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Wednesday, February 28, 2007
 Vanity, Narcissism and Capitalism

Topic: Commentary

A study was recently published reporting that vanity and narcissism are on the rise among American teenagers. This should really be no surprise, I think that most people have figured this out on their own, but what was most interesting was the analysis, at least what was reported of it. I have not been able to access the entire study yet, so this commentary is based on what has been reported in the news.

Interestingly, this study was done by the marketing department of San Diego University, but from what has been reported there seems to be very little self-reflection in the study. The study, somewhat correctly, attributes much of the rise in narcissism to school programs that have intentionally sought to increase children's "self-esteem". This is certainly a legitimate issue and one that needs to be addressed, but there is much more going on here than that.

Indeed marketing and a consumer driven capitalist culture are equally at the core of this "problem". As discussed in my article Understanding Capitalism Part IV: Capitalism, Culture and Society, capitalism promotes a self-centered narcissistic culture, as marketing itself encourages this behavior. Anyone who watches television knows that marketing is all about telling people what they want to hear, and also encouraging self-indulgence.

The study did point to one aspect of this, which is the use of the terms "my" and "you" in so many marketing tools. Pretty much every company now uses "my" in some kind of personalized marketing strategy. The study pointed out "MySpace", but you can also find MyFord, MyCoke, MyRewards, and just about every other "My" attached to a company brand. But what is all this "My" about? Well, it does feed into the narcissism, but it also creates a false sense of ownership. It's a form of pseudo-capitalism, where the companies, like Wal-Mart with their "associates", tell people that they are enfranchised, tell people that they are empowered, tell people that they have ownership, but in reality they aren't and don't. It's all just hype and propaganda.

This study was done by a marketing department, and the irony is, that even though they have concluded that increasing narcissism is a problem, what are the effects of this study going to be? Marketing agencies and corporation are going to see this information (not really, since they have their own private studies and know this already) and conclude that in order to be effective they need to develop increasingly narcissistic marketing campaigns, feeding the problem and making it even worse.

This is the type of problem that arises in a completely unregulated market economy where industry is not held accountable to society. Market forces will always tend towards narcissism and self-centered behavior, because market forces are always going to cater to "giving people what they want" and, all things being equal, people will always acts in their "self-interest" - that's what capitalism is all about after all.

A self-interested economy is going to yield a self-interested society, that should be pretty easy to figure out. Whereas our school systems and other social institutions should be countering the socially degrading effects of capitalism, they have instead been appropriated into the system and are actually feeding the situation.

There are many reasons that our schools have subscribed to the "increase self-esteem" mantra, but one of the most interesting, perhaps, was the idea in the 1980s, that there was a need to decrease sexual promiscuity among teenagers. The people who were pushing this program were conservatives and they viewed teen sex as bad, and in their moralistic world view they believed that people do bad things for bad reasons. Taking a totally unnatural view of sex and human behavior, these people thought that young people had sex because they had low self-esteem and used sex as a way to try and make themselves feel better or to be popular.

In reality, as reported in Scientific American MIND last year, the effects of this program have been to increase teen sexual behavior because the reality is that people with a low self-image shy away from sex or do not get into sexual situations, whereas people with high self-esteem and an inflated ego are highly sexually aggressive. So, in fact, this anti-sex program developed by moralistic conservatives had the total opposite effect of its intention, because these people have no clue about human behavior.

Sex, of course, is perfectly natural, it's not "bad" per-se, and people don't always do bad things for bad reasons anyway. High self-esteem leads to increased sexual promiscuity, not the other way around. This should be perfectly obvious, unless you are a moralistic conservative who thinks that sex is evil and only bad people who have emotional problems engage in such dirty acts.

New Age liberals no doubt added to this problem as well. They seem to suffer from the same basic mentality and lack of fundamental behavioral understanding, thinking that you can simply smile all your problems away and that loving yourself is the greatest good.

It would be interesting to see a comparative study between America and Europe on the issue of teen narcissism. I would be willing to bet that narcissism is lower in Europe, and I think it would be due to both the more secular understanding of human behavior there and the smaller impact of marketing and capitalism there, though of course Europe still has plenty of marketing as well.

