Fear of Equality

by Darryl Thomas

inequality

Part 1. Why People Fear Equality

I have just participated in an Internet dialogue on the PolicyMic site, where I occasionally leave comments that support ideas of equality and bullshit removal.

I had quite an interesting exchange with a defender of Capitalism that was fascinating. This person was adamant in his characterization and defense of Capitalism as a promoter of “freedom” and “liberty.” Through our exchange it became clear that he experienced a very strong reaction to the notion of Equality.

What kickstarted this whole shebang were three points made by Whole Food’s CEO, John Mackey that needed to be challenged:

“The problem is not that there is an unequal distribution of wealth in the world. The problem is that there is an unequal distribution of capitalism.”

“Business has been hated by the intellectuals and elites for all time.”

“Profits ultimately create all growth, capital, and prosperity … Profits are created    through voluntary exchange, not through the exploitation of people.” 

These are three curious statements that could only be made in complete ignorance of the historical record, or within an air – tight fantasy land where the dreams of Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises reside.

If we look closely at Point 1, the assertion that the problems facing the world stem from “unequal distribution of capitalism, ” what we see here is an exercise of dissembling, although we have no evidence that Mackey actually believes this. It’s more a slogan or a sound – bite and not a guiding principle, and it certainly does not reflect the reality of the economically oppressed and exploited. I’m sure that CEOs are more concerned looking at the world through broad and “big picture” lenses, but that only makes these guys incapable of describing reality as it exists. Their words should thus be considered with suspicion.

In Point 2, Mackey offers more of the same impulse for historical fantasilization. The statement that, “business has been hated by the intellectuals and elites,” is not based on any facts, and betrays the anti-intellectualism held by defenders of capitalism. This reflexive backlash comes from the fact that Capitalism, as Karl Marx in the 19th Century and the Critical Theorists in the 20th Century proved, cannot stand for long against any sustained intellectual analysis. “Business has been hated by intellectual and elites,” is a statement so monstrously at odds with common sense, that it seems the most silly and childish of charges anyone can make. One only has to take a brief inventory on the “intellectuals” and “elites” who thought Capitalism was a fantastic idea. But because Mackey leads a health food empire, people will be influenced by this kind of empty economic jingoism.

Point 3: “…Profits are created through voluntary exchange, not through the exploitation of people.”

Wow, what a whopper. Somebody get me Tim Cook or the sweatshop responsible for my Nike’s. “Voluntary exchange,” eh? Anybody who works for a living knows that they are a few paychecks away from having to beg on the streets. One either sells their labor to another in exchange for money, or one doesn’t eat. This notion that Capitalism is based on voluntary participation is a sweet – sounding mythology that’s been built up in layers of philosophical sediment over the past 400 years. This process is too deep to cover here, but it’s instructive to note that proponents for speak glowingly about Capitalism’s “voluntary exchange” are going to distort and mangle the definition out of context to support their perspective.

For those not interested in reading the (sometimes tedious and pedantic) thread in its entirety, this is what my comment said:

“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”
– Bertrand Russell

“Sweatshop workers “hoping for the best” isn’t part of the moral equation that Mackey is talking about, or is it? Mackey’s breezy, breathless oversimplifications for compassionate capitalism really is a paean for “compassionate consumptionism” without considering the anti-democratic forces that is the muscle behind unrestrained self-interest.”

This comment drew a response from Joshua Green, who said:

“The hatred implicit in your nihilistic statement is destructive Darryl, please turn from it and embrace that life can be beautiful. What Mackey and the rest of us are trying to explain is that capitalism provides creation of products of new services to build and enhance life for everyone. This means we reward builders and innovators for improving our way of life. Now not everyone can afford say the nicest I-Pad but the technology behind it and the service it provides improves our lives. For an example a restaurant nearby uses an I-Pad for its register saving them money/space on counter and allowing the customer to sign for purchases which offers security to the buyer and assurance to the company.” (Emphasis mine.)

My comment that sweatshop workers (those who are victimized and exploited by the Captains of Industry) are never considered when talk turns to how wonderful Capitalism is, was seen as “hatred” and “nihilistic” (a principle that life is meaningless). Where is the fucking compassion this guy was praising Mackey for having the vision to entertain? And isn’t it interesting that Green’s rambling response was punctuated by three specific words, “hatred,” “nihilistic” and “destructive”  – used to describe my defense for those who are the ones obviously catching hell from the stateless corporations which see no obligation to improve the lives of the slaves they work so slavishly. Mr. Green obviously does not see the projections and distorted definitions that he’s engaged with – his words are loaded with fear. This realization was very instructive to see, especially the further the discussion evolved.  The Big Fear would soon present itself, and when it did, it was not a coincidence that the discussion ended.

 

Part 2. The Competition for Survival

People fear equality because we fear each other within the competition of survival

 The Belief that Man (and Earthly existence) is Inherently Evil (Original Sin doctrine).

This notion was codified in the West by Augustine of Hippo and was expanded upon by Christian theologians through the centuries and accepted as a “truth” ever since. The opinion of Augustine was that human sexual desire was the engine that made Man into a depraved, immoral and hopelessly sinful creature that needed the salvific  intervention of Jesus Christ to be saved from eternal damnation in Hell. In this teaching Augustine traced the fallen state of Man to the Fall of Adam and Eve after they “sinned” against God in the Garden of Eden. [1]

Running along this cultural stream is another complimentary or competing idea that the evil in the world is necessary because of the existence of Free Will in humans, which allows and justifies evil within a scheme of metaphysics that claims salvation comes in choosing the good over the evil, thus following the example of Jesus Christ and earning one’s way to Heaven.

Due to our so-called “fallen nature” combined with “free will,” Man is thus free to commit any act he wishes, regardless of the consequences an act may have on one’s self or others. People are intimately aware of their own inner demons and destructive impulses, so we are certain others are aware of theirs and our own, as well. The question is always present when we enter into any relationship – who can be trusted?

Equality is feared because somehow there exists a belief that such a state will increase MORE suffering and misery for people  in the world. The person I encountered in the previous blog on PolicyMic held such ideas. Mr. Green stated;

Once perfect equality is achieved it will soon dissolve by human nature and talent within hours, to maintain equality for a longer period requires totalitarian force and oppression while leveling down the lifestyle of some to starvation poverty of others. Your equality comes down to petulance of wanting others to suffer, somehow your hatred of those wealthier then you will be abated when this occurs? What will you an internet user do when your opulent lifestyle needs leveling down too?

Reading between the lines reveals a nightmare for those who fear Equality as an existential, authoritarian and human destructive force where freedom of choice, and more frightening, loss of privilege will wipe out human initiative, and more important,degrade the current lifestyle of those who now benefit from inequality within the system today. This fear of degradation of the current lifestyle is the major concern here, although it seems to float upon Green’s subconscious. I don’t know if he aware of the ramifications or the implications he’s made in this comment.

Why does Equality conjure up in the mind of such frightening images of nameless, existential ” totalitarian force and oppression?” Because we are so distrustful and fearful of each other, we consider ourselves so depraved and hopelessly evil, that this belief has become hard – wired into our brains: Equality can only be achieved through militaristic and draconian measures.

By the way, the same can be said to accurately describe the current Capitalist State. Competition (over diminishing resources) is seen as the smarter choice than cooperation. Logically, one could map out the consequences of the destructiveness and  irrationality of this kind of thinking. However, it is more important to maintain the status quo of near-immediate gratification for those who can afford this, and so the consequences must always remain incoherent, unexpressed and exist in some untouched future for others to deal with. Equality is a direct threat to the status quo and will be pushed back, not through superior logic or intellectual power, but through emotional expressions of greed, fear of loss, hatred and mistrust of Man against Man. When John Mackey complains that Capitalism has been under unjustified attack by intellectuals, his response is likewise a feeble emotional romanticism of a mythical Capitalism that is making the world a better place for everyone. This form of Capitalism obviously only exists within his mind, and yet, because he has systematic value (wealth), he’s going to influence others to adopt his religion of “compassionate” Capitalism. It is unfortunate, and another obstacle to overcome as we spread our ideas of Equal Money and Equality to the world.

 

NOTE

[1] Augustine based his teaching on his interpretation of Paul’s Letter to the Romans 5:12-21

 

 Part 3. The Myth of Liberty

Capitalism  is not only an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, and it is not only a system based on private ownership and generating profits for the “free market” and “investors.” It is actually a functioning Religion, as well.

As a Religion, Capitalism provides many of the same features and benefits any metaphysical system could conceive. It deals entirely in matters of Faith, worship and beliefs in a Supreme Being (of sorts). There are Narratives that are passed down from written books written centuries ago by Priests and Prophets, who created expansive systems of economic theologies which believers take as proof of their God’s existence and Truth of the nature of Reality. There are several main beliefs that have been given a metaphysical status within Capitalism, although we’ll only touch upon a few. It is the enduring, totalizing and ubiquitous presence of these beliefs systems that have made Capitalism so entrenched and almost impossible – to – dislodge for what it is; a pious and deadly superstition. If we look at some of the main myths of Capitalism, it will be revealed that what actually is offered as the truth are distorted and destructive definitions that has been surreptitiously uprooted and erased from their original meanings. The amazing thing is that these transformed, innovated and falsified distortions have caused these definitions to drift away and disappear from their supposedly definite significations, and nobody has seemed to notice. It is much like donkey meat being sold as 100% ground beef at the supermarket, and people not knowing or caring about the difference.

1. Liberty

Capitalism claims to promote liberty, voluntary exchange, integrity, political freedom, private property and wealth. Of these, private ownership of property and personal liberty are touted as the main benefits of Capitalism, and with it, a moralistic presumption that these things are what everyone naturally desires and are entitled to by their own self-reliance and the Grace of God. This idea, among others from classical Liberalism from intellectuals like Hobbes,  and slave – traders such as John Locke and proslavery advocate Hugo Grotius [1]. “Sovereignty,” “natural law,” and the “pursuit of happiness,” were all the rage with these philosophers, although the question of slavery was still far from settled for these purveyors of liberty. With the rise of Capitalism, there was a growing realization that realities of slavery and the ideas of liberty were causing friction and discord among the European intelligentsia. Logic, reason and common sense failed to dislodge the institution of slavery from the institution of Christianity (which tacitly supported it) and the newly – formed investor class that was beginning to amass astounding, if risky profits from the slave trade.  It took centuries and the bloody American Civil War to help settle the question for good. The definition of Liberty, always as metaphysical and philosophical term of “freedom” which never existence in palpable  physical terms on Earth, was slowly transformed within the evolution of the Capitalistic system. Although slavery was abolished, with the idea that man could not have his labor sold without his consent or payment, what now “free” torent his labor to another for a wage, instead. This bastardization of “liberty” is today’s “freedom” to libertarians and neoliberals, who have no problem in checking their avowed respect for “voluntary exchange” and “personal integrity” at the door, or change their meanings into a gross distortion, as long as it boosts profits.

