In Minnesota, Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, Abdullahi Mohamud Yusuf, and Hanad Mustafe Musse pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS. The defendants charged last April following an investigation into a network of young Somali-Americans involved in ISIS recruitment in Minnesota. ordered the four to undergo an evaluation by a visiting German scholar, Daniel Koehler, director of the German Institute on Radicalization and Deradicalization Studies in Stuttgart. His evaluation of the men will factor into Davis’ sentencing decisions, and will form the basis of a “de-radicalization program” to rid the men of their radical ideology.
The Star Tribune reports that the program will be the first of its kind in the United States. (Well that’s a relief.) Apparently such deprogramming treatments are used to “cure” radical recruits in Europe, as hundreds of young people have left to join Middle Eastern militants.
Wait, are anyone else’s ethics alarms ringing like crazy? Mine just busted an ear drum.
Here I am, trying to figure out how the United States was magically sucked into “All the King’s Men,” and I suddenly find myself in the middle of “A Clockwork Orange.” Under what provision of the Constitution is the government allowed to send citizens to brain-washing centers so they will stop thinking bad thoughts? Funny, I was taught that the Americans could say and think anything they wanted to, even terrorist thoughts. When did that change?
It didn’t change, of course. The culture has been slipping toward this evil for quite a while, with those who uttered politically unpopular positions in many workplaces being “sentenced” to diversity classes, or anti-bias classes, or other sessions where their anti-social, wrongful thoughts would be purged. The Soviet Union took this to the next stage, and apparently, we are too.
The judge’s rationalization is that the four men can refuse the order, and just accept prison for a longer term. This is not true consent under the law,. This is coercion, and when someone has a gun to your head, or a long prison sentence, you’re not consenting at all.
Reprogramming someone’s thinking is a human rights atrocity, whether the thoughts being banished are pro-terrorism, religious, gay or Republican. Even if the good German doctor’s ingenious mind-wipe somehow manages to slither though a legal loop-hole, though I don’t know how, since it seems to be a uniquely sick hybrid of a First Amendment violation and cruel and unusual punishment, it is unequivocally wrong.
Terrorists are scary, but judges, scientists and policy-makers who think the solution to any problem is to forcibly alter how people think are far scarier.
54 thoughts on “Ethics Alarms Ringing: A Judge Orders Citizens to Undergo “De-Radicalization””
Not so fast Jack. These people gave aid and comfort to Islamic terrorists. Your analogy of comparing them to the character in “Clockwork Orange” is bogus. He was a violent sociopath who was somehow conditioned through the use of drugs and adversive conditioning to alter his thought processing. Apparently the character was supposed to be a citizen of the UK.
I don’t see any reference to the use of drugs, adversive condoning, or water boarding in this use of de radicalization. It sounds much more to me like deprograming which was use on cult members who had been brainwashed for the benefit of the cult by keeping them in isolation, starving them, forcing them to obey their cult leaders at all cost. So let’s not be to quick to condemn methods that reduce the number of people joining terrorists organizations. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/persian-gulf/2010-05-01/getting-deradicalization-right
The deprogramming of cult members was also unethical. One form of brainwashing is as bad as another, Wayne. You could do exactly the same thing with any fervent follower of a religion (the dividing line between cult and faith is too thin to detect. Romans thought of Christianity as a cult). I don’t care what the method is; that’s irrelevant. The unethical conduct is interfering with freedom of thought. We can prohibit conduct. We can punish conduct. What thoughts may lead to is something different.
Tell me, should those who bomb abortion clinics be re-programmed to love abortion? Is that OK with you if no drugs or electrodes are involved?
I’m not just quick to condemn this kind of thing, I instantaneously condemn it, because it is unequivocally wrong, and what thoughts are being removed or altered matter to me not at all.
Well you stated that we can punish conduct. Those two guys was convicted for conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS, a terrorist organization. That to me is worse than a cult which I would define narrowly. Cults use force and and demand absolute obedience and isolate their members from contact with outsiders. They also use starvation, sleep deprivation, unlawful detainer, and similar brainwashing methods. Sometimes their methods constitute criminal activity: Recall what happened at Jonestown and recently with Warren Jeffs who forced underage girls to marry older men and who was recently tried and convicted for these illegal actions.
This is just rationalization.
Once a person is rescued from a cult, who is the authority who decides what appropriate “re-brainwashing” is???
No one I’d trust. Sometimes there is no “cure” other than to get them away from the brainwashing and hope re-acculturation occurs naturally. You don’t cure a knife wound by sticking a different knife in.
I’ve heard this whole “persuasion versus manipulation” debate a few times, and each time I’m caught off guard by how people can’t see the difference, or the logical implications of erasing the line between them. If I show you an apple, I am causing you to see it. One might even say that I am forcing the idea of the apple’s existence into your head. But most people would think it is silly to say I am brainwashing you into believing there is an apple, because you are using your own perceptions to arrive at the truth based on the ideas I present.
If I present ideas to you that you can use to arrive at the truth even if I am wrong in what I believe to be true, then it seems I must be helping and not brainwashing. That’s the difference between, for instance, science and religion. Science is a tool for discerning truth, and acknowledging changes in what we think we know gives us power. Religion is an assertion of bestowed truth, and refusing to change what we think we know gives others power over us.
Do you mean when family members try to have cult members deprogrammed? That would be a very important distinction from having it done by through the imposition of state power.
Vital point! Parents have special authority over children. You can’t legally deprogram an adult from a cult influence.
