The Shameful Self-serving Myth of American Exceptionalism

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“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. We have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional…. I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.”

– Obama, 2009, overseas trip

” I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.”

– Putin, NYT Op-Ed, September 11, 2013

“America is an exceptional nation – that is, one like no other, not just now but in history – because it is dedicated to the universal principle of human liberty. This is grounded in the truth that all men – not just Americans – are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights by their Creator.”

– Jim DeMint, Heritage Foundation President

DeMint’s “interpretation” (which is a rather strange way of putting it) only shows he’s either ignorant of history or he hopes his fellow citizens are. And it’s not in any way “valid” because it isn’t the truth. Not that politicians would have any truck with that curiously strange thing called the “truth,” you know. It seems the main thing the USA is “exceptional” is self-delusion. Oh, and toppling other countries who won’t do what we want.”

– Darryl Thomas, blogger

Why all the hubbub over such a seemingly inconsequential and dusty term which hardly anyone outside the halls of academia has ever heard? Well, because the news agencies and the political wonks need something to talk about. First, Obama referenced it in his national speech about the possible military involvement into Iraq’s neighbor, Syria. Then Russian President Putin fired an op-ed in the New York Times cautioning the US about being too quick to assume an “exceptional” national identity. Then Texas congressman Jim DeMint chimed in defending the term with all the empty-headed enthusiasm of a Texas 8th grade  civics book. I had heard the term before, but it wasn’t a subject I ever thought I’d devote a blog towards, but here it is. Hope you like it.

Alright. American Exceptionalism. The term was first coined in print back in the Ben Franklin days of American History by the travel writer Alexis de Tocqueville. He used the term in a very narrow sense; America was exceptional in that it was totally different from any other place the well-travelled Tocqueville had visited. [1] For one, Tocqueville considered America to be far more religious than any country in Europe. It also had far more slaves than any country in Europe but that’s another story for another blog.

The idea has been bandied about and evolved over the past 260 years or so. The term was taken up again by the American Communists during the Jazz Age in the 1920’s. [2] It was used by the American Communists to describe their belief that the reason the socialist movement in America was failing to materialize and advance itself as much as it did in Europe was due to the economy of the times which were so favorable to the Capitalist state, and so it would take longer for the prophesied collapse to occur. In recent times, post-1960’s – the term was used among critical theorists and social scientists that either agreed or disagreed with the premise that America was somehow “qualitatively different from the rest of the nations in the world. Neoconservative and neoliberal politicians have latched on to it to assert America’s global hegemonic rights and powers, which the USA reserves for itself while denying it from other nations.

Now we are caught up. American Exceptionalism can be thought of as a politically religious or metaphysical concept that imbues one with a glowing nationalistic pride. That pride is undeserving because of the titanic mountain of evidence that rises up to meet it.

There are about five core ideas that make up the belief why America is so special. We Americans have been taught these things in various ways and through various means. They can be reduced to these:

LIBERTY

EGALITARIANISM

POPULISM

INDIVIDUALISM

CAPITALISM

None of these concepts have really been practiced on any sort of mass scale – at least not on any scale that didn’t involve requiring money. LIBERTY? Welcome to the nation with the largest disposable populace in the world. America has more people in jails and prisons than anywhere else in the world. Legal rights are being taken away and turned into “privileges” and subject to being overridden by “secret courts” that exist outside the normal boundaries of the law.

EGALITARIANISM? Well, it sure sounds nice. The different classes may not be openly enslaving people in sweatshops and having children making garments in factories (that’s what Asia is for), but since everything revolves around buying  and selling your survival to the next guy, equality is more like a faint outline of a nearly forgotten dream. Equality? People either fear it or don’t know what it means or care if it actually exists as long as they can get through the day without being hassled. That’s what the 21st Century has become.

POPULISM. Please. Half of the elected officials are millionaires working for billionaires. The American voter is typically uninformed and largely controlled through the media that pushes a narrow, slanted virtual reality that shapes a narrow, slanted world view which then the voter forms a narrow, slanted opinion which she will invariably confuse with factual evidence, yet nonetheless convince herself that she’s rational and only interested in reality. She hasn’t any idea that her responses have been programmed into her to become nothing more than a predictably passive consumer.

