Tag Archives: capitalism

Occupy Wall Street: It’s About Playing Fair

Sharing

NO, we are not all greedy.

As soon as a toddler can talk, he will start protesting against injustice: “That’s not FAIR!” This sense of fairness is so pervasive I think we are born with it.

According to anthropologist Donald Brown, humans across all times and cultures share certain universal characteristics. For example, human beings resist domination, share food and admire generosity-from Borneo to Beijing to Boston. They also have methods, both individual and collective, for resolving conflicts. Conflicts are inevitable in social groups, social groups are universal and so some method for resolving conflicts, and resolving conflicts fairly, is necessary for survival.

From these obvious truths evolved different sorts of rules and laws, usually with some sort of designated mediators. Justice, or fairness, is so important and so ingrained in us that people are willing to die for it. No justice, no peace. It is the foundation of social relations. The Declaration of Independence is mostly a list of injustices perpetrated against the colonists by the King of England. It is the expression, in eloquent language, of the toddler’s cry, “That’s not fair.” When an earthly authority is not fair, Jefferson argues, there is a higher authority that demands restoration of fairness.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been ridiculed, tear-gassed, and shot with non-lethal, but physically punishing “bean bags” and “rubber bullets.” The injuries from these cute-sounding projectiles are much worse than you would imagine. If a parent inflicted injuries like this on a child, they would go to jail for abuse. Why were they physically punished? Because they said, “That’s not fair.” It is not fair that a few bullies steal our lunches. It is not fair that cheaters scoop up all the marbles and it is not fair that the authorities let them get away with it. It is not fair and it cannot continue. Furthermore, it is not fair to physically punish us for saying it’s not fair.  No justice, no peace.

Banksters who are too big to jail is not acceptable; neither is a Justice Department that fails to pursue equal justice. CEO Peter Schiff recently debated Occupy protesters, taking the position that capitalism is good. The protester said, “Greed is not good.” Schiff stated, as if the protester was a fool, “We’re ALL greedy.” No, we are not all greedy. Humans universally admire generosity. We may all be tempted from time to time to be greedy, but we don’t admire it, even after years of propaganda trying to convince us that “Greed is good.” No, greed is not good and injustice is not acceptable.

Fairness, or justice, is vital to the functioning of a society. How can we understand justice? We could study what the great thinkers had to say, we could spend years in a university and become lawyers, even lawmakers. But that doesn’t seem to guarantee that we will understand justice, in fact, it merely limits those who are supposedly the “experts” on justice. A more accessible way to understand justice is to hang out with toddlers.

A toddler’s zeal for justice is evidenced by the cookie-sharing scenario. If two toddlers both want one large cookie, most moms know that the way to avoid conflict is to let one cut the cookie in half and let the other take the first choice of the halves. The first will make the cut with all the precision they can muster while the second will watch keenly and then make their choice. Both toddlers are satisfied with the justice of this procedure. But they are greedy, you might say, they are self-interested. They are self-interested–three year-olds still think they are the center of the universe, but they are not greedy. I have never seen a toddler demand the whole cookie on the basis of the fact that he is the only one who matters. If three year-olds get this intuitively, why are fifty year-old CEOs having so much trouble getting it? Have they believed their own lies: that greed is good?

In my neighborhood tribe of kids we socialized each other. If someone had a bag of chips, we knew we should share, even if we only got five chips each. “Don’t hide it, divide it,” was our rule. No authority made us do this, sharing food is a human universal. In more primitive societies, if a hunter brought a deer back to the tribe and proceeded to eat it all himself, he would not last long in the tribe. Why bring it back at all, why not live as a rugged individual and keep all the meat for himself? He could do that, and he might even survive, but most people don’t think a solitary life, even one overflowing with deer meat, is worth living.

In my kid tribe was a boy named Blaine, who cheated. He would play baseball if his team was at bat and then quit when it was time to go into the outfield. We all protested loudly that he didn’t play fair. We gave him a few more chances to play fair and then we simply never let Blaine play baseball with us again. When he got a bag of chips, he slinked off and ate them all himself. Eventually he stayed inside and read all the time (probably Atlas Shrugged.) He went on to become an investment banker in Boston and can now buy all the chips he wants-and eat them by himself.

