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How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America


US Politics & Gov't  (tags: abuse, americans, candidates, congress, constitution, dishonesty, economy, elections, ethics, freedoms, Govtfearmongering, healthcare, housing, media, military, politics, propaganda, socialsecurity, SupremeCourt )

Kit
- 852 days ago - alternet.org
America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?



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Kit B. (276)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 12:10 pm

It's been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don't know is that they're also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are.

Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that's corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here's what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now.

North versus South: Two Definitions of Liberty

Michael Lind first called out the existence of this conflict in his 2006 book, Made In Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics. He argued that much of American history has been characterized by a struggle between two historical factions among the American elite -- and that the election of George W. Bush was a definitive sign that the wrong side was winning.

For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they've done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this.

Among the presidents, this strain gave us both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Poppy Bush -- nerdy, wonky intellectuals who, for all their faults, at least took the business of good government seriously. Among financial elites, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet still both partake strongly of this traditional view of wealth as power to be used for good. Even if we don't like their specific choices, the core impulse to improve the world is a good one -- and one that's been conspicuously absent in other aristocratic cultures.

Which brings us to that other great historical American nobility -- the plantation aristocracy of the lowland South, which has been notable throughout its 400-year history for its utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.

As described by Colin Woodard in American Nations: The Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, the elites of the Deep South are descended mainly from the owners of sugar, rum and cotton plantations from Barbados -- the younger sons of the British nobility who'd farmed up the Caribbean islands, and then came ashore to the southern coasts seeking more land. Woodward described the culture they created in the crescent stretching from Charleston, SC around to New Orleans this way:

It was a near-carbon copy of the West Indian slave state these Barbadians had left behind, a place notorious even then for its inhumanity....From the outset, Deep Southern culture was based on radical disparities in wealth and power, with a tiny elite commanding total obedience and enforcing it with state-sponsored terror. Its expansionist ambitions would put it on a collision course with its Yankee rivals, triggering military, social, and political conflicts that continue to plague the United States to this day.

David Hackett Fischer, whose Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways In America informs both Lind's and Woodard's work, described just how deeply undemocratic the Southern aristocracy was, and still is. He documents how these elites have always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press. (Lind adds that they have historically been profoundly anti-technology as well, far preferring solutions that involve finding more serfs and throwing them at a problem whenever possible. Why buy a bulldozer when 150 convicts on a chain gang can grade your road instead?) Unlike the Puritan elites, who wore their wealth modestly and dedicated themselves to the common good, Southern elites sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and the pursuit of pleasure -- including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.

But perhaps the most destructive piece of the Southern elites' worldview is the extremely anti-democratic way it defined the very idea of liberty. In Yankee Puritan culture, both liberty and authority resided mostly with the community, and not so much with individuals. Communities had both the freedom and the duty to govern themselves as they wished (through town meetings and so on), to invest in their collective good, and to favor or punish individuals whose behavior enhanced or threatened the whole (historically, through community rewards such as elevation to positions of public authority and trust; or community punishments like shaming, shunning or banishing).

Individuals were expected to balance their personal needs and desires against the greater good of the collective -- and, occasionally, to make sacrifices for the betterment of everyone. (This is why the Puritan wealthy tended to dutifully pay their taxes, tithe in their churches and donate generously to create hospitals, parks and universities.) In return, the community had a solemn and inescapable moral duty to care for its sick, educate its young and provide for its needy -- the kind of support that maximizes each person's liberty to live in dignity and achieve his or her potential. A Yankee community that failed to provide such support brought shame upon itself. To this day, our progressive politics are deeply informed by this Puritan view of ordered liberty.
***

By Sara Robinson | alternet |

Full article as one page at Visit Site.

 

Mm M. (458)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 12:19 pm
Thank you Kit! xx Sadly, it is both sides!
 

Mm M. (458)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 12:20 pm
Jeepers Notes not holding again! Fooey!
 

Allan Yorkowitz (446)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 1:52 pm
Sorry Kit - an interesting history lesson without a name, time frame, economic, political, social backing,I was simply reading US History 101.
 

Kit B. (276)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 2:40 pm

Yes, Allan the history of America as we are living it now.
 