Capitalism does not promote “liberty,” but in reality, produces a crypto-authoritarian state of enslavement, alienation, endless consumption, poverty, waste and war. Why do I say “crypto-authoritarian?” Because there is no “voluntary exchange” within Capitalism. There is only voluntary servitude. If one doesn’t “voluntarily” hand over one’s body, effort, mind and time to another, that person will not have a bed to sleep or food on their table. Yet Liberty is raised to religious heights, like an invisible Supreme Being that lives in the sky that has no shape or form other than that molded by inference, wishful thinking and ignorance born from the narratives of Capitalist propaganda. Nobody wants to live without a bed or food, because there is no life outside this  system, where only the hell and gnashing of teeth of  begging, destitution and death awaits. Quite an inescapable bubble we’ve managed to create for ourselves, and yet, the belief has solidified into a substance far heavier than Mount Everest: that this is the best of all possible worlds and that Capitalism is the best of all possible systems created by Man. Well, with half of the world’s population living on less than $2 a day, you couldn’t prove this to me.

2. The Individual and the Fear of the Group

Also known as God, the Übermensch or the Exceptional Man. Here as well Capitalism elevates the Individual into metaphysical terms as a perfect expression of humanity, the idealized being that conquers and subdues all in his path. Like the petulant, disgruntled John Galt, but this Individual does not exist, much like John Galt, does not exist, but is a story of the frustrated expression of enlightened self-interest. “Men of the mind” [2], as Ayn Rand would put it, whose genius and acumen creates the gifts of the Gods for the swarming masses of humanity.

Within the Capitalist  (and especially the Libertarian and anarcholibertarian) mythos, the Individual is granted an unassailable sovereignty that is unconcerned with anything that might dampen the fires of “enlightened” self – interest. This dimension of the Individual is meant to convey a political reality where the rights of the Individual is claimed to supersede the rights of the Group. When we speak of Fear of Equality we are in essence speaking about fear of the Group.  In Western Civilization, this fear has a deep philosophical undercurrent. The great Holy Trinity of Classical thought, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, were all disdainful and fearful of democracy and majority rule. They thought, and many others as well, thought that the common man was a bit too dense to allow social groups to act as a politically cohesive unit. [3]

The Individual, according the Capitalist religion, is endowed with “rights,” “free choice” and “responsibilities” that must not be thwarted by any outside agency, for the Individual must be given “personal liberty,” free from the restraints of the leeches of society.  Individual must be granted total sovereignty over their body and more importantly, over the ability to form networks, agreements and relationships. This Individual seems to have no real connection or relationships with other Individuals, and seems to exist in and as an island unto themselves, unless one enters into a “voluntary association.”  Yet, even though this Individual must enter systems of social and financial relationships which forms a “Group” that he naturally fears and despises, according to the Capitalist mythos, the Individual must be allowed the liberty to dictate what kind of relationship he wants to enter with another, as long as it does not involve stealing or forcibly harming another’s body or property.

What is interesting here is that the current system steals and harms the largest portion of human beings (Individuals as a Group) on Earth. Of course the Individual lives in fear over that the Group will some day, out of sheer, overwhelming numbers and vengeance, take his property and wealth away. Ayn Rand went so far to even deny that society (as a Group) did not exist, since it is made up by Individuals, and did not enjoy any moral claims to have rights – “rights”  could only be enjoyed by the Individual. The grafting of a moral component to the capitalist concern of self – interest was a cheap trick (who isn’t for morality?), but many have bought it. And few have questioned how is it that Capitalism (composed of one group of Individuals), as a “moral” system, holds no responsibility for the incredibly damaging effects it produces for this planet and the larger group of Individuals living on it.  “Rights,” “liberty” and “morality” are imaginary, metaphysical concepts used to justify the trap that exists as the jaws of a nightmare from which there is no escape.

Only the fear of the Group is real.

 

NOTES

[1] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was immensely influential in developing the “natural law” idea that would be borrowed and expanded upon by such thinkers as Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jaques Rousseau and Locke. Among his ideas was that is permissible for a being to enter into voluntary servitude in exchange for a stable society. Compare this with the modern libertarianism of  Robert Nozick’s notorious statement from his book, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” (1974):  “The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery.  I believe that it would.” While Libertarians wonder why they aren’t taken more seriously, this is precisely the reality we all find ourselves in.

[2] Ayn Rand’s hero, John Galt, who is meant to be a Capitalist “hero” in Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” is a rather poor example of the flower of Capitalism Rand’s followers make him out to be, because the question must be asked; what self – respecting Capitalist worth his salt goes on strike against… his customers?

In a lengthy speech that drags on for dozens of pages, Galt crows, ““All the men who have vanished, the men you hated, yet dreaded to lose, it is I who have taken them away from you. Do not attempt to find us. We do not choose to be found. Do not cry that it is our duty to serve you. We do not recognize such duty. Do not cry that you need us. We do not consider need a claim. Do not cry that you own us. You don’t. Do not beg us to return. We are on strike, we, the men of the mind.”

[3] Aristotle:  “A democracy is a government in the hands of men of low birth, no property, and vulgar employments.” and “Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.” Plato was just as scornful: “Democracy… is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” According to research by I. F. Stone in his book, The Trial of Socrates, Socrates was put to death because of his teaching of anti-democratic views to his pupils in Athens.

Part 4. Survival of the Fittest

United States is the Darwinist capital of the capitalist world. A head afraid is a head haunted. A head haunted is a head hunted. Run for your life. Run from the guillotine to a head hunter who saves your head and raises your salary—so you’ll be caught in the red of the fishmarket buying gadgets to distract your fragile imagination that is cut in the red market of blood—running and escaping—running again—changing your resume to update the fear you feel of being unemployed tomorrow—in the streets—and from there to welfare—and from there to begging. – Giannina Braschi, “United States of Banana,” AmazonCrossing, 2011.

 

There is one error in Braschi’s otherwise excellent undressing of the Capitalist system in the USA, and that is the allusion that Darwin and the term “survival of the fittest” are connected. The two items are, but more through myth and misconception than in reality. The term, “survival of the fittest” actually originated with a Liberal philosopher named Herbert Spencer in a work he published as “Principles of Biology” in 1864 after he read Darwin’s “On the Origin of the Species.” [1] Since the mid – 1860’s, opponents and proponents of Capitalism have used the terms “Darwinism” and “survival of the fittest” as simple metaphoric codes to express complicated, intertwined  sociological, political and economical realities. In the process, their meanings has been defaced and distorted, producing further misconceptions are misunderstandings that have darkened and fudged any kind of  accurate analysis of our current problems.

But how was “survival of the fittest” originally used, what has it become to signify and is there anything that can be learned from a correct and clear understanding of the concept.

 

The Original Conception

 

As I’ve just mentioned, the phrase “Survival of the Fittest” was coined by Herbert Spencer in 1864 after reading Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species. Spencer was a social scientist  with a liberal utilitarian bent who was influenced by the social evolutionary theories of Auguste Comte. The popular belief among these early social scientists was that societies tended to evolved from simple, primitive, superstitious states into more complex, sophisticated, enlightened civilizations. It should be remembered that the md-1800’s saw the Industrial Revolution bring rapid social, technological and economic changes to the developing countries in Europe and America. In the eyes of everyone, society was changing. The mechanical, much more efficient and robust, was replacing the natural, and this was seen as progress.

Different social theories on the significance of this “progression” abounded. Spencer was concerned with moral aspects of society which informed his utilitarian theories. A liberal first and a utilitarian second, Spencer believed that the greatest good for the greatest amount of people in society was subservient to the moral superiority of the rights of the Individual, for society exists for the benefit of the Individual, not the Individual for Society and the Individual should not be restricted or regulated by social institutions. It is somewhat surprising to read what Spencer had to say about what “survival of the fittest.” As a good liberal, he had a basic mistrust of government intervention:

“Thus by survival of the fittest, the militant type of society becomes characterized by profound confidence in the governing power, joined with a loyalty causing submission to it in all matters whatever.” [2]

What this sounds like is Spencer predicting that the more complex society becomes, the more dependent it becomes upon government which will be more concerned with maintaining than the best interests of the people, which becomes reliant on whatever their governments give them. This sounds quite different from the common understanding of this phrase (which we will get to momentarily).

However, Spencer was not above heartlessness when it came to the plight of the poor. The great industrialist Andrew Carnegie who was an ardent follower of Spencer’s works, was reportedly appalled at Spencer’s perspective that there was no moral difficulty in allowing the poor to die since, according to Spencer, they were ill-equipped to compete in the ruthless Capitalist arena (Carnegie was born into terrible poverty). And competition, according to Spencer, was a “Law” of the Natural World, thus it was neither good or bad, just a reality in existence. So much for the so-called “morality” and altruism of the Spencer’s Liberal Enlightenment.

 

The Evolution of a Theory

 

Not surprisingly, the two theories which were conceived by Spencer and Darwin eventually borrowed from and fed each other until most people took them to mean virtually the same thing. We know that Spencer published his social evolutionary theories years before Darwin’s Origin of the Species appeared, and that Spencer was intrigued by Darwin’s theory of natural selection, seeing it as a confirmation of his thesis of social evolution through struggle and competition. Darwin’s natural selection theory did not have the benefit of being informed by genetics, the significance s of which would only be discovered at the beginning of the 20th Century. Natural selection proposed that it was the adaptive nature of an organism to its environment that allowed it to survive and produce offspring. While Spencer took Darwin’s “natural selection” as vindication of his thesis that social evolution evolved from struggle, conflict and competition, he seemingly ignored Darwin’s point of the adaptable relationship the organism maintains throughout its evolutionary path, and was content to be a leading light that allowed the Victorian – era Capitalists to rest assuredly that if the Law of Nature was with them, who or what could be against them?

As a good Liberal philosopher, Spencer parrots the official Liberal line:

“Every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.”

Which would be a fantastic thing if freedom actually existed between men. However, with the emphasis on competition, struggle and conflict, the Capitalist system of economic Darwinism (where the wealthy dominate, subjugate and demonize the poor) guarantees to never, ever allow any type of freedom in the relationships between men to exist, mainly because of the Fear of Equality, which is in essence, the fear of the Group.

