Sunday’s Choice

Well, I’ve gotten suspended again on the Twitbox, can’t even say a few fuck yous to a couple of dipshits these days:

I’m so sick of all this…so let’s just see a few tweets and call it a day.

Hell yes to that! So click that link and check out the good things people are saying about our Hillary.

In other news:

Please remember…

On a personal note, I have become an Initiate in The Temple of Mary.

The mysteries of the Temple of Mary focus on the spiritual transformation of body, mind and soul. Through the study and understanding of symbol, metaphor and myth, we discover that human consciousness has been evolving through the ages, but the message of Love has always been a part of our sacred stories and even more importantly, that all stories contain the same archetypes, the same challenges and are in many ways, the same story – just with different names and cultures. 

-Hettienne Grobler

I came across Hettienne Ma, during the Walking with Mary month of contemplation. After this time, I started to study with her about the Black Madonna…Divine Femine, Carl Jung, Hindu and Buddhist spiritual stories, tarot, teachings of Anandamayi Ma…and so many others. It is ongoing, and fascinating. Here is some more information about Hettienne and the Order of the Dove:

I have reached a point where Hettienne has given me a spiritual name…Niranjana Maria Devi…and yesterday was my Namadiksha.

If you are on Instagram and would like to follow this next 30 days of #walkingwithmary it starts on Monday:

Have a wonderful day.

This is an open thread.

Sunday Reads: One Sad Goat Makes A Happy Ass

We sailed with the reading by the sea of ​​literature  Navegamos con la lectura por el mar de la literatura (ilustración de Deena Pagliarello)

We sailed with the reading by the sea of ​​literature Navegamos con la lectura por el mar de la literatura (ilustración de Deena Pagliarello)

Good Morning

Summer is here for my kiddies…at least it is the second week of vacation for them. One thing though, change is coming. Today we are switching bedrooms, moving my brother up to the main floor and bringing my son down to the basement bedroom. Ya, the transformation to adult son living in basement just got all that much closer to reality.

My son will have his own entrance, his own fridge and his own little game room. He will even have a little intercom for those times when he needs a little nourishment.

Longer clip here.

Anyway, to make this switcheroo happen we have to take my brother out for the entire day, and let all hell brake loose when he comes home to find his desk, complete with all Dukes of Hazard paraphernalia has been moved upstairs.

So if you are near the vicinity of Banjoville, and hear the wrath of Uncle Gordy (my kids nickname for my brother) as he cusses us out but good….you will know that we have gotten back from our long drive to Atlanta, and that Denny has realized there was more to that fancy lunch at The Cheesecake Factory than just a huge hunk of cheesecake.


Now for the links. Which are all over the place today.

I guess the shit is meeting the fan? At least it looks like it from this headline at the New York Times After Deadly Rampage, Sheriff’s Office Faces Concerns About Conduct

A week after Elliot O. Rodger’s violent rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., that left six college students dead and 13 other people wounded, state lawmakers are now calling for an investigation of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office’s previous contact with Mr. Rodger. Some are calling for wholesale changes to how law enforcement officers respond to calls that someone could be a threat to himself or to others.

Sheriff’s deputies visited Mr. Rodger on April 30, just three weeks before his rampage, after receiving a call from his mother, who had been concerned by videos he posted online.

At the time, Mr. Rodger had already bought at least two firearms, which were both registered in his name. But sheriff’s deputies were unaware of that when they visited Mr. Rodger, because they had not checked the statewide gun ownership database. They also had not watched the videos Mr. Rodger had posted.

You go check out some dude who is a “threat” and you don’t even watch the damn video? They did not even do a quick check to see if he had any guns. That is some shitty police work if you ask me. But, I will let you read more about this here:

Kelly Hoover, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, would not elaborate on why no weapons check was done, and declined to confirm whether there would be an internal investigation of the visit.

But Hannah-Beth Jackson, the state senator who represents Santa Barbara, said a comprehensive investigation of the deputies’ visit to Mr. Rodger’s apartment was needed to give the public a full accounting of the events leading up to the massacre. “The community will not tolerate any half-baked approach to dealing with this,” Ms. Jackson said.

Law enforcement agencies across California have said that it is not necessarily standard practice to check the state gun registry before any check by officers on someone’s well-being. And the sheriff’s office has defended the six deputies who visited Mr. Rodger in April.

“Based on the information reviewed thus far, the sheriff’s office has determined that the deputies who responded handled the call in a professional manner consistent with state law and department policy,” Ms. Hoover said in an email on Saturday.

After Mr. Rodger’s rampage in Isla Vista, Ms. Jackson co-wrote legislation that would create a “gun-violence restraining order.” If family members or friends alert law enforcement that someone poses a threat to themselves or to others, law enforcement would then be able to petition a judge to prohibit the person from purchasing firearms.