Sue H. (7)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 5:25 pm
:( but thanks for posting.,
 

Michael T. (82)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 6:57 pm
They are christian in name only and only demonstrate christian values when it suits their purposes and serve their ends towards maintaining the dominance. They are very incensed over movements and legislation within the past several decades that sought to balance the playing field by enacting laws regarding civil rights, equal rights and women’s rights. These laws have put them off balance and has angered them over the past 50 years. They are trying to reclaim their dominance based on religious and political views. They craft and establish social institutions that serve their interests. And this current phase is their backlash for the movements in the past 50 years to make American better and more equal for all.

As it has become obvious, they prefer to regulate social behavior, but refuse regulations that would provide balance and fairness economically as that would allow subcultures to achieve parity, and that would threaten their dominance. Such people, will not, unfortunately, die out in our lifetimes. They will eventually, but not soon enough. And they have been grinding away at the insult delivered them by the Civil Rights Acts and other legislation.
 

Michael T. (82)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 6:58 pm
There continue to be 3 ideological principles that underlie the embodiment by these groups of social Darwinism. The first is eurocentrism/ethnocentrism which is the assumption of supremacy of European Americans and their values and traditions. They are monotheists and they are pushing America toward their version of a theocracy. They already believe the United States IS a theocracy, and should be, and are advancing this belief and defending their right to lead it and legislate it as if it is. The second principle is one of a patriarchy. This ideology is supported by their brand(s) of monotheism. This patriarchy is a hierarchical system of social organization in which the structures of power, value, and culture are male dominated. Males are seen as the “natural” heads of household, presidential candidates, corporate executives, college presidents etc. Women are men’s “natural” subordinates. And while this has been under attack over the past few decades, we can observe that they are making moves to resist it as they believe it is their “natural” right.
 

Michael T. (82)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 6:58 pm
Lastly is the belief in the economic system of capitalism which advocates individual ownership. As the more and more of the citizens of our country have had the blinders to this removed they now see that it leads to poverty for the majority in the midst of wealth for a few. Capitalism does this via the social Darwinist model, still taught at Harvard and Yale business schools, supported by Randian support in literature, by holding each citizen accountable and responsible for her/his own welfare while making the deck staked in favor of a few, rather than making the priorities of life in America one of cooperation and mutual responsibility. This of course creates divisiveness and inequality and are used to rationalize prejudice, negative attitudes and to justify discrimination towards the subgroups that are not eurocentric/ethnocentric which further results in racism, sexism, and classism.
 

Michael T. (82)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 7:00 pm
It is naïve to think that their representatives can simply be done away with by voting them out of office, because there is still a large culture of Americans who believe they are part of this dominant group, and that this group will take care of them. Nor have superPACS or mainstream media, or their church leaders, been willing to disenfranchise them of this opinion, and instead continue to promulgate and foster these pernicious and un-American views. Anything outside of this dominant view is quickly labeled feminism, socialism, and communism with largely negative connotations in an attempt to cause anyone doubtful to quickly get back in line to avoid being so labeled. We must oppose their efforts for the next several decades until the rest of American has awoken from the effects of brainwashing through echo chamber media and political speeches that are laden with lies.
 

Michael T. (82)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 7:01 pm
Many think that everyone is entitled to their belief in religion and that no one else has the right to question anyone in this regard. Blame can be laid at the feet of fundamentalists but not at the feet of your everyday monotheist. What must happen is that this belief must be done away with because what has been described above is supported by moderates as well. Out of respect to each citizens rights in this regard we are required to be civil and allow them this. Everyone is entitled to their own monotheistic beliefs, but even moderates have now encroached on the one time division and separation between church and state, and this can no longer be tolerated or America will become and remain the theocracy it has become instead of the democracy it was meant to be.
 

Michael Carney (211)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 8:10 pm
It certainly explains, the differences, between how the north, and South view things, and how they've run their Societies...I have relatives from the South, and in lots of way's they are still fighting the Civil War...It amazes me, how people down South view things so differently than a lot of us "Yankees" We can't talk politics when we get together, that's for sure...I think this article expalins the differences, I've never understood...
 

Michael T. (82)
Saturday June 30, 2012, 8:15 pm
Thanks Care2 for posting my comments out of order. Sorry one and all.
 

Gloria picchetti (298)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 4:45 am
Walmart started in Arkansas & it's ruining the entire nation.
 

