it might be.

regardless, sounds to me like you took a useful path back to sleep. and if some of that positive energy gets directed over to the Middle East, or whereever it goes when it goes, then you've put something good into the world and that oughta count for sumpin'.

belledame222 said...

Yeh, exactly.

something about the "is this the beginning of WWIII?" and the barest mention of the possibility of nukes is what sends me into my personal tizzy.

that, and: it didn't feel less dangerous on 9/11 and the days after. and no, Christ no, i am not one of the flag-waving "everything changed bomb the shit out of 'em" people; never was, even back then.

but i think my best friend is right; most of us never really processed that one properly. the gut-churning panic and dismay and, well, terror, yes, just sort of diminished and went into retreat. with some exceptions.

felt this way during the India-Pakistan showdown in 2002, too. my fear is what happens if when that (nuclear) gun ever finally goes off, anywhere.

the funny thing is that an actual nuclear-terror attack here in NYC would be, well, put it this way, we'd be beyond worrying anymore.

sometimes i wonder if the anticipation, the not-knowing, isn't actually worse than the reality, with some shit (obviously not all!)

funny how people go off on their own tailspins and what sets it off, isn't it? the SARS thing didn't bug me; the bird-flu thing, only a little. mad-cow freaked me out for a while and then i went back to eating burgers, which is undoubtedly a lousy idea for all sorts of other reasons.

global warming. earthquakes. tsunami. economic depression. oil and water running out. torture. camps. the fundies. the godless heathens. muggers, rapists, mad dogs, jackbooted fascists, terrorizing anarchists running rampant in the streets...

they're all real. they all could Happen Here and sometimes do/will/have. but it's interesting how much *worrying* about them happens in the interim; and who does the particular worrying; and why.

and now people in NYC are freaking because there's apparently a resurgence in...bedbugs. little bitey insects that don't spread disease or cause lasting bodily damage; just, you know, incredibly annoying and gross.

it's curious to me; i keep reading these people who don't *have* 'em, but are *freaked* because they *heard* someone knows someone who got 'em. people frantically washing and even burning all their sheets, clothes, etc.

and there was an article about the terrible terrible stigma they bring, and i just thought: well, maybe i'll be eating my words, but the sheer *horror* here seems kind of well out of proportion.

and then i read a quote from someone convinced that immigrants were bringing them in, and something went "click" and i thought: ahhhh. okay. "the invaders are coming to suck our precious bodily fluids!" works on several levels at once, y'see.

people. i dunno. goddam.

belledame222 said...

slippage, was responding to goldfish. thanks you guys, it helps.

belledame222 said...

per heat + Middle East: I have often pondered, usually around this time of year, whether if everyone there had had access to decent air conditioning (much less all the other basics that so many are forced to do without) if there'd be any of these problems. Religion, shmeligion: if i had to be in this kind of weather or WORSE day in day out, even assuming i *did* actually have sufficient food, water, plumbing and so on (which of course many don't)--fuck, I'm sure I'd want to go blow shit/people up, too.

midwesterntransport said...

yeah, i agree that it's interesting to see what freaks individual people out. i mean, re: bedbugs in NY - criminy, people are piled on TOP of one another like crazy here, how could someone, somewhere, NOT have bedbugs?

wrt insects, ants freak me out the most. even more than roaches. roaches are gross, yeah, and one of the benefits (thus far and may it stay that way, Universe, Please) is not feeling like I might pick up a piece of paper and watch a nasty little thing scuttle away from me. and no ants, either. i lived in a place in greenpoint that had ants just waltzing on the fucking floor. and ants are pretty much unavoidable in the midwest, they were just part of the summer, in the houses and sometimes even in school and god i HATED them.

also, i don't know if this will help, but for me, it's comforting to realize that humans haven't yet created a bomb (as far as I know) that can blow the planet into little itty bitty pieces. so even if we totally destroy the surface of the planet, even if someone releases a series of nuclear bombs someday, SOMEthing on the earth will survive.

there may not be a civilization of humans as we know it, and, you know, it may take the earth a loooong time to recover. But SOMETHING will survive. Some sort of life will continue, even if mine doesn't.

that may or may not be comforting to you, but it has gotten me through many a panic attack. Life Will Continue. just a different sort of life.

midwesterntransport said...

that should have read: "one of the benefits of my new apartment"

belledame222 said...

mwt: yeh, I often think in those kinds of terms as well.

speaking of roaches, though: sort of put out by knowing that they're as likely if not likelier than any living critters to survive an apocalypse.

i did read somewhere that they operate by a primitive sort of democracy (!), do roaches. so maybe they'll actually do a better job.

even so: i don't *wanna* be reincarnated as a roach-descendant, maw!...

belledame222 said...

per apartment critters: the worst was the Time of the Mice. *shudder.*

midwesterntransport said...

ha ha. i saw a play in brooklyn once that followed two roaches in a rundown off-off theatre who survive the apocalypse and are then torn about what to *do* with their lives.

however shall they fill their time now that they're not watching plays?

the whole thing was a dig at the Business O' Theatre, really - and kinda funny.

Alon Levy said...

Hitler inspires sympathy with Mussolini; Stalin inspires symapthy with Lenin; Jeffreys inspires sympathy with Dworkin; Randall Terry inspires sympathy with Jerry Falwell; and the latest neo-con/Dominionist alliance inspires sympathy with traditional conservatives.

When you talk about how you don't have any problem with real conservatives, you should keep in mind that these real conservatives are those who continually denied your sexual orientation for years, and who have generally done the best they can to keep you down as a woman, a lesbian, a Jew, a New Yorker.

A few weeks ago, Tacitus wrote a post about how right-wing think tanks work. In essence, they legitimize far right views in order to shift the center of political discourse to the right. The left responds by aligning itself slightly left of this new center; then the think tanks legitimize views even kookier and more conservative.

Barry Goldwater isn't your friend. Neither is John Dean. Just because they don't want to send you to a concentration camp doesn't make them at all palatable.

belledame222 said...

Well, obviously neither of those two is my friend. For one thing, Goldwater's dead.

I really don't need any further whipping up into righteous anger against those who would keep me down, though.

Lots of people aren't my friend; what I'm interested in are people who are capable of change and dialogue, even a little bit.