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Related Words, Beliefs, Background

Worldview Theme #36A: Cynicism   Worldview Theme #36B: Conspiracism 
Contrast Worldview Themes #36A and #21A --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!            

Contrast Worldview Themes #36A and #16 --    these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!            

Contrast Worldview Themes #36A and #1A --    these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!     

Contrast Worldview Themes #36A and #10 --    these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!     

alienated--estranged, the opposite of belonging

altruism -- putting the interests, welfare, happiness, and perhaps even survival of other people or living things above one’s own interests, etc. This devotion often involves self sacrifice. In an extreme case it can even mean giving up one’s own life so that another can live.

American exceptionalism--the belief held by many Americans and repeatedly promoted by its leaders, that the United States is a special nation--superior to others because of its unique heritage.  Many Americans have historically added a religious dimension to this: "It is our manifest destiny," "God is on our side," "We are God's shining city on a hill," etc. With this belief comes what some describe as a duty: to serve as an example or beacon for other nations to follow. Others see it (sometimes arrogantly) as a right. As Howard Zinn describes it, the latter believe that "the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary."

behaviorism -- a branch of psychology that restricts itself to considering objective, measurable behavior and modeling it in terms of stimulus and response. Radical behaviorists steer clear of involving introspection, subjective mental states, conscious volition and free will in their explanations of human behavior. Critics charge that they view human beings as unfeeling automatisms.

conscience--a sense of 1) what is morally / ethically right or wrong, and 2) which actions a) will produce more pleasure and happiness vs. more pain and suffering, b) will be praised vs. blamed, c)  potentially promise benefits vs. involve risks and potential liabilities.  When conscientious behavior and actual behavior diverge, guilt and feelings of remorse can result. H.L. Mencken referred to it as "the inner voice that tells us that somebody might be watching." Some connect conscience with religion: it has been termed "God's voice."  Others make no such connection.

cultural pessimism --shaped by discouraging 20th century developments--political, historical, military, socioeconomic, and environmental--some scholars and critics lament human nature and that the best days of civilization appear to be in the past.  Some with this grim outlook look back historically to a time when people supposedly lived in peace with each other and their environment (the so-called Noble Savage notion).

egoism -- the belief that individual self interest is the basis for all human behavior and that this is how it ought to be

egocentric -- the selfish, self-centered viewpoint that narrowly limits a person’s outlook to focus on his or her own feelings, needs, concerns, problems and activities

existentialism -- a philosophical orientation that emphasizes individual choice, decision-making , and responsibility -- including the responsibility to put meaning into a seemingly irrational world that has no discernible purpose.  Existentialist thinking is much concerned with the human condition. One can distinguish between "atheistic existentialism" and "theistic existentialism"--the former having no room for God, the latter perhaps realizing, in the words of Christian author James Sire, "whether or not God exists is a tough question to be solved not by reason but by faith."

extinction -- refers to a biological species ceasing to exist, either because it disappears (perhaps relatively quickly) or slowly evolves into something else. Species can disappear very abruptly in mass extinctions caused by asteroids or comets impacting Earth, or relatively quickly (given that the typical lifetime of past species might be three to five million years) due to negative effects of human activity on the biosphere.

genocide -- the deliberate, systematic mass slaughter of an ethnic, political or cultural group. 20th century examples of genocide include the Nazi perpetrated slaughter of Jews during World War II, and slaughters in Armenia, Cambodia and Rwanda.

grabber -- a derogatory term to be associated with those who succeed wildly in their search for wealth and power (sometimes through ethically questionable means) and, instead of using what they’ve won to help those in need or to make the world a better place, excessively indulge, waste and revel in luxury. It has been charged that their real religion is based on “a gospel of their own wealth”.

greed -- a dictionary definition is "excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness".  Brian Cruver, author of Anatomy of Greed (a book about Enron), argues that greed should be "defined by means, not the end" and adds "It's the behavior that should be tested for excessiveness." He goes on to connect "greedy" with "someone who lies, cheats, and steals in the name of possessing more than they need or even deserve." 

