"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, December 05, 2010
The Earth and Its Fullness are the Lord's
The Global Abuser
"These are people who believe in entitlement. These are arrogant elites who believe the rest of us don't need to know what they're doing with and to our lives. These are people see truth as a danger." David Michael Green, "What WikiLeaks Really Reveals" Common Dreams, 12/5/10 (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/12/05#comment-1686473)
The key word here is not "truth", which they do indeed hate but which is incidental to their main purpose, but "entitlement." The political elites and their ideological attack dogs reserve special savagery for whatever threatens to unravel their self justification. In the words of Derrick Jensen, "It all comes down to perceived entitlement. As Bancroft states, 'Entitlement is the abuser's belief that he has a special status that provides him with exclusive rights and privileges that do not apply to his partner. The attitudes that drive abuse can largely be summarized by this one word." The abuser has the right to lie and we must accept his lies and pretend that they are the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Doing this preserves the abusive family dynamic.
Again, Jensen, "Within an abusive family dynamic, everything - and I mean everything - is aimed toward protecting the abuser from the physical and emotional consequences of his actions. All members are enculturated to identify more closely with the family structure and its abusive dynamics than with their own well-being and the well-being of their loved ones and other victims...This 'well-being' is a particular sort, devoid of relationship and accompanying emotions, heavy on the kind of external rewards abusers reap because of their abuse (and of course precisely the kind of external rewards emphasized by a grotesquely materialistic culture), and most especially focused on allowing the perpetrator to avoid confronting his own painful emotions, including the pain he inflicts..." Derrick Jensen, Resistance, p. 564.
What the abuser fears above all is the sight of what he has done without his preferred moral justifications - justifications that allow him to carry out acts such as the murder of a million Iraqis, nightly drone attacks that kill far more women and children that supposed "terrorists", and gutting climate change to doom future generations to thirst and starvation.
DMG is right that they have little to fear from a pacified population, stultified with cheap goods, overwork, and hypnotizing spectacles. Jensen: "People will do anything - go to any absurd length - to hide the abuse from themselves and everyone around them." What Assange has done is expose the global abuser and his family members have rushed to protect his feelings.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
A Covenant of Justice
Thomas Aquinas, the man who made reasoned debate a foundational theological principle had this to say about anger, or ‘incivility’ as Wallis defines it,: “Anger may be understood in two ways. On one way, as a simple movement of the will, whereby one inflicts punishment, not through passion, but in virtue of a judgment of the reason: and thus without doubt lack of anger is a sin. This is the sense in which anger is taken in the saying of Chrysostom, for he says: ‘Anger, when it has a cause, is not anger but judgment. For anger, properly speaking, denotes a movement of passion’: and when a man is angry with reason, his anger is no longer from passion: wherefore he is said to judge, not to be angry. On another way anger is taken for a movement of the sensitive appetite, which is with passion resulting from a bodily transmutation. This movement is a necessary sequel, in man, to the movement of his will, since the lower appetite necessarily follows the movement of the higher appetite, unless there be an obstacle. Hence the movement of anger in the sensitive appetite cannot be lacking altogether, unless the movement of the will be altogether lacking or weak. Consequently lack of the passion of anger is also a vice, even as the lack of movement in the will directed to punishment by the judgment of reason.” ST II-II, a. 158 “Whether there is a vice opposed to anger resulting from lack of anger?”
The Christian tradition does not condemn anger as such, but only anger that is not in accordance with the order of reason. When reason and the passion for justice accord in righteous anger, then to lack anger is a serious sin. In the light of the tradition of the saints and doctors of the Church, I would say that not to be outraged “at this horrible juncture” is a mortal sin. We should beg God for forgiveness for our lack of rage and implore him for this gift.
It is not “political polarization” that is the dangerous threat, but the numbing apathy of Christians and others of good will in the face structural sin on a scale unknown in history. Jim Wallis, who has battled against this apathy his entire life, should recognize this and is rightly rebuked for his neglect of the passion for truth. Terrell rightly points out that the political polarization which liberal commentators denounce is a smokescreen for an utter lack of creative tension rising from outrage at real injustice. We should be fanning the flames of this discontent in every way possible rather than embracing the nauseating piety of mere “tolerance.” This will not preserve our humanity, but give comfort to those who would destroy it.
“A covenant not to condemn their crimes in the name of civility, however, does not help these perpetrators or their victims.”