For at least thirty years, trickle-down Reaganomics and deregulation have caused increasing income inequality in America. In 2008 the economy crashed, and the crashees-the 99% tribe lost their jobs, their homes, and their credit ratings. The crashers were rewarded. Millions have suffered because a few greedy cheaters stole all the marbles and hoarded all the chips. Regulations are laws. De-regulation means throwing out laws. Throwing out laws means the lawmakers favor Blaine over the rest of the kids. Blaine gets to be up at bat all the time and the rest of the tribe gets to chase the balls he hits but never gets to hit any themselves. The other pet project of the cheaters, Privatization means the authorities give the greedy little Ahole the bat, the ball and even the field we play on. It is not fair. It is not acceptable.

No justice, no peace.

Donald Brown’s Human Universals:

http://www.amazon.com/Human-Universals-Donald-Brown/dp/007008209X

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The Family on C Street: The Christian Mafia

Ancient Roman fasces

The Roman fasces symbol of unity and state force.

Right-wing politicians may seem to be pursuing their goal of enshrining free-market capitalism as a sacred doctrine. That’s because they are.

Capitalism and Christianity

According to Jay W. Richards, author of Money, Greed, and God, capitalism is not the obstacle to a just society, it is the solution. Many Conservative politicians believe that the “Invisible Hand” Adam Smith mentioned in Wealth of Nations is literally the hand of God, guiding the free-market economy in a sovereign and mysterious way in order to produce prosperity for his children. To interfere in any way with this process is therefore to oppose God.

God and Politics

Terrible catastrophes would result from opposing God in this way and conservatives point to the collapse of the “godless” Soviet Union as an example. By far most Christians suspect Jesus was a bit to the left (from our perspective), what with his warnings against greed and encouragement to help the poor. Why, then, would most Christians not align with liberal organizations? Left-leaning organizations have contributed to this polarization by rejecting religion and mocking the deeply held beliefs of millions of citizens as mere irrational, primitive superstitions. This attitude has pushed many Christians, with some reluctance, into the conservative fold, since they perceive they are not welcome on the left unless they first abandon their beliefs.

The Underground Fellowship

According to Records of the Fellowship, For seventy-five years an organization has been ministering underground to power brokers, discipling them through personal relationships and teachings to support the capitalist doctrine. The Fellowship, sometimes called the Family, (or the Christian Mafia by members) operates from a mansion on C street in Washington, D.C. Openly they coordinate the Prayer Breakfasts, but quietly they interact with power brokers and form covenants, or binding agreements with each other, to bring about their vision of Real America.

The Fellowship: Ordained by God

According to Jeff Sharlett, writing in Harper’s, the organization began when Abraham Vereide, founder of Goodwill Industries, had a supernatural vision in 1935 in which God told him that helping the insignificant poor was not the way to go. Instead, power brokers should be discipled in order to change society; sort of “trickle-down” righteousness. In 1958 then 30 year-old Doug Coe went to work for Vereide in Washington, D.C. and Coe has led the organization since then. Coe uses Hitler and Mao as examples of strength through unity; the important thing is that group members maintain solidarity on important issues.

Religion Serving Power

Although the movement is emphatically framed in Christian terms and prayer and Bible study is mandatory (including for legislators who live at the C street mansion) the real emphasis is on power: Men in power have been placed there by God and have a divine mission to fulfill. This male-oriented, militaristic, unified group not only refers to Hitler as an example of strength through unity, but displays other alarming relationships to fascism.

The Fellowship and Fascism

The making of covenants, or binding promises, would seem to divert the loyalty of legislators from their constituents to the ideals of the Fellowship, which is devoted to reversing the decadence (as they define it) that has affected American society. The word fascism itself is derived from “fasces”  a bundle of rods tied around an axe, an ancient Roman symbol of authority, carried by lictors to inflict physical or capital punishment on his command. The fasces is a symbol of power through unity and even has a Biblical parallel: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12.)

Authoritarian Right Anti-Democratic

There is no room in this ideology for democracy; it harks back to ideas about the divine right of kings and the absolute authority of those in power. To oppose the leader is to oppose God himself, an idea that was overthrown only with much bloodshed hundreds of years ago in England, France, and the infant United States and an idea that is once again rearing its ugly head. This time it was not announced by trumpets but has been quietly fermenting on C Street in Washington, D.C.

Dangerous ideologies are allowed to promote their agendas in America and we cannot stop them without damaging the freedom of all of us. However, they should be exposed and scrutinized instead of working under cover of secrecy. A free society must grant  fascism, anarchism, and any other “ism” that emerges freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom to try to persuade others to join them. Hiding fascist agendas behind a pseudo-Christian front is, however, not only deceptive, it is disgusting.