INDIVIDUALISM. Probably the biggest conceptual scam since reality TV. I have always found it odd that individualism is strangely accorded metaphysical status. It is a central tenet of the European and American Liberal tradition, so it’s had a long run and thus, has embedded itself into the national subconsciousness of the nations of the world. This tenet exists simply to provide a justifiable stance for predatory capitalism to exist and reach into every pocket, ironically. Individualism does not exist unless it exists within the system, to which one has no choice but to submit.

CAPITALISM. Or its 21st Century version, casino capitalism, which is a kindest word ever given to slavery. The chains are not made of iron, but of metaphysical zeros and ones spinning in existential data servers across the globe. There’s no liberty outside of capitalism, only a certain liberty within the system. Which isn’t a liberty at all, but more a submission to the soft cryptoauthoritarianism that destroys lives the world over.

Right. I could go into how taken together, these planks that make up the conceptual platform of American Exceptionalism can be shown to not be all that “exceptional” and downright self-deceptive. And dangerous, if politicians become too enamored of its cache and use it to justify American dominance across the world. Besides, this myth is used to cover a multitudes of lies.

I believe it is the tropes of the US standing for the “principle of equality” and “the principle of human liberty,”as DeMint’s letter puts it, are two clearly defined statements that can be easily rebutted because of that new thing the kids call history. You know, when you add in all that slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and second-class status for anyone who wasn’t a white male landowner – not to mention various genocides and invasions and assassinations of other citizens and democratically elected leaders in other countries that were no threat to America, one has to be self-deluded, grossly ignorant or simply dishonest not to own up to the facts. The shameful legacy of human slavery alone stands as a valid rebuttal to the stated virtues of the “liberty” and “equality” that America allegedly stands for, no matter how much true believers would like to dismiss it.

How does that Biblical verse go… Let’s see… “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” And if that doesn’t work, try this on for size: “Actions speak louder than words.” Oh, and “Pride goeth before a fall?”

American exceptionalism is a self-serving myth.

As long as there exist “secret courts” that operate outside of the bounds of the Constitution (a document our politicians are likely to uphold as a shining example of “liberty and equality”) and so empties standing law of all meaning,  as long as you have the NSA that secretly spies – err.. “collects data” on its own Citizens and then sends that information to Israel, as long as we have the exceptional USA conducting surveillance on its own journalists, its own civil society, and its own ordinary citizens and refer to them as “adversaries” we are not all that exceptional. I know it’s unfair because it’s so easy to argue against American exceptionalism by emphasizing the catalog of evil that’s the legacy of this country. If one examines the example of U.S.-backed Contra war in Nicaragua that killed some 30,000 Nicaraguans, one wouldn’t feel all that great about America’s exceptional role in the world.

NOTES

[1] American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. Seymour Martin Lipset. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc. 1996

[2]  Albert Fried, Communism in America: A History in Documents(1997), p. 7.

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The United States Supreme Court has Granted the FDA with Scientific Infallibility!

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From Whiteout Press online news service:

“In a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court struck down a lower court’s ruling and award for the victim of a pharmaceutical drug’s adverse reaction. According to the victim and the state courts, the drug caused a flesh-eating side effect that left the patient permanently disfigured over most of her body [1]. The adverse reaction was hidden by the drug maker and later forced to be included on all warning labels. But the highest court in the land ruled that the victim had no legal grounds to sue the corporation because its drugs are exempt from lawsuits.

The story gets to the takeaway line with this fascinating nugget to digest:

“In short, the Court ruled that the FDA has ultimate authority over pharmaceuticals in the US. And if the FDA says a drug is safe, that takes precedent over actual facts, real victims and any and all adverse reactions.”

Yes folks, if the Food and Drug Administration says a drug is safe, the subject is no longer open for questioning. The key to understanding this seemingly ridiculous ruling is a little something in American Jurisprudence called “the Supremacy Clause,” which states in effect that where  a State law and a Federal law are found to contradict each other, the State law is rendered invalid. The drug in question is a generic version of a “name brand,” which the FDA has approved. Thus if a State court awards damages to a plaintiff that successfully showed to be harmed by a generic drug, there can be no standing in Federal court because of the “impossibility” of a company following both Federal and State laws at the same time. The corporations realize this and only have to drag the matter before the Supreme Court who will dutifully overturn an otherwise correct judgment. They understand that all they have to do is sell any drug under a generic name and be free of any liability or consequence! But if one investigates just a bit further, what will be discovered? If one is allowed to ask three simple questions, what will we be forced to consider?

