All posts by Stryder Lee

The Deadliest Kool-Aid?

One of the more popular (and relevant) memes circulating today is the phrase “don’t drink the Kool-Aid!” which is an historically inaccurate reference to the cyanide-laced grape Flavor Aid brand drink that Jim Jones had conditioned his cult followers to take in November 1978. Fortunately for the makers of Flavor Aid, “Kool-Aid” is the meme that sticks. Technically, the event is listed as a “murder-suicide” because some were forced to drink and some were shot but the majority of the 918 dead took the poisoned brew willingly.

They had been conditioned to do so after months of disinformation and practice drills.

We can easily miss the lesson here by smugly believing that we would never be such a fanatical follower but there is a Kool-Aid that too many regular folks gleefully guzzle: Apocalypticism the fervid belief that the end of the world is inevitable and always right around the corner. Though primarily a religious phenomenon, there is plenty secular Apocalypticism to go around.

Certainly we live in perilous times, but that truth is far from the belief in the total breakdown and destruction of civilization. This Apocalyptic faith arises from a combination of a distorted focus on sensational negative news bias, catastrophizing and unwarranted assumptions about human behavior.

According to Psychology Today, the impact of constant “exposure to consistent, sensationalized pessimism and negativity” has a distorting impact on our perception, thinking and mental health. Sensational, negative news is immensely profitable to corporate media outlets and so it makes up a disproportionate amount of their programming giving us a false impression of what is going on in the world. While it is true that genuine catastrophes exist throughout the world, it is not true that there is widespread global chaos. What is true however is that humans have leveraged ever-evolving technologies to address and improve many of our most persistent problems and that life today is far better for more people than ever before.

Catastrophizing is “a cognitive distortion that prompts people to jump to the worst possible conclusion, usually with very limited information or objective reason to despair.” It is the certitude we feel when, prompted by negative news and marketing, we imagine a catastrophic outcome is not only likely but inevitable. And such thinking is profitably encouraged by the growing Prepper Industry which now has its own promotional expos.

Apocalypticism also involves (sometimes religiously inspired) negative assumptions about human behavior and dogmatic assertions about “human nature.” No doubt we regularly see media examples of terrible human behavior but most people do not experience or display such behavior. Negative assumptions about our own species enable our catastrophizing and lead us to imagine catastrophes that provoke a widespread surrender to barbarism and chaos.

Let’s face it. The biggest threats to human survival and ongoing progress come from a very few hubs of power and influence and the fear and greed that motivates them. We know what we need to do and, in spite off their resistance, we are doing it. Will disasters still happen? Of course, but if we refuse to drink the deadly Kool-Aid of Apocalypticsm we can be confident of our ability to survive and thrive.

Is Perfection the Enemy of Progress?

A vote is not a valentine, you aren't confessing your love for the candidate. It's a chess move for the world you want to live in.

The word “perfection” is actually about maturity and completeness, not a state of flawlessness as we usually assume. In many ways, the concept is a cancer that has caused untold personal suffering for those striving for what does not exist. It can also be cancerous in the political realm when seeking the “perfect” candidate prevents us from choosing the best candidate for the moment.

But how do we decide? How do we avoid making perfection the enemy of of the good? Of progress? First, we get informed. Seek and attend to independent, fact-based, credible news sources like TheWorkFM. Next, we avoid the trap of cynicism that arises from the “they’re all corrupt” attitude. Sometimes that can be a cop out that discourages necessary positive action. Finally, when it comes to political issues ask probing questions: which party or candidate represents (however imperfectly) positive, people-centered values? What values do they promote? What do their words and actions reveal about them? Which one promotes unity and which one sows seeds of division? What is their history?

We have seen that in difficult political times, many Americans respond by avoiding politics and voting. This may be an understandable response but it can be a dangerous mistake – especially in times of crisis. Democracy cannot exist without widespread participation. By contrast, sometimes those who are informed and active can be tempted into expectations of political perfection that end up alienating allies and preventing progress altogether.

If a home is on fire, is it not misguided to argue about who extinguishes it while it still burns?

Our Work at TheWorkFM

“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”
― Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House

WRWK is progressive community radio. We seek to promote progress towards justice, health and happiness for hard working folks everywhere. On a larger scale, if we trace human progress over the last five thousand years, humans have achieved some great things. Unfortunately, many of these achievements came at a high price in terms of human life and environmental damage because we ignored the costs of our progress. While learning how to mass produce things, to fly, to find and use fossil fuels, we were also wrecking the environment and taking over the resources of weaker countries while taking advantage of each other in ways that reduced our social health and stability. This imperial attitude of exploitation is part of what our constitution was meant to address.

Say what you might about the flaws of the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, in their time they were charting a way to progress out of the chaos of history and its failures. As Sarah Chayes points out in her book Corruption in America: And What is at Stake our constitution was an attempt to block corruption while expanding the power of the people instead of just reinforcing the royal prerogatives of wealth and privilege.

Sadly, these royal prerogatives are still at play today as when the General Assembly affirmed the right of regulated monopolies to lobby politicians (thus maintaining a solid source of campaign cash). It’s not about blue and red or even north and south, it’s about creeping corruption and the lusts of power. And as we become more divided, the lusts of monied interests are busily corroding the protections of our constitution.

If we compare the relationship between what citizens want from government versus what monied interests want, too often money wins out. This was illustrated well when our governor managed approval of permits for oil pipelines in spite of public opposition.

Other examples abound but we all know this, so let us put our focus on making progress towards universal health and happiness by telling the stories of the possible world that still exists beyond the noise and press releases that ad agencies and campaign funds stir up. Help us to make progress towards this goal by supporting WRWK TheWorkFM where progressive solutions are our inspiration.

TheWorkFM @ Voting Rights March in DC

Our intrepid correspondents Max & Ian on the scene in DC
are just a two of the many good reasons to support WRWK TheWorkFM, your local, non-commercial, non-corporate radio station. Along with our progressive news, talk and local music format, WRWK offers live on the scene reporting from marches and board meetings, as well as interviews with local activists and politicians. No spin. No commercials. No alternative facts. Just relevant fact-based reporting and discussion. Become a supporter today – you can start with a single donation or pledge as little as $5 per month. Just click on the “donate” button – thanks!

Founding member of TheWorkFM Christopher “Max” Maxwell
Super Trouper “Sir” Ian Mour reporter on the scene
Activists coalescing….
Max in the press booth.