Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Blame Game: Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Pick a Label by Edwin L. Young, PhD

There are many varieties of religious organizations within all of the Western religions. Some of members of these are extremists or modern day zealots. Zealots are not limited to religion. For many people, such groups as White Supremacist Militias, LGBT, Eastern Star, the lady’s Garden Club, the KKK, those in the Project for the New American Century are considered notorious and dangerous zealot groups. Whether a group is considered dangerously zealot depends upon where you stand or what your own reference group is.

However, there are very many lesser-known ‘extremist’ groups. Many fraternal organizations are well known such as the Masonic Lodge, or Freemasons, Demolay, B’nai Brith, the Shriners, and others. To some of those who have a casual acquaintance with these groups, they are not only innocuous but are thought of generous philanthropists. The Lions, Elks, Rotarians, Kiwanis, Optimists, Knights of Columbus, fraternal organizations of police and firefighters, and many like them in almost every city have been a familiar part of the American landscape.

In colleges and universities there are many of what is referred to as ‘Greek’ fraternities and sororities that are known to be somewhat exclusively for the students from well-to-do families and, while no longer segregated, they once were for whites only. For college graduates in business, there are the “The National Association of Professional Women” and its equivalent for men. The omnipresent Chamber of Commerce and Junior Chamber of Commerce are regarded by most with high respect. Some, identified within ethnic groups such as African Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and people in foreign countries who are the recipients of American outsourced jobs, and those of Middle Eastern descent, may cause everyone who can be classified as belonging to such groups to be stereotyped in very negative ways. Again, it depends on where you stand, metaphorically speaking.

When some major catastrophic events like 9/11 occur, an entire ethnic group, and even those who merely resemble an ethnic group but who actually are racially distinct such as Arabs and Persians, can be lumped together, and regarded with prejudice and paranoia. When President Bush tried and failed to secure a coalition of nations, particularly European nations, and the French and Germans refused to go along; Donald Rumsfeld immediately resorted to labeling them as the Old Europe. Many in the public picked up on this and refused to call French Fries, French Fries! Soon, everything French was anathema. An outsider like me could view this as an example of how easily an unjustified prejudice could be whipped up in the general public.

When the news of accusations of pedophilia by Catholic priests was daily accumulating, even though a very small number of priests were accused, a poll soon followed that suggested a sudden drop across the nation in the number of people who admitted to being Catholic. When, recently, flotillas of aid to the Palestinians were attacked and seized by the Israeli military, I noticed the appearance of large number of anti-Semitic blogs. Netanyahu and the Likud political party, representing a small percentage of the population actually, were in control at the time but Israel has many political parties and the majority of them actually disapproved of Netanyahu’s actions.

When I was a sophomore high school student in my small South Texas town in 1947, the schools were segregated. Only whites were allowed to go to my school. At the beginning of my sophomore year, the students from the high school for Mexicans were integrated into my school. None of my white friends, excepting myself, made friends with, or even talked with, the Mexican students. When they walked to and from school, they passed my grandmother’s house. My grandmother was a dear, sweet, usually non-judgmental, charitable person. However, I often went to her house first after school and on one occasion, as the Mexican students walked passed, she said, “It is terrible that they integrated that trash with the white students. They will ruin the morals of the white youth.” I took note of that and observed and soon concluded that, quite the contrary, the Mexican students were by far more moral, polite, studious, and observant of school rules than were the white students.

In the title of this essay, I used the phrase ‘Blame Game.’ Over the years, I have noticed that, when a negative condition affecting a large percentage of the population occurs, some small splinter group is singled out as the cause. For a time, that group is the target of epithets. When concern over a decision to implement surveillance, aka spying, by the government on the population, bogus terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda, Columbian or Mexican Drug Lords, White Supremacist Militias, or any such little known (except for inflated news sound bites) groups are publicized as the rationale for doing so. The gullible audiences of the various media routinely accept the official spiel.

When conversing with friends and strangers, I find that they can hold strong opinions about very broad generalizations for which they have no reliable or factual information. Some people can hear denunciation of a type of speech, like hate speech, and unthinkingly renounce the freedom of speech amendment to the constitution. I rarely find anyone who bothers to do any digging to see if the media’s claims, which are typically renditions of the official statements made by the government, or of whatever political party with which that channel is aligned, on the issue are founded in fact.

Few Jews are devoted to the Jewish religion. Few Catholics know very much about the beliefs or political positions of their Church other than things like ‘Catholics are against abortion and birth control’ and, even then, few observe those tenets. Most that check the box protestant on applications or admission forms are no more than ‘nominally so.’ Even fundamentalist Christians whose leaders are avidly, politically right wing have no more than a superficial awareness of what their agenda is. From what I know about Muslims, these observations would hold true for them as well. In general, the vast majority of people are preoccupied with keeping their job, putting food on the table, getting their kids to school or their practice, and hopefully the guys getting a break to watch a game on TV or the gals to join the ‘girl’s group’ to catch up on ‘what’s going on with whom.’ Most are too perpetually worn out from the pace of all that to do more than react emotionally as the media puppeteer directs.

The easiest job in the world today is being a spin-doctor. TV commentators are fond of saying “the people are smart.” They are not. Their intelligence falls along a Bell Curve. Of those in the top quartile, not even a majority are college graduates. Among college graduates, only a very small minority go digging around to find out the facts behind all the media ballyhoo. Consequently, I say, try to get your friends to question that ballyhoo.

The ‘Blame Game’ is just to divert people from the real issues. Whatever obscure group is the scapegoat today probably has little or no relation to the concealed issue that some bigwig, some big political power broker or their lobbyist, some big bank CEO, head of some agency like the CIA with their covert operatives around the world, or some Pentagon official with connections to giant munitions related companies, is trying to finagle in the shadows that you will never know about.

Do not be afraid to suspect conspiracy for in the stratospheric level of transactions far from your view, in our dog-eat-dog free enterprise economy and shallow sideshow politics, conspiracy is the norm. And, one wonders why the polls show such a high percentage of people distrust their government, I cynically ask. I feel quite sure that the people do not know why they have this gnawing, diffuse, distrust but their gut still tells them something is rotten in the US.

If only some of the people would follow their gut, bravely, like good nonconformists, question, and dig a little deeper. Furthermore, I implore you to avoid the ‘Blame Game.’ America, the great melting pot, the “Out of many, one” nation, the nation of immigrants, is being tempted to become xenophobic. The ‘other’ is just you in a different context. Understand their context, their roots, the structures and systems of the world within which they are embedded, and blame will dissolve like sugar in water. Understand how easily it is today, with so much urgent and captivating news so distant from you yet so loudly and repetitively broadcast in such a Goebbels-esque manner, how easily it is to be persuaded and made to jump up and down in the bleachers and scream yeah or boo over completely “Manufactured Consent.”

Author bio:

Edwin is a 76 year old, retired, psychotherapist/institution reformer. His greatest satisfaction came from reforming many juvenile correctional institutions, a maximum security prison, a West Texas mental hospital, and the huge Job Corps in San Marcos, Texas. All in all there were thirteen institutions that he successfully reformed. In the last year of his PhD program, Edwin was one of the two PhD graduate students to be awarded the annual University Research Institute grant. His dissertation committee said his was the longest, best, and most complex in the history of the department. Since retiring, Edwin spends his time writing. His site is: The Natural Systems Institute.

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