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The Big Answer


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The Wilding of America: how greed and violence are eroding our nation's character

a book by Charles Derber

(our site's book review)

Greed and Violence Are Eroding Our Nation's Character

The Amazon blurb says that The American Dream champions individualism. But at what price? In this timely revision of The Wilding of America, Charles Derber chronicles the latest incidents of "wilding" - extreme acts of self-interested violence and greed - that signal an eroding of the moral landscape of American society. Despite this ever-increasing emphasis on individualism in America, Derber offers a communitarian alternative that is as inspiring as it is instructive.

The war in Iraq—everything about it exemplifies how greed and violence are eroding our nation's character
The war in Iraq—everything about it exemplifies how greed and violence are eroding our nation's character

There are new sections on Enron, sex scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, and the war in Iraq. Each chapter of the new edition has been thoroughly revised. New discussions include: an analysis of global corporate power in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis including an in-depth look at factory workers in both Guatemala and South China; an examination of the state of New Orleans in 2009; and a look at the impact of the Obama administration on wilding behavior. In addition, two all new chapters have been added to the Fifth Edition. Chapter 5, Subprime Capitalism, examines the 2008 Wall street collapse including sections on the rise and fall of Bernie Madoff, the workings of the housing market, and the role of the media before and after the collapse. Chapter 9, The Tragedy of the Commons, identifies how wilding behavior threatens the building blocks of a good society. This chapter specifically examines the effects of wilding on our public space, social infrastructure, and natural environment.

Chapter 9 specifically examines the effects of wilding on our public space, social infrastructure, and natural environment
Chapter 9 specifically examines the effects of wilding on our public space, social infrastructure, and natural environment

American Win-Lose Hypercompetitive Parenting and Consumer Society Values Conspire to Get Us to Keep Up with the Jones at All Costs

"The tragedy in all of this is people are driven by the American dream to obsess over material items. To 'keep up with the Jones,' people will do anything. The fact that people will do anything to get to the top and stay at the top, leads many to call this mentality and behavior wilding (name one—besides you, Derber). Because the American dream has been exaggerated from new opportunities to better one's self to becoming wealthy and powerful at any cost, many believe the exaggerated version of the American dream is the only way to succeed. This kind of mindset creates the American tragedy because in the end, it turns normal people with simply motivation to improve one's self with a healthy amount of competition into wilders that will do anything, no matter the consequences, effects, or harm to others to achieve the American dream." (Source: Response to Chapter 2: "The Ultimate Wilders: Prisoners of the American Dream", Tyler Kirkpatrick)

Trump wants you to respect his authoritah
Trump wants you to respect his authoritah

Integrity Is a Value to Claim and Feign, But Not a Value to Practice

U.S. corporations’ attitudes also mirror the values and morals of society (or lack of same). It has been conditioned into these owners that wealth and power is the major goal in life and it does not matter how one gets this wealth and power—witness our election of morality-challenged Donald Trump. Our society values those in power, and especially those people with a great amount of wealth, and it disregards how the individuals got to that point, for the most part. Integrity is an obsolete operational value in the eyes of society. It's a value to claim and feign, but not a value to practice. The same goes for human rights and respecting regulations rather than using wealth to motivate politicians to build loopholes into bills or make special exceptions.

A we lens is critical to empowering community and respecting pollution laws, worker condition laws, and child labor laws, but sweatshops have a me lens and disrespect all these laws
A we lens is critical to empowering community and respecting pollution laws, worker condition laws, and child labor laws, but sweatshops have a me lens and disrespect all these laws

With U.S. Corporations, Everything Is Viewed Through a Me Lens, Never a We Lens

U.S. corporations that run sweatshops have an individualistic outlook on success. This outlook stems from an individualistic life philosophy where everything is viewed through a me lens, never a we lens. A we lens is critical to empowering community and respecting pollution laws, worker condition laws, and child labor laws. See Why Do We Need Communities?. When self-interest prevails, the corporation will do anything to maximize their profits, including union busting, polluting, violating laws covertly, or dehumanizing workers. Corporations also threaten to abandon a certain community unless the workers agree to work for lower wages or switch to temporary work or part-time or contract labor agreements.

