An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The Silence of the Lambs
We should seriously ask ourselves the question, "Why are Americans so passive in the face of massive economic violence perpetrated on themselves and their children?"
It appears to me to be the result of one of the most successful social conditioning campaigns in history. Whatever relates to commodities and productivity has become supremely real; whatever relates to political obligations has become supremely unreal. Social bodies such as governments have become simply targets for exploitation to which no loyalty or even elementary moral consideration is required. On the other hand, corporations can be permitted even the most invasive destruction of privacy because of the commodities they control.
Having given their loyalty to the corporate system, Americans become deeply conflicted at stories of corporate robbery. Since they usually share the same values as the corporations that have robbed them, they are often half-tempted to celebrate the successful heists, heists they themselves would have gladly participated in, despite what they tell themselves. The government and the values it represents have become an abstraction (inspiring or otherwise) to them, the representative of a power that is alien to their lives, while the values of the corporate world are ever present and pressing.
It is critical to understand the outside and inside of the crisis from their perspective. They see themselves as inside the corporate system, but view the government from the outside. They also see the “financial crisis” as a phenomena external to the system they are a part of. It is largely an abstraction to them, something that pundits talk about, but which doesn’t directly affect their world, even if they lose their job or house. This “externalizing” attitude applies to the crisis as a whole. Since they are actually an intimate part of the system and what they do is by definition the result of worthy motives, the crisis must be caused by abuses of the system which are external to the system’s normal operations. Therefore, the crisis is the result of a fortuitous combination of circumstances that threatens the smooth operation of the system, but is not part of the system itself.
Their ability to see this crisis as the inevitable result of the ordinary operation of profit system has been systematically deleted. This is one reason why the corporate media so easily runs diversionary maneuvers that distract attention from the primary theft – the robbery of trillions of dollars by those who caused the crisis. That robbery is an abstraction to most Americans, but when culprits are found to be receiving bonuses from the tax money, their outrage swells because the crime has become personal at that point. In other words, they have a strong affinity toward private profit, but public obligations have become unreal, which demonstrates why such crises are inevitable. The witnesses of the crime cannot see it as a crime because their attitudes have been shaped by the same causes as the crimes themselves.
So strongly have they internalized the profit system that they see the system as a victim in the same way as they feel their own victimization. The dominant analysis of the crisis as the fault of various malefactors - reckless speculators, greedy and overpaid executives, and the self-indulgent American consumer — allows the evil to be personalized and externalized at the same time. The cause is always external to the system itself, just as the system that they participate in is not part of the “financial crisis” which the system generated. The key theme of media coverage of the crisis is to reinforce its personal and subjective aspects, to focus microscopically on personal faults and moral failings so as to isolate causes away from the nature of the system itself. The mortgage crisis is explained as the result of unregulated personal greed, as if this evil could be separated from the nature of the profit system, which obviously depends on it as the primary motivating force behind all economic activity.
What we must see is that by internalizing the profit system so profoundly, Americans have no vantage point outside the system to criticize it without condemning themselves. Until they can face their own moral visage in the mirror, they will remain easily manipulated victims of their own victimization.