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Cultural shift leads to political schism

cwjerome

Diamond Member
Sep 30, 2004
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A while back I posted a topic on leadership. Check it out to get a gist of where I'm coming from. This is a variant of that theme...

We see it in the news, we see politicians say it, and we see other countries say it: America, they sneer, is acting like a "cowboy." It's a smear that's meant to convey a certain image. For these people the cowboy represents lawlessness and violence. This is the result of a cultural shift that has occurred over the past 50 or so years where pessimism, cynicism, and defeatism -which functions like a kind of mind parasite, draining you of life- has taken over our cultural psyche. At the end of the day heroes don't really exist anymore, traditional concepts are mostly myth, and the "cowboy" is relegated to brute and reckless irresponsibility.

Negativity has become chic. People tend to withhold good news and share bad news. And a prominent topic of everyday conversations has a negative tone: talking about grievances, bitches, and gripes. We share complaints about other people, we listen to complaints about other people, and we sympathize with the complainer. Our natural biological instinct of having a stronger reaction (and greater fixation) on negative images and thoughts has been completely tapped by modern society... we're totally manipulated. Society exploits this pessimism, cynicism, and defeatism, feeding on itself, growing like the snowball effect.

Next thing you know this distorted view makes us see the world as a far more dangerous and depressing place than it really is (think Terrorism! Global Warming! OMG___"fill in the blank!")... and makes us see traditionally virtuous ideas cliche, trite, and naive. Ideas that Man is courageous, intelligent, and capable and slowly drowned out by ideas that Man is ugly, stupid, and in the end, worthless. Nothing could be more damaging to the collective self esteem.

The prevailing wisdom today says real heroes are obsolete... well, we do have a kind of American hero these days: the celebrity. We elevate those who are beautiful, rich, powerful, athletic. We worship the famous. Our society creates the impression that sleaze is omnipresent, that no one is noble, that nothing is sacred

Pathography emphasizes the mundane, the neurotic, or the deviant; it offers an outlet for resentment and envy, and permits us to be voyeurs. Pathography forgets the glorious achievement and relishes the flawed life.

But to some Americans, a basic optimism still rings true. The "cowboy" is not a villain but a hero. We honor his willingness to stand up to evil and to do it alone, if necessary. The cowboy is a symbol of the crucial virtues of courage, independence and hard work. It's his unshakable moral confidence that gives others the willies that some people find inspiring. Heroes show us the way, energize us, keep us from the darkness. They remind us of how much more we could do, and of how much better we could be. They instruct us in greatness.

But it's a hell of a lot easier to just say "pipe-dream!" and go back to comfortable mediocrity. Screw heroes... who wants to raise the bar when we can just sit back and complain.

 

Lemon law

Lifer
Nov 6, 2005
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When the cowboy is herding cattle in his own country he can be what he wants to be. When he tries to herd other countries on their home range, the bastard is trespassing.

These are people not cattle we are talking about here, and they are likely to run off the riff raff terrorizing them. They have to put up with their own unruly riff raff, they don't need any grief from anywhere else. Even the wild west took a dim view of vigilantly justice or taking the law into unauthorized mobs.
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
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cwj: We see it in the news, we see politicians say it, and we see other countries say it: America, they sneer, is acting like a "cowboy." It's a smear that's meant to convey a certain image. For these people the cowboy represents lawlessness and violence.

M: Mostly, here in the US, we hear about how great we are. I think your rant is unbalanced and misleading, or one-sidedly focused. Also, I don't think it is a smear meant to convey the image you say it does. I think it is an analogy that represents something real, palpable, and discernible about our behavior. I don't think it represents lawlessness and or violence so much as frontier justice and vigilantism, the assumption of authority at a primitive level of moral development, a reactiveness and rash self-justified application of power.

cwj: This is the result of a cultural shift that has occurred over the past 50 or so years where pessimism, cynicism, and defeatism -which functions like a kind of mind parasite, draining you of life- has taken over our cultural psyche.