When the me lens of the corporatocracy prevails, democracy takes it on the chin
When the me lens of the corporatocracy prevails, democracy takes it on the chin

Pressure on students in our nation’s schools is greater than it has even been. When pressure mounts, parents may encourage, condone, allow, or look the other way about questionable behaviors that in other circumstances they wouldn't normally endorse. Our society has placed this pressure on students to succeed and reach their full potential at any cost. This kind of pressure is also put on parents to get their children to succeed and advance up the ladder in pursuit of wealth. But there is a caveat: The ladder of class mobility has been rigged! See Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, the best book of the 21st century.

The ladder of class mobility has been rigged! The elites do not want competition or rivals, so the fix is in. Their strategy is to keep us out.
The ladder of class mobility has been rigged! The elites do not want competition or rivals, so the fix is in. Their strategy is to keep us out.

We Need to Make U.S. Corporations Accountable

Accountability is the missing ingredient here to ensure that these sweatshop practices and environmentally harmful practices and anti-union practices don't continue to take place. We can no longer let such mercenary corporations escape their social responsibilities by hiding behind globalism and using shareholder pressures as an excuse. If we were to hold these corporations truly accountable, says Derber, it would help to create a democratic model of globalization, centered on respect for human rights.

Democracy is an annoyance to corporations because following democratically generated regulations negatively affects the bottom line. The biggest oligarchs and corporations would prefer to bury democracy six feet under. We like to think that the oligarchs that run so much that happens in the U.S. are great supporters of democracy. But they aren't. Watch what they do and compare it to what they pretend. Democracy works great for all those that really care about the people of this country, not for the greedy opportunists who want corporate growth at any cost. The former are good citizens, the latter only put on the act of being good citizens—they exemplify wilding. They fight an undeclared war on democracy every day with their sociopathic capitalism.

Democracy is an annoyance to corporations because following democratically generated regulations negatively affects the bottom line. The biggest oligarchs and corporations would prefer to bury democracy six feet under.
Democracy is an annoyance to corporations because following democratically generated regulations negatively affects the bottom line. The biggest oligarchs and corporations would prefer to bury democracy six feet under.

Since wilding is a slang term refering to the practice of marauding in bands to terroize or rob strangers and to swagger and bully, it seems a bit of a stretch to connect this word or meaning to social, political, and corporate dysfunction. We suggest an alternate title involving lack of compassion or character or integrity or responsibility. Social wilding is defined as collective forms of selfishness that weaken society, or rampant individualism that weakens the social contract (the context of his book), but wilding itself has no such meaning. Darwinism isn't the same as social Darwinism, and services are not the same as social services. Derber makes great points, but unnecessarily mangles language to do it.


The Original Wilders

When a gang of teens attacked a jogger in New York's Central Park in 1989, the press dubbed the crime wilding. (See the real truth here: WHAT YOU WON'T READ IN THE PAPERS ABOUT THE 'CENTRAL PARK FIVE') With a fascinating twist of perspective, sociologist Derber maintains that the chilling anti-social mentality behind the offense is far more prevalent than people believe, and reveals startling links between criminal wilding on the street, emotional wilding in families, economic wilding on Wall Street, and political wilding in Washington. "The official religion of the free market increasingly sanctifies sociopathy," says Derber. He suggests that we must rebuild our cultural institutions such as schools, churches and families, and he calls for a social market that provides European-style benefits such as health care. This does not address the political reform that must come first. The "social market" idea rubs conservative neoliberalists' faces with their market worship, a religion which has led the U.S. as a country down a violent, greedy path, although it enriched elites, oligarchs, the 1%, while screwing the 99%.

The Central Park Five escaped getting their full sentences because a liberal mob used confessions of an additional rapist as a reason to clear the Five of all charges, even though they'd admitted they had done the crimes, says Ann Coulter, American conservative social and political commentator, writer, syndicated columnist, and lawyer. See WHAT YOU WON'T READ IN THE PAPERS ABOUT THE 'CENTRAL PARK FIVE' and Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America.

