Article 43

 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Everyone Was Wrong About Trump

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Everyone Was Wrong About Trump

By Caitlin Johnstone
December 23, 2020

After weeks of speculation and desperate hopes that Donald Trump might be preparing to PARDON NSA WEHISTLEBLOWER EDWARD SNOWDEN and/or WIKILEAKS FOUNDER JULIAN ASSANGE before leaving office on January 20th, what the latest round of presidential pardons has delivered is about as far from that as you can conceivably imagine.

In an audacious pre-Christmas round of pardons, President Trump granted clemency on Tuesday to two people convicted in the special counsel’s Russia inquiry, four Blackwater guards convicted in connection with the killing of Iraqi civilians and three corrupt former Republican members of Congress, the New York Times reports.

I probably don’t need to tell my regular readers this, but a Trump pardon for Assange and Snowden is almost certainly not in the cards. Trump has done nothing but protect the imperial status quo the entire time he’s been in office and a pardon for either of those heroic government transparency advocates would be a deviation from his established patterns unlike anything he’s ever once demonstrated while in office. Its good to pressure politicians to do the right thing even when they probably won’t, but its a safe bet that he won’t.

Trump’s entire term has revealed that virtually everyone, all across the US political spectrum, has been wrong about him. And it’s a testament to the power of media echo chambers that for the most part they remain just as wrong about him as they were four years ago.

To this day, even after four years of evidence to the contrary, Trump supporters still believe their president has been ending the wars, draining the swamp, and fighting the Deep State.They believe he’s fighting the Deep State even after he imprisoned Assange. They believe he’s ending the wars even as he’s ramped up cold war aggressions against Russia, killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans with starvation sanctions, vetoed attempts to save Yemen from U.S.-backed genocide, is working to foment civil war in Iran using starvation sanctions and CIA ops with the stated goal of effecting regime change, occupied Syrian oil fields with the goal of preventing Syria’s reconstruction, greatly increased the number of troops in the Middle East and elsewhere, greatly increased the number of bombs dropped per day from the previous administration, killing record numbers of civilians, and reduced military accountability for those airstrikes. They believe hes draining the swamp after packing his cabinet with establishment swamp monsters.

To this day, even after four years of evidence to the contrary, liberals are still convinced that Trump is a servant of Russia who has spent his term advancing the interests of Vladimir Putin. They believe this even as he’s been shredding treaties with Russia, bombing the Syrian government and arming Ukraine (both of which Obama refused to do), many sanctions and many other escalations directly against the interests and safety of Russia.

To this day, even after four years of evidence to the contrary, many on the left still continue their frequent claims that Trump is a uniquely fascistic or Hitler-like president, despite his having far fewer deportations than Obama had. And despite the fact that he will with absolute certainty leave office on January 20th after losing an election.

All sides pretended that Trump was a radical deviation from the norm, and so did Trump, when all he actually did throughout his entire time in office was protect the status quo just like his predecessors did. As writer and activist Sam Husseini recently put it, Trump is the opposable thumb of the establishment. He looks like he’s on the opposite side, but he just helps it grab more.

After four years everyone - left, right and center - has been proven wrong about Trump. He was neither a uniquely evil monster (he was indisputably not even as bad as Bush), nor a populist hero draining the swamp and fighting for the common man against the Deep State.

Trump was a US president of fairly average depravity, with a truly massive overlay of narrative heaped on top of him by partisan media on all sides. In reality he was pretty much what you’d get if you took any average American Fox News-watching boomer who yells at Obama on TV, made him rich, and then made him president.

That’s what Trump is and has been. Nothing more extraordinary than that. It is only the effectiveness of echo chambers and the human tendency to prioritize narrative over factual data which prevents more people from seeing this.

In actuality Trump’s term has clearly established what he really was this entire time: he was a US president. Better than some, worse than others, but also deeply awful all around since he voluntarily served as the face of the most evil and destructive force on earth, namely the United States government. He was the same kind of monster as his predecessors.

Trump was a US president of fairly average depravity, with a truly massive overlay of narrative heaped on top of him by partisan media on all sides. In reality he was pretty much what you’d get if you took any average American Fox News-watching boomer who yells at Obama on TV, made him rich, and then made him president.