All I can say is, “wow” as in the “he must have read this in The Onion” or “this could not possibly be happening in America” kind of wow.
my reaction exactly. And all the news reports were so matter of fact. I think that bothers me most of all.
I think you said it best when you pointed out that this is the logical conclusion to a long process that the US began some time ago. If someone called someone a racist name, or said he was not down with gay marriage, or whatever, he was sent to sensitivity class or diversity class to change his thinking.
The one thing that’s now being prohibited is parents trying to have gay children reprogrammed, but that’s less an acknowledgement that you can’t reprogram anyone as it is a bow to gays being a favored political group. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the same approach would be used on would-be violent extremists.
That said, this question of deprogramming and reprogramming ties in with the popularity of Donald Trump. I am one of those folks who is tired of being called a racist for simply believing in public safety, a bigot for cleaving to traditional values, and ten freakin’ kinds of ignorant for being a conservative, and being told I better change my thinking, because the world is getting impatient. Trump is right now the only candidate who speaks to that view strongly.
Good, Steve—I almost contrasted this with the ban on gay conversion therapy—said ban being a politically driven interference with personal choice and autonomy.
I wonder if those same people who want to ban gay conversion therapy also want to ban sex change operations.
I’d ban both. There hasn’t been a study on suicide rates following sex change operations done in about 30 years, but the old studies showed an increase in suicide rates on post-op transsexuals. That’s in a group that already commits suicide at a rate five times higher than average.
But on second thought, some positions make strange bedfellows: There very well might be a thought process outside my “If it encourages people to kill themselves, we might not want to do it.” mentality that logically allows a ban on both sex change operations and conversion therapy: Progressivism.
Specifically feminist progressivism. Progressives generally oppose anything Christian on the auspices that it is Christian, and feminists have had to tie themselves into pretzels over Jenner. If gender is a social construct, and biological determinism is a myth, how then can one be a woman born in a man’s body? Especially in a person as openly conservative as Jenner, this had led to irreconcilable differences in certain camps. It’s probably not a huge sampling, but a distinct flavor of preogressivism will be opposed to both.
Politics makes for some very weird bedfellows. Acceptance of homosexuality is one thing, as we’ve hashed out. Acceptance of transgenderism is another. I was not aware that there was a high degree of suicides among transgender folks who had actually had surgery, BUT, it makes sense. I get the sense that, apart from the ah, orientation, gay people tend to be otherwise somewhat more stable than transgender people, especially in this more accepting time, and given the ability to be invisible if they so choose, by not talking about their personal lives with coworkers, etc. Transgender people can’t really be invisible, and so become magnets for the behavior that will drive weaker people to suicide. Both, unfortunately, have become pawns in the culture wars.
”Transgender people can’t really be invisible, and so become magnets for the behavior that will drive weaker people to suicide.”
While this is undoubtedly true, there’s more to it than that, ‘transgender’ or ‘transsexual’ is a term we use as a stand-in for a diaspora of sex-related conditions, ranging from purely physical birth defects to purely mental disorders. When you approach the more psychological side of the spectrum, you start to see trends like schizophrenia and manic depressive disorder at levels far above average. I’ve always held that the group as a whole needs help, but it’s only the smallest of groups that’s actually helped by cosmetic surgery and a pat on the butt.
Too true. Generally it’s just not a very stable group of people.
Was it ever really personal choice and autonomy? There were an awful lot of minors being ground through conversion therapy, creating a demographic that punched above its’ weight class in suicides, all the while showing abysmal results.
As in gay kids being pushed to be hetero while fearing disappointing their parents by not being that way? I have had a taste of something somewhat similar, as a person on the autism spectrum long before a lot of the disorders were recognized or diagnosed. I could learn facts, but I couldn’t bring home the super-high grades my parents prized above all things, I was hopeless in sports, and I just could not get along with other children. My parents had no idea what to do, so they just yelled at me, blamed me, and tried to send me to study skills or personal relationship classes thinking it would make me like everyone else. When it didn’t, they blamed me for not trying hard enough and punished me. Some kids might have broken under this. I can only imagine how much worse it must be to be told that you are sick and disgusting, we are going to cure you, and if the cure doesn’t “take” you are a stigmatized undesirable.
That’s about the long and short of it. And I am so sorry.
Thanks. It’s weird being as unsympathetic as I have been toward gay people when I have at least some idea of what they must have experienced, allowing for the fact that just being tagged as “weirdo” or “oddball” isn’t on the same level of hostility and contempt as being called “faggot” or ah, more expressions that I could list. Still, getting attacked after school for odd speech isn’t any more pleasant than getting attacked for being insufficiently masculine.
The suicide and depression disparity among homosexuals and bisexuals is pretty easy to explain. Their people groups have a exponentially more sexual partners, starting at a younger age, with higher rates of domestic abuse, more sex with strangers, more cheating, more uncertainty, and fewer long-lasting relationships. These things correlate with drug use, depression and suicide in the general population, whether you’re gay or not. I don’t suppose that conversion therapy makes people have more sex, so that seems a bit tangential to the real problem.
Citations please? Maybe one that don’t end in .bible?
Gay people might have a higher rate of AIDS because of unsafe sexual promiscuity, and that’s something that the demographic has to own and deal with, but gay people didn’t generally exhibit the same suicide rates as young people leaving conversion therapy, period. Conversion therapy caused major depressive episodes, and people died. But no, let’s not call a spade a spade, let’s not case shadow on this, the church did it. Shiny and clean, right? Especially when there’s icky sex things to rag on.
