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Andrew Schmookler's book-- What We're Up Against
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Andrew Bard Schmookler is an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST. His previous books include The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution, for which he was awarded the Erik H. Erikson prize by the International Society for Political Psychology.
Rough Notes from the interview-- mostly my questions.
Rob: Welcome back to the show, Andy. We're going to be talking about your very interesting book, What We're Up Against, The Destructive Force at work in our world" and how we can defeat it. You say, that at it's heart, this book is a call to battle.
Give us an overview of the book.
a destructive force, with a coherence to it, has taken over the political right, and the response to it, i.e., liberal america has been woefully weak and inadequate.
Quote from William Butler Yeats
The best lack all conviction"
Rob: You bring to us the idea that there is a destructive force and there is evil.
Can you define both?
I know that people in liberal respond to evil in a negative way, that it's a primitive idea that we've outgrown. I believe we have moved in a direction that has drained away the spiritual passions...
People can call it what they want, but they need to see...
A coherent force that spread a pattern of brokenness to everything that it contacts, and that it not only spreads, but also exploits brokenness in people who are broken and unwhole.
There are people who are channels or carriers for this evil force.
Greed, cruelty, injustice, even a predilection to lie rather than to tell the truth.
Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney
Rob: you say that this destructive, evil force is being enabled from the right and republicans, but I also see it as a problem with many democrats too. I see it more as corporatism.
In America, politics is about power, Power is about who will have his hand on the helm that will steer our way to what we will become. We are set up to be a two party nation..
One of those parties has become something that is pretty much entirely destructive and dishonest. I've had respect for conservative values that were represented at earlier stages of the republican party. But in the last 15 years, if you look at what in the republican party has had a constructive effect, the list would be extremely short. But the list o f what has damaged the nation is very long and getting longer every day.
We have one other party on the battlefield-- the democrats.
Rob: I read a List of destructive/evil forces
Rob: You talk about America's compromised Immune System
There are a nexus of forces that compromise wholeness at various levels.
Readiness to battle
The ability of basically good people to recognize to call out something for the destructive or evil thing that it is. I aspire my book to be the Uncle Tom's Cabin for our era.
That book awakened people to the resistance to the idea of slavery, the book fortified the resistance and aroused people's moral passions to oppose slavery. That is part of the immune system.
The problem with our immune system is the force of moral feeling and thinking has declined in my lifetime (I'm 69)
Bush administration committed more of the impeachable offenses than all the presidents of the past two centuries.
Rob: Yes, but Obama continued the impeachable offenses.
IF you lump them together you defeat the most strategic move we have access to.
We have to pick an army and fight the other.
Rob: You say there is a time for bridge building and a time for waging battle-- and speak of misguided liberal insistence on being even-handed" that liberalism has injured the nation by too often emulating the spirit of Neville Chamberlain when we are up against something that should be confronted in the spirit of Winston Churchill.
I've long been a peace-maker" refers to England, before Churchill-- when up against those only interested in fighting, dominating and winning.
Rob: You've talked about brokenness and wholeness in terms of the destructive force.
evolution " we see order which nourishes and sustains life" a larger order, even up to the biosphere is structured to sustain life" threats come from the outside, like an asteroid or volcano..
Cultures have come out of that. We have created other kinds of wholeness that serve life
justice, kindness, honesty, rather than injustice, cruelty and deception. That wholeness is juxtaposed with various forms of brokenness"
The rise of civilization introduced a kind of disorder that we've been contending ever since.
The force of good nourishes and sustains life". that's what the various dimensions of wholeness are about.
Rob: Erich Fromm quote: from Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
"The history of civilization, from the destruction of Carthage and Jerusalem, to the destruction of Dresden, Hiroshima and the people, soil and trees of Viet Nam, is a tragic record of sadism and destructiveness."
The parable of the tribes shows that any creature that stepped across the line that we stepped across 10,000 years ago-- extricating ourselves from that niche, with farming and domesticating animals-- Societies
Rob: my understanding of the parable of the tribes p eople began to enter civilization, with farming, domestication and ownership of land.
Before, people were living in relation to the land-- primates-- you can get larger societies, start developing political systems
So these societies are now, in a state of un-regulation. There's no biologically evolved order of how they are going to relate with each other, and no human order, what Hobbes called a state of nature, what happens is, as Hobbes described as a war of all against all"
With open ended capacity for cultural organization, with all these possibilities emerging, with a struggle for power-- and emerges a whole new process.
What is selected for is the capacity to prevail in the struggle for power.
So 5000 y ears later we see tyranny, slavery, chronic warfare.