But if you really want a freak out, read this: Lessons From a Day Spent With the UCSB Shooter’s Awful Friends

Tuesday morning, I logged into a chat room full of refugees of the since shuttered PUAHate forum once frequented by University of California-Santa Barbara shooter Elliott Rodger. And I stayed there, silently watching them, for 8 hours. Here’s what I learned.

PUAHate, as other outlets have discussed, is an offshoot of the Pick Up Artist community populated by men (and, allegedly, women) who believe Pick Up Artistry to be a sham waste of money not because women are more than “targets” and “prey,” but because women are fucking hopeless cunts who can’t be convinced to give nice guys a chance. Women, argue PUAHaters, will only go out with good looking alpha males and would never look twice at anyone who isn’t a musclebound dreamboat with a six-figure income, and most men will never be those things, and so the world is against them and life is unfair. From an observer’s perspective, PUAHate is a group of self-pitying babies who believe they’re entitled to women who are much more attractive than they are.

Big news this day however:

Bowe Bergdahl, American Soldier, Freed by Taliban in Prisoner Trade –

Hagel: U.S. acted fast to save Bowe Bergdahl’s life –

Official: Freed US soldier on Way to Military Hospital in Germany

Republicans attack Obama over soldier swap – The Times of India

There is video of Bergdahl eating in freedom at the CNN link. Of course the GOP would be pissed…can you imagine the shit storm if they had known?

Hagel: Congress Kept in Dark on Swap Because Bergdahl’s Life in Danger – NBC

Here is an interesting bit of Snowden news, Russian Web Journalism Award to be named after Snowden – Little Green Footballs

This takes the cake. From the country at the forefront of institutionalized oppression of journalists, featuring a massive surveillance apparatus, comes the Snowden Award for Journalistic Excellence. Not a peep from Snowden about his new host country’s behavior. And no word on when this Russian media outlet plans on an expose on Putin’s marginalization and oppression of his countryman’s journalists and media owners.

Moving on, I told you this post was all over the place…Canadian Bar Sells Cups with Lids to Curb Roofied Drinks


A bar in Saskatchewan right across the border from North Dakota has taken it upon itself to keep an eye out for it’s female patrons by offering drinking cups with screw-on lids. The hard plastic cup is selling for five dollars, and is being sold as a way to prevent spiked drinks. CBC reports that the bar’s management simply wants so keep things safe for their women customers:

“I want girls to be able to come into our bar in groups of two or three, or if they don’t have dates, they can still come in here and have fun and dance and not have to worry about somebody drugging them,” Regina Rooks, manager of the Derrick Motor Hotel bar, told CBC News. “There has been a couple incidents.”

“We are now a boomtown and undesirables do come to town,” she said

Rooks very clearly means well. She obviously wants to protect her customers, and she’s showing a resourcefulness and inclination to try and solve a serious problem.

At the same time, it’s still just a bandaid solution to a much bigger issue. It reinforces the idea that potential victims are responsible for their own sexual safety. And charging for the cup adds a whole other layer to that idea. Putting a lid on a beverage isn’t telling rapists they shouldn’t rape, which is, you know, the main problem. It’s not really deterring rape.

Hey, at least it is something. I mean…it tells the rapist who plan to drug women that they should move on to the bar next door, which is not a solution I know. But I will take what ever extra protection is offered, wouldn’t you?

On Wednesday, I brought up the subject of women who are pulling the victim blaming bullshit on the Calhoun rape victim here in North Georgia. I even went so far as to put a label on them…the C-word…you know that one which rhymes with bunt.

Check this out: Men Aren’t the Only Ones Slut Shaming Women | Care2 Causes

Thousands of women have rallied around the hashtag #YesAllWomen on Twitter sharing personal stories of the everyday harassment they face. The response has been overwhelming and put a spotlight on the sexist culture we live in where a young man resorted to murder for being rejected by women.

Sure, not all men are like Elliot Rodger (there’s even a hashtag to prove it: #NotAllMen), but there is no denying that we live in a society where women are targets of violence and shamed for their sexuality. Women are called sluts for having sex and, like Rodger angrily proclaimed, sluts for not having sex, at least with him. Either way we’re sluts. But as the two studies below prove, men aren’t the only ones responsible for slut-shaming women. Sometimes we women are just as guilty.

The first study published in the Social Psychology Quarterly tracked the lives of 53 women attending college at a Midwestern university and found that women often participated in slut shaming one another as a means of maintaining their social status. The findings suggest that high-status women, those women who participated in Greek life on campus and often came from upper-middle class backgrounds, used slut shaming as a means of bullying lower-status girls and keeping them from climbing the social ladder.