As for the rest… Domestic abuse rates are actually lowest among gay couples (but highest among lesbians, oddly, leading to the uncomfortable idea that domestic abuse might actually be a female problem, but I digress.) according to the most recent in FBI crime statistics. And I’d love to read the studies that say there is more infidelity, more uncertainty, and fewer long lasting relationships than hetero relationships *cough*divorcerates*cough*. I simply don’t believe you.
I can chalk up the odd and irrelevant references to “the church” to some personal issue of yours and ignore them, but back to the real problems of the LGBT community- problems that exist in equal measure in places where their lifestyle is celebrated and accepted, like Scandinavia. This information is not hidden. Google is your friend here, as are any number of actual studies, gay community leaders like Dan Savage, and really just about any gay literature/publications. A head can only stay that far down in the sand on purpose.
I can answer your factual claims at least. Domestic violence rates are lowest among gay couples?
“The National Violence Against Women survey found that 21.5 percent of men and 35.4 percent of women living with a same-sex partner experienced intimate-partner physical violence in their lifetimes, compared with 7.1% and 20.4% for men and women, respectively, with a history of only opposite-sex cohabitation. Transgender respondents had an incidence of 34.6 percent over a lifetime according to a Massachusetts survey.”
That’s not lower, that’s 3x higher. Besides which, most field workers are saying it’s underreported still.
“The disparities in the increased rates of domestic violence for gay men and bisexual women remains unclear, though a new study from a UCLA gay think tank has submersed itself in the topic. The study, conducted by researchers at the Williams Institute at UCLA and published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, touched on the elevated risks of domestic violence facing gay men and bisexual women compared to their counterparts.”
What about that epidemic of conversion-therapy suicides? You would expect there to be anecdotal stories, but there’s no trend that anyone can find: http://www.amsciepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/pr0.2000.86.3c.1071?journalCode=pr0&
I even read the entire APA comprehensive survey that most opinion articles link to when decrying this epidemic. Most of it concerns outdated secular conversion therapies from the 60’s and 70’s popular in psychotherapy at the time (electric shocks, masturbation therapy) and isn’t even relevant to the current controversy. But then the whole thing ends with this collective shrug:
“Although the recent studies do not provide valid causal evidence of the efficacy of SOCE or of its harm, some recent studies document that there are people who perceive that they have been harmed through SOCE (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; Nicolosi et al., 2000; Schaeffer et al., 2000; Schroeder & Shidlo, 2001; Shidlo & Schroeder, 2002; Smith et al., 2004), just as other recent studies document that there are people who perceive that they have benefited from it.”
How hysterics get from THAT to a modern-day anti-gay holocaust, I don’t know, but then I’m not a huge liar. I don’t even have an opinion about psychotherapy. But I can spot a false narrative.
““The National Violence Against Women survey found that 21.5 percent of men and 35.4 percent of women living with a same-sex partner experienced intimate-partner physical violence in their lifetimes, compared with 7.1% and 20.4% for men and women, […] Transgender respondents had an incidence of 34.6 percent over a lifetime according to a Massachusetts survey.”
That’s not lower, that’s 3x higher. Besides which, most field workers are saying it’s underreported still.”
It’s also uncited. Here’s the FBI:
Click to access nibrs_famvio95.pdf
Pay special attention to the breakdown on the bottom of page three, that says that men are the victim of domestic abuse in 42.5% of reported cases, and women are 57.5%. Any study that finds men are the victim of domestic abuse at a rate three times less than women is biased, partisan, and hacked. Probably feminist.
So I went looking for your numbers. I found them. You plagiarized from:
And ignored the very next paragraph, that said EXACTLY what I said previous:
“The CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, released again in 2013 with new analysis, reports in its first-ever study focusing on victimization by sexual orientation that the lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner was 43.8 percent for lesbians, 61.1 percent for bisexual women, and 35 percent for heterosexual women, while it was 26 percent for gay men, 37.3 percent for bisexual men, and 29 percent for heterosexual men (this study did not include gender identity or expression).”
Lowest among gay men, median around straight couples and highest among lesbians. Truth be told, it probably has more to do with women being more likely to report than men, as opposed to women actually abusing more often, but we work with the data we have.
As to “What about that epidemic of conversion-therapy suicides? You would expect there to be anecdotal stories, but there’s no trend that anyone can find:”
First off it’s cowardly to hide behind pay walled research. I’m not spending money to read that, and I’m sure you didn’t either. There is no doubt in my mind that you have not read the report you are citing. It definately doesn’t say in the summary what you want it to say. Also. I’ll point out that the survey was of 882 dissatisfied Conversion Therapy recipients. It’s hard to survey someone who committed suicide.
Google IS my friend. (And look at that, no paywall)
Click to access therapeutic-response.pdf
“A majority of the reports on iatrogenic effects are provided in the nonexperimental studies. In the study conducted by Bancroft (1969), the negative outcomes reported include treatment-related anxiety (20% of 16
42 Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation participants), suicidal ideation (10% of 16 participants), depression (40% of 16 participants), impotence (10% of 16 participants), and relationship dysfunction (10% of 16 participants). Overall, Bancroft reported
the intervention had harmful effects on 50% of the 16 research subjects who were exposed to it. Quinn, Harrison, and McAllister (1970) and Thorpe et al. (1964) also reported cases of debilitating depression,
gastric distress, nightmares, and anxiety. Herman and Prewett (1974) reported that following treatment, their research participant began to engage in abusive use of alcohol that required his rehospitalization. It is unclear to what extent and how his treatment failure may have
contributed to his abusive drinking. B. James (1962) reported symptoms of severe dehydration (acetonuria), which forced treatment to be suspended. Overall, although most early research provides little information
on how research participants fared over the longer term and whether interventions were associated with longterm negative effects, negative effects of treatment are reported to have occurred for some people during and immediately following treatment.”