"Greed is Good"--one of several notable quotes from the character Gordon Gekko, a cutthroat businessman and corporate raider in the 1987 movie Wall Street

Hobbesian view of human nature -- According to 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, human beings were selfish, aggressive, fiercely competitive, highly acquisitive creatures who were incapable of self restraint. With this dim view of human nature, he felt that the authoritarian state offered the only way to keep human beings from killing each other in constant warfare and destroying civilization.

human exceptionalism--the belief that humans are special and stand apart from the rest of nature and the universe.  Some claim this for religious reasons --believing God created man to have dominion over nature--others cite humans' extraordinary brains and aptitudes to buttress their contention. 

Law of the Jungle / Tooth and Claw Ethics --both of these date to the late nineteenth century, the former was made famous by "Darwin's bulldog" Thomas Huxley, one of the founders of evolutionary ethics, the latter by Rudyard Kipling (perhaps influenced by the Social Darwinist currents of the time) in The Jungle Book   Earlier in that century, British poet Tennyson had characterized nature as "red in tooth and claw".  The Law of the Jungle is basically "kill or be killed".

laughter and worldviews--laughter results when we find pleasure or amusement in something, or reason to scorn / deride it.  Many have probed deeper into its origin.  Freud viewed laughter as a release of psychic energy that had been mistakenly bound up by false expectations. There is general agreement that laughter can result when some incongruity or incompatibility--a gap between our expectations and the reality we actually encounter-- suddenly becomes evident. Why?  Discovering this gap suggests our worldview is lacking--a potentially disturbing realization that can make us feel that we don't understand the terrain and aren't in control like we thought.  Our mental state has been perturbed, and in the worst case physically we may be in danger as well!   Assuming the latter isn't the case, sometimes we can do something: make mental adjustments to restore our mental state to a more tranquil one.  But other times our discovery is overwhelming: no mental adjustments are possible. Rather than accept the pain, we laugh!  

machiavellian -- an approach to getting what you want summed up in the famous quote, “The end justifies the means”. Specifically, the desired end is increasing power and control. The opportunistic means employed to achieve this are whatever it takes, including deception, deviousness, duplicity, and cunning manipulation of others.

noble savage view of human nature -- the belief that people, if they lived in a natural state away from the corrupting influence of social institutions, are fundamentally peaceful, co-operative, and altruistically concerned with each other’s well being -- not aggressively greedy, acquisitive, competitive and merely out to advance their own self interest. This view was popularized by 18th century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau.

original sin --while the concept that  something is wrong or out of order in human existence is found in most religions, the idea of original sin appears to be a uniquely  Christian belief.  That tradition teaches that all people are saddled with this type of sin at birth due to the sinful choice made by Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Such sin is to distinguished from actual sins that people may or may not commit during their lifetimes.

Postmodernism -- an intellectual and artistic movement based on the belief that the modern historical period, one built on reason, the reality of objective truth, and an attitude of hopeful progressivism with respect to the human condition, has passed. Postmodernism questions whether these ideals and others still have meaning.  Countering the belief, which dates from the 18th century Enlightenment period, that humans are capable of knowing everything, postmodernists argue that they really know nothing--arguing that the reality humans have constructed is a state of mind contingent upon particular cultural conditions, historical accidents, etc and lacking in objective existence.  They deny the existence of universal truth, promote the common good, tolerance, and a cultural relativism in which different societies' truths, beliefs, values and morals are equally good.  Some link postmodernist cynicism with the steadily increasing grip that media conglomerates and multinational led forces of globalization have on the world.

practice what you preach -- a proverbial admonition that urges you to do yourself what you advise others to do, or more generally to behave according to your otherwise enunciated beliefs and values.  If the gulf between the reality of your behavior and your ideals is great then you may be criticized (by yourself or others) for being a hypocrite, and  your self esteem and / or effectiveness at motivating others may suffer. 

prisoners of consumerism -- a derogatory term referring to those who have unthinkingly succumbed to the all pervasive advertising messages of multinational corporations and adopted a consumerist lifestyle based on wanting, valuing, and continually spending money on things that they don’t really need.

