Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Election afermath: Score one for The Secret.

What a lot of people miss about the New Age is that in philosophy and tone, it is very much aligned with latter-day conservatism and the sorts of things we saw happening, say, at AIG and Goldman-Sachs before the fall. The Secret, after all, is nothing if not wildly, irredeemably, unapologetically aspirational. Along with its philosophical sibling movements in the megachurchessuch as that run by our friend Joel ("the gospel according to Vera Wang") OsteenThe Secret legitimizes the idea of endless upward mobility and a reality in which wealth is not zero-sum, but in fact can be attained by everyone everywhere at the same time if "you just want it enough." Secret alum Lisa Nichols says it flat-out in the very title of her CD: "You Deserve It!"

In the world according to Rhonda Byrne and her (pseudo-)philosophical protégés, every man (and woman) is an island, and all of those islands are the Caymans.

Both The Secret and conservatism encourage a detached, delusional mindset in which the sky's the limit, conspicuous consumption is where it's at, and there's no longer any such thing as greed or "too much." Whatever you have is yours; let the next person worry about attracting his or hers. (I would link, here, to Joe Vitale going all gooey over the creature-comforts of his Rolls for the camera crew from my ABC special, but I can't locate the vid at the moment.)

Pop quiz: Which political party would be more inclined to sympathize with everyday folk who got shafted by life? The GOP, with its no-excuses lens on success? Or the Liberals, for whom the twin ideas of Victimization and life's fundamental unfairness are core assumptions? Both The Secret and Conservatism emphasize the core idea that "it's all on you." Although right-wingers don't frame their rhetoric in terms of the Law of Attraction or an obliging Universe, isn't that the essential Conservative message: that success is attainable to all who "really want it"? That if you fail to achieve what you want, it's because of you? Like diehard Secretologists, conservatives don't want to hear about where you grew up, what kind of family you came from, whatever bad breaks you may have gotten. Tough noogies. If you're behind the eight-ball in life, that's your problem and your problem alone. You "own it," as Dr. Phil likes to say. Needless to say, such an attitude justifies (in their mind) their disinclination to share their wealth with you in the form of taxes earmarked for entitlement programs.

Let me emphasize: I'm not necessarily saying that an unadulterated Victimization outlook is a good thing, either; I think I made that clear in SHAM.
But I also think about Rhonda Byrne chiding Katrina victims for being in the path of the hurricane or 9/11 victims for failing to ward off hijacked airliners. Over-the-top nonsense though such crap may be, does it not remind of the conservatives who historically have argued that if you're jobless or on welfare or food stamps, it's only because too you're too damn lazy to go out and make something of yourself?

So which party sounds more like today's New Age? There's only one, ahem, right answer.

It may therefore seem odd that a staunch Obama-ist like Oprah Winfrey would shill for such Thought Movements, but here again: Oprah preaches a kind of schizoid ecumenicalism/egalitarianism, a world in which we can all be number one, in the same way the self-esteem movement still has many school principals (or hired guns brought in from outside) implying in regular assemblies that all of the kids can be president. This is in fact the great, paradoxical genius of Oprah: She makes Republican ideals
in the sense of the pursuit and accumulation of fabulous personal wealthsound positively d/Democratic, conjuring visions of a world in which someday every woman can own choice property everywhere, along with several dozen pair of those cute shoes with the red soles....

("No feet left behind..."?)


RevRon's Rants said...

Interestingly enough, both the LOA fanatics and the faux "conservatives" share an apparent blindness to the hypocrisy so prevalent in their respective dogmas. When the LOA followers experience challenges, they claim that release from those challenges is their divine right, yet when others face similar challenges, it is because, in their less-than-enlightened state - they have brought misfortune upon themselves.

Similarly, I've observed that the vast majority of the vehement right-wing, "let them pull themselves up by their own bootstraps" individuals have benefited from (and, if honest with themselves, would acknowledge that their own well-being owes itself in great degree to) the largess of others.

Look closely at the most rabid "conservatives," and I'll wager you'll find someone who has benefited greatly from those damned liberal initiatives, but is either too dense to realize it or too ashamed to admit it. The "conservative" reaction to government efforts to avert a second and more devastating depression is a good case in point.

NormDPlume said...

Since when is conservatism about conspicuous consumption? Conservatives tout "values" and "standards", and "responsibilities".

Fiscal conservatives are all about living within one's means and providing for yourself and your family. Social conservatives preach about giving to charity and keeping the government out of the charity business.

What type of conservative preaches about showing off wealth? It's the liberals who live it up, and generally have more fun.

Also, conservatives don't guarantee success. The only guarantee they want is an opportunity to pursue - you know, freedom; liberty and the ability to compete.

Hey Revron: conservatives may have indeed benefited from the largess of others; but that's because "largess" is the generous bestowal of gifts - it's a voluntary thing; not a government mandate. It's is not largess to seize money I have earned in order to redistribute it to someone who has not earned it in exchange for votes. It is only largess when you give your own money. Giving away the money of others is not noble.

