Article 43

 

Culture Of Cruelty

image: big bad boss

I had a panic attack of fear of the future a few years ago after an UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICE VISIT, but instead of throwing myself in front of a bus, went to a church and talked to a priest.  The man seemed friendly enough until he asked if I believed Jesus died for my sins.  I said “No.” He threw me out.  No different than those JEHOVAH WITNESSES.

A lady walked into the dentist with a child screaming in agony holding his hand next to his cheek.  The staff rushed him into the back as mom says she has no insurance.  Out in the waiting room we all heard the discussion that turned from helping the kid, to how is mom gonna pay.  A few minutes later they walked out with the kid still screaming.

On my first day AT THE CALL CENTER a few years ago, a manager yelled at me for missing an inbound call. This is three hours into day one. “I’m sorry I pressed the wrong button.” The verbal abuse didn’t stop. It led me to a psychologist from the company’s employee assistance program. The doctor said ”MAN UP and take it.”

AT LUCENT we weren’t allowed to discuss of grieve for our just-layed-off friends and workmates.

AT&T does the same these days.  They JUST LET YOU GO without even letting you SAY GOOD-BYE to anyone.

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The Terrible and Catastrophic Price of American Cruelty
What History Teaches Us About What Crueltys (Really) Worth

By Umair
Eudaimonia
Augist 29, 2018

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, its still somehow unsurprising. The above is a tiny but 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.

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 ever 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 - 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. 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.

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 isn’t tolerated - its 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. YouҒre 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 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 they wouldn’t think, and you don’t think, the person you actually like or love or admire or need meets the strange and stupid standards - he’s got perfect abs, shes a perfect size zero, never mind the ego, self-absorption, vanity, greed, duplicity, and indifference, aww, they’re the American Dream - everyoneʒs 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 headpsinning 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? I think the Stanford example is much more illuminating than it might appear on first glance. So let’s think about it.

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 hasn’t worked, not in America - have you seen the suicide rate skyrocketing - because it can’t. You can’t withdraw support at a time when people need it most - and hope for anything to result but further, often catastrophic, injury and hurt. Yet that is what American institutions are built to do. Need healthcare? Sorry, insurance wont cover that. Need a job? Sorry - you’re over, under, mis, unemployed. 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 - What if I get infected?!, appears to be the logic. But I want you to note how ignorant and foolish this is: weakness isn’t contagious - thatӒs something like medieval logic, isnt it? Yet this is a step beyond withdrawing support - the Stanford students don’t just get no counseling, they get kicked out. But that too follows the general pattern of American cruelty. Get sick - lose your job. Shes 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 Louis CK doing stand-up comedy again - we’re not talking about people who hurt other, 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 cant 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 - 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. 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 Revolutions 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 todayגs cruelest are really just tomorrows dullest җ quicker to draw a gun or a sword than read or writea 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 ח 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

POLITICS OF CRUELTY

DEMOCRACY HOLLOWED OUT PART 27

Posted by Elvis on 08/29/18 •
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