M: I see it more as maturation and sophistication of analysis, a weariness at our irrational wars and international adventurism, the fracture of a naive self confidence at the alter of our vicious application of brutal power and militarism.

cwj: At the end of the day heroes don't really exist anymore, traditional concepts are mostly myth, and the "cowboy" is relegated to brute and reckless irresponsibility.

M: Yes, that has been our story at least since we dropped the atomic bomb.

cwj: Negativity has become chic. People tend to withhold good news and share bad news. And a prominent topic of everyday conversations has a negative tone: talking about grievances, bitches, and gripes. We share complaints about other people, we listen to complaints about other people, and we sympathize with the complainer.

M: There is a huge group that complain just like you, complain negatively about how negative everything is. You have the same disease and don't even see that you do.

cwj: Our natural biological instinct of having a stronger reaction (and greater fixation) on negative images and thoughts has been completely tapped by modern society... we're totally manipulated. Society exploits this pessimism, cynicism, and defeatism, feeding on itself, growing like the snowball effect.

M: You can't know what is natural and biological if you haven't died to all conditioning and arrived again beyond that conditioning and the duality of mind it produces. There is nothing natural about negativity except that it is how we were made to feel, negatively about ourselves. We are magnetized by the negative because we repress how negative we feel and feed our feelings vicariously. We are starving for attention and preyed upon for the same reason, we have sick emotional needs.

cwj: Next thing you know this distorted view makes us see the world as a far more dangerous and depressing place than it really is (think Terrorism! Global Warming! OMG___"fill in the blank!")... and makes us see traditionally virtuous ideas cliche, trite, and naive.

M: Indeed. And what is worse is if you fear negativity the appearance or manifestation of any negativity will itself have that same effect. Some will react just to the fact that others react with negativity. Again, it's the same disease.

cwj: Ideas that Man is courageous, intelligent, and capable and slowly drowned out by ideas that Man is ugly, stupid, and in the end, worthless. Nothing could be more damaging to the collective self esteem.

M: You put the cart before the horse. We fee; ugly and stupid and worthless and so we can't believe that we are courageous and intelligent and capable and we will never have that feeling genuinely as long as we have such feelings. We pay the price of negativity because we repress it's source in ourselves because we are afraid to feel what we really feel. It is this fear that turns you against the negative, the refusal to feel the truth of how you feel

cwj: The prevailing wisdom today says real heroes are obsolete... well, we do have a kind of American hero these days: the celebrity. We elevate those who are beautiful, rich, powerful, athletic. We worship the famous. Our society creates the impression that sleaze is omnipresent, that no one is noble, that nothing is sacred

M: Of course. It is a palliative that makes us feel better.

cwj: Pathography emphasizes the mundane, the neurotic, or the deviant; it offers an outlet for resentment and envy, and permits us to be voyeurs. Pathography forgets the glorious achievement and relishes the flawed life.

M: Naturally, it's how we were made to feel.

cwj: But to some Americans, a basic optimism still rings true. The "cowboy" is not a villain but a hero. We honor his willingness to stand up to evil and to do it alone, if necessary. The cowboy is a symbol of the crucial virtues of courage, independence and hard work. It's his unshakable moral confidence that gives others the willies that some people find inspiring. Heroes show us the way, energize us, keep us from the darkness. They remind us of how much more we could do, and of how much better we could be. They instruct us in greatness.

M: What you recommend and worship here is the state of fanatical denial, the suppression of all feeling, total denial of what we feel.

cwj: But it's a hell of a lot easier to just say "pipe-dream!" and go back to comfortable mediocrity. Screw heroes... who wants to raise the bar when we can just sit back and complain.

M: Read the hero myths as analyzed by Joseph Campbell. You will find that the journey of the hero is a road through hell. In order to be a hero and truly positive a man must slay his demons, his self hate. He must open the door to the unconscious and enter in. A man needs a magic mirror to look at the beasts and monsters of his own self hate.