The study goes on to lament a dearth of rigorous scientific study on the ill effects of conversion theory, which I agree with. I’d love for a large scale study to prove the obvious, so smug obstructionists wouldn’t be able to shrug and feign ignorance.
I understand your point and agree with you as it reminds me too much of the reeducation camps in Vietnam after the North Vietnam won the war.
The one question I do have is , what is the line between deprogramming and rehabilitation? In the prison system rehabilitating someone to change their ways is used to insure that they reenter society as a useful member and don’t continue being a threat to it. Where is the line? Does it depend on whether the person enters into willingly ?
Our courts order felons to programs aimed at rehabilitating them all the time so what is the difference between that and this?
I ask this, not because I don’t think their is one, but because I don’t truly know if their is one and if their is how do you distinguish between the two.
It’s a great question. The simple answer is that rehabilitation is there to educate people and teach them what to do and how to live in a civilized society in a non-anti-social way. After all, crime is just a dumb and unsuccessful life style. I don’t believe people should be made to love America or dedicated to the philosophy behind the rule of law—not once they are adults. Giving them tools, however, is a valid program.
Trying to change the way they think is not. Abby Hoffman and the Berkeley radicals advocated stealing to bring down the system. Well, they are welcome to that stupid belief: if they can’t figure out it’s wrong on their own, nobody should try to wash their brains of it. But they would need to be shown why society disagrees with them, and what the consequences will be if they kep acting on their beliefs.
Yes yes, and Philip Berrigan and the leftover Catholic Worker relics advocated vandalism and other direct interference with governmental functions and operations to stop the American war machine. Those who admired them happily repeated Dylan’s lyrics “Come mothers and fathers throughout the land/And don’t criticize what you can’t understand/
Your sons and your daughters, beyond your command/Your old road is rapidly agin’/So get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand/
For the times, they are a-changin'” just like we hear every time somebody acts defiantly or breaks a rule because he claims it’s unfair. Respect for laws and rules took a hit in the 1960s it’s never recovered from, and there’s a presumption now in favor of anyone who cries oppression. At times we lose our patience with this, understandably, and decide if we can’t command conformity, we’ll force it.
It is tempting, before one has actually identified what is at stake, to take one side or the other and thus reduce the implicit issue to a polemic. But standing back from the polemic, one might do better to identify the activism of Peter Maurain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Maurin) and the Catholic Worker as the inevitable European/Catholic pole of resistance to state nationalisms and to state authoritarianism.
Oddly enough the lyrics of that song seem to repeat and to restate Matthew 20: the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (“So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”). What is it to labor in that vineyard? And what is the vineyard? How does one define oneself spiritually in relation to the State? Does one serve God of Mammon? What is one willing to serve with one’s life and existence? And to what point will one take it?
If to work as a Catholic is to render oneself a ‘relic’, what does it mean to be a Catholic (or a Christian) in the modern era? That one simply gives over all power to the State? That one allows the state to define what is right and wrong? That one must not take any position at all as-against any earthly activity?
Steve O in NJ: “Respect for laws and rules took a hit in the 1960s it’s never recovered from, and there’s a presumption now in favor of anyone who cries oppression. At times we lose our patience with this, understandably, and decide if we can’t command conformity, we’ll force it.”
It is very hard to get a sense of what the Sixties were, from my later perspective anyway. I have been attempting to get through The Spirit of the Sixties: The Making of Postwar Radicalism by James Farrell. According to him one of the ideational jumpstarters of the Sixties Movement was indeed Peter Maurain and Dorothy Day. They were ideed radicals – radicals to the mechanized present – but it is difficult to pathologize their spiritual principles and their idealism: it is quintessentially Christian and European/Humanist.
But it seems that – ethically – you have hit the nail on the head (a poor metaphor given the context!): We are strung, quite uncomfortably, between strains of ideas which are polarized one to the other. A humanism and a humanizing terrestrial idealism in contrast with a mechanistic, machine-like, neo-fascistic war and terror-based state system which enforces its will on populations through propaganda and PR machinations.
“The state of mind, the state of society is of a piece … A society holds together by the respect which man gives to man; it fails in fact, it falls apart into groups of fear and power, when its concept of man is false’.
I had been researching fascist thought and trying to find and read the texts that define and explain it. (They are few and it is not well explained.) (Neo-fascism takes it upon itself to do this and does it much better). I was very surprised to come across a social phenomenon in Germany DURING the war: Swing Kids. The Eidelweiss Pirates and other groups. Delinquent kids, generally better to do, who simply did not buy the whole Hitler mania scene. Instead of saying ‘Seig Heil!’ their declaration was ‘Swing Heil’ or ‘Heil Benny!’ (as in Goodman). They organized dances and listened to American swing.
Naturally, they were rounded up and sent to concentrations camps for reeducation.
The best bet for living as a religious person in a modern secular society is to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” That should also not extend to the State taking the place of God or making a god of itself as became all too common with officially atheistic regimes like the USSR and revolutionary France.