Arielle S. (314)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 7:19 am
Michael T, your comments are worthy in any order - and Michael C, you've nailed the south. How they can justify their "religion" with their actions is way beyond me.
In our society, we appear to have a "ladder" approach - men (especially white men) at the top and importance trickles on down thru women, children and animals. In many other societies, it's all a circle - everyone has equal importance and value. I much prefer the circle....
 

JL A. (275)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 8:57 am
simple descriptions of most groups hide the reality--thanks for the expose filling in the details
 

Michael T. (82)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 9:19 am
Sorry Kit this was supposed to post as the opener.
My apologies in advance for the length of the following thoughts. Its not something I feel that can be said properly in a few sound bites. Kit, excellent article. I am so moved by it to add the following which I think adds to it. I am in no way attempting to steal your thunder, but to instead add to it.

Three theories still exist that attempt to describe the American experience. Assimilation, amalgamation, and the pluralistic or multicultural theory. The latter is the closest to the truth as it states that there is a combination of many subsocieties. Each group retains customs and traditions. But let’s point out the obvious in noting that certain groups and values dominate our culture, while other groups are marginalized, devalued, and repressed by them intentionally in an effort to preserve the status quo.

The dominant subsociety is comprised of white males whose values can be labeled as androcentric, misogynistic, patriarchal and christian. Over the past decades since Nixon and Reagan acknowledged them, the silent majority associated with christian beliefs has been laboring to recraft this nation as a christian nation by their rules and definitions. They are the white wealthy, and they are largely in power (just look at the congressional breakup according to race, class and gender). Dominant groups act in ways to maintain their dominance.
 

Kamila A. (141)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 9:58 am
Wow, its all true.
 

Roger M. (0)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 11:04 am
Interesting post. Thanks.
 

Frank Lornitzo (8)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 12:40 pm
Thank you for the summary of our heritages and diseases, all on a single page.
 

Robert B. (58)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 2:10 pm
Just goes to show that when a person is born with a gold spoon up their butt it tends to make their nose turn up enough to collect rain water and crosses their eyes so they can't see reality. It takes a special person to be able to achieve enough awareness to be able to step out of the superficial wealth bubble to be able to see the world as it actually is. Quite sad.
 

Gloria H. (88)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 3:12 pm
We sang America the Beautiful today, I never did know the 2,3rd stanzas, but they are exactly what America is (was/should be) about...righting wrongs, true brotherhood, real justice, etc.
I stopped being "patriotic" or at least knee jerk patriotic during Vietnam when we took over France's problem country (VN) for the sake of the US. How the hell did that happen? oh, yeah...communism (shudder, shudder) was taking over. Look at the USSR now, eh?
However, America (song) is what a great nation really is about. It's not about exploiting other countries or (Good Gawd!) our OWN people!!!!!!
I pray our country will wake up someday. We have enough stuff...what is missing is a country with soul (I don't mean one religion over another).
 

Lois Jordan (56)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 4:11 pm
Excellent article. Thank you, Kit....and Michael, too, for the explanation. Let's also not forget the huge role the media has played, and continues to. Materialism and superficiality are everywhere; propped up to be something everyone should "aspire to." Am working to educate my granddaughters against the hype of the Disney/Kardashian World, and explain what REALLY matters on this beautiful planet. Since they are the future, we have the obligation to show this next generation what is truly meaningful. We can't forget that Evil...true evil...also exists in the world, and they should be able to recognize it through the smokescreens.
 

Mary Donnelly (47)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 4:58 pm
Thanks Kit--great post and comments.
 

Myron Scott (70)
Sunday July 1, 2012, 8:18 pm
Excellent comments and article. Thanks, Kit, et al.
 

Susanne R. (249)
Tuesday July 3, 2012, 6:51 pm
It appears that the southern states still find it difficult to let go of their antiquated social order and their disdain for the federal government, and It's very unfortunate that such attitudes are becoming more and more common north of the Mason-Dixon line. What the author describes is obvious, yet I didn't put two and two together until it was explained so logically in this article. Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees...

Excellent article, Kit! Thank you for posting it!
 

Terry V. (30)
Tuesday July 24, 2012, 11:04 am
Thanks!
PLEASE note the below, I am still in shock

FYI Care2 only donates 5 cents of every dollar to non profit organizations

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