On the flip side, high-status women were also far less likely to be slut shamed by their lower-status peers despite engaging in more sexual relationships. It stands to reason then that lower status girls were targets of slut shaming regardless of whether or not they had sexual experience. Lastly, while high-status women with more sexual experience defined their lifestyle as “classy,” their low-status peers who tried to mimic this behavior to fit it were immediately called “trashy.”

This study illustrates that the ladies are also guilty of creating a culture where women are stigmatized and defined by their sexuality. If women are calling each other sluts as a means of pulling social rank, what are their sexual partners saying about them behind closed doors? Does the fact that women are calling each other sluts make it OK for the men (or women) they are sleeping with to do so? If the Mean Girls assembly taught us anything, then yes.

“You’ve got to stop calling each other sluts and whores,” says Tina Fey’s character. “It just makes it OK for guys to call you sluts and whores.”

It may not make it OK, but it does create a culture where slut shaming women is acceptable.

Another study from a think tank in the UK has found that women are also guilty of slut shaming one another online. The study tracked the use of the words “rape,” “whore” and “slut” on Twitter for about a year and found that 12 percent of the tweets containing these words were intended as a direct threat or insult. What was more alarming, however, was the finding that women were almost as likely as men to send tweets with these words both casually or offensively.

For some sense to all this,

Time magazine looks to Kate Farrar, the vice president of campus leadership programs at AAUW, a non-profit focusing on women’s empowerment, who argues gender based insults have become s0 ingrained in our culture that it’s the norm:

Words like “slut” and “whore” are thrown around so frequently they “become a part of our cultural conversation [about women] from the time we’re very young…there often aren’t instances that we’re told that it’s not okay or that there’s accountability for that.”

And thanks to our culture’s paradoxical attitudes towards female sexuality, where women are expected to be sexy, but not overtly sexual, one of the most effective ways for men and women to bully, judge and degrade a woman is to brand her a “slut” or “whore.”

…that while women are often victims of a sexist culture, we are sometimes part of the problem. I for one will admit that as a college, and even high school, student I used the word “slut” very casually and as a means to put down other women, even if they weren’t actually promiscuous. I wish I could say I hadn’t, but like Farrar points out it was so ingrained in how we spoke that I didn’t think twice, and I was never told it was wrong. Well, here I am now, saying that it is wrong. Defining a woman by her sexuality, or worse demeaning her for it, is wrong whether you are a woman or a man. It’s high time we speak up when someone calls a woman a slut and analyze our own reasons for using this language.

I have done that as well…and perhaps the c-word was also along that line…but I still have to defend my use of that word. It is true, in my opinion, these women who blame rape victims are the most vulgar of women and deserve the most vulgar of titles.

The rest of this post in dump fashion…

Look who graduated: Rachel Jeantel, the close friend who was on the phone with Travon Martin moments before he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman has graduated from high school.

A football player who was taking clomid for low sperm count has been suspended: Robert Mathis of Indianapolis Colts suspended four games for PEDs – ESPN

I looked it up, they do use clomid for this condition on men…go figure.

Did y’all see this?

Ledge cracks at the Willis Tower, closed for inspection –




And it is scary considering less than a month ago my daughter was just doing this in that exact Ledge:

chicago trip 183

Yeah, they are jumping up and down in there.

This Graph From The CDC On Measles Infections Should Scare You – Forbes


From Addicting Info– Virginia Court Official Tells Atheist Couple They Have No Right To Get Married Because They Don’t Believe In God

Also from Addicting Info, btw Dan says this store is full of bullshit, something is not right at that store: – Walmart Employee Picks Up Stray Coins On The Floor Of Her Store And Gets Fired For Theft

You’re fired! The bad news came to Ashley Johnson, former Walmart employee, as a surprise. She had been working in Store #5440 in Oregon in security for more than a year and a half when the Asset Protection Manager requested an interview with her. Another man attended. The man asked her if she had ever retrieved change from the store floor when she was working.

The question stunned Ashley, but she decided honesty was her best answer. “Yes,” she admitted. The man demanded how much, and Ashley said to him, “Maybe a quarter”.

No. It was much more than that. We’ve been watching you for a long time. I estimate that you’ve stolen about 45 dollars from us.

The company fired her on the spot and given one month to repay the coins or face a lawsuit. This was rather extreme to say the least. Before the incident Ashley had asked the store’s manager, Ben Carlson, for financial aid from Walmart’s controversial Critical Need Fund. Ashley wonders if this the real reason they fired her?

The Walton’s 4759 stores earn a revenue of $469 billion, which is more money than that of nearly 50% of all Americans combined. As America’s richest family, they exploit a variety of legal loopholes in order to make certain they perpetuate the dynasty’s wealth rather than contribute their government share, according public-records requests for court documents and the Internal Revenue Service filings. Yet the company still feels the need to pocket even the loose change on their store floors.

