Persistent Conservative Myths

I see these five myths which continue to be perpetuated by conservatives as a very clear sign of the emptiness of the conservative argument. Paul Buchette presented them very nicely in an editorial on Nation of Change but I also want to summarize his article and possibly make a few comments.

The first myth is Entitlements and I have discussed this before but Buchette is clear:  Social Security, Medicare, etc. are entitlements because we pay for them and are entitled to their use. They do not affect the budget or the deficit; in fact, the Social Security fund is the owner of a great deal of the American debt. We worry about China calling in their markers, but what about Social Security. It’s a little complicated and the conservatives will tell you there really is no Social Security funding but that is because the conservatives want to have all the money tied up in government bonds be transferred to their own funds. Social Security goes away and the conservatives are that much richer.

The Federal government is clearly viewed as a money management system for the rich, richer, and richest.

I have never been in favor of replacing the public school system with a privately controlled alternative system such as charter schools. Education should be a right of all citizens and the only way to support that right requires the Federal government. I do believe in specialized education, though, but only after the fundamentals are taught. Vocational schools, Magnet schools, etc. are valuable in the community since they recognize the differences between students and the directions their lives may take. At the same time (and this sometimes makes me crazy) I understand that one of the primary reasons for public education has always been to prepare new workers for the corporations and businesses to assure continuing profits.

The need to work to earn money to live is hard to avoid and I accept that an education benefits both the worker and the captain of industry (although if not evenly). But I would like to see more emphasis placed on thinking than on learning. It is clear to me over the last few years that the population of the United States is inadequate to compete in the world and is too easy to fool. We are living in a cesspool of mendacity and corruption that only seems to be getting worse.

Most conservatives will be quick to point out that corporate taxes in this country are higher than in most other countries. That may seem true but it has about as much validity as the savings a television pitch-man promises at three in the morning if you’ll only send him $19.95 for not one but two amazing magical replaces-all-the-tools-and-chemicals-in-you-house wonder widgets. The real amount of taxes being paid by corporations is slim and none, depending on how much corporate welfare they have been gifted by corrupt politicians and the Republican party (redundant?).

The fourth myth is that Jim Crow is dead. I certainly have never felt the urge to consider this country free of racism and the manufactured biases which associate any one group of citizens with something evil from the dark-side. Buchette has an interesting point in what we called cardinality in mathematics:  it’s bad to be racist but since so many non-white people live in poverty and crime, there are far more non-white people in prison for felonies and such. Then, when the prisoners are released they are tagged as ex-cons, felons, and can be openly discriminated against no matter what color their skin is.

Next comes the myth that poverty is disappearing around the world, which is interesting since studies show that poverty is increasing in this country. It seems that if you take the World Bank statistics, poverty is declining around the world, but it more because of the definition of poverty that the real betterment of humanity. Consider the menial worker in an obscure country who is earning one dollar a day to break up dirt clods with a big stick and one day the patrón sees that breaking up clods is hard work so he increases this man’s salary to two dollars a day. That is considered a movement out of poverty by the World Bank but I don’t think it would be a popular equation in the United States (although I’m sure there are capitalists that start to drool when they hear about a worker being available for only two dollars a day). So telling a low-end worker receiving minimum wage with a wife and kids at home that he is advancing out of poverty based on a statistic skewed by a worker in a non-industrial country is perpetuating a myth.

Buchette passes quickly over the last two myths since they are so obviously ridiculous:  Evolution is a scam and Climate Change is a hoax. I think we should send anyone expressing these beliefs off to that obscure country with all the dirt clods. My way of thinking:  if you insist on primitive thinking (or non-thinking) then you might as well move to a primitive country.

I can see that “thinking” is central to all these ideas. Too many people in this country spend their thinking on developing ways to feed their greed, greed for power and for money. Imagine if society were to change and our thinking was directed to better the lives of ourselves and all those around us … could it ever happen?

It’s Fiction!

I have an urgent need to get through the next three entries in this challenge as fast as possible. I do this for several reasons:  first, I just ate and would like to keep an excellent lunch down and not hurl it all over this keyboard; second, I don’t have enough words to write three separate posts; and finally, the questions are stupid and demeaning to literature and to critical thinking.

Let’s see. What book is most like my life? That’s a tough one:  I’m trying to decide between Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm and Rent Boy … actually, neither of those is good since I’m not a little girl and I’m not gay. How about Der Steppenwolf? I always liked a good magic show. I’m not sure there is a novel that is even a vague facsimile of my life. Maybe I should just think about a book which has a main character who is just like me. Let’s see: stone cold and still sensitive; tall and gallant while appearing meek and unassuming; clean underwear (that’s a requirement); defends against the bad guys but abhors violence; reads poetry and detective novels; cooks a gourmet meal before cleaning his guns; associates with criminal types but is very law-abiding … oh my goodness, I’m Spenser. Who knew I was a thug … but I lied about the guns (wouldn’t touch one).

Now is there a character in a book that I really want to marry? Hardly, but there have been a few I would take on the honeymoon. Or I could be more like Caligula.

These three questions are exactly what I hate to see asked about literature. They are designed to get you thinking about fiction as if it was life, and it isn’t. Maybe this is the time to shamelessly post yet another list from the weblog; this one concerning

Parker’s Myths of Literature

  1. The author has a contract with the reader.
  2. Authors are always open and honest about their works.
  3. Authors are the ones that know the most about what they have written.
  4. Authors that write highly poetic and evocative prose are better writers.
  5. Authors that write difficult, complex novels are only writing to impress college professors.
  6. Authors that write difficult, complex prose or highly allusive prose are not being considerate of their readers.
  7. Authors that leave out punctuation or paragraph breaks or fail to attribute every piece of dialogue are purposely making it hard for the reader.
  8. Authors with Creative Writing School credentials are the best writers.
  9. The author probably used your Aunt Martha as the model for his character in the novel.
  10. The author wants you to think about Aunt Martha and not waste time thinking about the character in the novel that reminded you of your Aunt.
  11. A novel that has at least one character that reminds you of one of your relatives or friends is a superior novel.
  12. A novel must have at least one likable character to identify with.
  13. Characters in a novel must be believable.
  14. A setting, if important to the novel, can be considered a character.
  15. The quality of the book’s cover is an accurate gauge of the quality of the book.
  16. The price of the book is an accurate gauge of the quality of the book.
  17. The bigger and fatter and heavier a book is, the better it is.
  18. Your liking a novel is what makes it good.
  19. If the publisher says a novel is an “instant classic” you can count on it being excellent.
  20. The value and popularity of a novel is defined solely within the text of the novel and is not affected by movie deals, talk show endorsements, or Three-for-Two sales at Barnes and Noble.