Can Systems Be Changed By Working From Within?
By Dennis Loo (3/10/14)
I remember being told by my mother when I was in my early twenties that some family friend who was older than me by several years had said to her that I ought to “work within the system” to achieve change. This family friend had heard through the grapevine that I was some kind of radical and thought that I ought to get my head screwed on straight and change the system from within.
Had I listened to that advice I certainly would have had a cushier time of it in my life.
I could have parlayed my Harvard degree the way that at least some Harvard graduates do, to put me on a fast track for a powerful position of influence. That way, I could have really “changed things from within.” Right?
That’s what Barack Obama did, liberally borrowing from the rhetoric of those fighting injustice in order to advance his personal goals for the highest office in the land.
And just look how many things he’s changed since gaining the presidency!
The APA, the Use of Torture and the Sandy Hook Tragedy
By Dennis Loo (3/10/14)
On March 7, 2014 psychologists Roy Eidelson and Trudy Bond published an OpEd regarding the American Psychological Association’s decision to close an ethics case against a Guantanamo psychologist, thereby declining to take disciplinary action against him.
As Eidelson and Bond summarize:
Dr. [John] Leso was sent to Guantanamo within months of the arrival of the first detainees, where he led a new "Behavioral Science Consultation Team." Numerous detailed and authoritative documents - a US Senate report on detainee treatment, a leaked interrogation log, an Army investigative report, previously classified meeting memoranda and recent reports from The Constitution Project and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession - all clearly implicate him in designing and participating in abusive and torturous interrogations at Guantanamo, including that of Mohammed al Qahtani. Over a two-month period Mr. al Qahtani was subjected to almost daily 20-hour interrogations, strict isolation and sleep deprivation. He was frequently hooded, terrorized by military dogs, forced to stand naked with female interrogators present, forced to wear a woman's bra with a thong placed on his head, led around by a leash, forced to perform dog tricks and violated by other forms of abuse.
The APA has at the heart of its ethical principles a “do-no-harm” dictum. To have the APA refuse to sanction Dr. Leso for this is scandalous. Eidelson and Bond state: “When psychologists betray this trust, they cause harm not only to their direct victims, but also to the profession as a whole. Just as importantly, when unethical acts are committed with impunity, they lend a veil of legitimacy to forms of mistreatment that diminish and jeopardize our society's fabric of decency.“
Note especially the last part of their words: “when unethical acts are committed with impunity, they lend a veil of legitimacy to forms of mistreatment that diminish and jeopardize our society's fabric of decency.“
Distinguishing Structures from Individuals and Primary from Secondary Factors Part 2
By Dennis Loo (3/7/14)
Systems are qualitatively different from the individuals who occupy those systems. Systems operate according to system logic … – from Part 1 of this series
Systems that involve people can be usefully understood as a consistent pattern of mutual expectations among those within the system and that system vis a vis other systems. People occupy statuses and roles within systems and their behavior and attitudes are primarily shaped by those statuses and roles, not by their individual personalities. As I state in the Preface to Globalization and the Demolition of Society:
Individuals do not principally give systems the character that those systems possess; systems and structures principally shape individuals’ behavior. (p. xii)
If you are operating within a system and are abiding by that system’s logic, your actions are predictable within certain parameters. Everyone individually is a little different – some more different than others – but the nature of a system is such that highly idiosyncratic individual behavior is just that, idiosyncratic and not the norm. If most people did not adhere to the norm of a given system, then that system would not be a system.
This site aims to accomplish two related goals. First, it complements Dennis Loo's book Globalization and the Demolition of Society so that people reading the book can get more deeply into it. (See navigation bar above, labeled "GDS Book Annotations"). We believe that his book is a landmark, providing a solid foundation for politics of a new path. Taking such a path is critical to humanity and the planet's future. As his book's dust jacket states:
[F]ree market fundamentalism - also known as neoliberalism - makes us not more secure or prosperous: it tears the social fabric and undermines security, leading inevitably to disasters on the individual, regional, and global levels.
Neoliberalism is based on the mantra that market forces should run everything. It aims to eliminate job and income security, the social safety net (including welfare and other social guarantees), unions, pensions, public services, and the governmental regulation of corporations. It consequently undermines the basis for people to voluntarily cooperate with authority as almost everyone is increasingly left by themselves to face gargantuan private interests, with governmental and corporate authority ever more indifferent to the public’s welfare.
Those in charge of our collective fates in government and business personify a heartless system based on profit and plunder. They have been relentlessly instituting profoundly immoral and unjust policies even while they insist that they are doing the opposite. We, on the other hand, stand for and are fighting for a radically different system and set of values than this.
Second, in order to get at the truth and because the ways in which humanity's historic striving for understanding and its capacity to wonder and imagine are very rich and diverse, we seek to reflect that richness and diversity on our site. See "About Us" on navigation bar. We intend to be engaging and compelling, as the best investigative journalism and art are, and relentlessly scientific, rigorous, and direct, as those who cherish the truth are. We believe that we can be both accessible and sophisticated. As Loo lays out in his book,
Defeating the empire is not something that occurs only on the literal battlefield. It is also something that is determined throughout the continuum of battles over many issues, including: ideas; philosophy; forms of organization and leadership in economy, politics, and other realms; ways of arguing; ways of responding to and respecting empirical data; interest in truth as opposed to expedience; how people and the environment should be treated; the nature of relations among people (e.g., between women and men, different races and ethnicities, rich and poor countries, etc.); ways of responding to criticism and ideas that are not your own; ways of handling one’s own errors and those of others; and more, all the way up through how warfare is carried out. The contrast between the methods and goals of the neoliberals and those of us who seek an entirely different world is stark. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 326-7)
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