I know little of Peter Maurin, but plenty regarding Dorothy Day and her spiritual heirs the Berrigan borthers et al. I say relics because they were really not much more than 1960s anarchists with a moral veneer of Catholicism, or a moral gloss as I sometimes call it, painted on. Without that gloss, they were basically nothing more than anarchists, and anarchism isn’t a viable society. That whole idea, as we saw almost five (!) years ago with the collapse of the Occupy Wall Street fiasco, is from a time that’s come and gone and which most aren’t interested in repeating. That’s why these few adherents are characterized as relics.
The fact is, a lot of the ideas that Obama had enough sense not to push too far and that Bernie Sanders is now trying to push beyond the envelope were pushed fifty years ago. They didn’t work then, and they’re not going to work now. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing and expecting something else to happen.
In fact, this time out, it’s the blue collar hardworking people who play by the rules who are the angry ones. For almost twenty years discontent has been building as their work goes unrewarded and those in power kiss the asses of every special interest in the nation in the hopes of staying in power and continuing to be invited to all the right cocktail parties.
I don’t give a damn if Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan keep getting invited to have champagne with Kristin Chenoweth and drinks with Tom Hanks. I do give a damn that I worked and voted to put them where they are and they have done not a damn thing in the time they’ve been there, and don’t seem to be interested in doing a damn thing even if the White House flips this November, other than still going to those parties and telling us to stay quiet, stay motivated, and things will get better.
The thing is, if the blue collar working class and the administrative people who actually provide the services society needs get fed up and decide they aren’t going to keep producing and providing until they get listened to, where will society be?
I am really interested in what happens when change occurs in political forms, and then when change seems to morph out of control.
Plato: “To put it briefly, then,” said I, “it is to this that the overseers of our state must cleave and be watchful against its insensible corruption. They must throughout be watchful against innovations in music and gymnastics counter to the established order, and to the best of their power guard against them, fearing when anyone says that
‘That song is most regarded among men / Which hovers newest on the singer’s lips,’
lest haply it be supposed that the poet means not new songs but a new way of song and is commending this. But we must not praise that sort of thing nor conceive it to be the poet’s meaning. For a change to a new type of music is something to beware of as a hazard of all our fortunes. For the modes of music are never disturbed without unsettling of the most fundamental political and social conventions, as Damon affirms and as I am convinced.”
You mentions ‘anarchy’ and noted it rising up strongly in the 60s. But I think that here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYWTjO6t-vQ) one notices even more ‘radical’ roots.
Not sure how to respond to this. If you’re saying sometimes progress progresses too fast, then Amen.
It is not so much ‘change’ as corruption. You nor I would likely complain if it were ‘change for the better’.
For example ‘Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline’. I thought it was a very good book overall but people at that time – and still – seem to demonize him. His POV would (although I don’t know your thinking well) likely coincide with some of the views you have expressed. Have you read it and does this sort of thing interest you?
I see in ‘The Sixties’ two very distinct poles: One deeply ethical and valuable and totally in harmony with so-called ‘American principles’, and that means religiously-defined principles, Christian principles; and on the other an anarchic, destructive tendency.
If ‘corruption’ is considered as the main issue, and if let’s say there is a protest song like the one you quoted, and what is being protested is corrupt militarism, then this is and would have to be considered an attempt to redress the corruption.
But if ‘The Sixties’ is seen as a breakdown of solid and necessary social restraints and all one really wants to do is take drugs and listen to rock music (and all the rest), and if this leads to a corruption of intellect as degeneracy will produce, then it seems that the anarchic tendency expresses not ‘value’ but destruction of value.
It seems that the two tendencies were present and side-by-side.
In my case, another book I was quite influenced by was “The Marketing of Evil’ (http://www.amazon.com/The-Marketing-Evil-Pseudo-Experts-Corruption/dp/1581824599) Essentially a Christian critique of a degeneracy of culture. In order to identify corruption and degeneracy one requires a philosophical base from which to do it. You said ‘Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’ but in Christian anthropology it is the human being that is sacred and part-and-parcel of God.
I see Jazz of the sort I linked to as degenerate and destructive … and yet totally fun. But that fun is a fun of stepping into corruption and degeneracy.
The reason I brought up the music angle is because, for Alex in A Clockwork Orange, he was an unregenerate Pagan who loved Beethoven’s 9th: “a mounting wave – or better, a spreading infection – of Elysian delirium”.
Myself, I am a neo-Platonist or possibly a post-Jewish neoplatonist proto-Christian of Hermetic orientation. How about you?
Here is a version you likely had not heard: ‘Los tiempos van cambiando’. Ironically sung by the Sons of Anarchy (I have no idea who they are) but when I was growing up ‘Los tiempos van cambiando’ was sung in simchas. I thought it was right out of the Bible.
‘Los tiempos van cambiando’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c80OYHIcgFc
“Oddly enough the lyrics of that song seem to repeat and to restate Matthew 20: the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (“So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.***”). “
The “First will be last and the last will be first” motif is found in several instances in the gospels. It’s a stretch to expand Dylan’s use of the phrase to be referring to the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.
Matthew 19:16:30 and it’s parallel in Mark 10:17-31 about the Rich Man, with the famous “Easier for a camel…” line, a discussion about the inability of human effort to achieve salvation but that that those who live by faith will find the Kingdom, uses the phrase.
Luke 13:22-30 discussing the “Narrow Door”, uses the phrase.
