Home Media: Reflections Glossary




Civil society: a culture that sets a high threshold for the expression of violence, and systematically substitutes a discourse of fairness for violence in dispute settlement. Civil societies extend rights and privileges far beyond the elite, and women obviously do better in a world where discourse, not violence, determines social outcomes.

Cognitive Egocentrism (CE): the projection of one’s own mentality or “way of seeing the world” onto others, e.g., the teenager who is obsessed with sex, and assumes the same about everyone else.
Liberal CE (LCE): the projection of good faith and fair-mindedness onto everyone else, the assumption that other share the same values, that everyone prefers positive sum interactions. In a slightly more redemptive mode, LCE holds that all people are good, and if only we treat them right, they will respond well. This is a form of empathy that, like MOS, robs the “other” of his or her own beliefs and attitudes, and projects onto rather than detects what the “other” feels.

Domineering CE (DCE): the projection of bad faith onto the other, the assumption that everyone abuses power, that one must rule or be ruled. In deep-seated cases, DCE cannot even perceive the possibility of a positive-sum game: whatever the “other” does, no matter how generous it may seem, is a trap, a covert act of hostility in which the other is really jockeying for superior position in a zero-sum game.

Moebius Strip of CE: a dysfunctional relationship between demopaths and their dupes, found in developed modern civil societies between the domineering EC, using civic values to advance their cause (demopaths), and those eager to believe anything civil these people might say (dupes). Under current circumstances, where most liberals cannot even detect the existence of their own LEC or the DEC of others, this dysfunctional relationship works radically to the advantage of the demopaths. Europe may fall to this dysfunctional dynamic.
Demopaths: people who use democratic language and invoke the values of civil society only when it serves their advantage in demanding restraint from their opponents so that they can undermine those very rights. They themselves show few signs of commitment to these values when it calls for restraint or self-correction on their part, engaging in demonizing stereotypes.

Dupes of demopaths: people who take demopaths at face value and accept their position and accuse those who suspect demopathy of demonizing, essentializing, prejudice, racism. Durban’s UN Conference on Racism, August 2001 was a festival of demopaths and their dupes.

Game theory: All games take place on two levels, one, material gain or loss, and one psychological perception of having won or lost. In honor-shame cultures, the external perception of others as to the outcome of the interaction plays a much stronger role than “rational” concerns about material gain and loss which, in principle, governs modern behavior (rational choice theory).
Zero-Sum games: games in which one side wins and the other loses. Hard zero-sum insists that only when the other loses can one win. Hard zero sum reflects an emotional demand that, in order to be satisfying, a victory can only be savored when the defeated one knows himself defeated. One makes oneself bigger by making another smaller. All sports and gambling games are zero-sum. War and raiding are zero-sum. The dominating imperative: “rule or be ruled” takes zero-sum relations at a political level as axiomatic. I must dominate lest you do the same.

Positive-Sum games: games in which both sides win. Closed zero-sum guarantees a greater victory for one party, but both win (noblesse oblige). Open ended starts from basic equity and leaves to unforeseen future developments the outcome of the relationship. Both may win, some more than others. Some commercial agreements, most successful marriages are open-ended positive-sum relations. The enlightenment’s “rational man”, from Smith’s economic chooser to Robespierre’s virtuous citizen, was someone committed to positive-sum relations, which made sense for everyone involved.

Negative-Sum games: games in which both sides lose. This seems the height of irrationality to positive-sum players, but it proves a surprisingly durable choice of game-players. The self-destructive element in conjunction with aggression often derives from losing a hard zero-sum game and not accepting an offer to switch to positive-sum. As the joke runs, a genie offers a peasant one wish, but whatever he choses, his neighbor will get double. “Poke out one of my eyes,” he responds.
Honor-shame culture: a culture in which it is not only legitimate, but expected, even required, to shed another person’s blood for the sake of one’s own honor. Characteristically these cultures have self-help justice, and often show great concern with excluding women from public space (feud, vendetta, blood vengeance, honor killings). In honor-shame culture, the primary motivation to behave well is from what others think; if one can do something that no one sees, internal restraints on illicit behavior are minimal.

Human Rights Complex (HRC): If you want to know what exercises the human rights community today, don’t ask who the victims are, nor how badly they suffer, but who the victimizers are. If the culprit is white, the indignation knows no bounds; if they are people of color, HRCers look the other way.

Propaganda: presenting information, sometimes false or inaccurate, in order to manipulate opinion towards a position which, were the audience better informed, and exposed to a fuller range of data, they would not accept. At best propaganda does not lie, except by omission. At worst, it lies and hides information intentionally.

Public sphere: the arena in which discussion of matters deemed of public interest take place. In modern civil societies, the public sphere is supported by sophisticated means of mass communications, and their proper functioning in informing the public in an accurate and timely fashion, as well as allowing responsible voices of many opinions to articulate those before the public serve as a major pillar to civil society and democracy.

Self-criticism: the ability to both generate one’s own criticism of self and to hear the criticism of others. The ability to admit fault forms another of the pillars of civil society. Freedom of the press is meant, above all, to permit those not in power to criticize those in power without being punished. Self criticism, however, is at once difficult and liberating, and understanding the difference between those who too readily embrace self-criticism from those who stop at nothing to avoid it, represents a critical skill in reading discourse in the public sphere. Most positive-sum interactions are sustained by self-critical attitudes; zero-sum interactions are sustained by refusal to self-criticize and its accompanying finger-pointing unto demonization.
Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome (MOS): a form or pathological self-criticism that essentially holds that “everything is my (our) fault, and if we could only do/be better, we could fix anything.” This is a form of messianic aspiration and moral perfectionism that, however admirable at one level, robs the “other” of all agency, and avoids a genuine relationship and the natural “messiness” of human life. It can become a pathological form of self-criticism that renders people easy marks for demopaths.
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