That’s what Trump is and has been. Nothing more extraordinary than that. It is only the effectiveness of echo chambers and the human tendency to prioritize narrative over factual data which prevents more people from seeing this.

And now he is leaving, with his imaginary crimes still held as real and his actual crimes completely ignored. Humanity will not be able to create a healthy world until we find a way to transcend our unhealthy and delusional relationship with mental narrative which so easily obscures our perspective of whats really happening.

About the author:

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at MY WEBSITE or on SUBSTACK, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is ENTIRELY READER SUPPORTED, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my new book Poems For Rebels or my old book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what Im trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, HAS MY PERMISSION to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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Posted by Elvis on 12/29/20 •
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Friday, December 25, 2020

AT&T Cuts Retiree Pension and Healthcare

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AT&T Cuts Retiree Pension and Healthcare

Techstaffer
December 18, 2020

As a recruiter I’m often asked about benefit packages offered by certain companies.  Over the last year there have been substantive changes in benefits coming from Fortune 500 companies with most of the changes going the wrong way. We’ve seen many large corporations choose to cut employee benefits whether that be pension, 401(k), or healthcare. VERIZON created headlines all the way back in 2005 when they announced they would freeze their pension program. In the years to come many corporations followed suite by moving to defined contribution plans as opposed to defined benefit plans. This trend culminated in General Electric deciding to freeze the largest pension fund in the United States. Other corporations have decided to target 401(k) plans.  ExxonMobil announced earlier this year that they would suspend their 401(k) matching program indefinitely. Which brings us to AT&T

A surprise announcement was made on Monday where AT&T stated in a Memo that they will be reducing benefits in 2021 and 2022. I wanted to make sure my AT&T clients were informed about what exactly is going away.

AT&T CEO John Stankey has expressed a goal of $10 billion in cost cuts and the company has made it clear that workers benefits are next on the chopping block.

So who will be affected by these cuts? Employees retiring after 2022 will be hit the hardest, as they will lose all medical coverage typically given to retirees. AT&T will no longer supplement monthly premiums for medical or dental. This may not affect all employees. You should call the benefit office to inquire about your particular situation.

This announcement comes on the heels of AT&T alerting employees that they will no longer offer a Healthcare reimbursement account for those who retired after January 1st 2021. Currently things like out of pocket costs, supplemental coverage, and incremental coverage are covered by a healthcare reimbursement account from AT&T. According to AT&T’s Summary Plan description the HRA credit is worth $2,700 for an employee and $1,500 for an eligible dependent. If an employee takes full advantage of this benefit this would be worth $4,200 per year. Over a 20 year period this could save an employee and their family about $84,000. 

AT&T pension benefits are being reduced as well. AT&T uses a Career Average Minimum (CAM) or a Pension Band Minimum (PBM) formula to calculate your pension contributions. Your CAM benefit is determined by multiplying your career pension compensation by a percentage and then dividing by 12. Currently that percentage is 1.6%. After January 1st 2022 that percentage will drop to 1%.

Management employees may receive a benefit based on the PBM formula. The PBM benefit is determined by multiplying a percentage by your pension compensation. Currently that percentage is 1.2%. After January 1st 2022 that percentage will be reduced to 0.75%.

AT&T is not the only company to cut benefits during the pandemic. History shows time and time again that when a recession hits corporations will decrease or suspend benefits. We witnessed this in the 2001 recession when General Motors, Charles Schwab, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, & Ford all decreased or suspended their company match programs. The same happened in 2008, with Forbes reporting that nearly 20% of companies with over 1,000 employees reduced or SUSPENDED 401(k) contributions.  Unfortunately, that trend seems to be continuing in the wake of the current recession brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. According to CNBC, 8% OF EMPLOYEES HAVE REDUCED OR SUSPENDED 401(k) CONTRIBUTIONS THIS YEAR ALONE. Major companies like Amtrak, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, and ExxonMobil have all suspended their 401(k) matching programs. In ExxonMobil’s case employees lost a company match of up to 7%, severely hindering an employee’s ability to save for retirement. AT&T’s cuts will also make it significantly more challenging for retirees to make their money last as long as they need.

Questions you need to ask yourself now on the risks of leaving and potential risks of staying at AT&T

Should I consider retiring now to lock in my company subsidy and look for another job outside of AT&T?

