Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lessons for Capitalists

Who doesn't know the trouble the world is now experiencing as a result of the brilliant capitalist strategies of the Masters of the Universe? Anyone not currently suffering will probably not be interested in the articles below; and you know why - anyone not suffering is a committed and successful capitalist who has benefitted from the chaos of unregulated greed.

There is quite enough blame to go around; but, learning from the mistakes made is the only salvation earth will find. The two articles below have slightly different points of view but together neatly explain the practical male view, and the softer humanistic female view. I believe both are necessary to move forward.

The Day after Capitalism

One of the most tragic aspects of unregulated Capitalism is its dependency on offensive wars and a colossal security apparatus. Capitalism becomes reliant on foot soldiers and corporate-militarism instead of educators, inventors and entrepreneurs, says Dallas Darling.

The other day I happened to see a former student buying cooking oil in a grocery store. When I asked if she enjoyed cooking her reply was, “When we can afford the food.” In a nearby city, people gather around eighteen roses to symbolize homeless individuals who had died this year. Some were victims of “sport killings.” Others were murdered for money or died from natural (lack of healthcare?) causes. On a cold misty night, a small child selling cookies on a street corner catches my eye. She is trying to raise money for her father’s surgery. Several miles away in a colonia, one of many, the people who live there do not have sewer lines, running water or electricity. In the community where I live, there is still an unclaimed body in the morgue, an undocumented worker, who died last month in a fiery car wreck. The city officials are trying to figure out how to dispose of his body.

Instead of the day after Christmas when retailers cut prices and millions of shoppers are standing in line for bargains, maybe we need to experience the day after Capitalism. After all, Christmas and Capitalism are at odds with each other. Whereas Christmas pertains to a time of sharing and giving, Capitalism denotes the accumulation of wealth through overly ambitious and selfish means and often at the expense of others. When Herbert Hoover said the only thing wrong with Capitalism was greedy capitalists, he should have said the only thing wrong with Capitalism is Capitalism, especially unregulated Capitalism. If the Great Depression did one thing, it exposed the failure of Capitalism with its tax cuts for the rich, unfettered monopolies, assembly line technologies, mass production of goods, installment buying, mass media (manipulation?), and conspicuous consumption. It also showed how a system can become a destructive religion consisting of the profit motive and materialism.

Since unregulated Capitalism is based on mass production, mass consumption and revenue, little thought is given to the depletion of natural resources that go into production. Even less reflection is measured in the mass consumption of such goods. The advertising and entertainment industries, which devalues work and workers, alters the consumer’s behaviors by selling moods and by propagating false needs. Momentary illusions and a never ending cycle of emptiness become a permanent fixture in the minds and emotions of unsuspecting customers. Self-worth and fulfillment is found in products instead of through ideas, relationships and actions. Capitalism replaces the analytical literate citizen with the emotionally illiterate consumer. In supersizing everything from McDonalds french-fries to cars and unaffordable mansions, Capitalism destroys the Earth. People lose the art of living simple so that others may simply live.

One of the most tragic aspects of unregulated Capitalism is its dependency on offensive wars and a colossal security apparatus. It is always in search of cheap resources, labor, goods, and markets. In order to protect its “national (international) security interests,” Capitalism becomes reliant on foot soldiers and corporate-militarism instead of educators, inventors and entrepreneurs. For example, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) is a ruse to privatize and militarize government funded schools. When a school receives an Unacceptable rating, 20 percent of federal funds must be set aside for corporate consultants. Failed school are taken over by the private sector. The NCLBA has increased funding for military programs and has given military recruiters greater access and control in recruiting students. All across America tens of thousands of teens unable to pass the required tests have quit school and have formed gangs. Their “full-time” job is breaking into cars and homes and stealing items to be pawned for money, food, drugs, and other goods. An entire subculture of resentment, crime and violence has developed.