Joan Lorring, Oscar-Nominated Supporting Actress, Dead at 88

Joan LorringJoan Lorring, who was Oscar nominated for best supporting actress in the 1945 film The Corn Is Green, died Friday in the New York City suburb of Sleepy Hollow.  She was 88.  Born Mary Magdalene Ellis in Hong Kong on April 17, 1926, Lorring fled with her mother from the Japanese invasion in 1939 to San Francisco.  Her showbiz career began in radio, and her first American film at 18 was the 1944 MGM romantic war drama Song of Russia. She signed with Warner Bros. for the role of the scheming, trampish Bessie Watty, playing opposite Bette Davis, in The Corn Is Green.

Because this next link is a picture of my idol Jonathan Frid:

Miss American Vampire, 1970 – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money



A blog post about film: – Cassavetes vs. Ottinger – Arthouse Grudge Match

A few articles on The Rose Tattoo…the play.  Left overs from Wednesday’s post:

“The Rose Tattoo as Comedy of the Grotesque”–Brian Parker

Where I Live: Selected Essays – Tennessee Williams – Google Books

A Life in the Wings: THE LADY AND TENNESSEE : The New Yorker

A LIFE IN THE WINGS about Lady Maria St. Just, the playwright Tennessee Williams’ long-time friend, who after his death became executor of his estate and exercised tyrannical control over his literary legacy. She died in England on February 15, 1994; and was said to be the model for Maggie in Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Lady Maria was born Maria Britneva on July 6, 1921 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her mother, Mary, and brother left their father Dr. Alexander Britnev and went to England in 1922. Maria’s biography “Five O’Clock Angel” tells about her life and is quoted throughout article.

Tom and Lorezo’s review of Maleficent | Tom & Lorenzo Fabulous & Opinionated

“Let us tell an old tale anew,” the ever-present and somewhat talkative narrator intones at the start of Disney’s Maleficent. But by the time we got to the story’s end, we wondered if it was really worth the bother. Like 2012′s Snow White and The Huntsman, Maleficent attempts to take a more nuanced look at an old and (by design,) simplistic tale, in that “everything you know is wrong”manner. Like Broadway’s “Wicked,” it attempts to turn a classic villain into a hero – or at least, a villain that cries and has motivations beyond the acquisition of power or the destroying of annoyingly perfect little girls.

It’s an apparently irresistible thing to modern audiences; this retelling of fairy tales and childhood stories by layering them with darkness and angst; meaning and themes. The Tolkienization of Disney. And we’re not sure it’s to the story’s benefit. Fairy tales are supposed to be relatively simple stories populated by characters with the kind of motivations that children can understand. They evolved over time, but they always served the same purpose (outside of entertainment): to teach the very young about difficult concepts like evil and anger and jealousy and to reinforce a basic moral code about goodness and love and family – and also to not trust strangers or go wandering through the woods. Purely universal childhood themes that still resonate centuries after the original stories were devised. Classic old fairy tales were shockingly dark, so the basic idea behind the darkening and deepening concept of this film might’ve worked  – except we’re talking specifically about Disney characters. And we’re not sure adding paper-thin rape metaphors is something that needed to be done to the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty.

Read the rest of that at the link…love TLo!

Can you believe it is 70 years? Operation Mincemeat: One of the biggest hoaxes in history | Stephen Liddell

With the 70th Anniversary of D-Day around the corner I thought that I might write a short series of posts about this historic event.  The first of which might be one which you’re unfamiliar with but in its own way was one of the key points of WW2.

After a long series of battles in North Africa had seen the Italians defeated and Monty’s Desert Rats routed Rommel’s dreaded Afrika Corps at El Alamein which set the scene for the Axis retreat from North Africa all together.

More history:

‘Sadly and with a Bitter Heart’: What the Caesarean Section Meant in the Middle Ages

Caesarean Section


One sunny spring day, a Resurrectionist priest sips tea and speaks of his time as a Bolivian missionary in the 1960s and ’70s. His recollection of the local ‘Indians’ is obscured by more than three decades’ distance. China cup in hand, he recalls vaguely their mud huts, flocks of sheep, herds of llamas, and the beautiful, rugged terrain of the altiplano. With greater precision, he speaks about the local belief system, especially attitudes towards stillbirths. This left a strong impression upon him. The priest emphasizes how deeply fearful the locals were of stillborn babies, and he flavours his recollections with two sad anecdotes. One day, he says, some villagers brought him a small blue corpse. The baby’s father insisted that the missionary baptize it. Since this was canonically impossible, the priest performed an impromptu blessing. It effectively banished the evil spirit conjured by the unfortunate birth. Satisfied with the blessing, the villagers relaxed and returned to their normal lives. On another occasion, one of the priest’s confrères was less delicate. A mother presented him with her dead baby, pleading for a postmortem baptism. At last the cleric told her, “The Church will only permit me to baptize your child if it draws milk from your breast.” Since this was impossible, the mother went away frustrated and ill at ease, having been unsuccessful in her bid to exorcise the unlucky spirit.