Market worship is a religion which has led the U.S. as a country down a violent, greedy path, although it enriched elites, oligarchs, the 1%, while screwing the 99%
Market worship is a religion which has led the U.S. as a country down a violent, greedy path, although it enriched elites, oligarchs, the 1%, while screwing the 99%


Thugs considering a bit of wilding
Thugs considering a bit of wilding

Constructing a Compassionate Society and a More Responsible Vision of the American Dream

In The Wilding of America, Derber examines such cases as O.J. Simpson, Tonya Harding, Susan Smith, Lyle and Erik Menendez, Michael Milken, the S & L and Orange County scandals, and such issues as corporate greed, screen violence, campus cheating and hazing, drug dealing, child abuse and spouse abuse, and the Newt Gingrich revolution. Americans can rethink individualism, and how they can construct a compassionate society and a more responsible vision of the American Dream. Social rights are not freebies in America, because with them come social responsibilities. This book will be preaching to the choir, of course, because the greedy 1% anti-democratic oligarchs think they already know everything which is why they are rich, so only a few of the 99% will read it.

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

Robert Putnam examines more than just the well-known and much discussed income gap, he analyzes the "opportunity gap," and sees how the haves get more as the have-nots get less. He reveals that the American dream of working hard to gain income and social status is broken for the have-nots. The predictable solutions he proposes are improving education quality and improving access to good public education (is that an oxymoron?) and providing a living wage. In other words, progressive taxation, which after studying the Trump Tax Plan/Scam, the liberals will be dying to rubber-stamp. See Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.

Derber says "To combat wilding in the global economy, it is essential that the US. govemment, a signatory of many of the UN human rights documents, move aggressively to support international means of enforcing social rights both abroad and at home.

To combat wilding in the global economy, it is essential that the US. govemment move aggressively to support human rights both abroad and at home
To combat wilding in the global economy, it is essential that the US. govemment move aggressively to support human rights both abroad and at home

Citizenship Is an Intimate Dance of Rights and Obligations

"Social rights are not a free ride for the population, for with them come demanding social obligations. Citizenship is an intimate dance of rights and obligations, and social citizens will need to enthusiastically embrace the moral obligations that come with their new entitlements. This means not only willingly paying the taxes required to keep civil society healthy, but also devoting time and effort to community building at work, in the neighborhood, and in the country at large.

"The problem with the left is that it demands rights without spelling out the obligations that have to accompany them; the problem with the right is that it expects obligations to be fulfilled without ceding social rights in return. Both positions are absurd because rights and obligations are flip sides of civil society's coin of the realm. We need a new politics that marries the left's moral passion for rights with the right’s sober recognition of duty."

Rights and obligations are flip sides of civil society's coin of the realm
Rights and obligations are flip sides of civil society's coin of the realm

Robert Reich examines the strategy of cocooning oneself in a suburban home equipped with all the latest security devices. He calls this the politics of secession that merely postpone the inevitable breakdown of society. Thinking me thoughts will not get the job done. It will require we thoughts. We need to build up community. And the best cure for wilding is lots of democracy. Of course since even the 6th edition of the book is published back in 2014, none of it deals with Donald Trump. His presidency is a test case for how to do the opposite of everything Derber advocates. He is undermining regulations, faith in science, democracy, government, and media. Can we really expect to build community and government 1% as fast as Trump can undermine it? His Make America Great Again mantra may end up being the greatest example of hypocrisy in the 21st century!

Cocooning is staying home for safety and security and avoiding the risks in the cruel world
Cocooning is staying home for safety and security and avoiding the risks in the cruel world

For the Ik of Uganda, There Is No We; Only Me; and the U.S. Is Approaching the Me-Only Life

The Ik people in the mountains of northeastern Uganda show just how far wilding can go. They cared about themselves as individuals, and pursued self survival and nothing else. No family or love or affection or relationships or community or cooperation. There is no we. Only me. The U.S. is approaching the me-only life—even the kids all staring at cell phones at family meals as if there was no family is very Ik-like. Ik have a total disregard for familial bonds, which leads to the death of children and the elderly by starvation. And they lie a lot, just like all politicians, some media talk show hosts, and Trump—Mr. Fake news.