But I am curious about your interpretation, question at the end of the source material:
Here’s the Parable of the Laborers of the Vineyard (English Standard Version):
Here’s the lyrics of the song “The Times They Are a-Changin”
Given that the common interpretation of the Laborers of the Vineyard is one of reminding believers that the reward of eternal life is equally bestowed upon all believers regardless of how long they have believed, and the common interpretation of a-Changin is that of a protest song, could you please expound on your comment where you assert:
“Oddly enough the lyrics of that song seem to repeat and to restate Matthew 20”
Feel free also to actually try to answer these questions you pose as they relate to the ‘protest song’ of Dylan:
“What is it to labor in that vineyard? And what is the vineyard? How does one define oneself spiritually in relation to the State? Does one serve God of Mammon? What is one willing to serve with one’s life and existence? And to what point will one take it?”
I eagerly away your philosophizing…
***”Many called, few chosen”, though another favored motif, it isn’t found in many of the early manuscripts in this particular passage, though it is found in others.
It seems to me that those specific lines are lifted from the Gospels, and that one reason they have resonance is because they speak to a shared sensibility.
I think it can be fairly said that America understands itself and defines itself – or understood itself and defined itself – through biblically-derived explanatory notions. C.f. Robert Bellah ‘The Broken Covenant: American Civil Religion in Time of Trial’.
My impression – cobbled together undoubtedly through readings of different sources – is that to understand America one has to understand the ‘origin myths’ and also the notion of ‘chosenness’. Yet these theological and also metaphysical notions do not function abstractly and as abstractions, but concretely, in time, on the ground. And these ideas infuse how people think about events, progress, and I suppose what is strived for.
While I doubt if the author of that song wrote the song as an expression of some defined theological position, my impression of him through looking over some of his songs, is that he picked up on moods, senses, impressions, of the sort that live in a people, which are part-and-parcel of America. I think some people have described his songs as ‘instant classics’ for this reason: they resonate with innate understandings and perhaps hopes and longings.
They are genuine expressions of religious sensibility.
Tex asked: “Given that the common interpretation of the Laborers of the Vineyard is one of reminding believers that the reward of eternal life is equally bestowed upon all believers regardless of how long they have believed, and the common interpretation of a-Changin is that of a protest song, could you please expound on your comment [“Oddly enough the lyrics of that song seem to repeat and to restate Matthew 20”)
If one understands America through its founding myths and through the understandings of the early founders and builders, and understands how these ideas have successively appeared and reappeared in our affairs (the Revolution, the Civil War era, and certainly the Sixties era), I think one will notice that religious ideas are not abstractions but are made concrete, and they are related to specific people in specific junctures of history and specific events within history.
While I would back away from declaring a specific theological and intended link between the song Bob Dylan wrote and Matthew, it seems to me that the song is in essence a bibically-inspired religious song: A mood pervades it, tension, danger, opportunity, but very clearly the sense of important moral choices to be made, and a sense that there are right answers, and those right answers are held and expressed by youth.
I can think of little more representative of a Christian sensibility.
It certainly fits into a general culturally- or mythically-Christian view of things and I’d mention ‘Blowing in the Wind’, ‘Masters of War’, ‘When the Ship Comes In’ as being further examples of a concretising of Christian sensibility or Christian values. I mean, those songs are in most ways Christian hymns (I realize this is a push) of a man on the road to a personal conversion.
I sense that what you prefer to do – for theological reasons – is to keep the ‘Christian message’, as it were, operating in a specific theological zone (a specifically defined salvation). I think that you might be unaware that the 60s era generally was one where other theological possibilities were explored, not the least being so-called Liberation Theology.
America and American religious sensibility generally is a bending of all the parameters and limits of theology. Take for a good example David L. Miller (http://dlmiller.mysite.syr.edu/dlmcv.htm): ‘The New Polytheism: Rebirth of the Gods and Goddesses’ or ‘Hells & Holy Ghosts’.
For ideas on America as a ‘post-Christian nation’ see Harold Bloom. A wee bit deranged in my view but super-interesting. According to him there is NOTHING that could be considered conventional or doctrinally pure in any of the major strains of American religion. From Pentecostalism to Baptism to Adventism to Mormonism: these are all severe tweaks of the doctrinal bases and yet they define our country.
“What is it to labor in that vineyard? And what is the vineyard? How does one define oneself spiritually in relation to the State? Does one serve God of Mammon? What is one willing to serve with one’s life and existence? And to what point will one take it?”
You want me to take a shot at answering these difficult questions? Here? Now?
I’d love to in fact. But I don’t know if it is appropriate for this blog.
Finally, I desire to take risks in what I think and what I write. I’d rather take risks and fail than to never have tried. I recognize that my ideas on things are ‘free-wheeling’ as someone said. In time perhaps I will winnow out what I feel I need to go forward.
I have access to a personal library (my brother-in-law’s) that has over 20,000 titles. Amazing things. There is just no end to what one finds there.
I think I have answered your question – somewhat. I assume you won’t be very happy with my *philosophising*.
You have reminded me that a couple of years ago, when I war reading Harold Bloom and researching ‘The Burt-Over District’ and Pentecostalism, that I was trying to locate the songs of the 60s which seemed the most overtly religious: the most transparently Christian. There are two which come to mind. ‘Get Together’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCiLxRCBf40) and ‘Woodstock’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRjQCvfcXn0).
These seem to me to be continuations of the Cane Ridge Revivalism and “Second Great Awakening” as a cultural phenomena defining American religiosity.
