Category Archives: John Grant

The Post-Dallas Kumbaya Window Begins to Close

By John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 7/14/16

The Ultimate Attribution Error Fuels War

Someone’s crying, Lord, kumbaya

– From the Gullah song meaning, Lord, come by here and help us

There was a true kumbaya moment after the Dallas cop massacre similar to the moment after 9/11 when sympathy was expressed for America from many unexpected quarters around the world. That window began to close when US leaders took a hard line and vengefully attacked an un-implicated nation to counter the very sense of vulnerability that moved people of the world to sympathize with us. Similarly, the sympathy for attacked cops in Dallas may be evaporating thanks to a familiar sociological dynamic involving in-group, out-group identification.

Sociologists and psychologists call this “the ultimate attribution error.” As explained in an interesting New York Times article by Amanda Taub, it’s when people “attribute another group’s positive actions to random chance or circumstance but assume that [the other group’s] negative actions reflect the group’s core nature.” That is, in times of stress, people “circle the wagons” around their own kind based on a belief that their motives are human and honorable; those of the projected enemy are the essence of pure evil. “Once you dehumanize them, it’s easier to justify violence,” says Professor John Dovidio of the Inter-Group Relations Lab at Yale.

This can be seen on both sides of the Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter conflict. For me, it involves anger, laziness and a failure of courage to see or listen to or talk with a perceived enemy. Better to huddle up with your own pack and project your fears on the other guy….

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Filed under Guns, violence, crime, John Grant, Race, Ethnicity, Immigration

Israel Moves To Check Its Artists

By John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening,

A new thought occurred to Rami. It soothed him like a gentle caress. Not all men are born to be heroes. Maybe I wasn’t born to be a hero. But in every man there’s something special, something that isn’t in other men. In my nature, for instance, there’s a certain sensitivity. A capacity to suffer and feel pain. Perhaps I was born to be an artist.
                                 - Amos Oz, Elsewhere, Perhaps, a 1966 novel of kibbutz life

As a writer/photographer and a tax-paying American citizen, a story in the New York Times about Israel’s culture wars made me cringe. It seems the powerful, militarist right in Israel — so committed to expansion and settlements in the West Bank — is now trying to suppress ideas among the nation’s artistic and literary minds.

Human creativity amounts to an individual human mind with its rich, active sub-conscious engaging in a dialogue with the outer realities of life. The mash-up that results is called Art. It’s a process that’s often infused with a subversive sensibility at odds with established power. In his perfect republic, Plato banned poets. Tyrants throughout history have been threatened by artists and writers. Hitler, of course, gave up on an artistic career in order to rule Germany and the world as his own personal work of art; he had men like Joseph Goebbels to assure artists and writers weren’t a threat. Art that didn’t promote Aryan purity and German superiority was “decadent” and banned; careers were destroyed. The impulse to attack artists and to cut off their patronage and funding is as old as tyranny itself.

It’s the perennial struggle between Power and Truth. In the short-term, Power can, and often does, run over Truth like a tank in the streets; while in the long run, Truth has the tendency to eat away at, and undermine, that Power. …

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Filed under John Grant, Mid East other / S Asia, Palestine & Israel

An Essay On the Future: Alienation, Despair and American Greatness

by John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 12/14/2015

Give me an adequate army, with power to provide it with more pay and better food than falls to the lot of the average man, and I will undertake, within 30 years, to make the majority of the population believe that two and two are three, that water freezes when it gets hot and boils when it gets cold, or any other nonsense that might seem to serve the interest of the state.
                    - Bertrand Russell

An epidemic of unhappiness is spreading across the planet, while capital absolutism is asserting its right to unfettered control of our lives.
                    - Franco “Bifo” Berardi

First there was Paris. Then Colorado Springs. Then San Bernadino. A great discussion was raised in the land over which of the killers were terrorists and which were just lunatics. Police and FBI frantically went through apartments, hard-drives and cellphones to find out who had radicalized whom. Well paid corporate TV anchors salivated as police cordoned off crime scenes and politicos huddled in secret situation rooms to get their stories straight so they could release an official story to an eager and fearful public. They no doubt kept many important details to themselves.

Beyond the radicalizing question, there isn’t much interest why these people — versus other people — did what they did. Motivation comes down to: Who made them do it? The words alienation and despair are rarely seen, except maybe in the marginalized columns of the left. The problems of alienation and despair disappeared from the national discussion about the time Jimmy Carter’s malaise was overwhelmed by Ronald Reagan’s shining city on a hill and the rigors of 21st century “neoliberal” financial capitalism took the driver’s seat in America.

The Right emphatically pointed at ISIS and the Muslim threat. Utilizing sophisticated social media skills, a monstrous, growing caliphate had declared war on America and was seducing people living among us to kill us. America needed to respond with unrestrained lethal force, so America could be great again. In cases like the Planned Parenthood killings and the Charleston killings, the Left pointed at rightwing media bullhorns like Bill O’Reilly for relentlessly demonizing Planned Parenthood and the Black Lives Matters movement. O’Reilly vociferously denied on-air that he had “radicalized” anyone; he was not responsible for armed lunatics. The National Rifle Association stood firm: Any controls on citizen access to military assault rifles was the work of the Devil….

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Filed under Guns, violence, crime, John Grant, Right Wing, Terrorism

Pope Francis Drops a Bomb on Washington

by John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 9/24/2015

A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.
– Pope Francis speaking to the US Congress

Pope Francis’ speech to the US Congress struck me as a message with strains long demanded in the corrupt halls of our government. It was a message that took me back 30 years to my travels in Central America during the Reagan years, which was a pivotal moment in modern US history for the rise of a money class and the problems of inequity we currently face.

I was raised an atheist by a right-wing militarist. As a little boy, when my father worked in research for a pharmaceutical company in suburban New York, there came a time he aspired to enter the corporate end of the business. So I was sent to Sunday school for a brief period. There I learned that Jesus Christ was this cool guy in robes who loved people and was nice to them.

My father’s honeymoon with the corporate side of the company did not last long….

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Filed under International - other, John Grant, National govt & politics, Religions