The effects of neo-liberal economics are being felt everywhere though, from America to India to China to Europe. For a variety of reasons, however, people in America simply don't understand the social effects of capitalism, though in most other countries these connections are made and understood and thus somewhat addressed. Any criticism of capitalism in this country is so taboo, however, that these problems cannot be properly addressed. And, ironically, the conservative defenders of so-called "free market" capitalism continue to get more and more unhappy with society, yet they still feed they very root-cause of their unhappiness.

For more on this study see:
Study: Vanity on the rise among college students

Are Today's Students Too Self-Centered? 

Study Shows Narcissism Plus Social Rejection Equals Aggression


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 11:37 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (8) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 11:43 AM EST
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
 The Bones of Jesus Discovered? Not Likely.

Topic: Commentary

Documentary Shows Possible Jesus Tomb

The recent announcement that "the bones of Jesus have been found", has made headlines and spurred much discussion, but it's not just Christians who are skeptical of the claim. Despite the fact that Christian critics have claimed that skeptics would like this to be true and are likely to believe it, the fact is quite the opposite, with most skeptics and non-believers that I have talked to not putting any credence in the claim.

There are, of course, many problems with the claim, though these are difficult to fully address until the documentary airs on the Discovery Channel on March 4th. Even the film maker claims, however, that the odds calculated for these names occurring together in a burial find are 100 to 1 to 1,000 to 1, but these aren't really very high odds, especially with thousands of known burials in the region.

Secondly, dating is an issue, and the dating is questionable.

More importantly, however, is the fact that if this were a burial cave for "the real Jesus" and "his family", then that means this site would have been accessed multiple times over a long period of time, and it is  quite unbelievable that if this were the burial site of "the real Jesus" that the site would not have become widely known and either venerated or attested to by someone.

Additionally, the site contained an ossuary for "Judah son of Jesus", but it is quite unbelievable that if the Jesus of the Gospels were real and had a son that this son would have been unattested to by the many different so-called "heretical" sects.

So, on the face of it, the evidence and the claim does not seem compelling at all, and indeed this does look like an attempt at profiteering, not scholarship.

Really, all that this find shows is how common these names were and why it can be very difficult to identify information about the characters in the New Testament stories, since all of the names used for those characters are among the most common of the time and place. It is as if the stories were written about Joe, George, Mike, and Bob.

I will watch the documentary with an open mind, but I'm highly skeptical of the claim, because, of course, I do not think that "Jesus" existed at all.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:57 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Friday, February 16, 2007
 Jesus Myth Part II - Follow-up, Commentary, and Expansion

Topic: Announcements

Jesus Myth Part II - Follow-up, Commentary, and Expansion

This article further explores the themes and ideas of the prior Jesus Myth article.  This article focuses more on pre-Christian Jewish mythology and the Pauline writings.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 12:13 PM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (61) | Permalink
Thursday, February 1, 2007
 Regarding "Do You Believe In Miracles?"

Topic: Commentary
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has produced and aired an expose on the televangelist  Binny Hinn called "Do You Believe in Miracles". The "revelations" of this journalism should be no surprise, Binny Hinn gets millions of dollars a year from gullible people who are desperate to be healed and he lives like a king through a fully tax free estate by funneling all of the income through his church, thereby taking advantage of America's tax free status for religious organizations.

What is really the most revealing, however, is that this program was produced and aired in Canada, yet programs of this kind, at least this hard hitting, are not produced and aired in America by American new organizations.

This just goes to show, once again, the degree to which we do not have freedom of the press here and the degree to which the American media simply props up the status quo and fails to engage in serious journalism.

Here is someone who is not only taking advantage of millions of people and taking their money, but is also defrauding the American public through a legal form of tax evasion, and thus we should be very interested in exposing this fraud here in America, but this doesn't happen because programs that challenge people's religious beliefs in America are simply unacceptable and don't get air time.

This is to say nothing of programs like Richard Dawkins', "The Root of All Evil", which has shown on television in Europe and Canada.

Below are links to the programs that you can't watch on American  TV:

Do You Believe in Miracles? 