Saturday, November 06, 2010
The Meaning of “Mine” and “Not Mine” in the Early Church
Why are the French rioting? Many of the governments of Europe now demand that severe austerity measures be imposed on public expenditures in order to deal with mounting deficits. The French government proposes cutting back on pensions to help balance the budget. Over the past fifty years, there has been an expansion of social benefits such as pensions that multiple generations have come to rely on. These benefits are now being rescinded to compensate for the hundreds of billions that were pumped into the banking system to stave off the collapse of major financial institutions whose risky investments had failed. Since these billions were provided by the public through taxes, it would appear that there has been a vast transfer of wealth from the public to the bankers whose malfeasance created the financial crisis. Rather than make up the shortfall in public revenues through increased taxation on the wealthy and corporations, these governments have chosen to cut back on the benefits provided by social programs. While other economic factors affect the current situation, these appear to be the essential facts concerning the “austerity” measures. The widespread perception of these facts by the French public provide the motivation behind the current strike actions and oil depot occupations which have caused fuel shortages throughout the country.
When confronted with similar situations in their own time, how did the great Christian thinkers respond? John Chrysostom, considered one of the greatest Christian pastors by both eastern and western Christianity, lived most of his life in Antioch, one of the most beautiful cities of the Empire. “In the fourth century the greater part of the municipal land there was in the hands of a few rich landowners - the proprietors of the fine villas described by Chrysostom in his works. The well-preserved ruins of these villas show them to have been large and solidly built, with stables and slave quarters on the ground floor and luxurious apartments for the owners and managers above. The wealthy owners represented only about one-tenth of the population. Living in the city, they had succeeded in concentrating in their few hands most of the agricultural lands of the countryside...Exploited by the city landlords, the peasants lived in extreme poverty.” (Charles Avila, Ownership: Early Christian Teachings. Orbis Books, 1983, p. 82-3).
Chrysostom’s response to the condition of the poor was unending outrage which he distilled into sermons that made him immensely popular with the Antiochian majority. But what is most interesting for Christians today is his radical theory of property rights. This understanding of property, shared by seminal Christian thinkers such as Basil, Ambrose and Augustine, became the traditional Christian understanding of property until the rise of capitalism in the sixteenth century. In a sermon he preached on Luke 16, Chrysostom defined robbery in the following terms, “This is robbery: not to share one’s possessions. Perhaps what I am saying astonishes you. Yet be not astonished. For I shall offer you the testimony of the Sacred Scriptures, which says that not only to rob others’ property, but also not to share your own with others, is robbery and greediness and theft...’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house’ (Malachi 3:10 - John reads, ‘for the robbery of the poor is in your houses,‘ for the last clause). Because you have not made the accustomed offerings, the prophet says, therefore have you robbed the things that belong to the poor. This he says by way of showing the rich that they are in possession of the property of the poor, even if it is a patrimony they have received, even if they have gathered their money elsewhere.” (Avila, p. 83-4).
Chrysostom was not speaking rhetorically. His sermons directly challenged the legal definition of ownership in the Roman Empire which enshrined the absolute disposition of property as a sacred right. The rulers of Antioch found his “socialist” ideas so offensive that they deposed him as Bishop of Antioch and sent him packing into exile. The principle implied in his definition of robbery is that God has given all a right to the goods of the earth, rich and poor alike. For one class to usurp the gifts of God for themselves alone while others starve he defined as robbery in the strict sense of the term.
In the following sermon, the spirit that animated the Acts of the Apostles flowers again: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” (Acts 4:32). In this sermon, Chrysostom diagnoses the loss of tranquility which possessions inflict, “But what is the meaning of ‘mine’ and ‘not mine’? For, truly, the more accurately I weigh these words, the more they seem to me to be but words...And not only in silver and gold, but also in bathing places, gardens, buildings, ‘mine’ and ‘not mine’ you will perceive to be but meaningless words. For use is common to all. Those who seem to be owners have only more care of these things than those who are not.” (Avila, p. 85). Later, he proposes that the very concept of private property has no place in the Church. He says, “For ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ - those chilly words which introduce innumerable wars into the world - should be eliminated from that holy Church...The poor would not envy the rich, because there would be no rich. Neither would the poor be despised by the rich, for there would be no poor. All things would be in common.” (Avila, p. 85).