I'm sorry but the way up is down. You were born a hero. You don't become one; you cleanse yourself of the illusion you are not.

Paradox and duality resolve at higher understanding. In order to become you must cease to be. It is the little child who enters the kingdom of heaven.

 

cwjerome

Diamond Member
Sep 30, 2004
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Moonbeam, putting your usual metaphysical/psychological "religion" aside, I just want to say that being negative isn't always a bad thing. That much should be obvious. So when you state that I have the same disease, you're not getting message. There is a difference between addressing a problem (ie. being "negative" about something) and wallowing in a sea of negativity that guides our thought processes and distorts our perspectives.

Trying to wake people up from a funk they don't even know they're in is not "complaining negatively about how negative everything is." In fact it's pretty much the opposite: It's using optimism and a healthy sense of Man and existence to push for progress.
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
67,355
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One version of Campbell's hero

The stages of the HERO are:

1) THE HERO IS INTRODUCED IN HIS ORDINARY WORLD.

Most stories take place in a special world, a world that is new and
alien to its hero. If you're going to tell a story about a fish out
of his customary element, you first have to create a contrast by
showing him in his mundane, ordinary world. In WITNESS you see both
the Amish boy and the policeman in their ordinary worlds before they
are thrust into alien worlds -- the farmboy into the city, and the
city cop into the unfamiliar countryside. In STAR WARS you see Luke
Skywalker bored to death as a farmboy before he takes on the
universe.

2) THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.

The hero is presented with a problem, challenge, or adventure.
Maybe the land is dying, as in the Arthur stories about the search
for the Holy Grail. In STAR WARS again, it's Princess Leia's
holographic message to Obi Wan Kenobi, who asks Luke to join in the
quest. In detective stories, it's the hero accepting a new case.
In romantic comedies it could be the first sight of that special --
but annoying someone the hero or heroine will be pursuing/sparring
with the remainder of the story.

3) THE HERO IS RELUCTANT AT FIRST.

Often at this point, the hero balks at the threshold of adventure.
After all, he or she is facing the greatest of all fears -- fear of
the unknown. At this point Luke refuses Obi Wan's call to adventure,
and returns to his aunt and uncle's farmhouse, only to find they
have been barbqued by the Emperor's stormtroopers. Suddenly Luke is
no longer reluctant, and is eager to undertake the adventure. He is
motivated.

4) THE HERO IS ENCOURAGED BY THE WISE OLD MAN OR WOMAN.

By this time many stories will have introduced a Merlin-like
character who is the hero's mentor. In JAWS it's the crusty Robert
Shaw character who knows all about sharks; in the mythology of the
Mary Tyler Moore Show, it's Lou Grant. The mentor gives advice and
sometimes magical weapons. This is Obi Wan Kenobi giving Luke
Skywalker his father's light sabre.

The mentor can only go so far with the hero. Eventually the hero
must face the unknown by himself. Sometimes the wise old man is
required to give the hero a swift kick in the pants to get the
adventure going.

5) THE HERO PASSES THE FIRST THRESHOLD.

He fully enters the special world of his story for the first time.
This is the moment at which the story takes off and the adventure
gets going. The balloon goes up, the romance begins, the plane or
spaceship blasts off, the wagon train gets rolling. Dorothy sets
out on the Yellow Brick Road. The hero is now committed to his
journey... and there's no turning back.

6) THE HERO ENCOUNTERS TESTS AND HELPERS.

The hero is forced to make allies and enemies in the special world,
and to pass certain tests and challenges that are part of his
training. In STAR WARS, the cantina is the setting for the forging
of an important alliance with Han Solo, and the start of an
important enmity with Jabba The Hut. In CASABLANCA, Rick's Cafe is
the setting for the "alliances and enmities" phase, and in many
westersn it's the saloon where these relationships are established.

The tests and challenges phase is represented in STAR WARS by the
scene of Obi Wan teaching Luke about the Force, as Luke is made to
learn by fighting blindfolded. The early laser battles with the
Imperial Fighters are another test which Luke passes successfully.

