Accepting the Oligarchy!

•October 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Tonight I heard a spokesman for New York State teachers actually say out loud that Governor Cuomo’s push for new teacher evaluations was motivated by a desire to make the present Public School system unpalatable, thereby leading to a new system.  The new system would obviously be privatized education, via Charter Schools, because the speaker cited that the lobbying money spent by a few individuals to push Charter Schools was at least twice the amount spent by the Teachers’ Union’s lobbies.  Hence, a few individuals are spending money to influence lawmakers to influence policy.

Well, this is nothing new in our present American society.  Whether one is for or against Charter Schools or the privatization of schools, what struck me was, “Accept the Oligarchy.”  Accept that, in America, despite our rhetoric, this is how it now works.  A lot of money in the hands of a few individuals or entities (Persons, now that corporations are people!) is spent to influence legislators in their law-making.  The vote, democracy, the “voice of the people,” are just bygone relics of a society that was once, at least supposedly, in effect. We have a new reality.

If we lived in a dictatorship, we would have to have some measure of acceptance of that just to live our daily lives.  “That’s the way it is in this country,” we might muse, wafting between a sense of hopelessness for change and possible sparks of a fighting spirit for a different system.

Most of us aren’t revolutionaries, even though we may be somewhat passionate about what we think is right or wrong. Most of us just want our next meal, a roof over our heads, an ability to live our day-to-day lives successfully while meeting a few hard-earned goals.

So, here is my present stance:  Accept the Oligarchy.   Accept that “that’s really the way it is” in America.  I’m not really “laying down and dying” to any possibility of change or my being some kind of agent in that change.  But wait, maybe I really am.  I would love to say I’m going to fight for a better democracy, one that fits the ideals of what we were taught it should be.  But I’m not under any illusions that such a stance would be productive.

Maybe I’m a wimp.  Maybe I’ve been overtaken by cynicism. I don’t think it is mere cynicism, though. I think it is just recognizing the reality.

Oligarchy

–a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.  (Google definitions)

–government by the few. : a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes; also : a group exercising such control. Miriam Webster

–government by the few. : a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes; also : a group exercising such control.  Vocabulary.com

Oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία (oligarkhía); from ὀλίγος (olígos), meaning “few”, and ἄρχω (arkho), meaning “to rule or to command”)[1][2][3] is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. Wikipedia

I am sad, but resigned.  This is my reality.  This is the country in which I live.

An Oligarchy.

The Power of Narrative: Introduction

•September 3, 2012 • 1 Comment

This blog is about the Power of Narrative--the positive power and the negative power.

It is, by no means, intended to be an exhaustive analysis, but a reflective discussion about how narrative affects us, for good or for bad.

First of all, let’s define “narrative.”

The short version is that a narrative is a story.  In academic circles, we often speak of “narratives,” which are “stories” of how we think things are, or how they should go. We are actually hearing the term more in the Nightly News lately.

Despite the difficulty of understanding concepts of narrative in academic discussions, I think that the term is useful.  Scott Peck tells us in  The Road Less Traveled, that we all have maps that, if we are to grow and mature, must be continually revised.

I have noticed that narratives, however, seem to resist our revisions–or, rather, we seem to resist revising them.  I think we get a security from them, because they embody our concepts of how life should turn out in this or that venue.  To accept that life did not turn out as we expected is a painful process, and it is often easier to at least try to fit life to our version of  “how we thought things should go,” than to change our narrative to fit the reality of how life actually went.

You see that in the Sandusky-Penn State-Joe Paterno  phenomenon.  Though Sandusky’s repeated abuse of children was clear enough to get him convicted by a jury, the public at first could not believe it.  And, though Paterno, after all was said, seemed to put a priority on the playing of football games over the safety of children, it was hard for his public and his beloved fans to let go of the image –the narrative–they had of him, and to accept some flaws in him that were really disturbing.

Narrative, I think, can easily have an element of fiction in it. Why?  Because we are imperfect, and our Life-Colored glasses tend to be smudged by our biases and our ignorance.  Also, stories comfort us. Life is jarring, but a story moves along at a predictable pace, with a beginning, middle, and end, and gives us a sense of satisfaction in it’s completeness.

A nueroscientist, Stewart Firestein, recently said on the Diane Rehm show that even what we think of as an unbiased, scientific “hypothesis” can actually skew us against what is our true state of ignorance, and cause us to be biased toward a version of reality that fits that hypothesis, rather than something that is closer to reality.  Our hypotheses can render us more confident than appropriate in our assessment of reality, because it is viewed through the particular window of that hypothesis.

(See http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2012-09-03/stuart-firestein-ignorance-how-it-drives-science-rebroadcast)

We see this in religion all the time.  And also in politics. When someone or something threatens what we think of as an important narrative–something we’ve invested with our emotions and choices and life decisions –we get really shaky, or very defensive, and maybe even mean!  In these cases, our narratives are our scaffolding of how we view Life itself!  Pretty important stuff to hang your hat on!

Well, this is on the general side, and that is OK with me.  If I attempt to keep it simple, maybe more lay (ie, non-academic) people can join in the discussion.  I think that the concept of narrative is useful for all of us, and would enjoy feedback and discussion about it from any walk of life or background!