All of a sudden, some right wing online commentators are emphasizing that Scandinavian nations are “not socialist.” I am seeing this claim in many places of late. But for years, decades even, right wing commentators have called Sweden in particular and the others in general “socialist.” Some have gone so far as to call Sweden a new totalitarianism. Now suddenly this is stopping.
Is something interesting going on?
I think so.
Pretty much everyone able to read has easy access to evidence that, on balance, Scandinavian societies are much more successful than ours. The scary predictions of right wingers for decades that they would devolve into tyrannies has most obviously not happened. Further, Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians have spent more years than I am alive (71) denouncing every attempt to solve or ameliorate social problems with governmental action as “socialist” and tending to tyranny. But the countries they warned us about, mostly Scandinavian, are now glowing examples of success compared to us.
How do Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians hope to avoid people noticing what is now obvious to all that look at the facts? Confuse the issue. Make Sweden capitalist while describing its actual policies in an American context as socialist tyranny.
This trick is based on conflating two meanings of the word
“socialism.” One, as with the Soviets, is government control of the
economy through central planning. The second is government or
non-capitalist ownership of businesses within a market economy. As
libertarians will be the first to say, the Post Office and our highways
are socialist- and they are in this second definition.
Both meanings are legitimate if the differences are kept in mind. I do this by distinguishing “state socialism” (meaning central planning) from a more generic “socialism” that accepts markets and even private businesses. But there is another wrinkle here. Today in common parlance “socialism” often means different things in Europe than in the U.S.
In Europe Social Democratic parties are often rooted historically in Marxism- but for many good reasons chose to go leave revolutionary goals aside and sought to work peacefully within the existing system. Revolutionaries still wanted to establish state socialism as on the road to communism. Consequently the term “socialism” for many Europeans means state socialism as contrasted to social democracy.
The U.S. never had a strong Marxist movement at the popular level, but we did have many socialist movements in the second sense. So terminology here is different than in Europe. The equivalent of social democratic ideas in the U.S. did not emerge out of struggles with revolutionary Marxists. They arose rather more spontaneously from our own cultural dynamics. So what is called social democratic politics in Europe is often called just socialist politics in the U.S. For example see this statement by the Democratic Socialists of America.
With the Soviet Union’s demise and communism’s general discrediting, there are no state socialist nations of the first sort to use as examples to scare us. Venezuela is a right wing attempt to replace the old USSR as a bogeyman, and it is a pathetic one. And democratic socialist nations are successes. More and more of the younger generation are not only not scared by socialism, they are attracted to it.
So, what are these right wing oligarchs and their servants to do?
Change the framing.
Sweden is now ‘capitalist’ because it has a market economy! Of course,
it ALWAYS has had a market economy, but the right wing is seeking to
dissociate Scandinavian success from socialism. But what about Swedish
The right wing is now claiming all who call themselves socialist in this country want to abolish markets and substitute central planning when, so far as I know, there is not a single prominent American socialist who wants this. Socialism must continue to be demonized while changing its meaning to reflect the latest set of lie by capitalist oligarchs and their servants.
This is too sudden a change to be accidental, I think.
The NeoPagan community has been divided over issues of gender and sexuality, particularly the appropriate relations between natal and trans-women. While this controversy deals with important issues, its vehemence is due to mistaken ways of thinking about it, ways rooted in Christian styles of thought which strengthen looking at the issue in dichotomies. The result is framing the discussion in zero-sum terms.
When we deepen our understanding to grasp issues of sex and gender are shaped by context and relationship, they can be addressed fairly and reasonably for all sides. In particular, many Pagan societies have viewed their world as involving many genders, all of which are respected. Using examples from Native American societies in North and Central America, we can grasp that the term “Two Spirits” describes trans-people in ways fair to all. It recognizes the legitimate differences and similarities between natal women and transwomen.
To make its case, this paper – presented at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies, Jan. 26-17, 2019 in Claremont, CA – weaves together actual cases and ongoing controversies with philosophical analysis.