7) THE HERO REACHES THE INNERMOST CAVE

The hero comes at last to a dangerous place, often deep underground,
where the object of his quest is hidden. In the Arthurian stories
the Chapel Perilous is the dangerous chamber where the seeker finds
the Grail. In many myths the hero has to descend into hell to
retrieve a loved one, or into a cave to fight a dragon and gain a
treasure. It's Theseus going into the Labyrinth to face the
Minotaur. In STAR WARS it's Luke and company being sucked into the
Death Star where they will rescue Princess Leia. Sometimes it's the
hero entering the headquarters of his nemesis; and sometimes it's
just the hero going into his or her own dream world to confront his
or hers worst fears... and overcome them.

8) THE HERO ENDURES THE SUPREME ORDEAL.

This is the moment at which the hero touches bottom. He faces the
possibility of death, brought to the brink in a fight with a
mythical beast. For us, the audience standing outside the cave
waiting for the victor to emerge, it's a black moment. In STAR
WARS, it's the harrowing moment in the bowels of the Death Star,
where Luke, Leia and company are trapped in the giant trash-masher.
Luke is pulled under by the tentacled monster that lives in the
sewage, and is held down so long the audience begins to wonder if
he's dead. E.T. momentarily appears to die on the operating table.

This is a critical moment in any story, an ordeal in which the hero
appears to die and is born again. It's a major source of the magic
of the hero myth. What happens is that the audience has been led to
identify with the hero. We are encouraged to experience the
brink-of- -death feeling with the hero. We are temporarily
depressed, and then we are revived by the hero's return from death.

This is the magic of any well-designed amusement park thrill ride.
Space Mountain or The Great White Knuckler make the passengers feel
like they're going to die, and there's a great thrill that comes
from surviving a moment like that. This is also the trick of rites
of passage and rites of initiation into fraternities and secret
societies. The initiate is forced to taste death and experience
resurrection. You're never more alive than when you think you're
going to die.

9) THE HERO SIEZES THE SWORD.

Having survived death, beaten the dragon, slain the Minotaur, the
hero now takes possession of the treasure he's come seeking.
Sometimes it's a special weapon like a magic sword, or it may be a
token like the Grail or some elixer which can heal the wounded land.

Sometimes the "sword" is knowledge and experience that leads to
greater understanding and a reconciliation with hostile forces.

The hero may settle a conflict with his father or with his shadowy
nemesis. In RETURN OF THE JEDI, Luke is reconciled with both, as he
discovers that the dying Darth Vader is his father, and not such a
bad guy after all.

The hero may also be reconciled with a woman. Often she is the
treasure he's come to win or rescue, and there is often a love scene
or sacred marriage at this point. Women in these stories (or men if
the hero is female) tend to be SHAPE-SHIFTERS. They appear to
change in form or age, reflecting the confusing and constantly
changing aspects of the opposite sex as seen from the hero's point
of view. The hero's supreme ordeal may grant him a better
understanding of women, leading to a reconciliation with the
opposite sex.

10) THE ROAD BACK.

The hero's not out of the woods yet. Some of the best chase scenes
come at this point, as the hero is pursued by the vengeful forces
from whom he has stolen the elixir or the treasure. This is the
chase as Luke and friends escape from the Death Star, with Princess
Leia and the plans that will bring down Darth Vader.

If the hero has not yet managed to reconcile with his father or the
gods, they may come raging after him at this point. This is the
moonlight bicycle flight of Elliott and E.T. as they escape from
"Keys" (Peter Coyote), a force representing governmental authority.
By the end of the movie, Keys and Elliott have been reconciled, and
it even looks like Keys will end up as Elliott's father. (The script
not the final cut, guys).

11) RESURRECTION.

The hero emerges from the special world, transformed by his
experience. There is often a replay here of the mock
death-and-rebirth of stage 8, as the hero once again faces death and
survives. Each ordeal wins him new command over the Force. He is
transformed into a new being by his experience.

12) RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.