The war against the Group is based on fear, and the weapon used against the Group is fantasy. It is the worse kind of fantasy to assert one can speak intelligently of rights and freedom out of one side of their mouth while speaking of social Darwinism of survival of the fittest out of the other. It suggests a mental instability. There is no balance in the scales nor is there an acknowledgement of what everybody knows; the playing field is uneven and most of us will never have a chance to live like the very wealthy lives. While most people accept this as a fact of life, we also accept that survival of the fittest is much like a rigged game in a casino. Or the stock market. The only “freedom” available to people is the amount of freedom that can be bought. If everyone truly had “equal freedom,” human relationships would change and competition between groups would no longer exist. Talk of “freedom” would no longer exist because in its place would stand Equality. A lot of fear must be removed from the definition of Equality first. One way of releasing the fear of Equality is to understand how little we know about principles of “freedom” and other values in our lives and how that ignorance has allowed us to be controlled and manipulated into mistaking falsehood for something real.

NOTES

[1]  Spencer wrote: “This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection,’ or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.” HERBERT SPENCER, THE PRINCIPLES OF BIOLOGY 444 (Univ. Press of the Pac. 2002).

[2] Herbert Spencer; Truxton Beale (1916), The Man Versus the State: A Collection of Essays,

 

 

Part 5: The Trinity of Fears

THE impression forces itself upon one that men measure by false standards, that everyone seeks power, success, riches for himself and admires others who attain them, while undervaluing the truly precious things in life.

 

Thus begins Freud in his book, Civilization and its Discontents. We can speculate some other time about what the “truly precious things in life” may be, since such things are wholly subjective and would prevent us from cleaving to the matter at hand. But Freud does reveal a tendency or a trait within human beings, that we are often given to measure our relationships, environment and thoughts by false standards, through manipulation, ignorance and wishful thinking.

This has been my thesis so far: people fear Equality because differing groups of people fear the domination or misuse by other Groups.

There can be no vast accumulation of wealth within a system of relationships of equal cooperation. There is no rational explanation of how massive social inequality could exist within cooperative relationships within the Group. Thus, the idea of Competition, rather than cooperation, was used  to justify and protect the wealth and property of the haves from the have-nots; a framework that makes sense only within the paradigm of Capitalism.

This fear of the Group is channeled and misdirected into elevated, metaphysical conceptions as values of competition, liberty, free will and Individualism. Of these, liberty, free will and the Classical Liberal deification of the Individual are thought experiments that can only be measured and compared through the signification of vocabulary or artful terminology. Of these, only competition can be considered an event taking place in reality, since competition has very real consequences and effects that can be measured, seen and experienced. The others are mental projections that are used to justify the means and ends of competition.

 

Managing the Trinity of Fears

 

There is a Trinity of great Fears that predominately exist within human beings, and they are:

(1) knowledge that each one of us has needs that must be met in order to survive.

(2) Nobody can be trusted, and,

(3) Survival is wholly dependant on access to money or those with money.

To deal with these fears, and more importantly, matters of survival, it is believed by social scientists that early social Groups were formed within relationships of cooperation to deal collectively with the issues of survival. As Society grew more complex and advanced, competition was introduced. How did this occur? The easiest answer has to do with man’s capacity for greed and desire for power over other groups and the environment. Wars and establishing controls over groups became the accepted standards for managing people and resources. There is even a saying about the realities of war that confirms this: to the victor goes the spoils. [1] Capitalism provides the incentive to compete, survival is the motivator, the point between life and death, as well as the attainment of value through the fulfillment of desire via “winning” (acquiring property, sex or fame).  The “loser” is accorded the loss of value, since the loser’s value must be extinguished and consumed by the winner.

It was a very neat and fiendishly clever trick to convince the Group that an existential “winner – take – all” competition for survival was the best and most efficient mode of living. Yet for over 500 years, modern Capitalism has reigned as the winner over all other economic systems. But it required a lot of help from the philosophers, economists and science to do so.

 

Conceptions of Society

 

Philosophers, scientists and churchmen have all had their own ideas about forming the perfect society; The major thinkers include Plato, Augustine, Marx, Lenin, etc.. In Plato’s Republic, the cornerstone of society would be “justice.”  Plato’s perspectives were informed by his aristocratic status in Athenian society, and he had a suspicious and disapproving view of democracy, preferring his utopia to be ruled by elite philosophers.

Augustine believed that the ideal society would be one entirely devoted to Christian principles in order to gain entrance into the City of God in the hereafter. Augustine believed that if the State followed the teachings of Jesus Christ, justice and peace would ensue.

By the 18th Century, philosophers like Jean – Jacque Rousseau and others proposed that a perfect utopian state existed before being debased by European culture. Rousseau envisioned a future community that linked political “freedom” with education, but at the same time was pessimistic that self-interest could be overcome to a point that would allow such a reality to unfold.

Karl Marx proposed that “true freedom” could not be found through individual means, but only through the community. Marx’s ideal community would be a classless one of equally shared property and resources, which would only emerge after the conflicts that will cause the collapse of Capitalism.

Amazingly, small – scaled experiments of egalitarian communities were formed in Europe and America in the 19th Century by Robert Owen, Charles FourierÉtienne Cabet and others.

Despite the failure of these communities to survive, the common notions of economic and political equality would never completely be lost, although these principles would live on in diluted and distorted forms within the various stripes of socialism (which has never escaped the gravity of market capitalism, thus keeping the social inequalities in place).

The fear of Equality is based on a false, mental reality that has produced severe material and physical consequences for humanity and the environment. These consequences are fast approaching the line of no return that will endanger our civilization in ways that are scarcely imaginable, most likely in permanent, unpleasant ways. We need to find a way out of this date with a dystopian destiny before that line is crossed. Perhaps, if we could finally see and understand how a community based on common sense and Equality could become a workable, comprehensible reality, we can begin to fashion an alternative that will be to the benefit of all.

NOTE

[1] A peculiarly American political idiom that arose in the mid – 1800’s to describe a rewards – system that benefitted the winning candidate’s supporters with government jobs.

 

Part 6:The Natural Law Argument Against Equality

When we speak of the Fear of Equality, we notice that most opponents of Equality will use various arguments to contradict or invalidate the benefits and rewards of Equality. The most popular is the  Natural Law argument, due to its claims of representing the best features of human nature and best represents the ideals of human freedom. Above all else, Natural Law has been appealed to justify and legitimize and promote Capitalism. But does the Natural Law argument against Equality succeed in overturning the basic tenets of an egalitarian – based society?

“God is not separate from the world; He is the soul of the world, and each of us contains a part of the Divine Fire. All things are parts of one single system, which is called Nature; the individual life is good when it is in harmony with Nature. In one sense, every life is in harmony with Nature, since it is such as Nature’s laws have caused it to be; but in another sense a human life is only in harmony with Nature when the individual will is directed to ends which are among those of Nature. Virtue consists in “living in agreement with Nature.” (Zeno, 4th Century, BCE).

It was the Stoics who are credited in formalizing the theory of Natural Law, where they believed that certain insights existed behind the natural order that could be ascertained through the application of reason and logic. This ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno (c. 300 BCE). According to Zeno’s teaching, the Universe is based on laws of the fiery mind of God. The Universe actually IS “God.”  It is the highest virtue (or moral good) that is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason that governs nature (because “God” IS Nature), and since life on Earth can cause various, detrimental episodes, to be indifferent to the reversal of fortunes that result in success and failure is “virtue.”

Principles of Natural Law have been embedded into Western philosophical thought and accorded a special universal significance, since it has been viewed as a basis for ethical human interaction. Natural law is seen as a “special” branch of  the legal system, especially in the Western tradition  because of its reductive relationship to the natural world from which these universal principles were derived. In other words, it was believed that there was some kind of rational, comprehensible system that exists behind the natural world.

Darwin, Hebert Spencer and others used the Natural Law conceptual framework to build their systems of evolutionary change in biology and sociology. Over time Natural Selection came to be equated with “survival of the fittest,” the Capitalist Law of the Jungle where the only morality could be found in competition, adaptability to the environment and specialization.

During the Middle Ages Thomas Aquinas, the great Christian Church theologian, appealed to Natural Law principles when he proposed that proof of the existence of God did not require faith or belief, but only through the  rational exercise of the reasoning mind.

In the 16th Century, the Dutch jurist, Hugo Grotius, asserted that nations and individuals were subject to natural law principles. Grotius wrote that the laws of men should be in accordance with natural law principles. Grotius and other like-thinking writers and philosophers of the period in the 16th and 17th Centuries used natural law propositions that helped topple the feudal system in Europe by pointing out that the feudal system was in opposition to the universal principles of Nature (and by extension, “God.”). Natural Law precepts helped shape important historical events and documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Rights of Man documents of te French Revolution, and formed a major stream of thought within the philosophy of Classical Liberalism, Capitalism and religion and science.

By the time we get to Herbert Spencer’s “survival of the fittest” and Charles Darwin’s “natural selection” verbiage in the 19th Century, natural law had become the theological system of Capitalism. The Law of the Jungle and the law of  laissez-faire Capitalism, where the winner takes all, are one and the same. There was nothing “immoral” about a lion killing and eating a gazelle as it was just fulfilling its role as part of the natural world of survival within a certain environment. Same with allowing the exploitation of segments of society and allowing the poor to starve and die; no immorality there, for if the weak are unfit to survive, the law will remove them from this reality. It is simply science. It’s nothing personal.

It has been the theories of Natural Law that has legitimized the structure of Capitalism and helped give it shape and direction. But is this linkage of Natural Law and Natural Selection able to accurately describe a rational order in this world or is it merely a theory based on a false impression of reality? What is the argument of those who fear Equality goes against the principles of Natural Law?

 

Orders of Equality and the Limits Imposed by “Liberty”

 

For example, justice is considered to mean equality, It does mean equality, but equality for those who are equal, and not for all. (Aristotle)

Since nature does not endow all men with equal beauty or equal intelligence, and the faculty of volition leads men to make different choices, the egalitarians propose to abolish the “unfairness” of nature and of volition, and to establish universal equality in fact—in defiance of facts. Since the Law of Identity is impervious to human manipulation, it is the Law of Causality that they struggle to abrogate. Since personal attributes or virtues cannot be “redistributed,” they seek to deprive men of their consequences—of the rewards, the benefits, the achievements created by personal attributes and virtues. It is not equality before the law that they seek, but inequality: the establishment of an inverted social pyramid, with a new aristocracy on top—the aristocracy of non-value. (Ayn Rand, The Return of the Primitive)

 

The arguments against Equality are based in essentialism [1] and limitation. The first argument goes like this: people are inherently un-equal, blessed or cursed with different strengths and weaknesses that yield different results of success and failure in life. To award Equality to all is to reward failure. It is against the Law of the Jungle, Natural Selection and “survival of the fittest.” The Natural Law argument is also one that is embedded through the Classical Liberalism conceits of “Individualism,” “free will” and “Liberty,” not to mention the biggest conceit of all: competition. While the other items are vague, shapeless and subject to multiple interpretations, everyone understands competition.[2] And everyone understands that a Capitalism without competition ceases to be Capitalism. Removing competition removes motivation to participate in Capitalism (so it is believed). And what is feared is the collapse of the entire system due to non – participation. Equality in this way is seen as a subversion to the Natural Order, which leads to the next point.