Are their jobs in my specialty available if I do leave?

Will my pension grow if I do stay?

Will my lump sum pension decrease If interest rates go up next year?

Would it be better to leave now with the healthcare subsidy and work a 20-hour per week job or would I do better if I stay and hope I do not get laid off?

Should I look for a contracting job in winter or wait until next year?

It is my hope that by being aware of these cuts and questions you can ask yourself can plan accordingly and make sound financial decisions going forward.

SOURCE

Links:

Santone, Angela. “AT&T: Updates to Your Retirement Benefits.” AT&T Memo, AT&T Inc., 15 Dec. 2020

“The Retirement/Transition Guide for AT&T Employees.” The Retirement Group, The Retirement Group, 11 Aug. 2020, https://telecom.theretirementgroup.com/att-guide-download-google

AT&T Nonbargained Summary Plan Description, 2020

Posted by Elvis on 12/25/20 •
Section Pension Ripoff
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Monday, December 21, 2020

Austerity American Style Part 18 - Progressive Letdown

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When Austeritys Chickens Came Home to Roost in the U.S., Bernie and “the Squad” were Unprepared
The theory of change that depicts the likes of Bernie Sanders and AOC as the leaders of the class struggle has failed to materialize in reality.

By Danny Haiphong
Black Agenda Report
December 16, 2020

The development of diverse faces in high places within the state has temporarily disarmed the Black consensus on peace and social justice.

In March, Bernie Sanders and “the Squad” were calling for a $2000 MONTHLY CHECK to be included in the first governmental response to the pandemic. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Democratic Party majority in the House silently voted for the CARES Act. The CARES Act pumped more than FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS to the richest corporations while providing just a one-time $1200 payment to workers and the poor. So-called “progressive” Democrats such as SANDERS AND ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ voiced opposition to the bill but did not organize against it. Ten months later, the chickens of austerity are roosting on a global pandemic that the U.S. ruling class has used to beef up its profits at the expense of the rest of us.

AUSTERITY is the engine of U.S. capitalism in its late stages. The regime is driven by the unmitigated rule of finance capital over all levers of the state. Everything is looked upon as an opportunity for private profit and investment rather than human need. Neoliberalism is a modernized version of the very classical liberal ideology which brought capitalism into being. Only this time, monopolies are the mercantilists and the very existence of workers themselves is seen as an impediment to the maximization of ruling class wealth.

Labor cannot be eliminated under capitalism, so the rich overseers of the system have resorted to squeezing every drop of blood from the working class. COVID-19 brought to the fore the immense crisis facing more than 150 million people who were already IN OR NEAR POVERTY before the economic collapse hit in March. On January 1st, more than nineteen million people risk homelessness with the expiration of CDC-enforced moratoriums on MORTGAGE AND RENT PAYMENTS. As unemployment increased by the tens of millions beginning in March, so too did the lines at food banks. Sixteen percent of households with children in the U.S. currently EXPERIENCE FOOD INSECURITY . That number nearly doubles for Black and Latino households.

None of these conditions are by accident. Neoliberal capitalist decay is a boon for the rich even if it sends the system into an overall state of crisis. Jeff Bezos and the richest billionaires on the planet have increased their wealth immensely since the pandemic. U.S. billionaires have seen their net worth skyrocket by ALMOST ONE TRILLION DOLLARS and counting. What has been missing from the equation is a U.S.-based movement that can fight back against the resultant immiseration of the masses.

Majorities of people of all political persuasions are hungry for Medicare for All and any kind of relief from the precarity of neoliberal capitalism. Young Democrats displaced from the American Dream hoped that the rise of Bernie Sanders and “the Squad” represented the first signs of life for the resurgence of class struggle politics in the United States. A major problem with this formulation rested in the fact that Bernie Sanders, AOC, and the rest of the squad diverted their youthful and increasingly socialist base to the corporate jaws of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is where movements go to die and where austerity is given a friendly, more diverse face from which to shatter the dreams and lives of the working class.

