I'm going to read everything you've written! My experiences reflect yours, that academics, politicians, business, religious institutions-NONE are understanding how fundamentally "developing world" the U.S. actually is as a whole. Nor are they seeing the connections you saw and continue to develop and describe. I have seen them, too, only from the BOTTOM of the culture, where scarcity (what you call poverty) manufactures mass suffering and facilitates the annihilation of human relational health.

Those scarcity conditions create humans whose relational patterns poison the social soil--they orient to fellow humans as competitors with whom they are in competition for scarce resources or power, and the resultant relational patterns reflect that dankly adversarial orientation. Toxic social soil destroys trust, vulnerability, creativity, hope, and possibilities--all present in healthy democratic cultures. Healthy social soil is necessary for state-level democratic processes and systems also to be healthy. After all, those processes and systems are used by human beings, and if the humans are relationally toxic, they poison the processes and systems. Then, processes and systems kill the vulnerable humans, and, well, here we are now in 'Merica.

Scarcity conditions also make it nearly impossible for humans to participate in state-level democratic processes--the brutality of scarcity beats out of them any desire or interest in participating. Scarcity undermines democracy (power-sharing) at its heart: it chains the agency necessary to participate, to choose, and to dissent. Without citizens who can exercise their agency, state-level democracy dies.

At the same time, those humans living in scarcity conditions are vulnerable to exploitation and oppression: they are easy prey for authoritarian (power-stealing) relational practices. When those begin to outpace and outnumber relationally democratic practices, the culture shifts at the relational level from democratic oriented humans (those who share power) to authoritarian oriented humans (those who steal and hoard it).

(My 3.5 years' ethnographic work in closed white rural U.S. conservative cultures reflects your thesis about poverty, except that my focus is on scarcity--of resources, of power, etc.--and its primary role in the development of *relationally* authoritarian norms in the white U.S. rural cultures that support the 45th. So many connections to your work. So happy to find you!)

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A San Francisco independent researcher, creative, and cultural worker. Content developer for The Relational Democracy Project. (relationaldemocracy@gmail.com)

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