Click here to read this article from Florilegium

Also from Richard III had severe scoliosis but was not a hunchback, researchers find

 Scientists and researchers have completed their study on the spinal column of Richard III, revealing that his scoliosis caused these bones to curve to the right, a well as a degree of twisting, resulting in a “spiral” shape. However, he would not have been hunchbacked as he was depicted by later writers.

Richard III spine - Spinal Curvature - Credit- University of Leicester

This research has been published this week in the journal The Lancet. It was carried out by experts from the University of Leicester, University of Cambridge, Loughborough University and University Hospitals of Leicester

The kind of scoliosis Richard suffered from a form of adolescent onset idiopathic scoliosis, which would have not started until he had almost finished growing. By the time he was an adult, Richard’s right shoulder would have been higher than his left, and his torso would have been relatively short compared to his arms and legs. The scoliosis also caused him to be several inches shorter than his normal height, which would have been about 5 feet 8 inches tall otherwise. This matches a contemporary description of Richard, by the chronicler John Rous who described the king as “small of stature, with a short face and unequal shoulders, the right higher and the left lower.”

Science up: This New “Super-Hydrophobic” Material Is So Waterproof That Water Bounces Off It Like A Ball | Geekosystem

Foodie stuff: Yogurts With More Sugar Than A Twinkie

Since I am dealing with my kids a lot in this post, and since they are named after Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises: 10 Incredible Facts About Ernest Hemingway – Listverse

And since Hemingway was a “cat person” we have this next link: Study Shows the Personality Differences Between Cat and Dog Lovers | Geekosystem

New research presented this month at the annual Association for Psychological Science shows the contrasting personality traits associated with cat and dog owners–or in other words, people who would rather scoop a creature’s poop up from the street vs. those who prefer it buried under litter.

Denise Guastello of Carroll University conducted the study using a group of 600 college students. Participants were asked whether they were cat or dog lovers, what attribute they most admired in their pets, and then given a series of questions as part of a personality assessment. 60% of those polled claimed to be dog lovers, 11% copped to a cat fancy, and 29% said they had no preference, i.e., they were scared their cat would find out if they answered truthfully.

Based off trends found in the personality assessments, “dog people” were shown to typically be outgoing and rule-abiding, whereas cat fans appeared introverted, open minded, sensitive , innovative, and more intelligent than dog devotees. But pet owners shouldn’t take the study’s findings too seriously–the research was obviously conducted on a specific segment of the population, so it’s impossible to say how allegiance to one kind of animal over another might manifest in the personality traits of different age groups or demographics.

Guastello suggests the trends in personality associated with cat or dog owners might be related to the kind of care the animal requires:

It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively, because they’re going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people, bringing their dog […] Whereas, if you’re more introverted, and sensitive, maybe you’re more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn’t need to go outside for a walk.

Maybe… or maybe cat owners are just too weakened by allergies to do anything but lie on the couch and hope the neighbor’s dog won’t smell their fear.

And one last fun link, the source for this morning’s title: Depressed Goat Is Reunited With His Burro Best Friend

Mr. G, a goat, and Jellybean, a burro, were both rescued from the squalor of a hoarder’s home earlier this year and were, for the first time in their lives, separated to live in different animal sanctuaries. The separation left Mr. G depressed and he didn’t move or eat for six days. Until he was reunited with his best friend.

After Mr. G and Jellybean were rescued, each was taken in by different animal sanctuaries 14 hours apart. Mr G. became depressed in his new home without his lifelong friend, refusing to leave his stall or eat.

That’s when the staff of Animal Place in Grass Valley, Ca. decided that the two needed to be together again. They arranged to have Jellybean transported and from the moment Mr. G heard his burro buddy being unloaded, he immediately perked up.

Watch that video and have a wonderful lovely day!

In Pursuit… Hardness and Happiness, Internalizing Weber, Ignoring Wilson

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin, 1902

Greetings to all. Welcome to another episode of happiness! As with the first installment of meditations on happiness my goal here is not to insist upon conclusiveness from the conclusions I draw, but to encourage contemplation of American ideals and to revive the lost American ideal: happiness.

As a jumping point I refer to a contribution from one of our commenters, Ralph B., who posted a link last week that stimulated my thinking on the connection between happiness and the American Dream. Thank you, RB.