The Limitation argument is also based on Classical Liberal philosophy, economics and even science. As we have seen in the previous blogs, there’s an inherent, irrational fear that (1) Equality is impossible due to the evil, selfish nature of humanity, and (2) Equality can only be imposed through Draconian, authoritarian means. It is believed that your money must be taken away from you and redistributed to others “who don’t deserve it.” In Capitalism, and this is a point Capitalists are loathe to admit on moral grounds, it is acceptable for a person or group of people to exploit others for profit. The initial economic surge of Capitalism was generated by the harnessing of slave labor and exploitation of the working class. People actually died for the right of working a 40 hour week (Less than 100 years ago, it was common for a factory worker to toil 16 hours a day in dangerous, life – threatening conditions. One can see how Capitalism would have liked to treat its workers). The Limitation of Liberty is the limitation of the liberal’s right to choose to exploit another for profit. (When speaking of “liberal” in this context, I’m referring to the classical economic dimension of the term, not the political definition. Thus, all Capitalists are ‘liberal’ in that Capitalism is a liberal economic system).

So if you mine this equation for any logic, you can only come up with this: at least within Capitalism, Liberty sets limits on equality because Liberty is inherently inequitable, the argument being, “Surely one wouldn’t allow everyone to study at Harvard, would they? It wouldn’t be fair to those who actually can afford it or have the educational level to study there.” There has to be obstacles and impediments in place (like access to money and connections) or else the value of Harvard is rendered spoiled. This value is tied to what we cherish and despise – the life and death principles of success and failure.

We are now moving into another murky territory. The value of a Harvard education is analogous to the value of Capitalism.

NOTES

[1] Essentialism is the philosophical belief that things have a set of characteristics that make them what they are (their essence), and that the task of science and philosophy is their discovery and expression; the doctrine that essence is prior to existence.

[2] This is why a result of a tie or draw in a soccer match infuriates American sports fans. There should always be a winner who takes all.

 

Part 7: The Value of Inequality

Equality is not truly understood because its significance is caught up within  destructive definitions which renders the definition of Equality incoherent. When people see the word, “Equality” – pictures of being corralled into internment camps, loss of individuality and having their money taken away and given to the homeless arise like hideous black goblins within their minds.

This is a fantastic example how effective of producing a mind-controlling narrative built upon the crippling definition of commonly – held beliefs leads to ignorance, resistance, self-deception and fear.

This is a curious psychological reaction based on the deep dilemmas, conflicts and contradictions that is inherent within what we call the “Human Condition.”

There have been many differing views of what the Human Condition consists of; the worldwide systems of the Social, political, economic, environmental… these are outward and external factors that help shape our identities, while the internal factors are psychological, suffused with emotions, feelings, thoughts about self and the external world – and the values we place upon these things.

When it comes to a subject like Equality, it appears that the principle is undervalued, especially within the paradigm of Capitalism. This is because Equality is seen as antithetical to Capitalism (and its perceived qualities of Liberty, Freedom and Individuality), the value of Capitalism is based on certain assumptions – and since people have become the essence of Capitalism within their minds, they are willing to defend that position no matter what.

These assumptions are based on culturally – transmitted ideas of high – minded principles that look good on paper and appear grandiose in the mind, and we have gone through many of them in this series already. But it must be understood that these ideas are but a front that stands as a buttress against these existential fears of Equality.

Nestled within the mind is the impulse that self-preservation must always come first, whether it is the identity or the body. There exists a psychological resistance to change, to question, to investigate, to excavate or examine the layers of being – and it doesn’t matter if something, like Capitalism, actually compromises the self or doesn’t ultimately makes sense. What is important and valued above everything is validating the point one has become.

So the calculus, the equation is that we have all become the fear of Equality and the value of Capitalism. To exist as Equality then one must become Equality which would cause a partial deletion of one’s accepted identity, which is terrifying to the mind, which we have also become. The fear is that in the best case scenario, Equality will fail, and in the worst case the world (and the self) would effectively cease to exist.

It appears to be a vicious circle, where one is forced to accept what one has always known, until one chooses to step outside the circle, which takes a great amount of self – belief that there exists an identity outside that circle.

A helpful analogy… Take the laptop that I am banging these messages out on. It consists of hardware and software. Used together – very effective means of communication and purpose. But without the software, without the programs – the laptop is just a hunk of metal, circuits, glass and plastic. When I’m using this word processor, I can communicate and become the program – using the computer as an interface to the outside world. But without the hardware, there is nothing to give shape and form to the medium, and I end up in the same position of uselessness.

Point: people become the programs that they have invested in and have been broadcasted to – and do not see any other way of existing. Not only that, we value what we become, and because the key programs we value are: self-preservation (hardware) and identity (software). And even if we hate ourselves (and others) and wish to destroy ourselves (or others), we still act in a way that values the negation of life and the self-consuming drive to erase our being (and others) from existence. There must be another way.

This reveals the pathological nature of the human mind – that it can place so muchvalue, significance and  importance in a world system that is purportedly a meansto ensure our survival – but in reality is actively working towards the ends of our destruction. It is like we are sailing and steering our planet into the jaws of a nightmare without any consideration or consciousness of the consequences. Not only that, but be careful if you point out these murderous, suicidal tendencies of human consciousness to others; you will be called “suicidal cult member.” And yet, we are all one collective suicidal cult members of the Church of Conscious Consumer Capitalism that is busily destroying our people, animals, plants, air and water. But if one brings that up, you’ll be labeled a “communist.” We don’t need Equality because we have the Next Big Thing that we value even more; another bright, shiny product that promises to make our lives even better! The media completely understands how to program and brainwash the human mind into accepting a cheap imitation of life while promulgating “liberty,” “lifestyles” and “freedom.”

Of course, the critics of Equality fear Equality and do not give a shit about anything else but what they can get out of their lives, which is money and the things money can buy. Oh, and making sure to defend this murderous, suicidal system against any criticism because they do not want to hear criticism of what they have in fact become. Everybody and everything else can go screw. Multiply that mindset several billion times and you should be able to see why the world is in the state it is today.

To them I say, take a breath and consider what Equal Money  and an Equal Money System offers. A way out of the box.

Part 8: Don’t Question the System

Recently I have been engaged in yet another YouTube debate with someone who is not so readily convinced that the world is ready for equality. Predictably the excuses… err, reasons given were many, but they all boiled down to a singular point: this person assumes that in order for everybody to take part in an egalitarian world, he would have to be required to give up his money or worse, suffer the fate of having his money taken away from him. I reassured him angry mobs would not be lining the streets with their palms out wanting to whet their beaks on his bank account, and I asked what was it about Capitalism that he was so interested in defending. Instead of an answer, he played this card:

“Here’s the thing, WE DON’T WANT YOUR NEW WORLD ORDER. Nothing you can propose will change our feelings on this. We are far from perfect, but we do love our country. Make fun of it all you like with your tongue in cheek “Murike” remarks. There are millions upon millions of us here in the United States alone who are telling you to take your Utopia and stick it. Now, how are you going to “re-educate” the world into your point of view without committing to the “morality of abuse” you claim to oppose? How will you force us to assimilate? Is resistance futile?
Come get some.”

By the way, this person was going on and on about the elevated sanctity of the Individual and how maintaining that specific self-identity was very important – especially when its reality can be affected by the “evil Collective,” of which he holds a deep and abiding mistrust and sees as the enemy of the Individual’s “sovereignty.” And yet he appeals to the “millions upon millions” who he claims share in his position that they will be unwilling to grant economic equality (the term he used is “Utopia”) under any circumstances. What does this show us? It could be seen as a “double-standard” where his position in his argument need to be arrayed in such a fashion that the Individual must be ever vigilant to the sinister machinations of the “Collective,” and so the Individual is accorded nearly divine status that cannot be questioned. And of course, when the fear arose within him in imagining a world where economic justice and equality were indeed given to all equally, he psychically gathered within his consciousness the opinions of “millions upon millions here in the United States” who like him, he believes, opposes economic equality. He instinctively understands that there is strength in numbers, much more than could ever be found in a single Individual. This is instructive to see because you can see here how one fails to see how they are holding opposing or conflicting views within their minds. Actually, the conflict isn’t real – as the argument can only proceed upon a logical foundation, which will change in an instant when one has to defend something that can’t be defended on moral terms. It’s intellectually dishonest, but people love to have morality on their side. That’s how they can morally justify dishonesty. You don’t expect to hear the truth, do you?

Knowing this, I asked the gentleman once again; “what is it about the current state of capitalism that you find so worthy of defending?” He hasn’t answered yet. It’s a question I’ve found very few people are willing to answer honestly, because to do so (and make sense) one has to either give up the morality point (that is, capitalism is not a moral good for everybody equally) or admit that the system is more trouble than it’s worth (for countless reasons). And beyond that, I’ve found in discussing this point that many people who are so heavily invested in having their opinion, beliefs and projections validated by others, that they will very rarely come out of the block and plainly say, “Yeah, I know capitalism exploits and kills and destroys everything on this planet. But as long as I don’t have to change or suffer, I couldn’t give a crap.” Most people will dissemble and lie and start talking gibberish, but they will never give up morality. It would be too embarrassing. They would rather hide behind the lies. They consider themselves as civilized, you see.

Fear of Equality is rooted in FEAR. I have a hard time accessing what that would feel like since I don’t have fear of equality, but I reckon on of the main sources of that fear is having one’s ideas, beliefs or self-definition invalidated through morality, reason, logic, what have you. It’s too much trouble to rebuild all that within one’s self, hell, it may be impossible. Yet, it is a fear that has resonated within the minds of those who sought to control and dominate the lives of others ever since the time of the first Master and Slave.

I was reading an account about the life of the former slave and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. Douglass was taught the alphabet by the wife of his owner, but was soon discovered by her husband, who disapproved. Mainly, it was against the law for slaves to read. But beyond that, the husband explained to the wife that if a slave learned to read, he would soon question himself and become dissatisfied with his station in life and desire freedom. Imagine that! Here was an honest expression defending a system of exploitation on moral grounds! So much for morality, then. “Look, in order for this system to work, we need to subjugate this person, rob him of his liberty, his labor, his time and ultimately his life. Plus, he has to remain in this ignorant state unless he awakens to a possibility where he can express himself as something greater!”

Sounds familiar? It is the same argument used today to keep people in poverty and alienation. “Don’t give everybody a living income – they will question themselves, question the system and their station in life and desire freedom!”

To think that there exists a type of person who would purposely continue to exploit or to benefit from the exploitation of others is a notion that is despicable to me. Investigate the Living Income Guarantee and expand your definition in what is possible.