Largess is what happens when a guy gives money to the local YMCA so 30 kids can attend summer camp for free.

Cosmic Connie said...

Great points, Steve.

And here's a link to that ABC Rolls-Royce video.

Steve Salerno said...

NDP: Oh please. Let's not let the delusionalism get totally out of bounds here.

Have you not listened to Rush Limbaugh with his "golden mic" and embargoed Cuban cigars and all that crap? I know, you're going to say that's just "showmanship." Bullshit it is. It's a representation of a way of life, an unapologetic approach to conspicuous PERSONAL consumption, that you don't see from any other party. Sure, there are rich Democrats, notably the Kennedy clan, but they claim to stand for the working man, and for the most part (or at least to a far larger degree than the GOP), they put their money where their mouth is, so to speak.

And btw, have you ever been to a GOP fete like those held at The American Institute or the Heritage Foundation? Well I have. And let me tell you, the celebration of in-your-face grand luxe is truly hard to believe, if you haven't experienced it. It's "let them eat cake" in spades, Norm.

RevRon's Rants said...

Norm - Lofty ideals you describe there. Unfortunately, the largess provided by voluntary programs and altruistic individuals just doesn't begin to meet the actual needs of those whom, through no fault of their own, find themselves in dire straits. Yet so many "conservatives" categorize such people as opportunistic freeloaders who "don't deserve" any help.

I'll agree that giving away others' money isn't noble, but paying a fair and proportionate tax to support programs that prevent others from suffering needlessly and provide for the uplift of society in general, is. The "conservative" approach to taxation is neither fair nor noble, merely greedy.

Similarly, I fail to see anything resembling fairness - much less, nobility - in "conservative" driven legislation allowing (even encouraging) large American companies to move their manufacturing operations to third world countries and their finance operations to offshore tax havens. "Conservatives" hate welfare, except when they are the recipients.

NormDPlume said...


So the conspicuous consumption of Hollywood and New York are not liberal? Wall Street moguls give more money to the democrats than the republicans. I haven't been to a heritage foundation party, but I did go to a Ronald Perelman fundraiser for the DNC in Palm Beach. Perelman's crowd makes Limbaugh look like a piker.

RevRon: How come a liberal company like Google can get by with a 3% federal tax rate by placing their intellectual property offshore and nobody complains? Apple and Nike also dodge taxes that way, but they get a pass. How come liberals gave away $800 billion in stimulus money, and none of it went to New Orleans? Wasn't that one, big shovel-ready project? How is the legislation allowing this "conservative driven" when the democrats control the white House, the Senate and the congress (until Jan. '11)?

How come democratic presidential candidates are so stingy with their charitable giving? Obama, the Clintons, Edwards, Kerry, Gore ... they were embarrassingly stingy with their own money when it came to giving to charity.

Steve Salerno said...

NDP: Let me through all the chatter and ask you a simple question: Are you seriously proposing that the GOP is a better symbol of frugality and, shall we say, modest living than the Dem party? Leave Hollywood out of it because we know...well, we know Hollywood is Hollywood. I'm talking about Republicans and Democrats in everyday life: Are you seriously telling me that the Republican is apt to have the more modest lifestyle? (I know there's a certain chicken-or-the-egg aspect to all this, but just please answer the question, for now, if you would.)

NormDPlume said...

Steve, My point is that conservatives - (not necessarily republicans - independent voters are too big a chunk of the population to ignore) are "symbols of frugality and, shall we say, modest living" - more so than liberals.

How does such a point get made? What metrics track frugality and modest living - or irresponsible spending and immodest living - which can be tied in to political beliefs? It will be interesting to see if this point can be proven or dis-proven. We can waste a lot of bandwidth with anecdotal observations which prove nothing.

My question to you is: since the top 1% of income earners make 20% of the total taxable income in this country, what % of the total income tax should they pay?

RevRon's Rants said...

Norm - first of all, many of the current crop of "fiscally responsible conservatives" seem to conveniently forget that the stimulus bill actually originated during the Bush administration, as a means of countering a recession that also began in... you guessed it. Furthermore, a significant (if not majority) part of that stimulus bill was made up of tax cuts, which are the legislative equivalent of Viagra to the far right.

Finally, if you're going to cite the companies that have moved their finances offshore to avoid paying taxes, you might want to ask yourself who pushed the deregulation that not only allowed them to do so, but actually provided them with incentives. If you have any difficulty determining the appropriate legislators, try looking to see which election campaigns the companies donated most to. Oh... I forgot... the Supreme Court has effectively sealed such records from public view.

As to the politicians and their charitable giving, I figure they put in their time and effort - some, even with the well-being of the country in mind. As a percentage of earnings, they probably donate more than most of us, but in the final analysis, it's really none of my business how much or how little someone else donates to charity. It is, however, my business to look at whether the largest corporations in the country are managing to find loopholes that allow them to get away with doing things that would land me in prison for a long time. And it is my business to call hypocrisy when the very ones who benefit most from government handouts raise hell because some single mother gets food stamps.