COVID-19 has served as a litmus test for the socialist-ish elements of the Democratic Party. The theory of change that inserts the likes of Bernie Sanders and AOC as the leaders of the class struggle has failed to materialize in reality. In recent weeks, AOC and Sanders have blamed Republicans for the latest stimulus package which is half of what was formulated by Donald Trump before Biden became president-elect and excludes the singular $1200 payment to every American. They have been silent about the fact that House leader Nancy Pelosi SIGNED OFF ON THE LATEST STIMULUS PROPOSAL coming out of Congress. When asked about the change of heart toward a bipartisan stimulus, PELOSI ANSWERED, “That’s okay now because we have a new president. A president who recognizes that we need to depend on science.”

In other words, the masses will get science but no rental assistance, a vaccine but no universal healthcare, and a new president but not a new politics that will fulfill their basic needs. Sanders and his surrogates have opposed the latest Pelosi-backed bill but have only called for the inclusion of another one-time $1200 dollar payment . It is clear that the chickens of austerity are roosting on the Sanders-wing of the Democratic Party. Austerity is politically defined by the complete absence of any demands on power which disrupt the status quo and the endless downward pressure placed on the lives of the downtrodden. Sanders’ willingness to reduce his demand for a $2000 universal basic income to a $1200 one-time payment after nine months of economic crisis follows the logic of austerity to a T.

Bernie Sanders and “the Squad” have always been unprepared to challenge austerity because their struggle does not fundamentally confront the character of the U.S. state. The U.S. state is the enforcement mechanism of capitalism. Black America has historically been the most organized, vocal, and effective force in exposing the true character of the U.S. state so that the masses of people can get to the business of transforming it. The development of diverse faces in high places within the state has temporarily disarmed the Black consensus on peace and social justice. This has in turn created a huge weakness in the U.S. left as a whole. There are but a few voices calling for Bernie Sanders, AOC, and the rest of the “progressive” Democrats to move beyond demands for a $1200 one-time paycheck and even fewer challenging their silence on the nomination of Black WAR HAWK LLOYD AUSTIN to Secretary of Defense or the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) worth $740 BILLION.

Austerity’s chickens have come home to roost in the form of the most devastating economic crisis since the Great Depression and there is no end in sight. The lesson of this moment is that real demands must be placed on the ENTIRE state, even the most supposedly left elements nesting within it. Movements are defined by their demands. Without them, AOC and Sanders will continue to support bloated military budgets and capitulate to the class that actually wields power: the capitalist class. The so-called “left-wing” of the Democratic Party is accountable only to the political apparatus enforcing austerity on the masses of people. That AOC and Sanders won’t respond to the demands of the masses is a lesson that has yet to be learned by loyal Sandernistas. Because so-called progressives are unprepared for the moment, it is ultimately up to workers and oppressed people to make the United States ungovernable unless their demands for a better life, and a new world, are met.

Danny Haiphong is co-coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace Supporter Network and organizer with No Cold War. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A Peoples History of Fake News--From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). His articles are re-published widely as well as on Patreon HERE. He is also the co-host with BAR Editor Margaret Kimberley of the Youtube show BAR Presents: The Left Lens and can be reached on Twitter at-spiritofho, and email at wakeupriseup1990-at-gmail.com.

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Posted by Elvis on 12/21/20 •
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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Republican Redux 20 - Prosperity Gospel

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Elitists believe that conscience is a hindrance to success.

They desperately want to believe that they are serving the future of mankind, and that we should appreciate their guiding hand.

If they can convince the masses that morality is “relative” and that right and wrong are subject to “interpretation,” if they can convince us to ignore our own inner voices which are inborn, then their monstrosity could eventually be considered normal, even preferable.

- True Evil

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Gospel of selfishness pervades American Christianity
The philosophers of greed now use Christianity as their cover story

By Amanda Marcotte
Alternet
November 24, 2018

Anyone who has worked in the restaurant business will be happy to tell you that waiters always fight each other to avoid working Sunday lunch shift. Not because they want to sleep in, but because its a widespread belief that the post-church crowd is loud, demanding and unwilling to tip appropriately. In the food service industry, “Christian” is synonymous with “selfish.”