In this passage, he explicitly argues that the holiness of the Church requires that there should be no “mine” or “thine”, but that property should be a matter of social ownership. The vision of Acts 4:32 shows that the kingdom of God knows nothing of “mine” and “not mine”, but only recognizes the concept of “ours.” For Chrysostom, to be a Christian implies a deep understanding of the need for common ownership and the drive to incarnate this principle in daily life. Property was given to the wealthy so that they might grow in virtue by sharing it - that social goal alone justifies any particular ownership system. The early Christians had no illusions about rising tides lifting all boats.
The following passage from another homily might have been intended for the European bankers now enjoying unabated prosperity, “We do all things ignoring the fact that we shall have to give account of everything that goes beyond our use, for we thus misuse the gifts of God. For he has not given us these things that we alone may use them, but that we may alleviate the need of our fellow human beings.” (Avila, p. 92). No doubt erudite economists will explain why the prosperity of all requires the transfer of Europe’s wealth to fewer and fewer hands, but Chrysostom would not have been so tolerant toward wealthy bankers. He addresses those who would defraud the public and justify their theft by donating to charities with these words, “I do not ask you mercifully to render from what you have plundered, but to abstain from fraud...For, unless you desist from your robbery, you are not actually giving alms. Even though you should give ever so much money to the needy, if you do not desist from your fraud and robbery you shall be numbered by God among the murderers.” (Avila, p. 93). Murder was understood quite literally in fourth century Antioch.
Chrysostom did not believe that wealth was evil in itself. Wealth is a cherished gift of God. The economic evil that Chrysostom denounced was not “greed” as we think of it today, but the exclusive ownership by individuals of what was intended for the common good of all. Economic arrangements are just when they are ordered to the right of all to the use of the goods of the earth. Property rights are justified only in so far as they enable this common right of use. The absolute right of private property in Roman law was regarded as among the worst evils of “Babylon” by the fathers of the Church.
In his homily on Acts 4, Chrysostom presents us with a magnificent vision of koinonia. Koinonia means “communion by intimate participation” and in the social sense denotes sharing the wonderful gifts of God together. This vision is an enticing expression of what the kingdom of God meant to the early Christians: “Let us imagine things as happening in this way: All give all that they have into a common fund. No one would have to concern himself about it, neither the rich nor the poor. How much money do you think would be collected? I infer - for it cannot be said with certainty - that if every individual contributed all his money, his lands, his estates, his houses (I will not speak of slaves, for the first Christians had none, probably giving them their freedom), then a million pounds of gold would be obtained, and most likely two or three times that amount...What could we not undertake with our huge treasure! Do you believe it could ever be exhausted? And will not the blessing of God pour down on us a thousand-fold richer? Will we not make a heaven on earth?” (Avila, p.101). Note well that it is not the gold that makes the kingdom, but love for the common good.
“Hundreds of riot squad officers stood by in Lyon to try to prevent a repeat of Thursday's violence that saw security forces fire water cannon and fight running battles with rampaging youths in the east-central city.” - “French Unions: We Won't Pay For 'Failures of Global Finance'”, Agence France-Presse, 10/22/10. Chrysostom’s thundering outrage echoes in the deeds and shouts of the French protesters - “Not to share the gifts God has given for all is robbery!”
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Most of the left/liberal media seems to miss the growing irrelevance of our two-party political circus. We need ask a basic question about our political system: Why does it not seem to matter that candidates for public office don't even to pretend to engage the real issues such as global warming, the worst health care in the developed world, the catastrophe-prone nature of our financial system?
The really crucial decisions in this society are not made by the U.S. government, but by transnational corporations and the national security apparatus. The primary role of the government is to provide the necessary bureaucratic and legal infrastructure to ensure the interests of those who control these entities. Part of the reason that the quality of politicians has plunged so dramatically may be that they have fewer and fewer possibilities of modifying the real situation. As in the later Roman Empire, the legislature devolves more and more into a masque of what once had been genuine power.
In the current empire, the same applies to the president. The unseen irony of so much liberal commentary is that it is inspired by a belief that America as described in the Constitution still exists. How many liberal articles lament the cowardice and timidity of Obama and the Democrats in such florid terms? So many wail, "If only Obama had championed single payer, how different would the political landscape be today!"