Question 1: If the Food Drug Administration is (allegedly)  an “agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services” that is (allegedly) ” is responsible for (allegedly) protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, bio-pharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), and veterinary products, then why have so many drugs it  has approved of been shown to later be unsafe? One such FDA-approved med that wreaked havoc was Vioxx, which caused fatal heart problems and deaths in the thousands!  If Vioxx had managed to be sold as a generic, then any corporation could do so without much consequence. The question that begs a sensible answer is this: what interests are being served by the Supreme Court and the FDA? The commonwealth of the American Citizens, or the pocket books of Big Pharma Corporations?

Question 2: Scientific Infallibility is (allegedly) impossible. A well-known scientific principle in trying to understand something is direct observation. In a similar case brought before the Supreme Court in 2009 (Wyeth v. Levine) [2], the SCOTUS ruled,

“We conclude that it is not impossible for Wyeth to comply with its state and federal law obligations and that Levine’s common-law claims do not stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment of Congress’ purposes in the FDCA. Accordingly, the judgment of the Vermont Supreme Court is affirmed.”

Justice John Paul Stevens:

“…the intent of Congress in passing the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was to implement a system of minimum standards for assessing when a drug is safe and effective enough to reach the market. It did not mean to pre-empt states from finding that additional steps are appropriate to protect their citizens. The Court agreed with Ms. Levine that although the FDA has technical expertise, it lacks the resources to continuously oversee all of the thousands of drugs on the market. Congress intended that state tort law serve as a supplement to its oversight.”

Did you notice that this earlier ruling contradicts the latest ruling on the same crucial point of responsibility? Who is today’s Supreme Court more sympathetic towards? The American Citizen or the Big Pharma Corporations?

Question 3: Now that pharmaceutical corporations have been given the green light to abuse their position and kill and maim its customers with impunity, who will you turn to when something like this happens to you or your family? You better have deep, deep pockets because there are two things for sure, the FDA and the Supreme Court are not going to help you under the current system and you are definitely going to pay. Common sense has been sold along with your “privilege” of citizenship (which isn’t worth doodley-squat). Proof that there needs to be a new system installed that will benefit everyone equally and not only for those who can buy chief justices just like any common street-walker.

NOTES

[1] According to the court documents, the victim is reported to be “severely disfigured, has physical disabilities, and is nearly blind.” – Mut. Pharm. Co. v. Bartlett, No. 12-142, 2013 BL 166063 (U.S. June 24, 2013)

[2] Wyeth v. Levine

6.7.13. Human Right #2: Right to Physical and Mental Health

2. An Equal Health Right that provides all essentials to building strong physical embodiments, insuring vitality and well-being along with clarity of intellect, emotional balance and physical stability.