Unfair stereotype? Probably. Big groups, regardless of affiliation, tend to tip poorly. More to the point, waiters probably remember the bad Christian tippers more because the hypocrisy is so stunning. The image of a man piously preening about what a good Christian he is in church only to turn around and refuse the basic act of decency that is paying someone what you owe them perfectly symbolizes a lurking suspicion in American culture that the harder someone thumps the Bible, the more selfish and downright sadistic a person he is. And that perceptionthat showy piety generally goes hand in hand with very un-Christ-like behavior - is not an urban myth at all. On the contrary, its the daily reality of American culture and politics.

BILL MAHER recently had a RANT on his show that went viral addressing this very issue, bad tippers who leave sermons or notes scolding waiters instead of paying them what they’re owed. His larger point is a much more important one: It’s absolutely disgusting how the politicians who make the biggest show of how much they love Jesus would be the first in line to bash him if he returned with a message of clothing the naked and feeding the poor. The Jesus of the Bible multiplied the loaves and fishes. His loudest followers these day gripe about feeding people, claiming it creates a “culture of dependency.” They may even comb through the Bible to take quotes out of context to justify their selfishness toward the poor, as Rep. Steven Fincher did when he claimed the Bible says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” The fact that those jobs are unavailable didn’t give him a moments pause when suggesting this very un-Christ-like plan to his fellow Americans.

There are plenty of progressive Christians who genuinely try to live out Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself, described in the Bible as the root of Jesus’ entire philosophy. That said, statistics bear out the sense that people who are more invested in being perceived as pious also embrace the most selfish policies. SELF-IDENTIFIED CONSERVATIVES AND REPUBLICANS CLAIM TO GO TO CHURCH REGULARLY at twice the rate of self-identified liberals. People who go to church MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK are far more conservative than the rest of the population. Indeed, the research suggests how often you report being in the pews is the most reliable indicator of how you’re going to vote. (Though it may not be a reliable indicator of how often you actually go to church. In the grand tradition of showy piety, people who claim to be avid church-goers often LIE ABOUT IT to pollsters.)

The attempts to reconcile the correlation between displays of piety and support for selfish policies get complex on the right, with conservatives often arguing that hating your neighbor at the voting booth doesn’t count because church charities supposedly make up for it. (They don’t.) In reality, the relationship between Christian piety and support for selfish policies is fairly straightforward. Its not that being Christian makes you conservative. It’s that being conservative makes being a loud and pious Christian extremely attractive.

Without Christianity, the underlying MEAN-SPIRITEDNESS of conservative policies is simply easier to spot. Without religion, you’re stuck making libertarian-style arguments that sound like things cackling movie villains would say, like Ayn Rand saying civilization should reject “the morality of altruism.” Since Christianity teaches altruism and generosity, it provides excellent cover for people who want to be selfish, a sheep’s clothing made of Jesus to cover up the child-starving wolf beneath. Since Christians are “supposed” to be good people, people who really aren’t good are lining up to borrow that reputation to advance their agenda.

The fact that conservatism causes obnoxious Christian piety in American culture is most obvious when looking at some of the theological developments that have accrued since the philosophers of selfishness decided to use Christianity as their cover story. The “prosperity gospel” that has developed in recent years is a classic example.

The prosperity gospel teaches, to be blunt, THAT YOU CAN TELL HOW MUCH GOD FAVORS YTOU by how rich you are. While some on the Christian right reject this idea as a tad crude, it’s still wildly popular and its adherents, like Oral Roberts, are some of the major architects and organizers for the Christian right. Its a perfect example of how conservative ideology leads to pious Christianity. People want to believe that the rich are better than everyone else and the poor don’t deserve squat, so they find a way to blame God for it rather than own their own greed and selfishness.

Pope Francis may be entirely sincere when he says he wants Catholic clergy to deemphasize the right-wing political pandering in favor of highlighting values that are more in line with liberalism, such as compassion and generosity to the poor, but the odds are slim of this message making inroads with church leaders in the United States. The church needs conservatives who need to believe theyre good and holy people despite their selfish beliefs. Without them, who will show up and tithe? Liberals? Most of them are sleeping in on Sundays, secure that their commitment to social justice makes them good people regardless of how visibly pious they are.

The fact of the matter is that the purposes religion serves in America are shrinking in number. Our cultural identity is increasingly shaped by pop culture, not faith or ethnic identity. Our holidays are more about shopping and having a chance to catch up with far-flung family these days, not showing devotion to a deity. Spiritual needs are often addressed through modern means like psychotherapy and self-help. People build communities through hobbies and interests more than through faith communities bound by geography, ethnicity and family.

