“…you realise that you’re not doing politics, you’re doing religion. It’s religion you’re dealing with, because you’re dealing with belief and it’s hard” -Michael Parenti


“Now if people cannot challenge the validity of the evidence you present, they have fallback positions. I remember the Moscow intellectuals back when there was a Soviet Union. Back in the 1980s there was a very interesting article written of all places in the National Review conservative right-wing magazine, where the author described the Moscow intellectuals as loving Ronald Reagan Marlboro cigarettes and the Confederacy during the Civil War and that I thought was a very accurate description given the ones I met when I when I was there they hated socialism. A friend of mine had the same experience. This happened when she was in Leningrad with the Soviet intellectuals there and one guy said to her, he said: “the poorest people in your country lived better than I do”. Here’s a guy who had gone to Moscow University, he spoke fluent English, he had a small but comfortable apartment, he had a wall full with books, he never missed a meal in his life. But he was convinced that the poorest in your country in America and when I used to hear them talk their eyes would begin to sparkle. America, America and and she said: “Well that’s not true. We have people in our country who sleep in doorways and pick through garbage cans and such”. And you know what they said to her they said: “that’s all right, you don’t have to lie to us anymore” and she said: “No really” and she cited some statistics. and was talking about this. What’s the fallback? The first fallback position “Where did you get those figures from?”. She said: “from the federal government Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Census Bureau its public knowledge.”. So the second fallback position said: “Oh those are just the blacks. The blacks they’re lazy and stupid and so yeah they’re poor.”. Yeah that’s that’s a rhetorical fallback position, I’ve given that a technical term descriptive term and I forgot, what I did oh yes Racism. I call that racism. So it so happened that she had a copy of Mother Jones in her with her and there was a special photo feature in that issue of the poor of Appalachia. Thirty years after Kennedy’s war on poverty in Appalachia these people were as poor as ever and there were pictures of their destitution and so she brought this out. She said: “Look Appalachia” they were all white you know 97, 99% sort of like Seattle. She said: “Look at this” and they looked at the pictures and they had another fallback position. Which was what? Oh so there were a few white people who are poor out in the country and so that’s so unusual they made a whole article with photographs about them. You see, beliefs are not surrendered, beliefs are rather frightening impervious to evidence sometimes. The Soviet intellectuals believed America was a capitalist paradis. By the way when I spoke to the ones I spoke to in Moscow, they knew so much more about America than I did. I was handicapped by experience and reality which is as you know a messy kind of multi-dimensional thing. They had all the certainty of inexperience, the believers in the capitalist paradise were a mirror image of the believers of the state, those who believed that the Soviet Union was a worker’s paradise. There were many people who I knew, people in the party and fellow travellers and such, who had heard so much negative, I mean everything about these communist countries was bad, everything, there wasn’t ever a single positive thing ever said. So their reaction was to reject every single criticism. The girlfriend I had right back then in the eighties, she was a party member and I remember I would raise questions you see not from a position of hostility but from a position of I’d like the system to work a lot better and be more viable. and we would end up in and really banging heads together it was just impossible to have a rational discussion and introduce things. I can think of another another lady I know this was another friend of mine red diaper, a third generation Communist Party and she says to me now this was a woman in her late 40s an experienced woman and she says: “There’s no prostitution in the Soviet Union”, I said: “Esther, what are you talking about? So this is a country of 300 at that time, wars, scarcities and all the imperfections of human beings and self-serving exploitation motors. Are you telling me in this whole country there’s no prostitution?”. She says: “There’s no prostitution”. A year later, I had a delegation to the Soviet Union made up of economists and political scientists and I remember our guide in Moscow she said again she was a woman about late 40s early 50s she said: “There is no prostitution in my country”. You see now we’re trying to explore the nature of belief. I said to her: “You know, there may not be any prostitution in your country, but they sure as a hell of a lot of it in our hotel right here downstairs” and you know what she said without missing a beat she said: “Yes, well I want you to know all those girls have full-time jobs during the day” talk about fallback position.


So people, if you’re engaged in politics, political discourse and political struggle as I am all the time, in political communication you realise that you’re not doing politics, you’re doing religion. It’s religion you’re dealing with, because you’re dealing with belief and it’s hard, it’s a rough deal. I mean it’s with good reason that we use words like political dogma and sectarian, these are religious terms you know.


The Psychology of Conformity – Academy of Ideas

“Society itself is a codified hero system, which means that society everywhere is a living myth of the significance of human life, a defiant creation of meaning. Every society thus is a “religion” whether it thinks so or not: Soviet “religion” and Maoist “religion” are as truly religious as are scientific and consumer “religion,” no matter how much they may try to disguise themselves by omitting religious and spiritual ideas from their lives.” (Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death)


Just like any religion, the religion of one’s society becomes easier to believe in, the greater the number of people to whom worship it. And this is why the nonconformists are so feared by the masses, the unique individuals plant seeds of doubt into the minds of the conformists regarding the significance of their social roles, and thus the significance of their very existence. Therefore, the masses actively discourage the cultivation of one’s uniqueness, ridicule and ostracise nonconformists, and try and pressure them back to conformity – something they must do given that their existential significance is on the line.


“…but if the result of my efforts and those of others is that man becomes a robot, created and controlled by a science of his own making, then I am very unhappy indeed. If the good life of the future consists in so conditioning individuals through the control of their environment, and through the control of the rewards they receive, that they will be inexorably productive, well-behaved, happy or whatever, then I want none of it. To me this is a pseudo-form of the good life which includes everything save that what makes it good.”

― Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy


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