NOTE

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4ZLe7CcMUA&list=LL5rA6LDTwLoA1g8RePrLTJA

 

Part 9. Escape from the Collective

Milton Friedman once gave a Speech in Harlem in 1978. It is one of the worst speeches I’ve ever had to listen to. The speech is entitled, “The Escape from Collectivism. You can watch it here on YouTube. Milton Friedman asks, “Why is it that the role of government has been increasing when it comes to education?” Friedman goes on to state that since the 19th century there has been a shift in perspective with society; from a 19th century belief that the ideal individual was self-reliant and self-responsible, and totally owned his trajectory towards success or failure.

The role of the government back then (according Friedman) “was to provide maximum opportunity for the “Individual to express and develop their values and capacities.”

Friedman mockingly and dismissively regards that the modern view holds that the Individual was “an innocent puppet” beset by social forces beyond his control. According to Friedman, this puppet wasn’t responsible for his unfortunate station in life – society was. The ultimate unit in society was the “collective” – not the Individual.

Friedman further says that those 19th century schools did achieve the same goals of the19th century government: making people “responsible for their own development and learning.”

In the 20th century, again according to Friedman, the concept changed – the schools were a reflection of society’s values and interest that should be imposed upon the child. Schools sought to get the child out of the clutches of “the ignorant and unsophisticated parents and not the hands of educational experts.

Friedman complains: it’s the very concept of collectivism that alienates the individual and robs the individual of self -respect, removes from the individual feelings of importance and significance. “The whole justification for governmental public schooling was in order to provide a common framework so you can have citizens who can exist together in a single, free, democratic society.”

Golly, that sounds nice. Nevertheless, I wondered if the statement was true, so I decided to investigate the matter best I could.

Point #1.Here we lookat the assertion that there was a shared social value which arose in the 19th century in which “the ideal individual was totally responsible for his achievements and shortcomings in his life.”

Let’s see if this sweeping generalization holds water, shall we? We have plenty of information about the times of the 19th century and America’s national and international policies, social order, work relations and financial state. Throughout the 1800s, we would be remiss not to mention that the colonization program of North America began building all its wealth within the twin projects of genocide and slave trading. Wars fought against the indigenous people of this continent and against other nations became a deadly, recurring pattern. The War Between the States – which was initiated over conflict of expanding slavery to the western states kicked off at the height of the Industrial Revolution. There were many banking panics, scandals, grinding, unimaginable poverty and often deadly workmen strikes. Children were exploited in factories and if you weren’t a White, property – owning male, like a farmer or shipping magnate, there was often no justice or recourse available to you. Friedman’s assertion that during this era, the government’s role, “was to provide maximum opportunity” to for the “Individual to express and develop their values and capacities”, sounds silly and desperate.

The closest thing that lines up with Friedman’s claim could be the notion that was formed at the beginning of the 20th century with the arrival of the views of the social theorist, Max Weber, who authored the monumental thesis, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” Essentially boiled down, this is the belief that hard work, faith and thriftiness led to success in one’s life. For Weber, this mindset evoked a religious morality of Capitalism. At the base of this thesis is the proposition that the Calvinist ethics inherited by Puritan and Quaker fundamentalism gave shape and direction for the religious worship of Capitalism that was woven into the social fabric of American society.

“Wealth is thus bad ethically only in so far as it is a temptation to idleness and sinful enjoyment of life, and its acquisition is bad only when it is with the purpose of later living merrily and without care. But as a performance of duty in a calling it is not only morally permissible, but actually enjoined. The parable of the servant who was rejected because he did not increase the talent which was entrusted to him seemed to say so directly. To wish to be poor was, it was often argued, the same as wishing to be unhealthy; it is objectionable as a glorification of works and derogatory to the glory of God. Especially begging, on the part of one able to work, is not only the sin of slothfulness, but a violation of the duty of brotherly love according to the Apostle’s own word. The emphasis on the ascetic importance of a fixed calling provided an ethical justification of the modern specialized division of labour. In a similar way the providential interpretation of profit-making justified the activities of the business man.” [1]

Friedman’s point that the individual was seen as a self-directive agent that succeeded or failed on his own is a squashed and mangled oversimplification, an empty assertion pressed into service to fight a pseudo-intellectual culture war on the side of the Individual against the enemy; the Collective. What remains unspoken, yet ringing loudly in that unuttered, smirky silence is the condemnation, shaming and vilification of the impoverished, disenfranchised; in other words the sinners and heretics of the Capitalist Religion. The reality contained in the historical record is much grimmer. The government has never been interested in making sure that the Individual “express and develop their values and capacities,” as Friedman inveigled, but rather it was set up to serve the elite that owned the country.[2]

Howard Zinn said it perfectly: “Those upper classes, to rule, needed to make concessions to the middle class, without damage to their own wealth or power, at the expense of slaves, Indians, and poor whites. This bought loyalty. And to bind that loyalty with something more powerful even than material advantage, the ruling group found, in the 1760s and 1770s, a wonderfully useful device. That device was the language of liberty and equality, which could unite just enough whites to fight a Revolution against England, without ending either slavery or inequality.” (Howard Zinn) A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present.

Point #2. What about those marvelous 19th century schools that made people “responsible for their own development and learning?” Well, not entirely true. Perhaps the universities, college were able to achieve this at some level, but America’s public school system was only put in place because of the greater needs of Industry that needed a unity of compliant workers that was distributed among all the varieties of ethnic groups that comprised the populace. Friedman’s sloppy assessment that the justification for government public schooling was, “to provide a common framework so you can have citizens who can exist together in a single, free, democratic society,” is only partially correct.

John Gatto, the author of the “Dumbing Down of America,” researched the origins of the federally enforced public school system and found some interesting documentation. The public school system was originally conceived:“ as a means to achieve important economic and social goals for the national character.” Gatto quotes from a document he discovered that revealed the future educational plan of the United States (this document circa 1967). Quoting Gatto:

The BEHAVIORAL TEACHER EDUCATIONAL PROJECT outlines specific teaching reforms to be forced on the country, unwillingly of course, after 1967. It also sets out, in clear language, the outlook and intent of its invisible creators. Nothing less than quoting again “the impersonal manipulation through schooling of a future America in which few will be able to maintain control over their own opinions”, an America in which (quoting again) “each individual receives at birth, a multipurpose identification number which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of their [underlings]”, (underlings is my interpretation, everything else came out of the document), “and to expose them to the directors subliminal influence of the state education department and the federal department acting through those whenever necessary,” and quoting Gatto again: “The project identified the future as one (again I’m quoting) “in which a small league would control all important matters, one in which participatory democracy would largely disappear.”Children would be made to see that their classmates, and indeed the average man or woman were so inadequate, were so irresponsible that they had to be controlled and regulated.

The pubic school system exists for one purpose only: to create a disposable class of workers that will fight over the few jobs that are left, and apparently, that’s been the goal since the beginning.

Professor Henry A. Giroux notes that the Texas GOP has a curious plank in their political platform concerning a particular problen with education. “We oppose teaching of Higher order Thinking Skills [because they] have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental control.” This concern makes total sense if one sees that acquiring the life skill of critical reasoning is “dangerous.” It is certainly unwanted. How many times do we have to say, “Thou Shalt Not Question the System?” Don’t question yourself, your place in society, your relationship to capitalism as a commoditized consumer, your political system and most important, your beliefs and opinions you received and accepted from the media. Okay? You’re just making it harder for the rest of us to go on with our tiny, inconsequential, unimaginative lives. Listen, it’s all been thought out for you. If anyone deserves a dysfunctional, decrepit and useless educational system, it’s us! Mighty Individuals “expressing our values and capabilities” in accordance with the wishes the State and Industry.

Submitted for your approval: a report issued by John D. Rockefeller General Education Board, circa 1913. Perhaps Friedman was referring to this.

“In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into men of learning or philosophers, or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters, great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, statesmen, politicians, creatures of whom we (the elite?) have ample supply. The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way”. [3]

Think about it: don’t you want to live your life according to an illiterate, anti-intellectual narrative that reduces for each member in society the possibilities of human and social achievement? Wouldn’t you rather base your opinions and beliefs on ignorant, emotionally charged, pseudo-intellectual soundbites that passes for “intellectual discourse” in the media? It’s in the country’s best interest that you’ve been dumbed-down and your brain rendered null and void when it comes to critical analysis of the world. The Milton Friedman’s, George Will’s and the Fox News tribes of the world are just doing their job –  to keep your expectations low and your questioning to a minimum and they are all counting on the fact that you are too wrapped up in mindless consuming and eternal bill-paying to notice how badly society is breaking down around you. Why on Earth would you want to examine the world beyond your current belief systems and rebuild language that expands and enriches meaning and possibilities for your life when you can instead easily continue to be persuaded by the same comforting half-truths and lies floating into your intellectually – enfeebled brainpan? Better to escape the evil Collective and live as a brain-dead, alienated unfulfilled yet mighty Individual.

Isn’t it?

NOTES

[1] Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 1905, Chapter V, “Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism”

[2] John Jay, the very first Supreme Court Chief Justice exclaimed, ”The people who own the country ought to govern it.”

[3] General Education Board, Occasional Papers, No. 1 (General Education Board, New York, 1913) page 6.

Part 10: The Theology of Capitalism

In the last blog I looked very briefly at the work of Max Weber, principally his landmark thesis, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.  Weber makes a lot of claims and most of them resonate with those who see capitalism as the most logical system of social organization the world has ever seen. The pursuit of profit, according to Weber, isn’t simply a means to an end, it is the end unto itself. Profit is the reward for entering the system and taking advantage of one’s opportunity. In fact, the Holy Book encourages pursuit of profit, and in a New Testament parable, the lesson in profit-making is frightfully clear. [1] If you do not create a profit what you do have will be taken away and given to one who possess more with the added punishment of being cast outside of the system, into the darkness and presumably, outside of the Living Light of God. Biblical passages such as these are set in opposition against those like, “You can’t both serve God or money,” and the verse in Mark 10:25: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,” Jesus’ punchline delivered after he instructs the rich man to give all his possessions to the poor.

Thus, again according to Weber, one of the signs of favor that God bestowed on His chosen ones was prosperity. Weber actually wondered whether a feedback loop was occurring where the spirit of Capitalism was affecting religious beliefs and religious beliefs affecting Capitalism. These days, where the accumulation of wealth occurs at a unfathimable pace and Christianity’s waning influence over the cultural landscape, people don’t seem to defend the theology of Capitalism as fervently as they did in the past. They almost seem too embarrassed to even attempt a defense. I find this fascinating because Capitalism is perfectly set up to be an economic theology that is self-contained within its inner logic and rationale. This may indicate an estrangement between the religious belief systems of the 19th century era and the turn to postspirituality in the existential 21st century. Or it may simply be another case of cultural amnesia, that blank void of forgetfulness at the center of our national history where all shared cultural memories fade into oblivion. Weber did predict, however, that the logic of the spirit of Capitalism would lead to alienation and a loss of faith. [2]

But getting back to the point: the theology of Capitalism fulfills a vital service for the continued exploitation and subjugation of humanity, at least in America. It gives form, shape, direction and most important – a moral justification for continuing economic and political inequality. Any talk about income equality can only be seen as heresy and apostasy against the morality of enlightened self-interest. Its catechism can be described as followed –

What is God? MONEY.

