Why Elites Join Government   Leave a comment

From “The Law” by Randolph Bourne


Randolph  BourneThere is, of course, in the feeling towards the State a large element of pure filial mysticism. The sense of insecurity, the desire for protection, sends one’s desire back to the father and mother, with whom is associated the earliest feelings of protection. It is not for nothing that one’s State is still thought of as Father or Motherland, that one’s relation towards it is conceived in terms of family affection. The war has shown that nowhere under the shock of danger have these primitive childlike attitudes failed to assert themselves again, as much in this country as anywhere. If we have not the intense Father-sense of the German who worships his Vaterland, at least in Uncle Sam we have a symbol of protecting, kindly authority, and in the many Mother-posters of the Red Cross, we see how easily in the more tender functions of war service, the ruling organization is conceived in family terms. A people at war have become in the most literal sense obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of that naive faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and in whom they lose their responsibility and anxieties. In this recrudescence of the child, there is great comfort, and a certain influx of power. On most people the strain of being an independent adult weighs heavily, and upon none more than those members of the significant classes who have bequeathed to them or have assumed the responsibilities of governing. The State provides the most convenient of symbols under which those classes can retain all the actual pragmatic satisfaction of governing, but can rid themselves of the psychic burden of adulthood. They continue to direct industry and government and all the institutions of society pretty much as before, but in their own conscious eyes and in the eyes of the general public, they are turned from their selfish and predatory ways, and have become loyal servants of society, or something greater than they—the State. The man who moves from the direction of a large business in New York to a post in the war management industrial service in Washington does not apparently alter very much his power or his administrative technique. But psychically, what a transformation has occurred! He is not now only the power but the glory! And his sense of satisfaction is proportional not to the genuine amount of personal sacrifice that may be involved in the change but to the extent to which he retains the industrial prerogatives and sense of command.

From members of this class a certain insuperable indignation arises if the change from private enterprise to State service involves any real loss of power and personal privilege. If there is to be any pragmatic sacrifice, let it be, they feel, on the field of honor, in the traditionally acclaimed deaths by battle, in that detour to suicide, as Nietzsche calls war. The State in wartime supplies satisfaction for this very real craving, but its chief value is the opportunity it gives for this regression to infantile attitudes. In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock, the quasi-personal symbol of the strength of the herd, and the leader and determinant of your definite action and ideas.


Why would Donald Trump want to be President of the United States? It wasn’t because it would be good for his businesses? And this is the reason he sometimes seems impatient with the process in DC, because he didn’t expect to lose any real power or personal privilege as president, but today’s presidency is under pressure from a Congress that no longer wants to be irrelevant and an administrative state that has gotten used to being able to do whatever it wants from President to President. Lela


Tribalism Feels Warm & Fuzzy   1 comment

From “The Law”‘ by Randolph Bourne (1917)


Randolph  BournePsychologists recognize the gregarious impulse as one of the strongest primitive pulls which keeps together the herds of the different species of higher animals. Mankind is no exception. Our pugnacious evolutionary history has prevented the impulse from ever dying out. This gregarious impulse is the tendency to imitate, to conform to coalesce together, and is most powerful when the herd believes itself threatened with attack. Animals crowd together for protection, and men become most conscious of their collectivity at the threat of war. Consciousness of collectivity brings confidence and a feeling of massed strength, which in turn arouses pugnacity and the battle is on. In civilized man, the gregarious impulse acts not only to produce concerted action for defense, but also to produce identity of opinion. Since thought is a form of behavior, the gregarious impulse floods up into its realms and demands that sense of uniform thought which wartime produces so successfully. And it is in this flooding of the conscious life of society that gregariousness works its havoc.

For just as in modern societies the sex-instinct is enormously over-supplied for the requirements of human propagation, so the gregarious impulse is enormously over-supplied for the work of protection which it is called upon to perform. It would be quite enough if we were gregarious enough to enjoy the companionship of others, to be able to cooperate with them, and to feel a slight malaise at solitude. Unfortunately, however, this impulse is not content with those reasonable and healthful demands, but insists that like mindedness shall prevail everywhere, in all departments of life, so that all human progress, all novelty, and nonconformity must be carried against the resistance of this tyrannical herd-instinct which drives the individual into obedience and conformity with the majority. Even in the most modern and enlightened societies this impulse shows little sign of abating. As it is driven by inexorable economic demand out of the sphere of utility, it seems to fasten itself ever more fiercely in the realm of feeling and opinion, so that conformity comes to be a thing aggressively desired and demanded.