religion, social function of -- according to Michael Shermer, in his book The Science of Good and Evil, religion is “a social institution that evolved as an integral mechanism of human culture to encourage altruism and reciprocal altruism, to discourage selfishness and greed, and to reveal the level of commitment to co-operate and reciprocate among members of the community.”

selfish genes -- a term from Richard Dawkins. Whereas human bodies tend to be rather short-lived, in comparison combinations of human genes passed on from generation to generation can be around a very long time. While genes are associated with heredity, they can also be thought of as an instruction set. Most basically they provide instructions for assembling proteins, but in so doing they govern a great deal of the overall development and function of the organism. Thus, human behavior is shaped to some extent by genes. Dawkins imagines genes giving the following instructions to the body they reside in: “do whatever you think best to keep us alive”. While this is a seemingly selfish orientation, it could explain altruistic behavior within a family of genetically related individuals. Thus when a father or brother sacrifices himself so that a son or sister can live, in either case the “selfish genes” are kept alive.

shopping as a religion--various books, including Coming of Age in the Global Village and The Sacred Santa: Religious Dimensions of Consumer Culture by Dell deChant, have argued that consumerism is a culture which increasingly meets or replaces religious needs of affluent Western shoppers.  The Christmas holiday season--and the parallels between religious and consumerist aspects--is typically a key part of such arguments.

slavery--describes the status of certain people who have been stripped of the basic human right of freedom of movement, denied certain liberties, and are sometimes subjected to degrading and / or exhausting work.  In being held against their will, they are typically considered (by their captors) to be the property of other individuals.  While many western governments outlawed the institution in the nineteenth century, it continues both within and outside the law throughout the world.  By some estimates, worldwide millions of people (mostly children) live in conditions that essentially represent slavery. 

Social Darwinism -- the application of Darwinian principles (natural selection, survival of the fittest, etc) to social practices as a natural defense of entrepreneurial capitalism

torture -- severe pain is inflicted on someone in an effort to intimidate, get information from, revenge some past wrong, punish, deter, or simply to be cruel and sadistic. 

trickster, the--from the folklore and mythology of various diverse cultural traditions, the trickster is a spirit or figure who is typically linked with disorder, mischief, and chaos.  Ancient Europeans have linked the trickster with gods like Prometheus, Hermes, and Dionysus, while Native Americans have connected him with foxes, ravens, coyotes, etc. For this latter group tricksters were often clowns who made them laugh--something they deemed a prerequisite before they could properly commune with what they considered sacred.  In general, tricksters have been associated with bringing change--sometimes initially disruptive, painful and unwanted, but ultimately a positive cultural development.  Modern analysts of the civil rights movement in 20th century America have interpreted Rosa Parks' 1955 refusal to give up her seat at the front of the Montgomery bus as a trickster tale.   

vendetta or blood feud  a feud in which the relatives of someone who has been killed or wronged enact vengeance by killing or hurting those deemed responsible for the initial wrong or their relatives. Such acts are often part of a retaliatory cycle of violence.  Such vendettas continue where family bonds are strong and the rule of law weak.

war and ethnocentrism -- According to E. O. Wilson, “War can be defined as the violent rupture of the intricate and powerful fabric of territorial taboos observed by social groups. The force behind most warlike policies is ethnocentrism, the irrationally exaggerated allegiance of individuals to their kin and fellow tribesmen.”


  anti-corporate movement--beginning over a century ago, this movement spurted during the 1960s / 70s, slackened, then caught fire in the last two decades--driven by concerns over globalization,.  In his 2007 book, The Rise of the Anti-Corporate Movement, Evan Osborne referred to it as "increasingly influential in politics in the United States and Europe".  Believing that multi-national corporations aim to control the world and maximize their profits in doing so, anti-corporate activists seek to rein in corporate power--although they differ in their prescriptions for doing this. Some defenders of these engines for economic growth, jobs, technological innovations, etc. charge that some critics are naive and caught up in anti-corporate conspiracism.  Osborne is troubled by how "activists ignore the idea that politics is a messy compromise among all sides and slide into the belief in one all-powerful faction pulling the strings." In critiquing such books as the 2001 bestseller When Corporations Rule the World, by David Korten, he disputes the notion that corporate power is "a coherent sinister force. "

collusion -- a secret agreement between businesses or firms that sets price and output in a way that decreases competition and increases profits

conspiracism--the belief that increasingly the human experience is shaped by evildoers who often  band together and work behind the scenes to carry out plots that subvert the will of the people and hurt society. Typically, but not always, particular charges made by conspiracists turn out to be short on facts or logic, and long on simplistically placing blame on scapegoats / convenient targets.

