Yesterday on my campaign Facebook page, one of my readers, who had been expressing skepticism about my theme of dark and destructive forces having taken possession of the American right in our times, posted this comment:
“Half the country for several years. Has been asking why the Republican Party is so destructive. No one seems to have the answer. Andy, at least, has proposed an answer, which is that evil exists and it has taken hold of the conservatives in America. So far, this is not a satisfying answer to me. Unless you can describe the cultural trends that come together to constitute that evil, it is merely giving a name to what ails the conservatives.”
I don’t know if you actually think it possible that I would be “merely giving a name” to the dynamic I’m talking about, or if your statement expresses a challenging pedagogical style you use to prod people toward delivering the goods.
I would hope it’s the latter.
I also don’t know if you’ve been reading the unfolding series of “Swinging for the Fences” pieces, in which I’m laying the foundation for a complex and theoretically sound exposition of how the human world works, and specifically how there is a dynamic in human affairs, operating through cultural systems over the generations, that warrants being called “the battle between good and evil.”
Many of the pieces already laid out to provide that foundation concern books I have written over the past forty-plus years that put forward original theoretical analyses of the systems of civilization, with especial attention to destructive dynamics-systems at every level, from the global/intersocietal level to the political and economic systems of societies, to the level of the human psyche in interaction with the cultural forces surrounding our human lives.
If you need assurance that I’m not just going to “name” something without articulating the systemic dynamics that would warrant my assertions, let me just quote a few blurbs from the back of these books. They are relevant not only because they testify to what kinds of ideas pass muster with me, but also – and importantly – because what I am engaged in doing in “Swinging for the Fences” will incorporate all these ideas.
For forty-plus years, I’ve been writing integrative ideas/theories, holistic perspectives that put the pieces together. And now, in this project, I am in the process of integrating all of those ideas into a still larger holistic vision of how the human world works. If those earlier works could hold water, then there’s reason to believe that the present one will do so as well.
So here are a few comments about those past works that I hope will give you that assurance.
About The Parable of the Tribes, the late noted theologian John Dillenberger
past president of the Hartford Seminary Foundationwrote for the back of the book: “This book is more comprehensive than any other book I know. Reading it, I tried to poke holes in so wide-ranging a synthesis. But it holds together in an impressive way.” Jonas Salk called it “a formidable synthesis.” Daniel Yankelovich said it made “a serious contribution to our understanding of war, peace, and civilization…” Joseph Montville, an editor of the journal Political Psychology, said that “It brilliantly analyzes the psychology of individuals and societies as they interact with political, economic, and ecological systems.”
About my book Out of Weakness, my study of how the dynamics described by THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES wound human beings in ways that foster conflict among groups, the Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Jerome Frank, himself the author of SANITY AND SURVIVAL, described my book as “A wide-ranging and deeply thoughtful meditation [that]…draws on a vast range of sources including psychology, anthropology, literature, philosophy, and religion…” And the research director of the Center for the Study of Foreign Affairs says that Out of Weakness “explains clearly and with great power how human beings psychologically become aggressive and violent as individuals and as groups.”
Regarding The Illusion of Choice, Lester Milbrath, a professor of environmental studies and author of ENVISIONING A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY, writes that in this book I show how the market system’s “dynamics determine our mores and our behavior in deep and long-lasting ways. Hundreds of books discuss the market, but…no one else has written with this deep an insight.”
My current project will be building on all those, as well as on two other books I’ve written that deal with issues of wholeness and its subversion by the dynamics of polarization.
This current project will also be pulling together what I’ve already thought through and written about the current issue regarding the battle between good and evil, especially in America in our times. Before I became a candidate, I had already been writing about these issues for six and a half years. In some two million words, over that period, I analyzed the events of the times, and put forward explanatory ideas to make sense of what was happening in America. It was the nature of that blog, with its goal of engaging my fellow Americans on a day-to-day basis, that it unfolded piece by piece, according to what was happening in the country and what came to me to say.
Only now, however, am I attempting to put it all together in a systematic way. This will take time, and it will not immediately become clear how it all fits together. Like the construction of a house, or the development of a baby, not everything important about the finished product is immediately visible to the casual observer.
It is also very likely that even when the whole blueprint is laid out, and the edifice is constructed, it will not be entirely comprehensible to many readers. What excites me about this project is that the idea I’m developing will constitute a major breakthrough: I’m not aware of anything like it ever having been articulated before. In the realm of ideas, the more an idea is a breakthrough beyond what people already think, the more it is difficult for people to understand it.
So I do not promise you or anyone else an ultimate “Aha!” experience. But I do promise to do my very best to present these ideas in ways that will convey meaningful understanding. And I promise that what I’m putting forward here is a good deal more than slapping a name onto something rather than providing logically sound, empirically based, theoretically grounded explanations for those two assertions I put forward here in the piece called “Hunting for Very Big Game”:
1) In the human realm, there operate deep and forces that warrant being called “spirits”-not visible to our usual eye, but powerful in their effects.
2) An important part of the human drama can meaningfully and appropriately be described as “the battle between good and evil.”
Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia’s 6th District. He is the author of various books including
Fools Gold: The Fate of Values in a World of Goods