Capitalism can also be blamed for the breach in security that led to the attacks on 9-11 and the retirement pensions that have become solvent or stolen by the Few. It has given more rights to corporations, to the demise of individual liberties and democracy. Unregulated Capitalism, with its values of greed, avarice and usury, is inherently evil. It not only controls the means of production but also the means of thinking and behavior. Laissez Faire or “let the people do as they please” promotes an “oligarchy of the rich.” Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Programs (which employed 8 million Americans) and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society (which slashed poverty by half) bettered the lives of millions. It was a Government by the Many. Socialistic Capitalism, in which the factors of production are ultimately owned by the public and operated for the welfare of all, promotes a sense of justice and economic equality while preventing fascist corporations from seizing power.

With the news that hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs and millions of people have been evicted from their homes, editorialists and their words of hope are not enough. In fact, Christmas was about “change,” a new and radical reality. For example, I read where President Hugo Chavez halted the construction of a shopping mall in the capital of Venezuela. He said the sprawling six-story building could be better used as a hospital or university. This is change and an example of good Government and good Nationalism. It is a case of what a peoples priority should be. Worth and self-fulfillment may very well be in serving, healing, instructing, giving, demonstrating, protesting, and participating on behalf of others and not profiteering on behalf (or on the backs) of the sick, elderly and poor.

Since Karl Marx believed Capitalism would eventually destroy itself, (Is it?), I envision the day after Capitalism as one where mansions are turned into missions for the homeless and mentally ill and where empathy replaces evictions. It is where Government funds much needed doctors, nurses, educators, and “green” jobs. It is where ideological and resource wars have ended and where Government by the People protects their own at home instead of Government of the Few protecting corporate profits overseas. The day after Capitalism is a world in which everyone can afford food and not have to beg for adequate health care. It is a world in which everyone has clean drinking water, ample shelter, electricity, and an undocumented worker’s family can be notified of his death and receive a proper burial. And finally, the day after Capitalism is when a child does not have to be born in a manger or refugee camp (colonia) because there was no room in the inn or a country.

Dallas Darling is the author of The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace, and is a writer for You can read more of his articles at

Seven Deadly Absurdities
Facing the US in 2009

The a priori imposition of faith over reason beyond the confines of both spirituality and the constitutional separation of church and state, puts the United States at par with the much-criticized theocracies of a less enlightened world, notes Ben Tanosborn.

It has been said and repeated ad nauseam that President-elect Barack Obama has his work cut out for him like no one since Franklin D. Roosevelt way back in 1933. A true understatement, if one is willing to unveil the current state of affairs, one that would make FDR’s problems seem almost manageable, mostly economy-focused, not dealing with peace or international affairs; at least not during his first term. Obama, in contrast, in order to take the right path to “remake” the world’s view of America, needs to recognize all the entrenched absurdities that must be overcome.

Followers of the Abraham tradition have acknowledged for millennia, in whatever form, the existence of seven deadly sins, or vices; while at the same time acknowledging seven forms of virtue to counter them.

In like manner, Americans end the year facing seven deadly absurdities, but they also have the knowledge in how to overcome them. Yet, it is likely that they will end 2009 holding on to the same absurdities which they now face as 2008 comes to a close; as they succumb to “more of the same” instead of adopting, once and for all, change.

The seven absurdities, alphabetically and not in order of priority, relate to:
Afghanistan – It’s more than likely that Obama’s administration in an effort to cater to bipartisanship – which implies inclusion of militarists and ad hawk imperialists – will trade exit from Iraq with a gift to warrior-America by escalating belligerence in the land where America is hated not just by the Taliban, but by people of other traditions who might accept change by way of outside measured influences, but never through forced adoption of what to them are foreign ways.