The Son of God? THE INDIVIDUAL.

The Holy Spirit? ALL THE THINGS MONEY CAN BUY FROM THE BANKS AND CORPORATIONS.

Places of Worship? THE MALL

The Antichrist? THE EVIL COLLECTIVE, OFTEN CONFLATED WITH THE COMMIES, PINKOS, SOCIALISTS, THE STATE, ETC. BASICALLY ANYTHING THAT INTERFERES WITH THE UNLIMITED PURSUIT OF WEALTH.

The Profits… err, I mean PROPHETS? AYN RAND, HAYEK, MISES, ROTHBARD, FRIEDMAN, ORAL ROBERTS, CREFLO DOLLAR, REVEREND IKE, JIM BAKER, BENNY HINN (And a million others)…et al.

The Gospel? ATLAS SHRUGGED, THE SECRET, The PROSPERITY GOSPEL and its cousin, THE LAW OF ATTRACTION.

The “Prosperity Gospel” championed by many of the names above is ironically (perhaps) most accepted by the poor and lower classes in America. They are also the least educated, as well, which sets them up for living their lives hoping and praying that one day the LORD will grant them a winning lottery ticket or something that will lift them out of their financial bad money hell. After all, God wants YOU to be financially blessed and prosperous. You just have to figure out on your own how you are going to do that in a system that only acknowledges the digits in your bank account. IF you are fortunate enough to have one, that is.

Capitalism is a religion, yes. And like all religions on the planet, there exists within it an existential pathological dimension as well. While Religions of all varieties claim to be the worship of a supernatural power that controls, orders and gives meaning and direction for human lives, all of them are quite guilty of doing more harm than good for human beings in the world. Fear of Equality endorses the theology of Capitalism because it provides a moral and rational framework to justify continuing exploitation, injustice and profiteering at the expense of humanity at large.  It reduces, retards, contains and corrals creative and critical thinking that can lead to dangerous questioning of the system, of our own possibilities and potentials of human growth on a worldwide scale.  Turned inside out, the theology of capitalism reveals itself to be a dry, waterless canal filled with the dusty bones and wretched remains of countless lives who never had a chance at attaining a dignified life. Ask them how it felt being a worthless slave cast into the outer darkness, where there is the weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Ask them if the religion of Capitalism was worth the sacrifice.

Ask yourself.

 

NOTES

[1]  A peculiar passage from Matthew and a similar account in Luke places these words into the mouth of Jesus. “13 “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour. 14 For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work270 and gained five more. 17 In the same way, the one who had two gained two more. 18 But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it. 19 After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ 23 His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? 27 Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! 28 Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. 29 For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 25:13-30).

[2] The exploitation of the working class led to the worker’s alienation as the increasing bureaucratic apparatus with its hierarchy of command and its impersonality sought to regulate and standardize behavior. Weber called this state, the “iron cage.” No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development, entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For of the fast stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: “Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.” Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Los Angeles, CA: RoxburyPublishing, 1998.

 

Part 11 Our Enemy, The State

The modern conservative movement, specifically its libertarianneoliberal wing,has its modern-day pop stars, grand masters and philosophical pillars who haveformed and provided clear direction and shape to its doctrines and beliefs. Some ofthem are more wellknown than others. William F. Buckley, Jr., Ayn Rand, MurrayRothbard, Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul, Hayek and von Mises, et cetera. Some of theselibertarian pillars originate from the more obscure past, yet still casts an influentialshadow well into the 21st century. Alfred Jay Nock may not be as well-knowntoday as he was during the middle of the 20th century, but his influence wasprofound during his lifetime as an author, social critic, educational theorist andanarcho-capitalist, and his thought has become embedded into the philosophicalDNA of the modern libertarian-neoliberal movement.

While I find the collective brain trust of conservatism and neoliberalism (let’sdispense with the term “libertarian,” since its aims, definition and direction havebeen absorbed completely and successfully by the neoliberal project) somewhatwearisome and intellectually dishonest, one is bound to find points that areinteresting and worthy of discussion. And that can be said of Nock’s views, ofwhich many points are debatable, are at least coherent and soberminded. Inparticular, his biting critique of the academic system as it existed during his lifetimedeserves to be considered here.

Nock’s Theory of Education

Nock published his book A Theory of Education in the United States because hewas troubled by the inadequacies of the educational system he observed as itexisted in the 1930s. Nock had problems with the premise that the educationalsystem presented to society. “Bring your children,” he claimed the systempromised, “and we will put them through this process under the sanction of anegalitarian and democratic theory. It did not work.”

For Nock, there were very striking reasons why he considered the educationalsystem to be a failure. (Remember, the era when he made his observationsoccurred in the 1920s1940s). The major fails appeared on the fault line ofunsupported and illconceived premises based on sentimentality and poorlydefined and confusing terms of art (more on this later). Nock identified three pointsof failure.

 The first point was the theory of equality. “All children,” the system told society,should be able to be educated equally.” Nock claimed this theory failed becausereality suggests otherwise. [1]

Depending on class, environment and quality of teaching and parenting, it isinconceivable that a child in the impoverished Deep South (for instance) couldacquire the same quality of education as a child blessed to be born into themoneyed coastal elite. Obviously, there are differences between academicachievements between schools, let alone within a room of students, as some ofthem will learn at a greater rate than others. Nock says that this inequality amongthe populace did not go unnoticed by the Founding Fathers. In fact, Nock, whostudied the life of Thomas Jefferson, claimed that according to Jefferson’s writtenletters, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence was very concernedhow to manage the educational talent in the several states and came up with anacademic scheme that today sounds fantastical and a bit demented by today’sstandards. [2]

Nock says that educational equality was obviously never taken seriously, least of allby the elites that owned the country. Thus, the theory that all children are able to beeducated equally is based on a false definition of egalitarianism that is based on amythic and cultural sentimentality. When class and money are concerned, the mythof educational equality is further decimated. Nock correctly observed that educationwas clearly a class prerogativea privilege afforded by class and wealth.

The second point of failure that Nock observed was the myth of Democracy. Tobegin with, Nock had serious problems with democracy, period. In an articleentitled, The Criminality of the State published in 1939, Nock cried,

““Democratic State practice is nothing more or less than State practice.It does not differ from Marxist State practice, Fascist State practice, orany other. Here is the Golden Rule of sound citizenship, the first andgreatest lesson in the study of politics: you get the same order ofcriminality from any State to which you give power to exercise it; andwhatever power you give the State to do things for you carries with it theequivalent power to do things to you.”

Furthermore, Nock added these disdainful words, “Democracy is animated by ahatred of elitist authority.” In regard to the previous point about educational equality,Nock incorrectly surmises that democracy “it must aim at no ideas above those ofthe average man.” I am tempted to consider this quote a bit of a rhetorical flourish,but Nock isn’t usually taken to make statements he doesn’t wholeheartedly believe.Nock believed that the democratic state was at war with itself and against theindividual.

Nock refers to and holds the view that has been shared by the elite from thebeginning that the masses are merely self-serving idiots in need of guidance fromthe more intellectually advanced minority. Greek intellectual tradition of Westerncivilization has this ruling class template embedded in its core logicso embeddedit is ubiquitous and taken for granted.[3], The result is a society at war with itself,engaging within a dynamic struggle between opposing currents of an internalconflict and anxiety within society.

The middle class anxietywhich is always fearful of sinking into poverty, mistrust,loathes and actively hates the ruling elites that offer the masses sustenance. Thisguidance more often than not metamorphosed into outright enslavement andexploitation of the masses.

This failure of democracy is linked to the previous point of educational equalityforNock, it is a false premise that education can be applied democraticallyin otherwordsin equality. Democracy is a fiction, according to Nock, and does not in fact,exist on any level except through a cultural narrative based on sentimentality andconfused language, which results in counterfeit versions of equality, democracy andliteracy.

Nock stresses that this confusion of terms has also been laden with sentimentalnotions and specious logic, producing imitation (and devalued) definitions ofequality, democracy and literacy. The masses become victimized by a predatorymonetary system that is linked to a tyranny of ideas about equality and democracywhile remaining perversely loyal to the inequitable system that has enslaved anddisempowered them. This misplaced cultural loyalty ironically closes down anyattempt to adjust and abolish the current system. In this way, Nock feareddemocratic states were destined to authoritarianism.

The third point of failure was that it was assumed that what was considered bestfor the child was best for the country, and that a literate society was the goal for ahighly functional state. However, the mass of society over time became moreilliterate and less able to process information.

It is telling that thiscritique Nock made in the 1940s is still applicable today, asliteracy rates continue to fall well into the 21st century. The promise of creating aninformed literate class failed. Obviously, the educational system failed to create aliterate citizenry. Nock observed that the crucial distinction between education andtraining had evaporated, and the assumption that all children could be educatedequally was a mistaken one, as Nock considered the mass of humanity as“barbarians” unworthy and incapable of bettering their intellectual powers. Nockreferred to the elite capable of superior mental ability as the “Remnant,” and Nockplaced his faith in that small group since it was his opinion that this elite was largelyresponsible for the advancements made in any society. What could one reallyexpect from a barbarian?

Nock concluded at the end of A Theory of Education, that although he wasstridently opposed to statecontrolled compulsory education, he allowed thatmost people are able to be trained to perform various vocational tasks, but like hishero, Thomas Jefferson, only a few could be of real service for the country due totheir superior intellect and power of thought. It was in this intellectual elite that Nockplaced his hopes, as it was his view that the course of the country’s destiny wasshaped and directed not by the barbarian masses, but by this superior intellectualelite.

 

Society’s Lies

Within the arena of human relationships, humanity has devised two strategies toaddress the human being’s need for survival: that is labor in exchange for labor,and appropriating the labor from others through force or exploitation.

One of the major influences on Nock’s world view was the social critic andanarchist, Franz Oppenheimer, who was of the opinion that the State engaged inwholesale robbery. Nock wholeheartedly shared this view as well [4]. It is unclearwhether Nock shared Oppenheimer’s view that Capitalism’s exercise in exploitationwas the key for generating the State’s wealth, but it is known that Nock held agenerally favorable view of capitalism.

