Multimedia – The Problem/Diagnosis: The Mainstream Culture’s Predominant Values

Radical Decency premises the following:

1. Our world is dominated by indecent values – competing and winning; domination and control;

2. These values have created engrained habits of living that fail to support us in being decent to our selves – or to others – or to the world;

3. Overcoming these habitual, mainstream ways of operating is our major challenge in creating a more decent life and world.

These materials discuss the ways on which this phenomenon unfolds: As Individuals (in our private lives); In Politics; In Business.

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Brown, Brene, The Price of Invulnerability (Oct. 2010) (video, 16 minutes), available on the web through TED, Ideas Worth Spreading
(describes our culture-driven striving for invulnerability and its price; gratitude, appreciation of the ordinary, and joy as the antidote)

Reflection 8: Why We Aren’t Good Students, Why It Matters
(the culture’s emphasis on competing and winning short-circuits study of, and reflection on, life’s big issues: Who we are, how the structure of the world affects us, what is means to live well)

Reflection 14: Dying and Our Epidemic of Immortality
(we avoid the reality of death; giving away our accumulated wisdom is a more generative and satisfying approach to aging and dying)

Reflection 16: Mainstream Thinking and the Tyranny of Opinion and Judgment
(opinion and judgment have supplanted dialogue and reflection; a process that is reinforced when we uncritically assume the best about “us,” look for single causes, and too readily assume that our own thoughts and feelings are true)

Reflection 22: Consumerism and the Decline of Intimacy and Community
(the culture’s consumer mindset promotes a passivity that deeply infects our relationships and politics, and has led to a massive decline in communal activity)

Reflection 25: The Vise of Money
(money is the mainstream culture’s measure of success; its effect on our lives is vise-like; the importance of lifting the veil of silence around money so we can move toward a more healthy relationship with it)

Reflection 31: Perfectionism
(“we can do anything, it we try hard enough” — perfectionism — is deeply embedded in our culture; it obscures systemic causes and promotes self-blame; inherently unattainable, perfectionism is a major cause of our epidemic of anxiety and depression)

Reflection 58: Humor, Reason, and the Disease That Ails Us
(culture’s mainstream values infiltrate virtually every area of living; for example, humor too easily becomes an unacknowledged expression of anger, reason an instrument of bullying and abuse)



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Katherine Boo, Shelter and the Storm: Katrina’s Victim’s Come to Town, The New Yorker, Nov. 28, 2005 (article)
(story of one shelter, in one community; illustrating how our confused values short-circuit relief efforts)

Brooks, David, Possum Republicans, New York Times, February 27, 2012 (article)
(describes a 50 year dynamic by which moderate Republican, by placating “politics of protest” conservatives, have been marginalized)

Noam Chomsky, The State-Corporate Complex (October 28, 2011) (video, 55 minutes ), available on the web through Big Ideas

Davidson, Adam and Joffe-Walt, Chana, 10,000 Brainiacs (May 21, 2010) (podcast, 25 minutes), Act One of Island Time, Episode 408 of This Amerian Life
(Case study, from Haiti, about efforts to provide crates for Mangoes; illustrates the complexities that so often defeat efforts to improve living conditions)

Diamond, Jared, Why Societies Collapse (video, 20 minutes), available on the web through TED, Ideas Worth Spreading.
(Searing analysis of what brings about environmental collapse, predicting a window of decades for our society absent good choices)

Gabel, Peter, “Yes, We Can”?, Tikkun Magazine, Nov. 16, 2010 (article)
(describes the importance of community in creating a meaningful political movement; its absence in the Obama 2008 election campaign)

Haidt, Jonathan, The Real Difference Between Liberals and Cons (Sept. 18, 2008) (video, 19 minutes), available on the web through TED, Ideas Worth Spreading.
(distinguishing between liberals and conservatives based on their affinity for our different aspects of our instinctive human morality)

Langewiesche, William, City of Fear, Vanity Fair, April 2007 (article)
(using as his example the chilling story of a prisoner led organization’s massive influence in the slums of Sao Paulo, the author describe the exponential growth, in today’s world, of “feral zones”; areas, even whole countries where civil authority myth)

Daniel Quinn, Where We Went Wrong (Oct. 7, 2007) (video, 10 minutes), available on YouTube
(describing the shift from hunter-gatherers to a species in which the food supply is controlled by an elite; the inequities to which it has led; and the species threatening imbalances it has caused)

Vistica, Gregory, One Awful Night in Thanh Phong, New York Times Magazine, April 21, 2001 (article)
Anonymous, The War in Chechnya: Diary of a Killer, The Velvet Rocket, reprinted from The Times of London, Oct 31, 2010 (article)
(different generations, different wars, same story; when people are armed to the teeth and given permission to kill; and the mainstream culture refuses to connect the dots)

Reflection 2: Why Republicans Win
(the Republican worldview more perfectly reflects our cultural addiction to fight/flight states, a trend that began 10,000 years ago and — due to massive technological transformations — has greatly accelerated in the last 200 years)

Reflection 20: Social Justice – The Third Rail of Radical Decency
(the culture condones neglect of “decency to the world,” but Radical Decency requires its whole-hearted embrace; describes specific cultural, psychological and neurobiological realities that make this process very challenging)

Reflections 49: Politics – System Analysis, Values Solution
(the mainstream culture’s systemic interest in maintaining consumer spending — without increasing wages — explains many of the most important public policy shifts in the last 40 years, including the exponential increase of women in the workplace, the growth in credit card use, and the nationalization and securitization of the mortgage market)

Reflection 60: The (Not So) Mysterious Absence of Public Role Models
(we reflexively tear down leaders and exalt “winning” over “decency” in choosing role models; when a rare transformational leader survives this process — Jesus, Martin Luther King — the culture rewrites his or her the story to progressively extinguish its radical message)


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Blumberg, Alex, Eat My Shorts (Apr. 9, 2010) (podcast, 40 minutes), Episode 405, from This American Life
(dealing with manipulations behind the housing meltdown of 2008; describing “bets” that financial institutions made against the very mortgages they were promoting)

Duhigg, Charles, How Companies Learn Your Secrets, in New York Times Magazine (February 16, 2012) (article)
(excellent example of how companies learn details of your life, manipulate your choices, and hide the process from you)

Reflection 34: Triumphal Business and the Demise of Checks and Balances
(describing the exponential expansion of business’ power over the last 200 years and the consequences of our failure to adjust our system of checks and balances to limit that power)

Reflection 42: It’s Not As Bad As You Think — It’s Worse
(detailing the depth of the greed and amorality that fueled the subprime mortgage collapse of 2008 and the mechanisms used to exploit homeowners and defraud investors)