Increasingly, the only thing religion has left to justify itself is that it provides cover for people who want to have bigoted, selfish beliefs but want to believe they are good people anyway. As these social trends continue, we can expect the alignment between public piety and grotesquely selfish political beliefs to get worse, not better.

SOURCE - ALTERNATE SOURCE

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What does the Bible say about the prosperity gospel?

Learn The Faith
June 8, 2012

In the prosperity gospel, also known as the “Word of Faith,” the believer is told to use God, whereas the truth of biblical Christianity is just the opposite - God uses the believer. Word of Faith or prosperity theology sees the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the believer wills. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person who enables the believer to do Gods will. The prosperity gospel movement closely resembles some of the destructive greed sects that infiltrated the early church. Paul and the other apostles were not accommodating to or conciliatory with the false teachers who propagated such heresy. They identified them as dangerous false teachers and urged Christians to avoid them.

Paul warned Timothy about such men in 1 Timothy 6:5, 9-11. These men of ғcorrupt mind supposed godliness was a means of gain and their desire for riches was a trap that brought them ԓinto ruin and destruction (v. 9). The pursuit of wealth is a dangerous path for Christians and one which God warns about: ԓFor the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (v. 10). If riches were a reasonable goal for the godly, Jesus would have pursued it. But He did not, preferring instead to have no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20) and teaching His disciples to do the same. It should also be remembered that the only disciple concerned with wealth was Judas.

Paul said covetousness is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5) and instructed the Ephesians to avoid anyone who brought a message of immorality or covetousness (Ephesians 5:6-7). Prosperity teaching prohibits God from working on His own, meaning that God is not Lord of all because He cannot work until we release Him to do so. Faith, according to the Word of Faith doctrine, is not submissive trust in God; faith is a formula by which we manipulate the spiritual laws that prosperity teachers believe govern the universe. As the name “Word of Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts.

A favorite term in the Word of Faith movement is “positive confession.” This refers to the teaching that words themselves have creative power. What you say, Word of Faith teachers claim, determines everything that happens to you. Your confessions, especially the favors you demand of God, must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer (as though man could require anything of God!). Thus, God’s ability to bless us supposedly hangs on our faith. James 4:13-16 clearly contradicts this teaching: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Far from speaking things into existence in the future, we do not even know what tomorrow will bring or even whether we will be alive.

Instead of stressing the importance of wealth, the Bible warns against pursuing it. Believers, especially leaders in the church (1 Timothy 3:3), are to be free from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5). The love of money leads to all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus warned, Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15). In sharp contrast to the Word of Faith emphasis on gaining money and possessions in this life, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19).” The irreconcilable contradictions between prosperity teaching and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is best summed up in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/20/20 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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Sunday, December 13, 2020

Cruelty And Catastrophe

The Terrible and Catastrophic Price of American Cruelty
What Cruelty is (Really) Worth in an Age of Catastrophe

By Umair Haque
Eudamonia
December 12, 2020

Americans dying by the thousands every day. A President who knows Covid is deadly, but wont lift a finger. Governors who tried to mandate not wearing masks. A population that seems more concerned with “free-dumb” than protecting the vulnerable. A government that won’t support people, even as they lose their jobs in the wake of a global pandemic.

Covid is just one telling example of what America’s legendary for now the world over - not freedom, justice, or truth, but a kind of weird, gruesome, and relentless cruelty, at every level of society.

America’s behaviour during the pandemic - which is startling to much of the rest of the world - is a textbook example of American cruelty. Many Americans refuse to wear masks, cooperate with lockdown orders, or try to fight covid in any way entirely.

As a result, America ended up having the world’s worst Covid outomes. As of today, more than 296,000 people in America have died of Covid. And the difficult truth is that most of those deaths were needless. To most of the rest of the world, Americans appear shockingly cruel, indifferent to infecting not just the vulnerable, but even themselves and their own familes with a deadly disease. A pandemic simply can’t spread through a society the way Covid has spread through America unless it’s ruled by norms of indifference, cruelty, brutality, and violence. And above all, all those things being necessary and just punishments which separate the weak, who don’t deserve to live, from the strong, who do.