The gregarious impulse keeps its hold all the more virulently because when the group is in motion or is taking any positive action, this feeling of being with and supported by the collective herd very greatly feeds that will to power, the nourishment of which the individual organism so constantly demands. You feel powerful by conforming, and you feel forlorn and hopeless if you are out of the crowd. While even if you do not get any access to power by thinking and feeling just as everybody else in your group does, you get at least the warm feeling of obedience, the soothing irresponsibility of protection.

Joining as it does to these very vigorous tendencies of the individual—the pleasure in power and the pleasure of obedience—this gregarious impulse becomes irresistible in society. War stimulates it to the highest possible degree, sending the influence of its mysterious herd-current with its inflations of power and obedience to the farthest reaches of the society, to every individual and little group that can possibly be affected. And it is these impulses which the State—the organization of the entire herd, the entire collectivity—is founded on and makes use of.


We all like to hang out together and be part of a group. It feels good when other people agree with us. That’s part of our nature. Adam was no good alone and as soon as he had Eve to be with, he pushed God away. We use our herd mentality to create enemies even when there are none. War heightens that warm, fuzzy feeling because being part of the herd makes us feel powerful. And, because the State promises to organize the herd against its enemies, it seems reasonable to let it. Lela


Herd Mentality   Leave a comment

From “The Law” by Randolph Bourne


Randolph  BourneWar—or at least modern war waged by a democratic republic against a powerful enemy—seems to achieve for a nation almost all that the most inflamed political idealist could desire. Citizens are no longer indifferent to their Government, but each cell of the body politic is brimming with life and activity. We are at last on the way to full realization of that collective community in which each individual somehow contains the virtue of the whole. In a nation at war, every citizen identifies himself with the whole and feels immensely strengthened in that identification. The purpose and desire of the collective community live in each person who throws himself whole-heartedly into the cause of war. The impeding distinction between society and the individual is almost blotted out. At war, the indvidual becomes almost identical with his society. He achieves a superb self-assurance, an intuition of the rightness of all his ideas and emotions, so that in the suppression of opponents or heretics he is invincibly strong; he feels behind him all the power of the collective community. The individual as social being in war seems to have achieved almost his apotheosis. Not for any religious impulse could the American nation have been expected to show such devotion en masse, such sacrifice, and labor. Certainly not for any secular good, such as universal education or the subjugation of nature, would it have poured forth its treasure and its life, or would it have permitted such stern coercive measures to be taken against it, such as conscripting its money and its men. But for the sake of a war of offensive self-defense, undertaken to support a difficult cause to the slogan of democracy, it would reach the highest level ever known of collective effort.

For these secular goods, connected with the enhancement of life, the education of men and the use of the intelligence to realize reason and beauty in the nation’s communal living, are alien to our traditional ideal of the State. The State is intimately connected with war, for it is the organization of the collective community when it acts in a political manner, and to act in a political manner towards a rival group has meant, throughout all history—war.

There is nothing invidious in the use of the term, herd, in connection with the State. It is merely an attempt to reduce closer to first principles the nature of this institution in the shadow of which we all live, move and have our being. Ethnologists are generally agreed that human society made its first appearance as the human pack and not as a collection of individuals or couples. The herd is in fact the original unit, and only as it was differentiated did personal individuality develop. All the most primitive tribes of men are shown to live in very complex but very rigid social organization where opportunity for individuation is scarcely given. These tribes remain strictly organized herds, and the difference between them and the modern State is one of degree of sophistication and variety of organization, and not of kind.


A herd is a whole lot easier to control than a bunch of individuals. Individuals don’t follow one another into a paddock or over a cliff. They go their own way, seek their own truths. The State prefers if we’re homogeneous. Unity around the war effort provided that in a largely individualistic society under Woodrow Wilson. Bourne didn’t live to see our own time when everybody is encouraged to join a group – particularly an aggrieved group — but in the next section, he does write about tribalism and why it leads to problems. Lela 


Daermad Cycle #99-cent #sale   Leave a comment

Willow Branch Ad Dec 2017Both books in my epic #fantasy #series are on 99-cent sale this week.