American military presence, even with the addition of Special Forces and other troops, perhaps as many as 30,000 to 50,000, and reluctant but enabling NATO contingents, will do little more than maintain a cordon of “Western security” around Kabul, propping up a government that more than national, it’s municipal; with Hamid Karzai, less a president of the country and more a controversial “mayor of Kabul” at America’s beck and call… at least in the mind of most Afghans. The Russians, with perhaps a less corrupt and more humane approach, including a more trusty system of political/public relations, still failed miserably; yet, Americans are ready to throw unaffordable tens of billions of dollars borrowed from China on an absurd, senseless war!

Capitalism – Americans are just beginning to acknowledge, if not accept, the dismal state of the economy, and the fact that prospects for a recovery, a return to the “good old ways,” is unlikely to be in the cards. Their trust in politicians, the Fed, and capitalism as a system is slowly melting away as they feel deceived by a predatory ruling class. Being in the early stages of a depression, they’re still unwilling to listen to the prophets of doom – even if in this case “doom” is but obvious truth – who are claiming a far worse situation than economists in the payroll of government or industry are willing to admit; such as Lawrence Yun, NAR Senior Economist who hasn’t been right once on housing in the past three years, providing only “industry-hopeful” forecasts totally out of whack.

It has become patently clear that neither government, nor the Fed, nor anyone in a position of public trust, will tell American people the truth, whether they are ignorant of it, or whether their preference is not to be emissaries of unpleasant or catastrophic news. Obama, even in his early moments of popular acceptability and glory, won’t dare tell American people the truth: that their standard of consumption – not to be confused with standard of living – will permanently decrease from 20 to 30 percent; and he will be advised by his political circle against telling Americans that such a thing may actually be more coherent and relevant to their overall health, as well as that of the rest of the planet. Unfortunately, politicians’ efforts to stimulate spending and burden future generations with the cost of unfair and long term inefficient bailouts will prove American-style capitalism to work not for the many, but for the few.

A quest for America to export democracy to the world has become nothing short of self-mockery as exports have been relegated to poisonous warmongering and toxic made-in-America capitalism waving creative, worthless, financial instruments and thieving pyramid schemes, a la Maddox’. A deadly absurdity promoting predatory capitalism!

Exceptionalism – It is Americans’ belief in this condition of uniqueness… that the US does not conform to the mold of other countries; that brings about self-denial and total apostasy to any evidence of truth. Politicians and others in power benefit from this myth to advance their ends. It may take this great depression to open Americans’ eyes and clear this absurdity, although next year may prove to be too early for that to occur.

Ignorance – As it happens with exceptionalism, Americans do not challenge what they are being told by a wimp corporate press more interested in its economic survival than in bringing truth and open discussion to a clueless mainstream of their own creation. This is one absurdity in America soon to disappear, courtesy of an uncensored Internet.

Impasse – If there is a cause célèbre in American foreign policy it is America’s unfair treatment of Palestinians because of wantonly pressure from Israel, its powerful lobby, AIPAC, and an American Jewry that exerts great power and influence over every aspect of American life (academic, business, cultural, political and professional). If Obama is personally unable to break this political-diplomatic stranglehold, and impasse continues, it will affect any trust the US may wish to re-institute in Latin America or elsewhere, and not just the Arab/Muslim worlds. This critically pending issue of Israel-Palestine will determine more than any single other thing whether the United States is willing to join the world on impartial terms, or whether America’s imperial absurdity is a reality to stay.

Politics – As Republicans and Democrats keep intact the entrenched monopoly of the right, little will change politically in the US; the absurdity of political mono-thinking will remain alive and well, other ideas continuing to be viewed as un-American. Only an ongoing worsening of the economy and rigidity in maintaining an assailable foreign policy will bring some fertility to the fields of political populism and a comatose left.

Religion – Perhaps the greatest absurdity that confronts America these days, and one likely to remain unchallenged for years to come, is the power religion holds over the temporal affairs in the country. The a priori imposition of faith over reason beyond the confines of both spirituality and the constitutional separation of church and state, puts the US at par with the much-criticized theocracies of a less enlightened world.

Absurdities, like vices, may be overcome, but are Americans willing to so do?

© 2008 Ben Tanosborn

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