The problem is that America’s fatally misjudged what cruelty’s worth. American thinking supposes that cruelty perfects human beings: “No pain, no gain.” But the truth is that cruelty isn’t an asset for a society, or a person. It is a liability. It leads a society to become something like a Ponzi scheme of the human spirit, each person preying on the next, and thus corrodes it from within leaving it in the hands of Caesars and Caligulas, or Trumps and Bannons.

But let’s start at the beginning. American life is now one long exercise in cruelty - first learning to survive it, then learning to appreciate and admire it (as perverse as that sounds), then learning, in the end, to perform and enact it - bang!!  thus, the cycle keeps going. Do I exaggerate? You go ahead and be the judge.

You’re born, you go to school. Active shooter “drills” and lunch “debt.” From an early age, you learn that life is divided, therefore, into predator and prey. You go to middle school, high school it’s a uniquely awful, dispiriting experience, about being mean and nasty, bullying and submission, popularity and vanity and selfishness and while you might think, “it’s like that everywhere!” my friends, it isn’t. Other nations don’t base their entire adolescent cultures on the trauma of just waking up and going to school. But Americans do, because that’s life. Hence, among disastrous effects, skyrocketing suicide rates among teens.

Those that do survive a culture of extreme cruelty from the day they’re born? Off you go go to college - and you’re hazed mercilessly to join a fraternity. What are you being trained for, really? Education, creativity, insight - or dominance, submission, and tribalism? Never mind. You graduate and go to work. And the workplace is one where bullying itself is called management, and every kind of abuse is normalized. No one else in the civilized world, really, puts up with bosses shouting at them and berating them and demeaning them, like feudal overlords. It just isnt tolerated - it’s usually quite literally against the law. But America created a culture where overwork is work, where 80 hour weeks for shrinking pay are just fine, and you have to perform with a rictus smile of submission on your face. You’re not really “working” more than that, you’re performing a kind of flamboyant display of emotional and intellectual servitude, which proves what you really are, a social nobody. Better not make that capitalist mad - or is he your feudal lord? Yet for Americans, all these are perfectly normal and acceptable.

You’re getting older now. Heaven forbid you get sick - better not tell your boss. He might fire you. Heaven forbid someone in your family needs to use the insurance. They might axe you for that, too. Don’t take a vacation, don’t use up those sick days, don’t be the first to leave the office, always be the first to arrive. Cruelty’s been internalized at this point - you’ve learned to “take responsibility” for abusing yourself, sadly, and call it “adulthood,” - yet it’s anything but that: its the repression of the true adult in you, which is crying out for meaning, purpose, belonging, truth.

So you search for a partner, a spouse. Who do you want? The one that everyone else wants. Culture doesn’t tell you to be interested in a person for who they are, what they’ve been through, the secret suffering hidden in their heart - which is the one thing which might save you, too. It just tells you to date the hottest person with the highest attractiveness quotient, basically swipe right. So you go on endless dates - but nothing seems to click, work out. You say there’s no spark, ruefully, to your friends - but what you can’t admit to yourself is you’re afraid the person you actually like meets the strange standards he’s got perfect abs, she’s a perfect size zero, never mind the ego, self-absorption, vanity, greed, duplicity, and indifference - everyone’s learned from a culture of cruelty to admire and celebrate as universally “attractive” in the first place.

You have kids. What are their lives like? Not much different from yours - you learned to survive cruelty, then admire it, then enact it, finally. I could go on. But perhaps you see my point. American life is one long headspinning exercise in cruelty - and Americans seem to revel in it, or at least to shrug, grin, and bear it, while not understanding that life elsewhere isn’t like this, because, well, people shudder at the thought.

What does it to do us, though? Lets think about it.

Rewind, to before the pandemic.

You’re at Stanford. You’re depressed. You become suicidal. You go for counseling. And instead of support - you’re asked to leave class, your dorm room, your degree, and sent home, until you “accept blame.”

Shocked? I was. And yet, at the same time, it’s still somehow unsurprising. There’s the poor Stanford kid. About halfway through the lifecycle of cruelty I’ve described above. Except maybe he just cant take it anymore - the constant atmosphere of pervasive abuse, emotional violence, pressure, stress, trauma. He grows depressed, and then suicidal. Instead of support, what happens?