corporate crime–corporations and/or their employees break laws and use their power to ruin lives, endanger public safety, or pollute the environment in their quest for profits.  Its negative impact on US society is great.  Russell Mokhiber, founder of the Corporate Crime Reporter, writes "The losses from a handful of major corporate frauds–Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom, Enron –swamp the losses from all street robberies and burglaries combined.  Health care fraud alone costs Americans $100 billion to $400 billion a year.  The savings and loan fraud...cost us anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion..." Of political campaign contri- butions & lobbyists, Mokhiber writes, "Corporate criminals are the only criminal class in the United States that have the power to define the laws under which they live." 2009 brought news of Bernie Madoff's corrupt investment firmthought to have ripped off $50 to $65 billion, and concerns about ripoff of government furnished bank bailout funds.  

corporate state -- a term used by those who believe that government and large corporations are run by the same people and are so intermeshed that corporate goals and policy and government goals and policy are essentially the same

dividing people, tactics used to do this -- those who fear the collective strength of people who have organized and united to form a group, often seek to exploit differences within the group and destroy its populist mission. Differences exploited often include race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class -- but fracturing can occur along many potential fault lines if outsiders are working to encourage it. After the fracturing, people who previously fully embraced populism may have moved away from it (to some extent) and toward individualism, and blame, dissension, finger-pointing, lack of trust, etc. may exist where previously they didn’t.

folklore -- the body of customs, stories, sayings, jokes, games, legends, oral history, myths, superstitions, etc that relate to the life and spirit of a particular population or group and make up the oral tradition of that culture.

lobbyist--a person paid to act on behalf of a particular corporation, union, organization, etc. in aggressively promoting their agenda to elected representatives or those in positions of power in governments.  In some democracies, (like the United States), lobbyists help funnel campaign contributions to politicians--which often subvert the will of the people critics charge. 

monopoly -- a situation in a market economy when but a single seller exists for a commodity that has no realistic substitute

paranoia -- in mild form it is characterized by excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrust of others; in more demented, severe psychological disorder form it also involves delusions -- of jealousy, of either persecution or grandeur.

power elite, the -- refers to the class of people in positions of power in the corporate state. The term was first used in the 1950s as the title of a leftist assessment of who runs America (a book by C. Wright Mills).

propaganda -- broadly speaking, information that is designed and disseminated as part of a concerted effort to influence what individuals believe or want, and manipulate public opinion and desires.

pseudoscience and conspiracism--in explaining why their hypotheses, theories, inventions or supporting data behind them are not accepted by the scientific community, pseudoscientists have been known to allege that others (scientists, corporate or government officials, etc)  have engaged in conspiracies to suppress them.   

pusher -- a derogatory term referring to someone who consciously makes an effort to hook someone on an addictive product or behavior -- including a consumerist lifestyle. With respect to this latter possibility, one can argue that the most massive pusher effort in history involves the nearly impossible to escape advertising messages of multinational corporations trying to hook individuals on wanting and continually spending money on things that they don’t really need.

world government--for some this means that all people would live under the political authority of a single, centralized unified government. National boundaries and national sovereignty would no longer exist. For others it refers to a political body that would limit its scope to making, interpreting, and enforcing international law. Albert Einstein supported the former; some argue that, with the United Nations, International Criminal Court, and other international organizations, we already have the beginnings of the latter.  The so-called "New World Order" refers to a particular world government that some conspiracy theorists claim will be ushered in when the hidden agenda of a powerful and secretive few is carried out.

xenophobia -- a fear of foreigners or strangers



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