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On the Idea that "Things Will Never Change"

On the Idea that "Things Will Never Change"

By Dennis Loo (12/15/15)

Revised and supplemented

One can very frequently hear some version of the following from many people:

“The powerful will always misuse their power and mistreat those who are not in power. Even if the people who are out of power came to power, they will act just like those whose places they just took. It’s useless to fight the power. The powerful will always win in the end. So accept the way things are.”

Is this a widespread belief because millions of people have studied this question, looking at history and economic and political systems over the span of human societies’ existence and all arrived at the same conclusion after painstaking study and specialized training in the tools of social science?

By way of introduction to my discussion of this hypothetical quote that begins this article:

We are social creatures so as a rule we usually try to stay within a group – with there being natural variation along a spectrum for this norm - because being away from the group is not comfortable for most people most of the time and can cause us to literally die under some circumstances. But in order to see things clearly and correctly, this frequently means that you have to be willing to stand outside of the prevailing norm. Truth is not a simple thing to obtain and it usually involves a personal cost exacted for its acquisition. Remember Prometheus? Truth is not like low-hanging fruit. Finding out what’s true in a complex world is a complicated endeavor.

It’s not in the interest of the current system that you find out how the political system really operates and it’s not in their interest that you find out what’s true in many arenas in life. You have to fight very hard and against the grain to learn the truth and then you have to try to get others to see what’s true, which is also difficult because what you’re telling them goes against what they have been told so often and by so many for so long. This is even more the case if they are among those who actually benefit from the status quo. If they are among that group of people, it is extremely and, in many instances, impossible to convince people of what’s true if what’s true goes against their personal interests. Those who catch hell from the system everyday, however, or those who are observant and care about justice, are a very, very different audience. 

As someone who regularly interacts with students and others about political power and so on, if I had a dollar for every time I've heard this sentiment cited at the beginning . . . Not only do I hear it incessantly, it's boring to hear this tired nostrum, spoken with the assurance of absolute certainty! How is it that so many people can be so dead certain about something that is in fact ... not at all true? 

Let's first look at the question of the alleged invincibility of the ones in power and the supposed perpetuity of the system they govern.

This is from someone who actually studied the empirical data:

A political scientist named Ivan Arreguin-Toft compiled the data a few years ago by looking at lopsided wars over the last two hundred years. Malcolm Gladwell in David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants cites Arreguin-Toft’s data.

When the underdog uses conventional warfare against his/her vastly superior rival, the underdog wins almost a third of the time: 28.5% to be precise. Hardly a recipe that conforms to what the majority of people believe so emphatically that they would call the victory of a superior force a slam dunk.

Here’s where the data get much more interesting: when the underdog uses unconventional warfare to fight against their vastly superior enemy, the underdog’s winning rate goes from about a third of the time to 63.6% of the time.[1]

Read more: On the Idea that "Things Will Never Change"

How Do You Stop Terrorism?

How Do You Stop Terrorism? 

By Dennis Loo (12/7/15)

After Paris and now San Bernardino, the world wants to know: how do you stop this cycle of violence?

It’s a legitimate question. But it’s like walking into a movie 45 minutes after it started and trying to figure out what’s going on without knowing how what’s going on got triggered in the first place.

World leaders want you to think that the only thing going on is these terrible acts of (anti-state) terrorism and they want the public to endorse their “war on terror” (state terror) which is like drinking more poison from the poison bottle that made you sick in the first place.

You stop drinking the poison, first of all.

Terror, for the record, is a tactic that is distinguishable by the fact that those who employ it are either deliberately targetting innocent bystanders or so indifferent about the casualties that their violent actions will cause, that they might as well be consciously targetting non-combatants. 

Both anti-state and state terror share this distinguishing trait. It's what makes an action terror and makes it different than other kinds of violence. Torture, drones that have killed thousands of innocents (including hundreds of children) and that include "double-tapping," preventive and indefinite detention for crimes you might commit and in which due process has been suspended replaced with the presumption of guilt, invading and occupying countries that were not threatening you and had nothing to do with 9/11 (the supreme international war crime per Nuremberg), dropping anti-personnel weapons on innocent gatherings like wedding parties and hospitals: these are all forms of state terror. I hardly need to elaborate on the atrocities committed by anti-state terrorists since you can read about that in the media everyday. 

Here is an excerpt from a 2005 Foreign Affairs article. Foreign Affairs is published by the Council on Foreign Relations and it's one of the places where the people who make public policy talk more openly and more frankly debate among themselves about what is going on and what they should do:

The current war in Iraq will generate a ferocious blowback of its own, which -- as a recent classified CIA assessment predicts -- could be longer and more powerful than that from Afghanistan. Foreign volunteers fighting U.S. troops in Iraq today will find new targets around the world after the war ends.

This was in 2005. This was after al-Qaeda had been created as the first bitter fruit of that “ferocious blowback,” producing 9/11 in 2001, but before the second bitter fruit of blowback, ISIS, came into being.

ISIS was formed by US policies, inadvertently. 

Read more: How Do You Stop Terrorism?

Why Does the Devil Do God's Work?

Why Does the Devil Do God's Work for Him?

By Dennis Loo (1/2/15)

If the Devil is God's adversary - whom the Bible tells us he is, his polar opposite - why doesn't the Devil reward people instead of punishing them for sinning against God? If you are a sinner, according to the Christian faith, then why do you go to Hell and eternal fire and suffering, presided over by Satan with great delight? Why would Satan take delight in seeing those who follow his ways suffer for eternity? Wouldn't Satan, who supposedly opposes God, make Hell into a pleasurable afterlife, rewarding those who have followed the Devil's evil ways, rather than giving them everlasting damnation?

Why is the Devil doing God's work by punishing people for defying God and for following the Devil? If you do the Devil's bidding and do as he recommends, then why should the Devil then punish you for doing what he asks you to do, unless, of course, the Devil is a device invented in the Bible as an enforcer of God's will, and merely pretending to be an adversary of God?

What's Hell anyway but a cudgel for believers in God to use to warn people against sinning? In which case, the Devil would have nothing to do with such a Hell because he'd want people to take pleasure in crossing God and would make Hell a Heavenly place to be. 

In which case, the Devil is not God's opposite at all, but his helpmate. Does Satan not know how to think at all? If he's so damn crafty and cunning, which the Bible says he is and preachers never tire of saying over and over again that he is, then you would think that he would notice - I mean, the guy's got eternal time to figure this out - that he's punishing people for doing precisely what he wants them to do - defy God and sinning right and left - and is therefore contradicting himself all of the time. 

Read more: Why Does the Devil Do God's Work?

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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12