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Anti-Abortion activists often refer themselves as members of the “Right-To-Life” campaign. It’s a bit of a misnomer, since they really should be called the party of the “Right-to-be-Born.” I don’t have a problem with considering the right of a fetus to allowed to be born, IF the world they are going to be born into the jaws of a nightmare that we laughingly call “civilization.” The fact is that the “right-to-life” movement cares way too much what happens to the fetus before birth than to what happens to it after it’s born. For most fetuses that will be born into this world, birth  is probably the worst thing that can happen to an incipient life-form. Most infants – many millions of them – will be born into an impoverished hell that they will never be able to recover from. Many will have nothing but pain, starvation, war, a wrecked environment and insane human beings to deal with before they die an undignified death, never knowing a single comfort that we in the First World take for granted every day. The “Right-To-Lifers” really couldn’t care less; many have told me that it isn’t God’s Will that so many suffer, but that it’s due to Satanic influences and Mankind’s “fallen nature” that so much suffering exists for these little ones. If that is the case (and I’m kind of in agreement with the “fallen nature” aspect – humanity has forever been a pretty brutal and vicious piece of work on this planet), if such suffering and pain is awaiting so many new beings coming into this world and you realize how fucked up things are, why would you campaign for the “right” of these future persons to be born on such a world?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to be all about standing up for the unborn if the world was first a proper place to begin a life? Has anyone ever interviewed a fetus before it was born and asked if it’s okay being born in a dirty hovel in a Darfur refugee camp where it can expect of life filled with no education to speak of, no access to healthcare, nothing but violence, water and food shortages, abuse and exploitation to look forward to? Put yourself in those shoes. Does that sound like an entrée  you’d want to order from the Menu of Life? Does that sound like the kind of fate you would want for your child? People who wring their hands about the shame and desolation of abortion (which may very well be a mercy considering what is in store for most children coming into this world) are so involved with their own minds and inner conflicts that they fail to see what they are really advocating. It is unfortunate for them that they never considered what would be in the best interests of newborn beings would align with the best interests of everybody else. That means providing a decent place for children to be born into – a place where they can grow in strength and honor, within a potential just waiting to burst forth onto this plane of existence, freed from crippling psychological issues that maim and destroys their character before they even have a chance in this world. What greater sin could there be to be given the gift of life and have that gift of a newborn turned to such a shameful thing just because we refused to rise above our disgraceful, paranoid natures, where the “right-to-life” is merely a “right-to-wrong” the truly innocent. Human Right #2 would be so easy to give to all of us, and it would finally bring forth a world that would be an honored destination for any newborn.

Fear of Equality, Part 4 03/10/2013

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The 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.

Survival of the Fittest

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.

NEXT: The Trinity of Fears

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,

Fear of Equality, Part 3 03/06/2013

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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” to rent 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.

NEXT: The Survival of the Fittest

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.

 

2013/02/18 Does Capitalism have a “Branding Problem?”

johnmackey
John Mackey: Cheerleader of Conscious Consumptionism

In an article by Joel Griffith which is smattered across the conservative-libertarian Internet ghettos, the founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey recently delivered the keynote address at the “International Students for Liberty Conference” in Washington D.C. this past weekend. If I may quote from Griffith’s article:

Mackey stressed that capitalism has the power to eradicate poverty in the next century, expressed concern over capitalism’s “branding problem,” and maintained that “self-interest” alone is an insufficient moral foundation for the system. The themes presented by Mackey closely followed the premises of his new book, Conscious Capitalism.

To which I say, “Really?”

To my way of thinking, which may be faulty, it seems to me that what could have happened was most likely to happen. Which is to say that if Capitalism has the power to “eradicate poverty,” what gives us any reason to believe it will eradicate it in the future? The problem with Mackey’s equation is that he should already know that the essence of Capitalism is amoral, so claiming that any “moral foundation” – let alone being “insufficient” is also quite intellectually dishonest. Capitalism is based on the Law of Competition and Domination. It’s claimed that “voluntary exchange” exists at the core, but in practice, Capitalism is a stateless, amoral force that dominates and totalizes the lives of everyone on the planet – whether they choose to “voluntarily participate” with other capitalists or not (which ultimately means you are then cast outside the system). Numbers can be wrangled to mislead and distort the reality of any situation. While it is true that there is more “wealth” in the world, it is also true that the gap between abject poverty and immense wealth has never been wider.

If I may quote from Grtiffith’s article once more:

Mackey’s analysis re-framed the issue of income inequality. Proponents of government control often point to wealth disparity as a social evil resulting from capitalism. However, Mackey noted that since capitalism’s development just over 200 years ago, overall global per capita prosperity has increased 10x. In nations which have embraced capitalism, the jump in prosperity is even more fantastic—35x in Japan, 100x in the United States, and 200x in South Korea. As Mackey stated, “Capitalism is ending poverty on planet earth. 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.”

This kind of breezy oversimplification of the horrors inflicted by Capitalist system is typical for those who have managed to make the system work for them. It is true that there has been an overall rise in the standard of living spread about the nations of the world over the past 200 years. There has also been many wars which were fed, aided and abetted by Capitalist profiteering interests during that time as well, along with great removals and confiscations of the natural resources by the First World from weaker nations who didn’t have armies to defend themselves. The Enlightenment, and its children Reason and Capitalism, has both failed humanity, for they are both responsible for billions of people on this planet suffering through hunger, poverty, sickness and war. Freedom, choice and “liberty” has been reduced to commodities that only a few can purchase. Oppression has hardened and become more intractable than ever. Control over the masses via the military and media is nearly complete. And yet, we can find people like John Mackey who can breathlessly gush about how Capitalism was good to him, therefore it must be good for everyone. Quoting from Griffith’s piece again:

According to Mackey, “capitalism has a serious branding problem … the recent recession was … blamed on greedy financial corporations, deregulation, and capitalism — market failures — rather than on bad government regulations and monetary policies — government failures.” And Mackey doesn’t believe we can count on the media and educators to address this misperception. As he states, “Business has been hated by the intellectuals and elites for all time.”