Here’s the link:

Why Is U.S. Economic Mobility Worse in the South? – Bloomberg

It wasn’t the subject of this article that struck me most. it was the substance. It was what the underlying assumptions had to say about the greater contemplative consciousness in America: What we Think and How we Think.

Cass R. Sunstein looking like The Thinker

The premise of the article, from which all else proceeds:

Americans pride themselves on their intergenerational mobility. Our nation’s exceptionalism is organized around the American dream: No matter where you come from and no matter who your parents are, you can rise to the top of the economic ladder, so long as you are willing to commit yourself and work hard.

Its author, Cass R. Sunstein concludes that America has failed to aspire to its own ideal.  If one accepts his premise – his description of the American Dream – then indeed, he is correct. What he does not seem to do is question the substance of our national aspiration by examining its essential elements: egalitarianism, avarice, ambition, and hard labor.

Sunstein’s encapsulation of the American Dream is a good one in terms of generally accepted “wisdom” or convention. Some permutation of it reiterates across spacious skies, perpetuates across amber waves of grain, scales purple mountain majesties, and cuts across the fruited plain – the American dream makes America beautiful, and it is emblematic of our exceptionalism. Politicians from every point along the political spectrum define the American Dream in much the same way as Sunstein has done here.

The American Dream as it is conceived today is also a fabrication, a mythos, and a distortion of founding ideals. In short, the American Dream is completely false. The purported ideal elevates our national identity and by extension, our personal identities. But given that ideal is a subversion, it facilitates our illusory elevation while simultaneously facilitating our gradual decline.

Perhaps the place to start is calling out the American Dream for what it is: It is the Protestant Work Ethic. The Protestant Work Ethic, however, was not a component in the attempt to secularize national values when devising the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Another term for the Protestant Work Ethic is Puritan Austerity. Puritan Austerity is precisely what Enlightenment institutions intended to dispel. America was not founded as a Christian nation, but it was founded on secularized morals and values. The American Dream as we know it, however, does not a represent secularized morality intended to unite a diverse people as the Founding Fathers intended.

If we unpack the American Dream to reveal its inner layers, what we find are strata encoding not only what we think, but how we think. When we do peek through the surface, its inner sanctum looks a bit regressive for its vestigial religionist character. The American Dream may not articulate a specific God, but it it is upheld by a specific religious code – the Protestant Work Ethic.

Religious values and religious morals are embedded in the American Dream for the Protestant Work Ethic itself cannot be secularized. Hidden inside the Protestant Work Ethic is the old adage “Idle hands are the Devil’s playground.” Humanity is by nature evil, and humans will do evil if that impulse is not constantly controlled and incessantly put in check. Humanity must keep constant vigilance against the touch of Satan’s hands. If one can successfully keep pace against Satan’s influence, one will find reward both on Earth and in Heaven.

Job Tormented by the Devil by Hans Schaufelein

This is the conflation of idleness and sloth. The casting off of sloth (one of the deadly sins) implicitly manifests in the American Dream via the Protestant Work Ethic as “you can rise to the top of the income ladder, so long as you are willing to commit yourself and work hard.”

Sunstein’s take on the intergenerational aspect of the American Dream reveals another aspect about our general sense of the American Dream, perhaps one which goes unnoticed: how narrowly the American Dream is reduced to kin and region – in other words, how very tribal the American Dream really is. It is precisely the kind of tribalism that the Founders sought to prevent.

One subtle, but crucial omission from the American Dream is definitive identification of “common good” or “we the people” and what those phrases meant to the vision the founders had in mind for the new society to be created out of the Constitution.  Herein lies the sham of the American Dream – “we the people” or “public liberty” was their vision of the American Dream. Yet, this notion is entirely absent or at best loosely implied in the general understanding of “if you work hard, you get ahead.” “If you work hard, you get ahead” also signifies a specific context: capitalism. Dakinikat recently wrote a wonderful piece on finding “we the people” within 21st century capitalism. It’s an excellent read. Her post is here:

What ever Happened to “We” the People? | Sky Dancing

James Wilson

I think the most sublime encapsulation of the genuine American Dream comes from the great erudite and mentor to every other leading thinker of the Founding Generation: James Wilson. From his Of Man, As a Member of Society:

When we say, that all men are created equal; we mean not to apply this equality to their virtues their talents, their dispositions, or their acquirements. In all these respects, there is, and it is fit for the great purposes of society that there should be, great inequality among men. In the moral and political as well as in the natural world, diversity forms an important part of beauty; and as of beauty, so of utility likewise. This social happiness, which arises from the friendly intercourse of good offices, could not be enjoyed, unless men were so framed and so disposed, as mutually to afford and to stand in need of service and assistance. hence the necessity not only of great variety, but even of great inequality in the talents of men, bodily as well as mental. Society supposes mutual dependence: mutual dependence supposes mutual wants: all the social exercises and enjoyments may be reduced to two heads – that of giving, and that of receiving: but these imply different aptitudes to give and receive.