Such commentaries misunderstand how power really works. Obama is not "the most powerful leader on the planet" as we hear so often. He plays an important role in a large array of power relationships, but real decisions are the result of continually evolving negotiations within that web of power. Obama's options are the product of these negotiations, not of his own principles, be they strongly held or otherwise. Because of this, politicians have evolved into rhetorical figureheads, role-playing symbols in the political theater directed by the media. They still wield real power, but this power is not the direction of public policy, whose conditions are foreordained, but act as negotiators between competing sections of the ruling class.
Where does the solution lie? In unity lies power. We need to seek out those willing to make the mental effort necessary to truly understand both the real situation and our options for changing it. Then we need to unite across all our differences, which may seem less important in the face of looming catastrophe.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The Decency that Adorns the Face Of Power
"The liberal class, despite becoming an object of public scorn, still prefers the choreographed charade. Liberals decry, for example, the refusal of the Democratic Party to restore habeas corpus or halt the looting of the U.S. Treasury on behalf of Wall Street speculators, but continue to support a president who cravenly serves the interests of the corporate state. As long as the charade of democratic participation is played, the liberal class does not have to act. It can maintain its privileged status. It can continue to live in a fictional world where democratic reform and responsible government exist. It can pretend it has a voice and influence in the corridors of power. But the uselessness of the liberal class is not lost on the tens of millions of Americans who suffer the awful indignities of the corporate state." - Chris Hedges, "The World Liberal Opportunists Made" (http://www.truthdig.com/report/page2/the_world_liberal_opportunists_made_20101025/)
One reason the liberal class is so vicious toward left-wing radicals and other unbelievers in "America" is that such views spike the illusion within which they wrap themselves. As you say, "What they really want to save is themselves, and what they really want restored are their illusions about America."
Their real fear is well expressed by Hedges, "The liberal class, like the déclassé French aristocracy, has no real function within the power elite. And the rising right-wing populists, correctly, ask why liberals should be tolerated when their rhetoric bears no relation to reality and their presence has no influence on power." - Chris Hedges, "The World Liberal Opportunists Made" Exactly so, away with the "decency" that adorns the face of power.
Friday, September 03, 2010
What if God is Calling Us?
Sunday, August 08, 2010
Let the Sixties Go
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Liberation from Wealth
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Coffee Party - A Caffeinated Fantasy
We need the courage to make a break with the current U.S. political system. However, I have sympathy with Dennis Kucinich, who seems trapped, as many of us are, by choices made at an earlier time when conditions were less barbaric than now. When Dennis started his political career, unions were still strong and a liberal could take on powerful corporations and actually win, as Dennis did long ago. But few followed his example and we have gradually drifted into the current situation which borders on classical fascism.
Should Dennis have the courage and vision to step out of the graveyard of progressivism which is the Democratic Party today? I think so, but I also sympathize with his belief that he would be a less powerful force for change outside the party - in effect he is one of the last voices for sanity in the current Congress. Without him, one of the last strong progressive voices would be silenced in the seat of American power.
I turned to the Coffee Party web site with hope, but what I find there looks like the typical American "feel good" political event. The underlying theme in the videos is the one so insistently promoted by the news media - that partisan bickering is the real problem in Washington, that government is broken because of it, and that we need to just get along with each other and everything will fix itself. Behind this notion is the unquestioned assumption that the American form of representative government and capitalist economics is fundamentally sound, but that corporations have gained too much power and the people need to take that power back.
This narrative is so ingrained in today's culture that it is considered simply "common sense." Any "movement" based on these sentiments cannot possibly have a real impact on political power relations. The typical American allergic reaction to "ideology" dominates these gatherings, reflecting the unquestioned ideology that no fundamental change is needed. One hears the phrase "make government work" over and over without any attempt to define what "works" actually means.
In fact, most of the people at these gatherings remind me of Kucinich who remains committed to the current form of government because the alternatives appear to be wildly impractical and, in effect, a surrender of power to the dominant elites. Unfortunately, no political progress is possible without a rigorous analysis of the realities of power. Democracy in the form imagined by the founding fathers has never ruled America. The people can't "take back" the power from the corporations because they never had it in the first place. Whenever I hear criticism of "corporate power" I long to ask the denouncers what company they work for. Obviously, many of the Coffee Party members are in the very corporations whose profits send the lobbyists to Washington.
Once again, we are treated to an edifying spectacle, similar to the Obama campaign, that says in effect, "We can make the American system work. All we need is a dose of common sense and decency that the politicians have lost and everything can be right again." This, I'm afraid, is as delusional as the fantasies of Sarah Palin.