Okay. So let’s blame the government instead. It’s sad to see, but instructive to note the petulance and blame-gaming Mackey engages here, like any fanatical Ayn Randbot regurgitating the libertarian strawman of the success-hating hoard of the dirty mob.  Why is it so hard for these neoliberal corporatists to admit and own that they are responsible for the problems and mistakes they cause? Really?  “Business has been hated by the intellectuals and elites for all time?”  This Does Mackey believe that spouting oversimplified inanities makes such statements true? I’m no big fan of intellectualism, but it the fact is that there is a historical record that plainly shows Capitalism being touted, promoted and even loved by the greatest intellectuals and elites in Western civilization. [1]

So, in regards to John Mackey’s assertion that Capitalism has a “branding problem,” well, hell yes, it does. It’s a brand that stands for crushing oppression, deprivation and the closing of the democratic process… for starters. Capitalism represents a living force that is anti-life and the unyielding muscle behind amoral self-interest. Mackey, for all his light-hearted, simplistic dissembling, cannot overcome reality.

Note

[1] Mackey is probably concerned that the principles of Capitalism do not stand up well to intellectual analysis. For every assertion such as Milton Friedmen’s, “History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom,” there’s a counter argument that suggests otherwise, such as the quote from Bertrand Russell: “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.”

2012 MAYAN PROPHECY ENDTIMES. DAY 7 AND COUNTING…

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McKanna’s Timewave Graph. An amazing testament to one man’s desire to create the evidence that makes him right.

What we have with this specious New Age quackery called the “Mayan Prophecy Endtimes 2012,”is a case of wishful thinking, bad science, junk philosophy and drugs. Jose Arguelles (dubbed, an “academic shaman,” whatever that meant) published “The Mayan Factor” back in 1987.  Arguelles was not an expert in Mayan culture. He was however, prepared to say what he believed and insisted his beliefs were true. Many New Age authors follow this practice. Eckhart Tolle being one of the most glaring example. So when Arguelles claimed that it was proper to treat Mayan legend as “history,”it was very easy for him to claim the Mayans were from another planet, and it was just as easy to get many people believe it. Arguelles also claimed that the Mayans would return on December 21, 2012 apparently to bring about the cosmic “shift” in consciousness.

Fortunately for Arguelles, he died in 2011 before his prophecy could be debunked, pulled apart and discredited on December 21, 2012. He would have endured the same “perp walk” that Rapture prophet Harold Camping had to endure.

The other giant of the propagation of  the Mayan Prophecy was also not an expert on Mayan culture. Terrence McKenna devised his 2012 theories through the use of hallucinogenics (mushrooms) and throwing the I-Ching. That’s right.  According to Nowick Gray,

“The theory of Timewave Zero was revealed to Terence by an alien intelligence following a bizarre, quasi-psychedelic experiment conducted in the Amazon jungle in Colombia in 1971.”[1]

McKenna’s notion (which he predictably promulgated as fact) was that somehow, December 21, 2012 was an attractor or an end-point of time – a singularity that time rushed towards. McKenna used and manipulated all sorts of mathematical sequence to prove it, yet ultimately honed in on the Mayan 2012 thing.

So there you have it. The Mayan 2012 phenomenon was begun decades ago by dilettante hippies who probably took too many drugs. The amazing thing is that on the scantiest of evidence, people around the world are gripped in fear and irrationality, contemplating suicide, building escape boats or burning through their life savings.  The Mayan Prophecy and soon to be BUST will hopefully make believers a little more suspicious of New Age religion and the high-minded myths promulgated as truths.

Note

{1] Nowick Gray, Timewave Zero, http://alternativeculture.com/spirit/timewave.htm