In this passage Wilson describes the secular morality upon which the Constitution would function, the principles upon which it was designed. Note his recognition of diversity, the very diversity that capitalism exploits in its spirit of competition – in its Social Darwinism. But Wilson articulates a very different vision, one that connects happiness and diversity to equality and egalitarianism. In this scenario, “hard work” connotes a meaning not of working for individual success or achievement, but for the happiness of the whole. Individuality isn’t denied, rather it is fully recognized as a component of natural diversity.  Moreover, thriving, diverse individualism is contingent upon others rather than solely on the self.

John Dickinson

John Dickinson, writing in defense of the new Constitution expressed it this way in his Fabius Letters:

Humility and benevolence must take place of pride and overweening selfishness. Reason, rising above these mists, will then discover to us, that we cannot be true to ourselves, without being true to others – that to love our neighbors as ourselves, is to love ourselves in the best manner – that to give, is to gain – and, that we never consult our own happiness more effectually, than when we most endeavour to correspond with the divine designs, by communicating happiness, as much as we can, to our fellow-creatures.

Happiness and the American Dream from this Constitutional perspective strictly revolved around union and interdependence, not the individual “rugged” struggle implied in the American Dream of today. The true American Dream isn’t to work “hard” for personal gain; it is to work “together” to create a mutual space where all may prosper.

Locating the dream in monetary success is another slice of the faux-ideal I would consider rudely cut and a bit off the mark. Well, that’s an understatement. I’d consider it diametrically opposed to founding intent. One of the primary goals in creating a new government out of the ashes of the Articles of Confederation was addressing wealth inequality.

Again, the founding vision for the new society was not “if you work hard, you get ahead.” It was “if we work together we all get ahead.” The analogy from the Constitutional Convention was the short but stout pyramid, very wide at its base but not ascending to great height. By virtue of inherent diversity as described above by Wilson, individuals scaling to the highest rung was not the ideal. This original American Dream envisioned all individuals, each with varying abilities ascending the rungs of the prosperity ladder at varying levels, broadening prosperity rather than narrowing it.

Hence the Founder’s goals were to delimit wealth inequality in their own time, but also generationally, step by step (rung by rung), generation by generation through time. But the way to do that was not by valuing the top rung of prosperity; it was by valuing the many staggered rungs distributed horizontally. In other words, not desiring the top rung.  As a matter of policy and governance, inhibiting wealth inequality meant curbing avarice and ambition.

In this way, decreasing inequality and increasing egalitarianism could be realized. Modest existence in order to sustain the masses was the American value. This value very specifically contradicts the capitalist value of unlimited wealth accumulation by individuals. Short” step” pyramids and tall, narrow pyramids are two distinct and mutually exclusive ideals. Today’s American Dream implies the latter and doesn’t even give lip service to the more authentic former ideal. Indeed, the capitalist ideal is generational only in terms of generating more wealth – unlimited wealth generation in the short term. The true American ideal is wealth generation for sustainability, frugality and modesty to preserve subsistence for all in both short and long terms.

While I can’t say I can precisely trace the degradation in the American Dream that took place between the Founding Generation and our own, I suspect Max Weber is a good start.

Max Weber

Weber coined the term “Protestant Work Ethic.” In The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism he claimed that the Founders possessed this eponymous ideal and engaged in explicitly capitalist pursuits. He asserts that they associated capitalism specifically with religion. Weber is an important figure in the history of ideas, but I disagree with his interpretation. The Founders weren’t capitalists. If anything they were an amalgamation of proto-capitalists and proto-socialists. The Constitution was imbued with a secular communitarian ideal which combined elements of what we now might call capitalism AND what we now might call socialism. What I think Weber does is he mythologizes proverbial frugality – the kind that might be found in Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac. Weber then translates this popularized “ideal” as Puritan Austerity. I question his entire thesis, but the main point here is his conceptualization of capitalism and American values.

Weber’s ideas were more influenced by 19th century economic development than by previous eras; in this regard his historicity isn’t so nifty. His time was the golden age of the robber barons. It seems to me Weber inaccurately attempts to define an ideological line of continuity between the Founders and the late 19th century. I respect Weber’s attempt, but I do think he draws incorrect conclusions about founding ideals.  In my view, the 19th century largely re-worked and, quite frankly, undid the founding ideals that forged the nation. Neither unfettered capitalization nor massive industrialization were regarded as positives by 18th century standards. Jefferson, for instance, disliked industrialization. He lamented newly emerging factories especially in terms of their negative impacts on the citizenry as a society of individuals – in an individual’s ability to achieve personal sovereignty. Hamilton held the view that capitalism should primarily serve the interest of the government of the people rather than an individual’s personal interest.