The Root of All Evil Part I 

The Root of All Evil Part II 


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 6:07 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, February 1, 2007 6:16 PM EST
Saturday, January 27, 2007
 Some new changes to the website

Topic: Announcements
I just completed a minor revision of the website, cleaning up and few old links and doing some minor restructuring. In an effort to satisfy requests for printed versions of some of the articles here I am now making some of the writings from rationalrevolution available in printed format from the self-publishing site lulu.com.

I am combining related articles into larger books and then making those books available for purchase or PDF download there. The editing that I am doing or this is minor, most of the spelling and grammatical errors will probably remain, but links are being removed and images are being altered and things of that nature. I am also fixing some spelling and grammatical errors for print as I see then as well.

I currently have one such publication, Understanding Capitalism, completed and available via the Store link at the top of the website, and more will follow as I am able to get the materials prepared.

I have also added a Recommended Readings page that has links and comments on books that I have personally read and recommend. I will add new books as I myself read new books. The links will take you to Amazon.com and yes I do get their commission fee (4%-6%) if you purchase a book via following a link from this website. I also recommend, however, that you look for these books at your local library or look for some of the older ones on-line.

Thank you


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 8:00 PM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Sunday, January 7, 2007
 Visitor comments are working again

Topic: Announcements
For some time visitors were unable to post feedback comments to the blog, but this problem has been corrected and you can now post feedback comments again.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 12:30 PM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
 Jesus Myth - The Case Against Historical Christ

Topic: Announcements

Jesus Myth - The Case Against Historical Christ

This article examines the evidence for the historical existence of Jesus and puts forward the case that the story of Jesus Christ is best explained as the product of developing Messianic stories and mystery religions within the Hellenized Jewish community.

Special thanks to many people at the Internet Infidels Biblical Criticism & History who helped with finding documents, proving translations, and offering criticism and advise.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 9:11 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (40) | Permalink
Saturday, October 28, 2006
 American Capitalists Opposing Rights in China

Topic: Commentary

It has recently been reported that the Chinese government is finally moving to improve rights and protection for Chinese workers. This should be hailed by Americans and the Bush administration as a great advance in China, but, of course, it's not. Now, in theory, if American interests in China really wanted the things that they claim they want, "freedom", "human rights", "democracy", "success", "happiness", etc., then they would support these advances, but, of course, this isn't really what American interests in China want, they want a large pool of cheap labor.

This issue has been covered by the New York Times, and a few other alternative media outlets, as linked below:

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/1013-27.htm

This is one of the major issues that I have addressed on this website. In fact I have written about labor conditions in China fairly often, though I haven't given it exclusive attention. The following articles discuss the exploitation of Chinese an other foreign labor by American corporations:

American Prosperity: Made in China

Understanding Capitalism Part III: Wages and Labor Markets

Labor in foreign countries

The reality is that all Americans benefit from the exploitation of Chinese workers. Every single person in America benefits from Chinese exploitation, whether they know it or not, and whether they buy Chinese made goods or not. American corporations and executives that directly use Chinese labor, however, benefit the most. Essentially, you can think of it like this: American corporations pay the American public bribes in order to get the support of the American public.

Why do I say that and how does this work?

Well, basically, Chinese workers are massively exploited and underpaid by American corporations. They are not fairly compensated for the value that they produce. When a worker in China creates $10 worth of value, they only get paid 50 cents for it, a small fraction of the true value of their labor.

American companies pass a small fraction of that savings on to consumers, so that the exploitation of Chinese workers benefits American consumers both directly and indirectly, both through the purchase of Chinese made goods, and through the other effects on the economy that come from the use of Chinese made goods by others, i.e. the savings works its way through the economy.

So, the Chinese worker basically gets $9.50 stolen from him by American corporations, and of that maybe $1.00 is passed on to US consumers. We the consumers share in the theft, and the fact that we get something out of it leads to complacency on the part of American consumers. We go along with it because it benefits us too, at least it seems that way in the short term.

The majority of the stolen value, however, goes into the pockets of investors and executives. So, for a small payoff, "we the people" agree not to rock the boat or demand change, and indeed we know that we really benefit by stealing from the Chinese and others, so even "we the people" look with suspicion at talk about more rights for Chinese workers.