So, for the question I asked: “could you please expound on your comment where you assert:
“Oddly enough the lyrics of that song seem to repeat and to restate Matthew 20”‘
I finally found your answer:
“While I would back away from declaring a specific theological and intended link between the song Bob Dylan wrote and Matthew, it seems to me that the song is in essence a bibically-inspired religious song: A mood pervades it, tension, danger, opportunity, but very clearly the sense of important moral choices to be made, and a sense that there are right answers, and those right answers are held and expressed by youth.”
Thanks. Although I don’t know how the presence of a mood, tension, danger, opportunity, morality, and youthfulness, necessarily says “biblical” and not just something that on some level, however shallow, feeds the human spirit or even more simply, musical…
Though, to be clear, your answer is a shifting of terms as your never originally asserted that you declared a specific theological and intended link between the song Bob Dylan wrote and Matthew, you did assert: “the lyrics of that song seem to repeat and to restate Matthew 20”
Which, upon reading the text, no, the lyrics do not.
I generously – benevolently even – grant you what I think is your desired point: the song is not a restatement of the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in a strict sense. You said it well: It is a stretch to assert that.
It does seem to me a borrowing from some specific New Testament lyricism though. I think it is generally recognized that B. Dylan has incorporated into his songs many biblical references.
And the rest of what I wrote on the topic of this lyricism, and also the biblical tones, and the American context, and American civil religiousness, points to sense of a social arena, in a given time, as having wide and spiritual dimension. Harder to talk about perhaps. Contested certainly.
So, I over-asserted on that point. I hang my head in shame.
“The simple answer is that rehabilitation is there to educate people and teach them what to do and how to live in a civilized society in a non-anti-social way. After all, crime is just a dumb and unsuccessful life style. I don’t believe people should be made to love America or dedicated to the philosophy behind the rule of law—not once they are adults.”
This flows into the immigration/anti-terrorism issue. In the wake of San Bernadino, it was found that our immigration investigators were not flagging visa applicants whose social media reflected a general anti-Americanism – you have to actually express some kind of violent intent to be determined an undesirable.
I find that this touches on a range of different questions and problems that ‘define our age’ if one can put it sententiously.
Although Kubrick has done something different with A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess intended an ironic Christian morality tale. Alex is the untransformed pagan addicted to his lower pleasures. He requires transformation by a higher spirit and to serve very different goals and ideals but becomes the social experiment of a state apparatus. The movie excludes the essential – if anti-climactic – final chapter: ‘What’s it going to be then, eh?’ The answer, as it pertains to Alex, is that it is going to be his voluntary decision to become a higher man.
Theodor Adorno in ‘The Authoritarian Personality’ describes the personality that would entertain autoritarian and fascistic ideas as a pathological deviation, and this idea has penetrated very far into our culture generally as well as the sociological and psychological disciplines. Not only is the fascistic personality one that suffers parental authority issues (hatred and resentment of the overbearing father), but comes into being because of ‘repressed homosexual desire’.
Once you have identified pathology with the state, with structures of authority, with the father, with a strict generation or with strictness generally, the path forward is to turn against that authority and also to subvert it. This ‘project’ is one that defines the world we live in and certainly the post-war era (or eras I should say).
The so-called Frankfurt School – from Horkheimer to Adorno to Fromm – has had a tremendous influence on how the present is seen and understood, and many different lines of thought have evolved out of it which define our present.
The core idea though seems to propose that it is possible to reengineer man if there takes place a reengineering of the base of society: the family, the economy, the relationship of father to mother, the concept of authority, and then of course the general social-political program to which a person subscribes. If one desires to understand how the ‘right’ or the ‘traditionalist’ pole of thinking has been villified into a pathology one needs only to take a peek into some of the writing of Fromm, Horkheimer and Adorno. It is easy to forget that this ideology arose out of pretty strict Marxian thinking and that it represents a ‘dissolving acid’ but not an ideology around which a solid civilizational project could be organized. The Marxian ‘critical project’ is wonderfully potent as an acid and a destructive agent though.
Ernst Becker descibes ‘psychotherapeutic personality change’ as a function of all manner of different therapy processes: “but all therapies are basically such a re-education – an unlearning of old responses, of unconsciously automatic reactions that constrict the range of choice. In therapy one is essentially deconditioned and reconditioned, to the accompaniment of a good deal of emotional working over which acts as a purge.” In ‘Zen: A Rational Critique’ he critiques religious irrationality (Zen specifically) but he examines Chinese techniques of ‘thought-reform’ and links this with some modes of therapy.
He quotes J. Bronowski (on the frontispiece: “The state of mind, the state of society is of a piece … A society holds together by the respect which man gives to man; it fails in fact, it falls apart into groups of fear and power, when its concept of man is false’.
And who gets to define man?
Strangely, when the social sciences come up with a project to deprogram and reprogram a religious fanatic, they are employing the tools that we have employed to disrupt and reengineer our own relationshiop with the religious and mythic-religious viewpoint. We have quite literally begun to define a religious structure of view as a pathology. The religiously-minded, on a forum dedicated to ‘rationality’, is torn to shreds and if you think that way you are ‘mentally ill’.
Considerations of these ideas, and actually being able to identify the topic and talk about it, is to define the parameters of thinking about the most important questions that ‘define our age’.
“What’s it going to be, eh?”
But Jack, in war time, when we meet people who disagree with our worldview we usually kill a large number of their military aged males who disagree with us, then if they still don’t change their minds we usually obliterate their industrial cities, then if they still don’t change their minds we usually occupy their strategic locations, then if they still don’t change their minds we kill a few more of them!