I say that this is inevitable that with the rise of civilization that will emerge this social revolutionary process, which, until they can bring it under control" and that's where that force that I'm calling evil begins to emerge" into a form that can be anti-human, at war with their innate needs and wants.
Rob: the parable of the tribes--
what if there are tribes and one is violent
Options for peaceful ones: annihilated, absorbed, run away or" defend and use the force being used by the violent one. And it's inevitable.
The process from hunter gathering to empire retraces this pattern.
The hopeful note is that it shows that we are not the
Rob: You end the book saying we need to embrace the battle
The battle i s against the forces of destruction.
As we become greater bulls in the planetary china shop, the option of just muddling through is diminishing
The first thing is to see the whole landscape of our human history"
Rob: you say that we look at the real world around us-- our belief system tells us there is no such thing as an evil force--
people talk about being even handed. There's something fundamentally wrong with you see things in symmetrical terms.
Obama's failure to prosecute Bush-- that was a sign of his weakness. he was afraid to prosecute.
The idea that what the Republican party is doing is unprecedented in American history-- to not see that is a form of brokenness on its own, to be severe from the sacred values.
Rob: You list characteristics of this evil-- Page 50-- the list sounds like narcissism.
Rob: Let's talk about the solution. You say the right has to wake up the left has to face the evil and start waging the battle.
On the right there are people mistaking the evil for the good.
On the left, you have people not recognizing the centrality of that dynamic in the human saga,
We need to have a passion for justice, for the health of the planet, for kindness that is sufficient to rouse us to give voice
See the evil, call it out, press the battle.
It's almost like the emperor's new clothes. We have to see this is not the American way, not what the founders had in mind-- Call it out.
By press the battle, I mean what Obama has not done--
Rob: What is it that Obama has not done?
he has not seen the evil.
He has only in recent times called it out but in ways that are not powerful.
He never goes after them. I think we need to go after them with everything we've got.
Rob: What does that mean go after them with everything we've got.
Denounce. it. Public opinion is what we've got to win. That's what Bernie Sander's revolution is about.
Rob: What are the concrete steps that we have to take.
This problem has emerged over the course of decades and it is not going to be turned around overnight. The thing I'm focused on is a program of see the evil, call it out, press the battle. The most immediate thing is to get the hands of the republican party, the instrument of the destructive force, off the helm. I've addressed this book to liberal America to get them to see the nature of the problem.
it is important for the planet that we shift the balance of power away from the destructive force. It's not a simple recipe to heal a broken culture.
Rob: tying to top down revolution-- hierarchy, domination, slavery, patriarchy-- empowerment of narcissistic sociopathic control
That is the pathology of top-down and there are inherent dangers of top down.
When our founders gave us government of, by and for the people as well. But there's also the top-down aspect.
Rob: we need connection consciousness-- that top-down forces are out of control. We need to be aware of our connection to systems-- life, bio, eco, cultural-- and we need to operate with interdependence and cooperation.But the top-down forces have become destructive, broken, becoming narcissistic, sociopathic, predatory and exploiting the most weak and vulnerable.
The place where top-down forces operate have been taken over by a force that is destructive and disruptive. Points out that top-down forces are necessary but system has been pervaded-- that the sense of corporate sense of responsibility is much weaker now. What I think is important to discern is not that the structures are out of control, but the spirit that is animating those structures.
Rob: and you talk about how this brokenness and destructive force is a pattern and energy that reverberates from the system to the people to the culture to the system.
Rob: You description of how people become vulnerable to brokenness by being raised by strict parents reminds me of George Lakoff's earlier book describing conservative strict parenting and liberal nurturing parenting.
Alice Miller's book, FOR YOUR OWN GOOD-- describes rise of Nazi culture from strict parenting.
Rob: Conservatives neuropsychology makes them less tolerant of less controlled situations.
This feeds into what I call the terror of the subordinate role.
if people are victims of abuse, then they develop the terror of the subordinate role.
I'm inferring that only domination is comfortable for people who experienced in their childhood abuse by powerful figures.
Rob: I discuss the 30-35% of the population who have been abused as children-- become authoritarian, and conservative.
I am into the call for battle because we have an emergency. In the long haul, everybody" is in a position to impart something of a healing energy.
Rob: this is why I am hopeful that the bottom-up revolution is changing things-- making people more aware of connection, interdependence and caring.
I've seen a lot of this similar to membership in a cult.
We need to kindle the file so as many people as possible are not just leaning but charging ahead.
Rob: It's a great book and I hope people take those three steps.
See the evile, call it out, press the battle.
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