The hero comes back to his ordinary world, but his adventure would
be meaningless unless he brought back the elixir, treasure, or some
lesson from the special world. Sometimes it's just knowledge or
experience, but unless he comes back with the exlixir or some boon
to mankind, he's doomed to repeat the adventure until he does. Many
comedies use this ending, as a foolish character refuses to learn
his lesson and embarks on the same folly that got him in trouble in
the first place.

Sometimes the boon is treasure won on the quest, or love, or just
the knowledge that the special world exists and can be survived.
Sometimes it's just coming home with a good story to tell.
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
67,355
4,069
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cwj: Moonbeam, putting your usual metaphysical/psychological "religion" aside,

M: I don't see anything metaphysical or religious about what I say

M: I just want to say that being negative isn't always a bad thing. That much should be obvious.

cwj: OK, fair enough, but we differ, I think, on just how true this is. Being negative is not only sometimes a good thing it is a required thing if one is to feel what one really feels.

cwj: So when you state that I have the same disease, you're not getting message. There is a difference between addressing a problem (ie. being "negative" about something) and wallowing in a sea of negativity that guides our thought processes and distorts our perspectives.

M: Yes OK, but again I think I get your message and you may not be getting mine. I am saying we are already in the grips of such distorting perspectives, and that positive attitude is not the cure. Well it is a cure for those with profoundly positive religious faith, but not for you or me.

cwj: Trying to wake people up from a funk they don't even know they're in is not "complaining negatively about how negative everything is." In fact it's pretty much the opposite:

M: Yes, well if you really think about it you may see that that is exactly what I am doing when I tell you you are infected with self hate. I am telling you you are negative and that you don't know it. I maintain you have the problem you're trying to cure and are trying to cure it in the wrong way, that you have to go down if you want to go up.

cwj: It's using optimism and a healthy sense of Man and existence to push for progress.

M: Optimism and a healthy sense of Man is our natural state, how we were before we were taught the lie that we are worthless. The lie exists in the certainty of feeling, we are deeply convinced of out worthlessness and have deeply buried that feeling. Because we don't allow ourselves to feel it we can't remember how we got it and how we were made to believe that lie. We are and always have been perfect and it is the last thing we will believe. The feeling is protected first by massive defensive rage and then infinite sadness and pain. The anger has to be gone through to get to the pain and the pain must be felt to grieve and heal. You are loved and there is only love.
 

Lemon law

Lifer
Nov 6, 2005
20,984
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In your typical cowboy Western, you have one set of cowboys being the hero's by being forced in to fighting another set of cowboys who are the villains aggressively visiting injustice on the defenseless. There is a fine line between hero and villains.

The USA long ago crossed that fine line to stand four square with the black hat side.
 

1EZduzit

Lifer
Feb 4, 2002
11,834
1
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Originally posted by: cwjerome
Originally posted by: manowar821
I'm confused... Who's a hero?
You tell me.

Better question is, what's a hero?
That would depend on who you ask, because in the end everybody has to make up their own mind about what they think is heroic. If your willing to let some news agency or Hollywood director define it for you then.... well maybe your weak minded??
 

Lemon law

Lifer
Nov 6, 2005
20,984
2
0
We also ignore what is the real definition of cowboy diplomacy.

Which is somewhat typified by a set of fairly responsible cowboys driving a herd of cattle, working together, sleeping on the ground, and fed a diet of beans for a month or so.

Then they finally reach the rail head and the real world, get paid, and head to the nearest saloon to get tee totally drunk after months of responsible sobriety. And after they blow too much money on booze, and before they sober up, they pull out their guns and shoot them at the bar room ceiling or at other random targets in an orgy of totally irresponsible violence.

Of course this behavior is self delimiting, while a few of the townfolk profit by milking the cowboys of excess cash, its an unmitigated nuisance for everyone else. And they tell the damn cowboys to stay out of their town, don't go away mad, just go away. No room for cowboys in a civilized world.
 

cwjerome

Diamond Member
Sep 30, 2004
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Originally posted by: 1EZduzit
Originally posted by: cwjerome
Originally posted by: manowar821
I'm confused... Who's a hero?
You tell me.

