The Byrne Report
By Peter Byrne
On July 1, my son Miles and I were at the Sonoma County dump throwing away our only television. It had been sitting, unused, in a closet, since Miles was born five years ago, because television-watching retards the emergence of empathy and intellect. Miles intelligently gravitated to the dump store where he found a brass pot! And simultaneously browsing through junked paperbacks, I spotted one of my favorite novels, The Omen by David Seltzer.
Randomly opening The Omen, which is about the childhood of the Antichrist, Damien Thorn, I read: "Now democracy was fading . . . from Laos to Lebanon, brother had turned against brother, fathers against children; school buses and marketplaces exploded daily . . . coupled with worldwide famine and the disintegration of international economic structure. . . . The Devil's child will arise from the world of politics." More timely than ever, that Omen, thought I.
When The Omen first appeared 1976, innocent readers did not know that a nonmetaphorical Damien, born to a wealthy ruling class American family, was already being groomed to become a powerful avatar at the dawn of the new millennium.
Rising from the world of politics, this real-life spawn of Satan was trained in the use of hellish powers to foment environmental havoc, war without end, torture, famine, infanticide and superprofits for corporate covens.
That evening, The Omen tucked into back pocket, I trundled over to Toby's Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station to hear a presentation by political linguist and evolutionary psychologist George Lakoff. The event benefited Mainstreet Moms, a woman-run voting rights organization. Several hundred folks filled the barn to capacity, hanging on to Lakoff's words, hoping for guidance in these troubled times. And he is definitely worth listening to: with humor and logic, he dissected the psycho-linguistic methods used to hypnotize television-staring Americans into smiling upon the phony War on Global Terror, the suspension of the Constitution, the reversal of the historic Supreme Court decision in 1954 that desegregated public schools, and the hollowing out of the domestic economy by weapons merchants.
"Every time you curse Bush's name, it is because he has accomplished what he wanted to get done. He is unbelievably competent," Lakoff observed.
Lakoff runs the Rockridge Institute in Berkeley, a progressive think tank dedicated to reframing public debate. He has authored many readable books, including the 2004 political classic Don't Think of An Elephant!, in which he explained that there are two basic types of family structures, authoritarian or nurturing. The authoritarian family is patriarchal, disciplinary and necrotic, while the other is empathetic, empowering and viable. We each have elements of these duel family values imprinted upon our brains; this results in a schizophrenic political culture. But evolution favors the nurturing culture over the fear-crazed, wounding culture, Lakoff asserts.
Contrary to the false doctrine that human beings and our social systems are successfully governed by the actions of rational, self-interested individuals and groups, the quality of empathy is, in reality, the foundation of our biological success, Lakoff says. It is hardwired by evolution into the brain and it is pleasurable.
Empathy explains the successful evolution of human societies more efficiently, Lakoff asserts, than does the "survival of the fittest" cliché. Species (and nations) do not so much compete against each other as they adapt themselves into environmental niches. Based on Darwin's true analysis of branching speciation, evolutionary biology shows us that our unconsciously experienced but constantly computing neural networks are more interested in motivating cooperative and peaceful solutions to problems than in promoting capitalist competition and imperialist wars. Our 21st-century technologies are not being put to best use because the militarized socioeconomic system that developed these technologies does not recognize altruism as a progressive force in human development—quite the opposite.
Lakoff's forte is explaining how politically loaded words such as "freedom," "democracy" and "environment" can be manipulated to mean one thing to "nurturing" liberals and something else entirely to "authoritarian" conservatives. This is a bit simplistic and begs the question of class struggle, but Lakoff is correct that we need to rescue our gestalt from the capitalist psych-machine so it can support humane, not military, adventures. He urges the Democratic Party not to continue its god-awful pandering to demonic Pentagonism, but to reframe the public debate in order to stimulate specific areas of the brain in conservatives that can chemically induce empathy and, consequently, enhance the possibility that the needs of all people will eventually subsume the extraordinarily limited agendas of political parties and religions.
Personally, I am not going to count on Satan's handmaiden, the Democratic Party, to save us from President Damien the Second. I fear that a lasting exorcism will require stronger medicine. When dealing with the Antichrist, stern measures are warranted. Let's start with impeachment.