The controversy over appointing a ruthless political operative, perjurer, and probable sexual predator to the Supreme Court has led many people to put the blame on old White males and their culture of privilege. While there is some truth to this argument, it does not go nearly deep enough to shed adequate light on these crimes against the constitution. Going more deeply also sheds light on the rise of NeoPagan religion in this country.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently wrote a particularly good analysis of the issues underlying the Kavanaugh controversy from a mainstream progressive perspective. Krugman emphasized Trump’s base is not motivated by economic issues, but rather from rage at losing their accustomed status in a society where more and more Americans are people different from themselves. The result is hatred of others, racial resentment, and a deep rage by white men in particular. more »
This post is from my August 8, 2018, blog at Witches and Pagans.
Z Budapest once stirred up strong feelings, ending in a demonstration, by holding a biological-women-only ritual at Pantheacon. The previous year another group had also excluded trans-women from an all women ritual. Some people decided it was time to challenge the legitimacy of such practices. It was quite the kerfluffel for a while. I was one of Z’s defenders.
Since then, more than a little ill-feeling has erupted between some biological women and men and some trans women and men. One group claims only biological women are women and the other that trans-women are as much women as biological women. Representatives on both sides have used abusive language towards the other. It has gotten ugly.
As a straight man, at one level this is not my fight. I am not welcome at either kind of women-only ritual.
But at another it is. It disrupts the Pagan community about which I care deeply, and reflects what I consider to be a deeply mistaken view of what it is to be a human being, ironically, a mistake with Christian roots.
I am struck with how the debate over whether or not abortion is morally acceptable has become a battle of slogans rather than of reason. I think the major culprits are on the so-called ‘pro life’ side, but at this point there is little rational discussion on either side. This paper seeks to correct that shortcoming, and will argue there is NO good reason for opposing abortion as murder, or anything like it. Because I give reasons for this claim, the anti-abortion folks have an opportunity to rebut me. They can’t.
Social institutions viewed from a Hayekian perspective closely match evolutionary and ecological perspectives in biology. All rely on the same systemic relationships of variation, selection, and inheritance. What Hayek called spontaneous orders are variations of a larger range of related phenomena. Concepts developed in one such field can enrich our understanding of analogous phenomena in others. Among the most important concepts explored here are individuals, organisms, species, and ecosystems. This integration carries important implications for how human societies can exist sustainably on the earth.
To read more, find the article here.
The common academic issue of whether or not one engages in ‘cultural appropriation’ has divided the Pagan community. I have been very explicit in my dislike of the idea, but in working out just why I dislike the concept I have been led to a very different understanding of just what culture is and what our place in it amounts to. Exploring this issue transformed my understanding of culture- and in a way deeply enriched with some common magickal and Pagans insights.
The attempted murder of several Congressmen and shooting of one marks another step in the progressive dissolution of the U.S. occurring before our eyes. That the shooter could have been either from the right or the left indicates how close we have come to widespread political violence. more »
In an inexplicably naïve article Brendan Gauthier at Salon argued that Russia was the only country that seemed to want Donald Trump to be president. But rather than asking why this is so, or wondering what Russia might reasonably do to promote that outcome given that it is so, Gauthier simply repeated a conclusion from a NYT article that referred to unnamed FBI sources saying there was no Russian connection to Trump, at a time when the FBI is obviously seriously partisan. The Times did no more to offer reasoning for its conclusions than he did. Perhaps pride at being scooped by Slate and Mother Jones is the explanation for their openness to claims a careful reporter would want backed up.
What’s in it for Russia?
In fact Russia’s interest in Trump makes plenty of sense and does not involve Trump being a knowing conspirator serving Putin. It simply involves Trump being Trump- an exceptionally vain man who responds to flattery and with a fairly well established record of very poor business judgment. Further, what has already been uncovered makes perfect sense. Here’s why and how. However, it requires taking a Russian point of view.
Russia has a vested interest in weakening the US. more »
I was started along this line of thought while reading Kent Nerburn’s powerful, moving, painful and hauntingly beautiful The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows. There are many levels to this book, perhaps more even than the author intended, for one that lies within the narrative throughout is the difficulty of people entering into and understanding other cultures from both sides. But for us Pagans it is particularly insightful in its depiction of the profound differences between a deeply Pagan view of life and the modern view. One of the most central of these distinctions is captured in the images of a line and a circle. more »