Better question is, what's a hero?
That would depend on who you ask, because in the end everybody has to make up their own mind about what they think is heroic. If your willing to let some news agency or Hollywood director define it for you then.... well maybe your weak minded??
I'm assuming the "your" is rhetorical... and in that case, I agree with you.
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
67,355
4,069
126
Originally posted by: cwjerome
Originally posted by: 1EZduzit
Originally posted by: cwjerome
Originally posted by: manowar821
I'm confused... Who's a hero?
You tell me.

Better question is, what's a hero?
That would depend on who you ask, because in the end everybody has to make up their own mind about what they think is heroic. If your willing to let some news agency or Hollywood director define it for you then.... well maybe your weak minded??
I'm assuming the "your" is rhetorical... and in that case, I agree with you.
My guess is that a pretty good idea as to what a hero is can be gleaned from myth, just as Campbell did, that we all have a great deal in common.
 

cwjerome

Diamond Member
Sep 30, 2004
4,345
24
81
Originally posted by: Moonbeam
Originally posted by: cwjerome
Originally posted by: 1EZduzit
Originally posted by: cwjerome
Originally posted by: manowar821
I'm confused... Who's a hero?
You tell me.

Better question is, what's a hero?
That would depend on who you ask, because in the end everybody has to make up their own mind about what they think is heroic. If your willing to let some news agency or Hollywood director define it for you then.... well maybe your weak minded??
I'm assuming the "your" is rhetorical... and in that case, I agree with you.
My guess is that a pretty good idea as to what a hero is can be gleaned from myth, just as Campbell did, that we all have a great deal in common.
Well I'm sure the standard literary treatment of heroism, like the "myth" Campbell outlines, is always a good standby.

The simple answer is a hero is someone who does (or is) something that another person sees as virtuous in some way. If that's the case, is a "hero" obsolete? Is heroism possible?

Judging from the broad-based disbelief in "virtue" that permeates the fringes of our culture, I'd say what my OP states: The hero is a threatened species.
 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
67,355
4,069
126
Originally posted by: cwjerome
Originally posted by: Moonbeam
Originally posted by: cwjerome
Originally posted by: 1EZduzit
Originally posted by: cwjerome
Originally posted by: manowar821
I'm confused... Who's a hero?
You tell me.

Better question is, what's a hero?
That would depend on who you ask, because in the end everybody has to make up their own mind about what they think is heroic. If your willing to let some news agency or Hollywood director define it for you then.... well maybe your weak minded??
I'm assuming the "your" is rhetorical... and in that case, I agree with you.
My guess is that a pretty good idea as to what a hero is can be gleaned from myth, just as Campbell did, that we all have a great deal in common.
Well I'm sure the standard literary treatment of heroism, like the "myth" Campbell outlines, is always a good standby.

The simple answer is a hero is someone who does (or is) something that another person sees as virtuous in some way. If that's the case, is a "hero" obsolete? Is heroism possible?

Judging from the broad-based disbelief in "virtue" that permeates the fringes of our culture, I'd say what my OP states: The hero is a threatened species.
You must not be watching Heroes on ABC TV. I wouldn't miss it for the world.
 

Arglebargle

Senior member
Dec 2, 2006
892
1
81
Hmn, Cowboy.

Now on the positive side I see 'Cowboy up', which means to sorta suck it up and deal with the difficulties in a solid manner.

"C'mon cowboyboy up; we've got to fix up this mess"

and also, cowboyed or cowboying something, as in in rushing wildly in like a group of cowboys coming off a cattle drive, shooting up the place wildly, etc.

"The group cowboyed the mission, without much planning."

Cowboys certainly became Icons of a sort in the stories Americans told about themselves. Generally the further you are away from them, the more idealized they get. Don't have a particular issue with the icons, usually just the ways they get used.
 

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