I suspect, too, that the myth of the rugged individual — the noble-spirited “hard worker” evolved from three primary factors: 19th century institutionalized servitude that arose in response to capitalization and industrialization combined with the exploitation of the American frontier; and in the 20th century the rise of fascism, Cold War/Red Scare hysteria that transformed capitalists and capitalism into heroic antagonists battling “collectivist tyrant-dictators.”

Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is only speculation on my part – matters to think on. It seems to me the myth of the rugged individual evolved out of the frontier experience, but not so much our historical experience, rather our fictional one. Westward Expansion marked the period when America developed its own distinct literature which is uniquely defined by rugged individualism. Although there are extraordinary letters, diaries, essays, and memoirs to be had from the 18th and 17th centuries, no colonial or uniquely American literary tradition evolved then. Even the most famous American novel depicting 17th century Puritanism, The Scarlet Letter, was published in 1850. Curiously enough, all its main characters are drawn with varying degrees of “rugged individualism.” It is more of a scathing commentary than an historical rendering, to be sure. Another thought on that point – the community isn’t the communitarian ideal expressed by the Constitutional defenders. The Puritanical community in the Scarlet Letter is quite plainly tyrannical.

And now for an abrupt halt. As this post has gotten quite long, perhaps this is a good place to pause for a segue-way into the next portion – the 20th century.

For now, perhaps we can focus on not taking the American Dream for granted. And maybe ways in which we might transform the American Dream into a more authentic aspiration which specifies happiness,  genuine egalitarianism, and sustainability.

A couple of questions that I’m trying to answer:

Does the American Dream make sense?

Does it enhance happiness or does the American Dream today actually sabotage happiness?

Laughing Buddhas and Chuckling Creators: Happiness in American Policy and Politics

Good Evening everyone…

JJ aka Minkoff Minx here with a quick note of introduction. Yes, we have a new front-pager here on the blog. Someone who has been a welcomed and rather vocal addition to the comment section of late. After finding her remarks so interesting and thoughtful…well argued and considerate…we decided to ask if she would like to become a Sky Dancer…and it is with fantastic joy that I can come here now and tell you that her answer was a resounding “Yes!”

So, without further ado, please welcome peej…

Thanx to Minx for the warm welcome, and to all the Sky Dancers for inviting me into Sky Dancing! A very special thanks for your patience with me as I unfurl my dancing-wings!

And salutations to all! I’m Peej, and I’m what you might call a chronic dabbler. I dabble in art, science, geology, writing, history, archeology, literature, rhetoric, philosophy, folklore, cookery, gardening, and vermicomposting. That’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good overview of my dabbling! I have a weakness for books, flyting (a contest of insults in verse), scathing satire, and for anything that pertains to bees and frogs. I’m neither mechanically nor technologically inclined, and I hope to someday perfect a flaky pie crust. I try to keep my mind open, so I appreciate a good nudge in the ribs if anyone notices it shifting toward closed!

This first post I’m hoping will be a jumping point for a number of others with the same theme: happiness. Contextually, happiness in a socio-political context, a lens from which perhaps we may all scrutinize intently or lightly ponder the issues of our day. I’m not an expert on happiness, but I have a penchant for noodling on happiness in a political context. I keep on my desk a torn scrap of barcode I retained from a  package of postage stamps to remind me of this ongoing project always going on in the back of my mind: to understand “the pursuit of happiness” as it relates to the confluence of individual, society, government, and politics. This little postage scrap is an impressionistic American flag with four words superimposed on each of the stripes: Justice, Equality, Freedom, and Liberty. But not happiness. I suppose I was so bothered by its omission and its omission just niggled and niggled on my back burners until I had to act on it: I began my pursuit of the pursuit of happiness. My thought is that this could be a mutual pursuit. Rather than keeping my mullings all mulled in my mind, I can share my pursuit of the pursuit; and all of you can share yours with me. Perhaps we can come to some meaning for ourselves individually and together as a society with a government whose stated purpose includes “the pursuit of happiness.”

My inspirational postage scrap.  As you can see, there's plenty of room for "happiness" on the top line. :)

My inspirational postage scrap. As you can see, there’s plenty of room for “happiness” on the top line. 🙂

Tally Ho! Let the pursuit begin! Our goal; together to find happiness!

First up on our quest, an article published recently in the Atlantic titled: Meaning Is Healthier Than Happiness – Emily Esfahani Smith – The Atlantic

What came to mind immediately while reading it was Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.  Here are some clips of Ehrenreich discussing it: Barbara Ehrenreich – Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America

I also thought of Chris Mooney’s Diagnosing the Republican Brain: Diagnosing the Republican Brain | Mother Jones

With these as jumping points Let us talk happiness!