Ik Village
The Ik people are an ethnic group numbering about 10,000 people living in the mountains of northeastern Uganda—they're the poster children for societal breakdown


Ik people
Ik people

Derber says Ik community reveals itself as a conglomeration of individuals, each going his own way, looking out for Number One as he scrabbles for food like a plague of locusts. Is this our future? Derber sees this "wilding" in politicians, business leaders, and even the general population since many families are just people who happen to live together for convenience. See Householders Living with Unrelated Adults.

Derber says Ik community reveals itself as a conglomeration of individuals, each going his own way, looking out for Number One as he scrabbles for food like a plague of locusts. Is this our future?
Derber says Ik community reveals itself as a conglomeration of individuals, each going his own way, looking out for Number One as he scrabbles for food like a plague of locusts. Is this our future?

Americans Have the Ik disease in Their Politics, Communities, and Corporatons, and Trump and the Kochs Are Increasing It

Americans have the Ik disease which Derber insists on naming wilding, and this disease is spreading through the political leadership, the business community, and the general population. If we fail to act now to reverse this pandemic, the situation may prove irreversible. But the stuff Derber wants us to do will be a hard sell to the citizens whose wilding disease has advanced to the critical stage.

Trump is the poster child for wilding. He has an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul. He cares about one thing—Donald Trump. He is good at acting—feigning patriotism, morality, spirituality, respect for women, respect for democracy and freedom. But what he actually does is to go through life taking anything he can and getting more money any way he can, often screwing others out of wages or the government out of taxes. He cannot bear criticism and for him the definition of fake news is anything that disagrees with him, and he lathers harsh criticism on anyone who sees things differently than he sees them—especially news people. He would shut down all the networks that are critical of him if he could. The First Amendment has no meaning for him. His own personal First Amendment is simple: "my way or the highway." Trump is a narcissistic demagogue who would gladly run the country as an authoritarian tyrant is we let him. Trump is wilding but so are the Republicans that are too timid to confront him. Wilding is individualistic behavior that is self-interested and that also harms others, such as most of the actions Trump has taken since taking office.

Trump is wilding but so are the Republicans that are too timid to confront him. Wilding is individualistic behavior that is self-interested and that also harms others, such as most of the actions Trump has taken since taking office
Trump is wilding but so are the Republicans that are too timid to confront him. Wilding is individualistic behavior that is self-interested and that also harms others, such as most of the actions Trump has taken since taking office


As the wisdom of the market is to conservatives, tax and spend is to liberals
As the wisdom of the market is to conservatives, tax and spend is to liberals

Charles Derber is a Professor of Sociology at Boston College. Of course, what else can a liberal Boston professor do but put more blind faith in social engineering, in spite of the poor track record of such social meddling? As the wisdom of the market is to conservatives, tax and spend is to liberals. And we see few parts of Derber's plans that do not require spending money we simply do not have. Of course, we'd all like to take it out of the bulging military budget. But try selling that to guys who insist on keeping Fear of Terrorists uppermost in our minds to support us standing behind their spending like there is no tomorrow, guys who, at the pinnacle of corporations, the military, and the state, redefine success itself as simply money and power, as the author phrases it.

The leaders of the wilding charge are guys who, at the pinnacle of corporations, the military, and the state, redefine success itself as simply money and power
The leaders of the wilding charge are guys who, at the pinnacle of corporations, the military, and the state, redefine success itself as simply money and power

Not only Trump but the Koch brothers are great examples of political wilding. They've spent decades undermining the government and its regulations and values. Most of all, they block democratic processes. They're the type of oligarchs who would bury democracy six feet under if given the chance. See Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right and Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America.