The reality, however, is that American workers have many more rights and protections than Chinese workers do now and we will still have many more rights and protections even if China were to pass the new laws. So, how in the world can American corporations complain about the Chinese government wanting to improve the rights and working conditions for Chinese workers, even though they will still be behind American workers? Well, they complain because they can I suppose, and this demonstrates that as capitalists the basic labor relations have still not changed in all these years. When it comes down to it, American corporations show that they still oppose improvements in working conditions for workers.

The other reality is that American corporations love the prospect of Soviet style State Capitalism, which is the economic model in China. American corporations would love to have a government that had monopoly power over the economy, they dream of this. China is a type of paradise for American corporations. Its a paradise filled with corruption, bureaucracy, and pitfalls, that may be turning on them to a small degree, but overall American corporations love the fact that the Chinese government can grant them huge contracts, can negotiate labor deals for them, can provide them with employees, can keep environmental regulations down with impunity, can worker's movements, can prevent the enforcement of their own minimum wage laws, etc. The lack of democracy in China is a real draw for American corporations.

Their problem now is that the Chinese people are gaining political power, which is why the Chinese government is making this move, in order to placate the growing discontent and opposition in China. So, its a real irony. American capitalism has an interest in maintaining the so-called Communist government in China, indeed I would not doubt that the American government and American corporations are propping up the Chinese government, because the reality is that "we" don't want democracy in China, that would be "bad for business".


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 4:54 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, October 28, 2006 5:02 PM EDT
Friday, October 27, 2006
 Support to Secularists and Progressives in the Middle East

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts

You may not realize it, but there are actually many Arabs and Middle Eastern people who support secularism, free thought, and who are even atheists.

One example of this can be seen on the now popular Al-Jazeera newscast linked below:

http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gm.asp?ai=214&ar=1050wmv&ak=nul

If this does not work for you also try:

http://www.flurl.com/entry/view/1248618/Dr_Wafa_Sultan

Dr. Wafa Sultan, the woman speaking in the linked video above, does live in America, but this interview was aired on Al-Jazeera. I have yet to see a similar interview aired on American television directed at American religion.

Everyone in the Middle East is not Muslim, and the people in the Middle East that America and "the West" should be dealing with, interviewing, working closely with, and sponsoring, etc., are the secularists and humanists in the Middle East. One major problem that I see in the American media is that our only knowledge of the Middle East and Arab people is of them as religious extremists. They are not all religious extremists, and in America it seems that we are simply tossing the secularists whom we should be supporting to the wolves because we don't even acknowledge that they exist. There are millions of people in the Middle East who are also opposed to religious extremism, and these people exist in every single country in the Middle East. We have to at least be aware of these people in America before any further progress can take place. Hopefully, with increasing awareness, these groups will get increasing recognition, media coverage, and material support.

It is not as though secularism and humanism have been unknown in Middle Eastern history or that Middle Eastern cultures don't know how to approach these issues, indeed many aspects of the European Enlightenment and movement for secularism came from Middle Eastern culture and various texts, both Greek texts and original Arabic works, which had been transmitted to the West in Arabic.

Please, take the time to visit some of the websites below to become familiar with secular and non-religious groups in the Middle East and Arab speaking world. Even just writing to these organizations to show support can be a great help and boost.

Secular Islam Summit

Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan

Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)

Liberal Demokratic Party of Afghanistan

The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI)

Women Against Violence

Arab Atheists

Network of Secular Arabs

Maryam Namazie (Iranian Humanist)

Tariq Ali

The Center for Inquiry is one American based organization that does work with secularist groups in various countries, including the Middle East.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:22 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
 The Origins of Christianity and the Jesus Myth

Topic: Announcements

The Origins of Christianity and the Jesus Myth

This is a multimedia presentation based on material that I have used for live presentations on the origins of Christianity and the Jesus story. The presentation is given here is two parts, the first part covering information prior to Christianity and the second part about Christianity itself. The combined length of the presentation is about 3.5 hours.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 11:18 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

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