Friday, February 19, 2010
The Fierce Urgency of Now
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
The Power Elite
One of the most widespread illusions propagated by media left and right is that politicians have a great deal of actual power to make changes. This illusion serves many useful purposes. It hides, however, the truth that at the very least several decades, politicians, including Presidents, have become mid-level functionaries in the power elite, essentially go-fers, not go-tos for that elite.
It's also important to understand that this is not a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories are a distraction from the study of the real power relations that exist in this country. Pointing out the class nature of American society is not equivalent to a "conspiracy theory." The inability to distinguish the two concepts is part of the stupidity which David Michael Green points out so ably in his recent article, "Just Gimme Some Truth.
"The rise of the elite, as we have already made clear, was not and could not have been caused by a plot; and the tenability of the conception does not rest upon the existence of any secret or any publicly known organization." - C. Wright Mills
However, mass stupidity doesn't just happen by chance. Green seems to think that if only we could get back to good old liberalism of FDR and Obama could throw a few punches like Harry Truman that we would be on the road to recovery. His astonishment at Obama's slow learning curve could be quickly overcome if he would drop the illusion of democracy and realize that we live in a managed democracy, as Sheldon Wolin put it. The sickness is much deeper than he suspects.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
The truth is that there was no need for a Manchurian candidate - the Democratic Party had already been destroyed from within. We voted for Obama because we wanted to believe that the possibilities that once seemed so real were still alive. Obama skillfully packaged this longing while being savvy enough to know whom he actually served. We progressives, on the other hand, chose to cling to our illusions that genuine social change was possible under the current power structure and the shattering of our illusions accounts for the bitterness of DMG's articles.
I also agree with the likelihood of his future scenario. It feels like we're locked in our seats on a train flying like a bullet toward a new age of slavery and superstition. If the only political options were the ones recognized by the American political system, then perhaps the despair shown by DMG would be justified. But I don't believe it is.
There are alternative political possibilities, but to realize them the first step is to abandon the obsessive focus on Obama. DMG says he no longer cares about Obama, but he obviously does or else he wouldn't blame the failure of an entire political system on him. The roots of this crisis go a lot deeper than the lack of leadership of one man, even the President.
The assumption seems to be that the American system is not so sick that one man in the right position of power could change it. Unfortunately, it is, but we'll never get a chance to truly test out the theory because the system is set up so that such a man or woman could never get close to the Presidency.
The focus on the failures of the Democratic Party masks a continued faith in the American system. Some of us believe that the American people are great enough to reinvent their system of government and that is exactly what's currently needed: to recognize that the system of government founded 200 years ago was flawed in ways that can no longer be fixed and to accept the challenge of creating a new system of government based on fulfilling human needs and recreating a flourishing human and natural ecology.
Before we can understand what needs to be done to achieve this new government, we need to analyze the roots of our current impotent political psychology. In the words of Paulo Friere, "The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility. Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibility. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion." - Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
In other words, the root of our passivity is our internalization of the oppressor. The media constantly paints images on our imagination with the colors of power, beauty, wealth and happiness, but these images are images of oppression. They represent a psychological infiltration that plants the oppressor within us, with whom we wish to identify because it is the only image we have of powerful and free human existence. We want to be like the dominator because of our longing to live according the standards of real humanity which we secretly nourish behind a facade of resigned cynicism.
But as Friere says, "Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift." Alienated forms of religion often play their traditional role here, promising a magical solution to our longing for a life suited to our actual human capabilities, virtually all of which are wasted by a social system blind to anything but exchange value. By promising such a life in the afterworld, these religions endorse the reign of the current order. They teach us that we must accept this world with all its injustices. Though we may add a ray of hope here and there, the message is "Here we have no abiding home. We are sojourners in this world of darkness, citizens of a heavenly world that will one day sweep this one away ..."
Thus the order of oppression is blessed by God who encourages us to flee this world and all its wiles. But something in our conscience can't let us rest in this cowardly heaven. Something tells us that real humanity doesn't close its eyes in the face of human suffering and flee into imaginary solace. Real humanity has something to do with struggling toward freedom, but the only culturally acceptable images of freedom are those of wealth and power. So we consent internally to the oppressor within and seek to realize our humanity in the only socially acceptable way.