Open Book Blog Hop – March 12th   1 comment

Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

Here’s this week’s subject:

In years gone by, clothing stores, makeup manufacturers and the like have only used models with those perfect bodies and skin to show us their products. How do you feel about this? Would you like to see “real” people in ads?

I used to read dreadful stories of size zero models starving themselves on a lettuce leaf all day.  We all know that the average size of a woman today is size 14, and to me it just didn’t make sense that these models were forced to curb hunger pangs just so that they could parade up and down the catwalk in clothes that wouldn’t fit the majority of women anyway.  Okay, they were paid well for their trouble, but given the future health issues they might have been storing up, I would rather have seen more curvier models.  Some of them never looked very well…

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Posted March 12, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

War Is the Health of the State   Leave a comment

From Randolph Bourne’s “The Law”


Image result for image of randolph bourneThe classes which are able to play an active and not merely a passive role in the organization for war get a tremendous liberation of activity and energy. Individuals are jolted out of their old routine, many of them are given new positions of responsibility, new techniques must be learnt. Wearing home times are broken and women who would have remained attached with infantile bonds are liberated for service overseas. A vast sense of rejuvenescence pervades the significant classes, a sense of new importance in the world. Old national ideals are taken out, re-adapted to the purpose and used as the universal touchstones, or molds into which all thought is poured. Every individual citizen who in peacetimes had no living fragment of the State becomes an active amateur agent of the Government in reporting spies and disloyalists, in raising Government funds, or in propagating such measures as are considered necessary by officialdom. Minority opinion, which in times of peace was only irritating and could not be dealt with by law unless it was conjoined with actual crime, becomes with the outbreak of war, a case for outlawry. Criticism of the State, objections to war, lukewarm opinions concerning the necessity or the beauty of conscription, are made subject to ferocious penalties, far exceeding [in] severity those affixed to actual pragmatic crimes. Public opinion, as expressed in the newspapers, and the pulpits and the schools, becomes one solid block. Loyalty, or rather war orthodoxy, becomes the sole test for all professions, techniques, occupations. Particularly is this true in the sphere of the intellectual life. There the smallest taint is held to spread over the whole soul, so that a professor of physics is ipso facto disqualified to teach physics or hold honorable place in a university—the republic of learning—if he is at all unsound on the war. Even mere association with persons thus tainted is considered to disqualify a teacher. Anything pertaining to the enemy becomes taboo. His books are suppressed wherever possible, his language is forbidden. His artistic products are considered to convey in the subtlest spiritual way taints of vast poison to the soul that permits itself to enjoy them. So enemy music is suppressed, and energetic measures of opprobrium taken against those whose artistic consciences are not ready to perform such an act of self-sacrifice. The rage for loyal conformity works impartially, and often in diametric opposition to other orthodoxies and traditional conformities or ideals. The triumphant orthodoxy of the State is shown at its apex perhaps when Christian preachers lose their pulpits for taking in more or less literal terms the Sermon on the Mount, and Christian zealots are sent to prison for twenty years for distributing tracts which argue that war is unscriptural.

War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties. The minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them really to be converting them. Of course, the ideal of perfect loyalty, perfect uniformity is never really attained. The classes upon whom the amateur work of coercion falls are unwearied in their zeal, but often their agitation, instead of converting merely serves to stiffen their resistance. Minorities are rendered sullen, and some intellectual opinion bitter and satirical. But in general, the nation in wartime attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war. Other values such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State, are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.


Bourne wrote in 1917, not during World War 2, Vietnam  or in our present age, but he nailed what we should probably know of those war-time eras in our society. During wartime, the nation walks in lockstep, empowered by a general feeling of unity and us-against-them. So, here we are at war for 17 years and why is there no sign that it will ever stop. Could it be because “war is the health of the state” and as long as the state can keep us concerned about war, the state doesn’t have to reform its spending or reduce its domestic spying capabilities? Lela


Role-Models for Real Life   5 comments

March 12, 2018 – In years gone by, clothing stores, makeup manufacturers and the like have only used models with those perfect bodies and skin to show us their products.  How do you feel about this?  Would you like to see “real” people in ads?


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Model 1I find myself in a unique position on this topic. My mother was a petites model for a Seattle department store off and on through her late-teens and 20s, even after she gave birth to my brother. She was 5’2″ and naturally maintained a weight in the 90s simply by smoking cigarettes (which everyone did back then) and not having a sweet tooth. The most she ever weighed was 102 pounds — she was pregnant with my brother at the time.