Nock’s radical individualism necessarily made him a staunch anti-collectivist. In hisview, the common man was too finite, flawed and stupid to create a utopia.Besides, the State was dedicated to subverting the individual’s will in service of theState, thus making the State the poorest vehicle imaginable for addressing andproviding solutions for the problems in society. The State held all the cards, andrevolution only offered a change of a system of oppression. Nock saw that theState manipulating public opinion through slippery, sentimental and confusinglanguage, especially more so with the media’s power to make any statement meananything. Others have noticed this feature in governance, although the perspectivesand conclusions may pull apart different dimensions and analysis. Kenneth Rexrothclaimed:

 “Since all society is organized in the interest of exploiting classes andsince if men knew this they would cease to work, and society would fallapart; it has always been necessary, at least since the urban revolutions,for societies to be governed ideologically by a system of fraud.”[5]

 

Rexroth called this system of fraud, thesocial lie.” According to the ClassicalLiberal narrative, the “social contract” born of the period of European Enlightenmenthad replaced the previous world order commonly known as the “divine right ofkings.” Oppenheimer (and Rexroth, for that matter) considered the social contractlittle more than a myth, or in Rexroth’s words, “an eighteenth-century piece ofverbalism.” The status quo is maintained by the anxiety produced within theseinternal conflicts we mentioned earlier (the resentment, fear and loathing directedtowards the elite by the masses, and the perverse loyalty felt by the populacetowards the ideological narratives justifying the exploitation).

Conclusion

What Nock didn’t realize or want to realize was that his critique equally applied tocapitalism as well Anti-democratic crypto-authoritarianism. One wonders how Nockwould view today’s corporate welfare state and how those commercial interestshave essentially become “the government,” what with the 1% controlling the levelsof power in Washington D.C.

In all of his criticisms about the adversarial nature of the State, Nock failed tocomment on the incursion of corporate interests into the roles of government.Perhaps the intrusion of corporatism wasn’t as widely prevalent as it appears inmodern times. On one hand as a staunch defender of free-market capitalism, Nockwould be quite at home with the evolution of libertarian philosophy as it reaches intothe 21st century and the neoliberal agenda of privatizing the social and naturalresources. However, one can make a case that Nock would be greatly dismayed atthe neoliberal program of empire-building and constant military involvement into theaffairs of other countries. The free market ideals that Nock held so dear havemorphed into crass casino capitalism where the free market has been replaced bya stateless, global economic cryptoauthoritarianism which owes its allegiance to noone and exploits for profit entire nations and peoples. Even the privatization of theworld’s water supply has been targeted as fair game.

Nock may have been a harsh critic of equality and democratic values, but in allhonesty, democracy had never allowed to organize itself in a way that would benefiteveryone. Allow me to speak plainly: the foundation of the American State wasorganized by an elite of white men who saw themselves as the owners of thecountry, and was not above enslaving or destroying other cultures, races andwomen in order to build its unimaginable wealth for itself. Since colonial times, theevolution of capitalism has resulted in the corporate interests, and the governingState becoming oneit seems incredible that Nock, with all his intellectual powersand insight, couldn’t predict this. Maybe he had an inkling. Nevertheless, he chosenot to acknowledge it out of a curious case cognitive dissonance.

The State doesn’t have to be our enemy but it could be is a Living Communitybased on the principle of mutual consent, mutual benefit, mutual prosperity boundtogether by acknowledgment that all of us have an equal share in the bounty thisworld has to offer.

 

NOTES

[1] “They did not pretend to believe that everyone is educable, for they knew, on thecontrary, that very few are educable, very few indeed. They saw this as a fact ofnature, like the fact that few are six feet tall. […] They accepted the fact that thereare practicable ranges of intellectual and spiritual experience which nature hasopened to some and closed to others.” Nock, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, pg.34 (1943)

[2] Jefferson’s ideal scholastic model consisted of a group of students passingthrough a series of institutional gauntlets, where students are culled at specificpoints: those that fail to reach the highest levels of accomplishments are senthome, while the top “geniuses” are selected to move into higher classes until only afew of the top scholars remain. Sounds like a colonial academic version ofAmerican Idol, doesn’t it? According to Jefferson, “by this means, 20 of the bestgeniuses (in each State, mind you), shall be raked from the rubbish annually.” Yes,the Father of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas “All men are created Equal”Jefferson considered his fellow countrymen to be nothing more than human trash,at least intellectually.

[3] Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were all held anti-democratic views, and insistedthat the model society would require ruling by an intellectual elite, rigid socialstratification, hierarchies and various divisions of labor.

[4]There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man’s needs anddesires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is theeconomic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealthproduced by others; this is the political means . . . the State invariably had its originin conquest and confiscation.  Nock, Our Enemy, The State 1935

[5] Interview with Kenneth Rexroth, from Lawrence Lipton’s The Holy Barbarians(Messner, 1959).

 

 Part 12: The Swinde of Fulfillment

A Dangerous Idea: Economic Determinism

The American Dream. Perhaps best exemplified within the immortal trope of, “all men are created equal and that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” The Classical Liberal conceits of freedom, liberty, equality and opportunity have been erected, transmitted and successfully absorbed into the mass consciousness of Americans for centuries now, and even though upward social mobility has never been more impossible to attain than it is currently, many Americans still hold on to this patriotic and sentimental idea –  even in the face of an undeniable economic determinism that dictates every facet of a person’s life.

What do I mean by, “economic determinism?” Well, economic determinism is the doctrine that states all cultural, social, political and intellectual activities are a product of economic organization of society. Originally, the term was coined byKarl Marx (1818-1893) to describe what he saw as a process of social phenomena having its roots within the relations of production.

In the social production which men carry on, they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will;these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society–the real foundation, on which rise legal and political superstructures and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness.

            A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Kerr, 1904), Preface, pp. 11-12.

The elephant in the room is this clause;

THEY ENTER INTO DEFINITE RELATIONS THAT ARE INDISPENSABLE ANDINDEPENDENT OF THEIR WILL;

The relations of production can easily be understood as the relationships of the platform of capital that connects with all the various segments of society. Marx attempted to explain capitalism as he understood it – as the systems of relationships with the members of society. However, many of Marx’s contemporaries sneered at the theory of economic determinism, thinking it as a clumsy, intellectually suspect social model. Marx and Engels were seemingly embarrassed and frustrated by the acceptance of the theory by certain Marxist factions, although Engels conceded there was a place for discussing the concept more in – depth that had been possible. [1]

The critical theorist brain trust (Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse and many others) was set up in Germany during the 1920s as a Marxist research institute to study and examination of various social issues from a Marxist perspective, also rejected ED as too plain and vulgar an explanation of the increasingly unfolding complexity of the relationships with the various systems at play in society.

The mind loves complexity, you see. That’s why we have lawyers. But don’t follow the diversion.

I have a sneaking suspicion that when such a concept like economic determinism is laid so plainly, so bare, there is a visceral, instinctive, reactive desire to enter a state of cognitive dissonance. To deny the truth. To hold on what one believed in the face of overwhelming evidence that such beliefs no longer serve their purpose. That may explain an element of the resistance shown by the intelligentsia to give the concept of economic determinism full consideration. However, as a workable social theory economic determinism may have been resisted because of its loaded potential as adangerous idea.

Perhaps the most dangerous point within the theory of economic determinism is that it leaves no room for the operation of Free Will, one of the most cherished of all Classical Liberal ideals. It is believed that all are born with Free Will, but in the real word, only a few possess enough wealth to afford to use it. If Free Will can be invalidated by economic determinism, Capitalism loses its greatest theoretical weapon in justifying the ethic of enlightened Individual self-interest. Such an idea may lead to questioning the fundamental point of why such a system where one has to pay others money for the right (or is it privilege?) to survive, is preferable to any other system that isn’t based on competition and power over others. Maybe questioning the system could lead to considering another system where the answer presented is yet another dangerous idea, and one just as simple.

That answer exists on the other side of fear, that answer is as simple as the question. The answer is economic equality. Only the lack of collective will make it such a seemingly impossible feat to attain.

But what about issues of culture, the markets, the ecology, politics, psychology, economic hegemony and ownership of resources? Surely all these factors can’t be reduced to a simple explanation that all relationships in capitalism is based on the social platform of consumers and consumption? Economic determinism still is a useful tool in explaining to others the Matrix – like, camouflaged system of enslavement and exploitation that people have accepted as “the norm.” And not only as the norm, but a normalcy that one feels an explicable loyalty towards an abusive, economic authoritarian system.

Professor Henry A. Giroux calls this phenomena, “the swindle of fulfillment,” So what is the swindle? That society has been given a set of quaint, romantic values to identify itself with as the overarching self – definition its members must embody and transmit to all others, which is the principal role of the individual to exists as consumer and the commoditized. All relationships are based on one aspect: one’s relationship and access to money. The social elite has successfully hijacked and redefined these terms, and has employed them to further entrench and consolidate its power over all others, and in doing so, robbed democracy, liberty and freedom of their meanings and replaced it with fraudulent and abusive, pathological ideals, all the while overseeing the erosion of expectations, common sense and the obliteration of the social safety net in order to hand that common institution over to the privateers.

The Tyranny of an Idea: The Validity of the Middle Class

In an earlier blog I noted Kenneth Rexroth’s observation for the necessity of a nationalist “social lie” that advances the vested interests of the elites at the cost of everyone else. If, as a nation, people start questioning the lie, then perhaps the truth may emerge and make itself known. However, the ruling elites have done their job of social conditioning so extremely well, it is all too easy to understand how they have been able to deploy their ideological weaponry to convince an economically vulnerable and gullible public to not only vote against their chief public interests, but to support such measures out of a theological – like commitment to self-defeating ideologies, values, beliefs religious and political principles that are managed, manipulated and controlled through patriotic or religious sentimentality and cultural media conditioning.

In order for such a morally and ethically twisted system to retain its validity among the members of society, the ideology must be successfully sold to the populace. Part of that conditioning is generally accepted understanding by everyone that each one of us occupies a specific placement within this system, or Heaven help you, outside of it (And woe to those who are outside the system or fails to wear the signature of the Beast. Weeping and gnashing of teeth awaits).

One of the most successful of these ideologies that has benefited the social elites is the myth of the existence, sanctity and value of the American Middle Class, which exists as a metaphysically charged utopia within the minds of those who identify with its values, achievements and aspirations. As Howard Zinn points out, the Middle Class exists as an economic buffer or wedge between the elites and the impoverished. It also serves as a sentimental cultural set piece for the members of society to identify with, aspire to and maintain its place with American society.