There is a difference between being taught what to think versus being taught how to think. It is possible to de-brainwash somebody by teaching them how to think critically and letting them do it themselves. As long as they can accurately perceive objective, descriptive reality, they can make better informed judgments on subjective, normative reality. That’s how my plan works, because if people can’t think for themselves, it doesn’t really matter what they believe. They will cause huge, gratuitous problems.
I’d like to offer a small section of If This Goes On by Robert Heinlein, a book that’s getting a lot of buzz for this year’s Retro Hugos.
Never agree to be turned over to a German scientist for any reason, if movies have taught me anything.
Minnesota is the genital mutilation capital of the US and an ISIS recruiting center. Jack thinks offering people convicted of aiding terrorism lighter sentences to enter a de-radicalization program is unethical. De-radicalization programs are trying to deal with the huge problem of integrating Muslim (more specifically Somali) immigrants into Minnesota.
I suppose Minnesota’s anti-genital mutilation campaigns are also spooky brainwashing. This is why people don’t want any more immigration. You cannot have an honest conversation or address real problems associated with immigration. You can’t even offer as special program designed to reach out to members of the Somali community without insane hand-wringing.
Gee, I wonder why people support Trump?
You stop people from committing genital mutilation by making the operation illegal. You don’t brainwash citizens out of their religious beliefs. The legal, ethical process is called culture Assimilation. Values.
“De-radicalization programs are trying to deal with the huge problem of integrating Muslim (more specifically Somali) immigrants into Minnesota.” And the ends justify the means.
I don’t wonder why people support Trump. They apply the wretched and unethical logic you just employed.
Then it is clear to say that brainwashing is fine as long as it is free market driven and not state or institution mandated?
In a sense then it might be possible to say that it was unethical to have brought the Somalis into the social body before they had been sufficiently prepared to participate ethically.
Interesting that to consider ‘rational argument’ as a departure point to then move to rhetoric and persuasion that it requires a subject capable of thinking in those terms.
“More than forty years ago in The Ethics of Rhetoric, Richard Weaver identified four types of argument, linking each with a corresponding political and ideological type. He claimed that arguments from definition and analogy were the most ethical forms of argument and—not coincidentally—that they were the arguments most compatible with idealists and conservatives like himself. These kinds of arguments were essentially philosophical, applying ideas or past examples to current situations, emphasizing the development of general principles.”
“At the other end of the spectrum were arguments based on consequence and circumstance, which Weaver linked to a relativist, pragmatic, liberal orientation (57, 58). Such arguments were practical, emphasizing immediate context. From Weaver’s perspective, these arguments were inferior because of what he saw as their transience and short-sightedness.”
The rational subject that Weaver envisions – and I assume that all ‘true conservatives’ emulate – must be ‘prepared subjects’ and capable of dealing with ideas at a philosophical level.
The problem, then, is ‘by definition’ one of corruption: It is implied that with proper philosophical training one will think correctly and make the right decisions. And if one makes skewed decisions that someone – a better philosopher and rhetor – can come along and correct you, help get you back on track.
But in our highly corrupt society the general corruption, or corruption with certain nameable founts, has penetrated so deeply that those who should be upholders of philosophically defined virtue, are voices that cannot be heard. Or perhaps no one can or is interested in following their logic?
It is really a pretty cool topic in my view. There is a great deal in it.
(If I can’t make it as a private caterer, persuading the recalcitrant through virtuous and harmonious recipes with the edification of the soul as en end, I suppose I’ll have to go the route of an angelic hippy.)
(I do have a couple of tofu-based dips in my rhetoro-culinary toolbox so at least I have a base).
You are just posturing and utterly disconnected from reality. Culture, what culture are you talking about? and assimilation is now considered ethnocentric or racist. Also, I’m still not sure how “shorter” prison sentence and trying to make sure these guys have jobs and connections to the community when they get out is an unethical means. Especially when the ends is trying to find a way for Minnesotans and Somali immigrants to live in peace.
1.”assimilation is now considered ethnocentric or racist.” By whom? By deranged social justice loon who know nothing about how societies are creates and stay strong. No diverse society survives without strong assimilation: the adverse is a destructive theory that flies in the case of history and national experience.
2. Put words in my mouth again and I’ll show you the door. I never wrote, not have I thought, that “shorter” prison sentence and trying to make sure these guys have jobs and connections to the community when they get out is an unethical means. I’ll accept your apology for that gross and dishonest misrepresentation.
3. I wrote that we stop Americans who practice barbaric religious rituals from doing so by declaring that it is wrong, making them a crime, and hoping that they adopt American values. And that’s how its done.
4. I wrote, clearly, that programs designed to change citizens’ beliefs and thought processes are unethical, no matter how important the objective is.
5. That’s not posturing, you ass, that’s ethics and civil rights 101, the basics. And you are, like most tolerance and diversity scolds, an utter hypocrite with mush between your ears. You argue the assimilation is racist–utter garbage—and then want to stop genital mutilation! Why? It’s just a different culture’s values! Why isn’t it racist to “stop” it? Just let them mutilate those girls; we should be tolerant!
6. I’ll accept a snotty intro sometimes in an intelligent critique. Not in the self-contradictory, knee-jerk junk you wrote here. Tell me I’m posturing again and watch what happens.
“to rid” not “to ride”
Thanks. Fixed it.