First of all, a short summary of The Lucifer Effect. It explains how events like Mi Lai, Abu Ghraib, and The Stanford Prison Experiment turned good people evil.
Part of this explanation involves “bad barrels.” A bad barrel is an environment in which a person lives or works which negatively alters how that person completes assigned tasks. Anyone living in a bad barrel is highly susceptible to performing evil acts that they would otherwise never consider. Individuals who are known as ‘good’ outside the bad barrel learn to commit acts that they would never consider outside of the bad barrel.
The prison at Abu Ghraib was one such bad barrel. Professor Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect, inadvertently created a bad barrel, a mock prison, in a basement at Stanford University. The war environment, or maybe even a war mentality, can create a bad barrel. I have posted that listening to Fox Noise and hate radio in isolation also creates a bad barrel.
Building bad barrels of significance takes a lot of resources, and “Koch Kash” from multinational corporations and individual billionaires are key resources, especially since the publication of The Powell Memo and the Supreme Court’s activist Citizens United decision.
Our national politics now include at least two major bad barrels. One of those barrels is encircled by The Beltway around Washington, D.C. which contains over 20 corporate lobbyists for every Congressional representative. The other is The White House. Civil servants, spanning decades of influence, have also helped bring us to where we are today. The predominant political influence inside those barrels is right-wing authoritarianism.
These right-wing authoritarian bad barrels, with all the lobbyists, civil servants, and Koch Kash, will corrupt almost every politician sent to Washington, D.C., regardless of party affiliation.
Those two bad barrels have taken decades to create and that transition is how we’ve gone from good, to bad, to ugly. And getting back to ‘good’ may require getting from ‘ugly’ back to ‘bad’ first.
Here are the definitions of the good, bad and ugly in terms for our two-party system and authoritarianism:
Good – From the passage of Social Security in 1935 to passage of The Clean Air and Clean Water acts of the early 1970s, we maximized the protection and empowerment of citizens. This period included more liberal to moderate perspectives in both parties and a populous that had suffered a depression and multiple wars together giving them a sense of community and caring for others.
Bad – The Powell Memo of 1971, which kicked off this era, was the formal declaration of corporate war on American democracy. It was the beginning of the end of our citizen-driven government. This period began the purge of liberals from both parties and the takeover of the Republican party by the authoritarian religious right.
Ugly – This era signifies almost absolute control by a right-wing authoritarian minority, funded heavily by right-wing corporate America and right-wing billionaires. Almost all Republicans and a few Democrats represent this minority. In the Senate, they represent a minority of small populated states with right-wing voters. In the House, the Tea Party represents the major portion of this minority. Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, and Senator Bill Frist gave rise to this era in the mid 90s.
We made a lot of progress after the Great Depression, but during the ugly years we lost so much and we suffered the Great Recession. To get back to the good years, we must both redefine American capitalism to promote sustainability and democracy, and educate and involve more citizens, especially minorities, in the political process to destroy the bad barrels in D.C. and rid us of the, white, right-wing authoritarian, minority. This minority is currently tearing down our system of representative governance and replacing it with one of corporate governance run by the ONE% with Koch Kash, all to prove they are right and punish the rest of us.
The July 25, 2013, email newsletter from Popular Resistance put it this way:
A simplified explanation of the strategy to transform our society from a greedy plutocracy to a cooperative democracy, from our destructive path to a sustainable future, is that there are two simultaneous tracks – protest [including voting] what we do not like and build what we want. We call this “Stop the Machine-Create a New World.”