Of course, there are various layers within this mythic class structure.  Somewhere between what I call the “safe” Middle Class, or those that have a dependable, secure access to income – and the working poor who mainly consist of the service sector is the layer of those that may live in the same neighborhoods as the safe Middle Class, but are desperately treading water. The anxiety of the Middle Class is broadcasted daily in the media with endless stories projecting the fears and doubts about its “shrinking.” This fear is massaged, nourished and broadcasted via the media to keep the populace anxious, for it is a well – known principle in advertising to “turn up the pain” to get the required response from those who are being sold. All advertising aims at maximizing discontent and demoralizing the individual/consumer with visions of social conflict amid reduced expectations and fear of losing out.

How skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation! How adroit to bus poor black youngsters into poor white neighborhoods, in a violent exchange of impoverished schools, while the schools of the rich remain untouched and the wealth of the nation, doled out carefully where children need free milk, is drained for billion-dollar aircraft carriers. How ingenious to meet the demands of blacks and women for equality by giving them small special benefits, and setting them in competition with everyone else for jobs made scares by an irrational, wasteful system. How wise to turn the fear and anger of the majority toward a class of criminals bred – by economic inequity – faster than they can be put away, deflecting attention from the huge thefts of national resources carried out within the law by men in executive offices.”

― Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present

Isn’t it funny how the politicians always talk about how great the middle class is, and yet the Middle Class is understood by everyone in America to be an endangered species? Isn’t it hilarious that the politicians sell so skillfully the bit about how ardent they are in pursuing the “national interests” as if all American Citizens held the same value as those who sit in the seats of real power in this country? Obviously, the anxiety that is palpable within the Middle Class exists as an unspoken, existential fear that as a group, there is no access or influence it can muster against those sitting in the seats of power. There can only be a grudging, resentful hope that the Middle Class won’t be sacrificed upon the crucible of neoliberal agenda. For the Middle Class there can only be the unrelenting churn of helplessness as they are chained to the deck chairs of a slowly sinking economic state of affairs.

It will never occur to them, until they are in danger of losing everything, to ask why should there even BE a “Middle Class,” never mind whether it should be something worth aspiring to or keep it around while ignoring its own certain and approaching death as it encounters the mother of all economic icebergs. It will never occur to them that the illusion of attaining the American Dream keeps the social and economic injustices firmly in place. As the neoliberal agenda marches onwards to total economic domination over every aspect of life, fear of equality will continued to milked for all its worth by the masters of deception and given to masses to drink, enabling the terrible truth to continue to be hidden in plain sight.

It is a fact that the current economic system in America is causing a growing crisis in democracy. As the Middle Class evaporates into the steam of cultural amnesia, so follows democracy, or what passes for democracy, with it. In its place awaits total economic domination of the neoliberal program. It doesn’t take much to overcome the fear of equality. It only takes the will to do so.

 

NOTE

[1] “Marx and I are ourselves partly to blame for the fact that the younger people sometimes lay more stress on the economic side than is due to it. We had to theoretical the main principle vis-a-vis our adversaries, who denied it, and we had not always the time, the place or the opportunity to give their due to the other elements involved in the interaction. But when it came to presenting a section of history, that is, to making a practical application, it was a different matter and there no error was permissible. Unfortunately, however, it happens only too often that people think they have fully understood a new theory and can apply it without more ado from the moment they have assimilated its main principles, and even those not always correctly. And I cannot exempt many of the more recent “Marxists” from this reproach, for the most amazing rubbish has been produced in this quarter, too. (Engels) Letter to J. Bloch, 21 September 1890

 

Part 13. Money and the Death of Democracy

 “Mankind is not an entity, an organism, or a coral bush. The entity involved in production and trade is man. It is with the study of man—not of the loose aggregate known as a “community”—that any science of the humanities has to begin.” 

Ayn Rand – “What is Capitalism”

 

“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it: ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society.

“There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thingas entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

 Margaret Thatcher

 

To begin with, it is fair to say that Ayn Rand was one to never allow practical common sense or intellectual honesty to get in the way of her juicy, radical individualist claims. It must be remembered that Rand’s personal experience with group and community was largely a negative one, as she blamed the community’s participation within what she viewed as the destruction of her family’s wealth and social placement in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, so such a denial of the community should be understood within that context when reading Rand’s writings or understanding her deep resentments and suspicions (and let’s be frank, hatred) towards the community and equality. She did, as we are all preprogrammed to do, live within a mental world where preciously defended ideas and mental constructs and equation carry far more weight and significance than anything in physical reality.

Obviously, any sensible definition of Mankind, or the Human Race can only refer to the collective class of human beings united by the shared quality of… well, this is going to sound a bit crazy, but, “being human.” Rand’s premise that science must forego any discussion of the community of humanity is totally connected to Rand’s overarching paranoia with the danger of collective action. Rand never received any scientific training and was largely a self – taught philosopher and writer. Her ability was in word – wrangling and constructing philosophical systems that supported her perspective. And so the key of understanding what she says and why must be in line with her negative evaluations and assertions of an inconsolable loss she felt she experienced at the hands of the community. Thus her views that equality and social responsibility cannot coexist within the confines of the freedom and liberty capitalism allegedly provides.

The similar statement by Margaret Thatcher also illustrates how master politicians are able to manipulate through words and symbols, the reality and perceptions of a nation. Thatcher was a whole-hearted supporter of the “free market” mythos and the so –called democratizing power of free market capitalism. It is a testament to her oratory skills as a politician that she was able to occlude, misapply and switch definitions of key words and have nobody call her on it.

On the face of it, the statement above from Thatcher seems to be unfocused and wobbly, and a surprisingly ironic position coming from such a hardline nationalist like Thatcher (see the Falkland Islands episode).[1]  Obviously Thatcher viewed nationalism and society in terms she could categorize and separate depending on the spin, context or the definition she wished to use to further her agenda. The problem is that the premise rests on a foundation of deceptive verbal incoherence meant to diffuse, dissemble and camouflage its subject.

Society and the Nation can be defined in various ways, and it is the politician’s job to couch these terms that will help them sell whatever ideological perspective that will keep them in power and further the agenda. The job of the politician is to present a version of reality to the voters that the voters already believe in and accepts as reality. The relentless bombardment by media has been so effective for so long in presenting a virtual reality that mirrors and reinforces the belief system of voters makes presenting social lies and sentimental narratives all the easier to shove it down the throats of the populace.

For example, one such sentimental narrative that is employed by the neoliberal and libertarian thought – machines is that decisions made by individuals are just as powerful or more powerful than decisions made by groups. This meme uncomfortably sits side by side this nagging, existential thought that the little guy, err…, I mean, the “individual” has zero influence on or access to those who sits in the seats of power. In fact, the individual doesn’t even know who sits in those chairs and how much control these mysterious Masters have over his life. All the individual knows is that if he or she can’t make it work in this life, that they will be left behind by all others, outside in the darkness, and nobody – neither society or any other individual – can be expected to be called on for help.

Another social narrative that has misled people is that somehow conservatism presents a front against “big government.” And yet, under conservative purview the federal government has increased on a titanic scale. The “government” now is completely under control of and operated as the legislative arm of stateless corporations – which gives itself many benefits, rights and privileges – and which such gifts and handouts are not made available to the people, let alone to the community and more important, no obligations are currently required for its “entitlements.” How great is that?

In reality conservatives and liberal alike are mainly interested in protecting the elite’s concentration of power. As economic power becomes more and more concentrated, the more real – world democracy evaporates under the invasion of neoliberal economic policies that has emerged as the controlling characteristic within capitalism’s feature of economic determinism where every life and every relationship in society is ultimately based on one’s connection and access to money.

Thatcher, like most master politicians, regularly employed the word game of Deception by Substitution. Here’s how it’s played. Substitute the word “society” with “democracy” and you get what Thatcher really meant:

 “They’re casting their problem on democracy. And, you know, there is no such thing as democracy.

Obviously, Thatcher could never get away with such a remark said so nakedly, thus the reason for speaking in political code. That is, by denying the power and reality of the community – there’s a denial of the power and reality that people form within relationships, thus placing the onus on the individual person, and so there’s no reasonable opposition to the view of corporatizing and privatizing the public space that was once under the auspices of the community is what is best for the individuals that make up society. Which means that the individual should lower its expectations severely: that no real power can be trusted within their hands and no real intervention can be counted on in the improvement of people’s lives because the democratic process – which works through the people just as Thatcher admitted – no longer applies. Democracy has disappeared into the black hole which now exists as the Neoliberal State. [2]

The fact is that this Neoliberal state is currently passing away, slowly yet surely. Its death is as certain as that fate that awaits all of us when we come to the end of our own lives. What Thatcher, Reagan, Bush, Obama, et al, none of them, or to be more frank, none of us seem to realize is the bigger view that needs to be considered: this sinking ship of economic determinism cannot be rescued, improved, salvaged or maintained. It is falling as surely as there’s a moon in the sky.. The only discussion that matters is the one we should be having now from the standpoint of economic equality and true democracy:  what will we choose as a collective Human Race to replace this current political – economic system?

Perhaps the most sensible way forward can be considered within this keen observation by Bernard Poolman:

“… instead of looking for political heroes who will solve problems for us on a national or global level, we focus on our community and work with trusted others to address issues in our place. As the crumbling of governments, financial systems, and other institutions exacerbates, collapse itself will compel us to implement local solutions. Thus, even in the face of such a painful demise as the collapse of civilization, we may be able to surrender to and celebrate the opportunity for rediscovering our own humanity and that of the other individuals who inhabit our community. Perhaps what we most need to discover and experience is not heroics but transformative defeat – the defeat of the paradigm of civilization.”

 

NOTES

[1] The Falklands Island War was commenced by the UK after Argentina claimed the islands for itself after invading the islands in 1982. Thatcher sent in the British Navy and battled Argentina for ten weeks until Argentina surrendered. In the conflict, World War II-vintage Argentine light cruiser ARA General Belgrano was sunk, killing its Argentinean crew of 323 men. The British Navy lost the HMS Sheffield which sank after being struck by an Exocet missile, killing 23 naval men. The aftermath of the war saw the UK maintain their hold on the disputed areas and Thatcher’s popularity swell and on that strength the conservative government won in a landslide in the next election, while in Argentina the military’s prestige was damaged beyond repair, enabling a return to free elections and democratic governance.

[2] “The new study, with the jaw-clenching title of “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” is forthcoming in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics. Its authors, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, examined survey data on 1,779 national policy issues for which they could gauge the preferences of average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups and business-dominated interest groups. They used statistical methods to determine the influence of each of these four groups on policy outcomes, including both policies that are adopted and rejected.

The analysts found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a “non-significant, near-zero level.” The analysts further discovered that rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process. The mass-based interest groups had minimal influence compared to the business-based interest groups.

The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens. They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose.

The authors also say that given limitations to tapping into the full power elite in America and their policy preferences, “the real world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater” than their findings indicate. Who Rules America?  By Allan J. Lichtman,  August 12, 2014

 

 

 

 

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