So the path to freedom begins with taking a risk for freedom. That begins the process of building the psychological resilience necessary for freedom. Taking a risk means speaking up for justice when you fear that those you are speaking to will treat you as a fanatic or a fool. You can already hear their cynical laughter, but you speak anyway, not afraid of losing their esteem. It means speaking up for the insights and moral beauties that you have been given the privilege to witness in yourself or others. It means accepting the silence of those who wish to continue in their cynical acceptance of the "real world" which has no place for your insights.
You know that you are moving toward freedom when you can say with Gandhi "Truth is God" and you can serve him even in total solitude, perhaps all the way to death.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
"True generosity consist precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the 'rejects of life,' to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands-whether of individuals or entire peoples-need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work and, working, transform the world." - Paulo Friere "Pedagogy of the Oppressed"
These words must be remembered by progressives as we all dig to give. As Bill Quigley proves in his recent article "Why the U.S. Owes Haiti Billions - the Briefest History", the West owes far more than it can ever pay for what it has taken from the people of Haiti. Our task now is to help Haitians renew and carry to completion the revolution begun in 1804 so that hands which tremble now can transform the world.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Capitalism is Violence Against the Soul
Let's start with real perspective. "The central task of the ruling ideology in the present crisis is to impose a narrative which will place the blame for the meltdown not on the global capitalist system as such, but on secondary and contingent deviations (overly lax legal regulations, the corruption of big financial institutions, and so on)." Slavoj Zizek, "First as Tragedy, Then as Farce" His ideological purpose is to contrast 'productive' capitalism to the bad, aberrant capitalism of the present. He praises Andrew Carnegie's bounty: "... some 1,600 public libraries, just for starters - but also for creating a steel empire that actually helped build America's industrial infrastructure in the late 19th century." How Andrew Carnegie treated his workers to build that empire is left conveniently unspoken.
The inner drive that fueled AIG and still powers the record bonuses of Goldman Sachs is the same as the one that drove Andrew Carnegie. It is the constant pressure "...to expand the sphere of circulation in order to keep the machinery running, inscribed into the very system of capitalist relations. In other words, the temptation to 'morph' legitimate business into a pyramid scheme is part of the very nature of the capitalist circulation process. There is no exact point at which the Rubicon was crossed and the legitimate business morphed into an illegal scheme; the very dynamic of capitalism blurs the frontier between 'legitimate' investment and 'wild' speculation, because capitalist investment is, at its very core, a risky wager that a scheme will turn out to be profitable, an act of borrowing from the future." - Slavoj Zizek.
Sorry, Frank, but Carnegie's capitalism and Robert Rubin's are born from the same litter. The idea that a new Pecora will clean up the mess is a recycled mythological trope intended to legitimize the beast that by definition cannot be controlled.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Who Narrates Rules
"Who narrates governs" - this key insight deserves development. As David Michael Green rightly points out in his recent article, "The Implosion of the American Political Consciousness", Orwell understands how power gains control over narrative. The most effective way is to "... just remove the possibility of imagining alternatives from the public's consciousness. Much easier. Much cheaper."
This is how propaganda works - by the removal of possibilities. "The goal of all enemy propaganda is not to annihilate an existing force (this function is generally left to police forces), but rather to annihilate an unnoticed possibility of the situation." - Alain Badiou.
The possibilities they don't want us to notice are obviously the ones Green uncovers. But the hypocrisy he senses behind the propaganda machine hides a deeper cynicism that has become all-pervasive: "...it is cynical precisely insofar as it does believe it's own words, since it's message is a resigned conviction that the world we live in, even if it is not the best of all possible worlds, is the least bad, such that any radical change will only make things worse." - Slavoj Zizek. It is the chains of this cynicism that we must first shake off.
This imaginative failure is due to the false restrictions that we have unconsciously absorbed from the main channels of political discourse. But the obvious possibilities he raises point in the direction of yet more hopeful ones. For instance,
1) Direct control over productive capacity by those who do the actual work in this country - producing goods to meet human need so that all can share in the bounty that technology has made possible.
2) The expropriation of idle and destructive wealth now in the hands of those determined to ruin the earth's ecology. Their violation of the common good has voided their right to that wealth.
Such ideas were the common currency of political discourse not so long ago - what's happened to our minds? Those interested in these ideas might want to take a look at the Universal Birthright proposal: http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/01/universal-birthright/