The first thing that happens is that SUPPORT IS WITHDRAWN. That’s a very American pattern - and it happens because Americans see weakness as a dangerous, threatening liability. Something like parasitism which will drain away their very lifeblood if they give an inch. What do we do with drug addicts? Instead of supporting them, we follow the crackpot “intervention” model, and withdraw our support. Tough Love, Tucker! Sorry, son - go sleep on the street! But that model hasnt worked - have you seen the suicide rate skyrocketing because it can’t. You can’t withdraw support at a time when people need it most. Yet that is what American institutions are built to do. Need healthcare? Sorry, insurance won’t cover that. Lost your job during Covid? Sorry, can’t help you. Need an education? Sorry - the only way you get one is to pay 10% interest forever. And so on.

The second thing that happens is that the suffering party is shunned and ostracized. Because Americans see weakness as contagious, they must step back. But I want you to note how ignorant and foolish this is: weakness isnt contagious җ thats something like medieval logic, isnҒt it? Yet this is a step beyond withdrawing support the Stanford students donגt just get no counseling, they get kicked out. But that too follows the general pattern of American cruelty. Get sick lose your job. She’s pregnant fire her, just don’t tell anyone. They’re going through a rough patch - we don’t talk to them anymore. It’s so commonplace in America now to shun and ostracize the weak that we barely notice it at all. But what happens to us when we fall, then?

The third thing that happens is that people must never blame anyone else but themselves for weakness - and then they are institutionally legitimized again. They must never complain. In this case, Stanford students had to accept blame, and whatnot. But that’s the general rule. (Of course, here, by weakness and legitimacy, I emphatically don’t mean abusiveness - we’re not talking about people who hurt others, but people who are hurt). You can see this rule operating everywhere - “Hey, I was sick, but I beat it!” “Oh, stop whining and bitching!” You’re always complaining!” “Be positive!” The idea is simply the flipside of self-reliance - one must never broach the idea that one has been failed, only that one has failed.

Now, you might say, so what? The problem with all the above is very simple. You can have a society based on norms of extreme cruelty or you can have a democratic, free, and prosperous one. But you can’t have both. Cruelty like all the above makes people timid, afraid, and docile of being the ones preyed on. It leaves them unimaginative, dull, empty, and ignorant ח because they are too busy obeying order to question them. It makes conformists and braggarts and bullies of them who hope to become flunkies, cronies, and enforcers, one day. But that is about the limit of their existential aspirations, and the edge of their moral horizons.

In this way, a society based upon cruelty is something like a house of cards - just waiting to collapse into authoritarianism, of one kind or another. Which is exactly what is happening to America right now, as the GOP try to push through what is essentially a judicial coup. The people in it are already meek and timid, servile and docile, when their superiors are watching, but vicious and abusive, violent and savage, to their underlings yet all that is precisely the opposite of what a democracy needs, isn’t it?

Yet history tells us this story again and again. Rome degenerated not because it grew poor, feeble, or infirm but because cruelty produced tyranny and obscenity, in the end. The French Revolution’s noble, ambitious ideals were betrayed the moment it acceded to the cruelty of a Bonaparte. Germany’s romantic, bombastic nationalism didn’t lead to a noble empire it led to the Nazis. The Soviets looked forward to a glorious future - and soon enough, an admiration for cruelty had produced a Stalin. And so on.

History is littered with the ruins of the cruel. Because today’s cruelest are really just tomorrow’s dullest - quicker to draw a gun or a sword than read or write a book. But a gun, unlike a book, has never once lit a spark in a mind, a fire in a heart, or held up a mirror to a soul, yet it is those things which prosperity is genuinely made of. That is why the cruel always fall from within - usually, without an enemy even needing to fire a shot. Societies built on cruelty above all else usually are too busy shooting themselves to need their enemies to do anything but gawp. For societies, just as for people, it is best to see cruelty as a kind of fatal ignorance about what the purpose of this life is, and how it is best lived. Not with cruelty. But with grace, authenticity, gentleness, and humility.

The price of cruelty, my friends, in the end, is us. What else could it be? That lesson, which is what history has taken so many long millennia to teach us, has always been lost on America - and still, it seems to me, is.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 12/13/20 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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