My daughter is 5’8″ and struggles to maintain a weight of 125 pounds – the low-end for her height. She’s got my mother’s metabolism without smoking and her paternal grandmother’s height. She has had unsolicited offers to model, but has things to say about the objectifying of women.

I don’t fit either ideal. I’m 5’1″ and I am athletic, which means I have muscles. Therefore, petite clothing lines often do not fit my thighs and biceps, even if they fit my height and waist. I buy my clothes in the “normal” lines and then modify them. It works out to costing just about the same as petite clothing costs. I also accidentally discovered that men’s jeans are 30% less expensive and you can match the waist (hips for women) and inseam to your personal needs. (So the zipper is reversed — blah-blah).

I have curly hair. Curly hair doesn’t match some sort of ideal in the advertising world. Those models in the “curly” ads didn’t have curly hair when they walked into the studio. How do I know? Because their hair is so shiny and that’s not what curly hair does without a lot of very expensive product, which is what they’re trying to sell, but having tried their very expensive product — it rarely works. (Just saying)

Of course, models have perfect everything. If you are making your living having photos snapped of you, then that’s one of your job requirements – look perfect. Occasionally you see a plus-sized model who looks fantastic, but of course, she’s really toned and she’s got great hair and perfect makeup. So we “normals” should just get over the idea that models will ever look like us. They have teams of people to make them look gorgeous while some of us are still sharing a bathroom with a guy who likes to shower in the morning.

Model 2If you didn’t get that joke,  you don’t have curly hair, which reacts to humidity, which is what is produced by a shower.

Yeah, there’s a tiny part of me that would love to see a “real” person modeling those clothes, that makeup, that hair product, but I recognize that reality doesn’t sell. Everybody wants to be able to imagine that if they buy that dress, they’ll look like the willowy 5’8″ model who eats one meal a day. It’s why we try the dress on … and why we stand in the fitting room imagining what it would look like if we lost five pounds or wore a girdle or donned 4″ heels. But the reality is I’m 5’1″, I’ve had two babies, and I eat a healthy diet rather than starving myself, so I’m not ever going to look like the model and, personally, I’m okay with that.

I sooth my annoyance at her perfection with the knowledge that she couldn’t keep up with me on the hiking trail, where it doesn’t matter if your clothes don’t flow just right or your hair is reacting to the humidity. My life has different requirements from that model’s life and, mostly, I’m okay with that.

Model 3One of my best friends used to be one of those models. She made a great living while it lasted, and that paid for a social work degree and now she runs a charter boat in the Florida Keys with her husband. She points out that models aren’t a whole lot different from professional athletes. They make a lot of sacrifices for the job. Most aren’t Rhodes scholars. They’re only qualifications for a job are looking pretty and being skinny. “What would they become if modeling wasn’t available?” Joi asked. “A couple of years starving and having my breasts duct-taped down paid for college and the career that followed. And, I used those photographers as references for my social work jobs because they could say I was a professional who showed up for work and put in a full measure. That seems a lot more dignified than the alternative – a lifetime of asking ‘Do you want fries with that?'”

Joi’s take on it colors my view as does my mother’s. If all the models looked like me, my daughter would want to see models who wore horizontal stripes and bold florals because those look fantastic on her and should be avoided strenuously by anyone my height — including petite models. And if there was a more reality-based mix of models … would that make us more comfortable with ourselves or would we still look at those taller and skinnier and less curly-headed than ourselves and want to be them?

I think this may be my individualist streak rearing its counter-cultural head, but I am not all that comfortable with trying to change other people, especially a whole industry of other people.

lelamarkhamprofilepicMaybe, what’s really needed is mothers having conversations with their daughters about how life is not an advertisement. We can admire the tall skinny people with the perfect hair and makeup … or the short athletic people with the perfect hair and makeup … or, the frankly-chubby people with the perfect hair and makeup, but real life will never be like that and it’s okay because that advertisement is a moment in time captured after a whole lot of work to create a fantasy that is nothing like real life with the aim to sell us clothes, hair and skin products or something else. We might accomplish a great deal more having that conversation about accepting our bodies as they are and about the lure of consumerism with our daughters (and sons) instead of trying to change the fashion industry.


Posted March 12, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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