News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Right/Left illusions

Friday, September 30, 2005

Right/Left illusions

There is an unjust apportionment of rights and goods in the US. How do we deal with this inherent injustice in a country that prides itself on fairness and doing the right thing? What I think the Right does not realize is the Capitalism is not inherently democratic, but that it increases injustice and non-democratic modalities within a body politic.

I do not believe in any Leftist conspiracy to take over the world, if that's what you are saying. I think this might have existed in the past under the Soviet Comintern, but that has disappeared in the swamps of history. Communism was an abortion, and I despise its "accomplishments" in the soviet Union and other countries where it perpetrated its crimes. The left is so fragmented on an operational level that is simply makes no sense to speak of any leftist agenda per se.

I do believe that there are serious injustices afoot in the world--the face of this injustice is capitalistic. Often its ideological support network is a reified Xtian narrative of feel-good, rugged individualism. If opposition to this injustice characterizes me as a "leftist" be it so. Yet, I would reject the label simply because it means very little to me and, I believe, means even less to the prototypical leftist whomever he/she might be.

Following Aristotle's definition of justice, this does involve the fair apportionment of goods and resources within a community. For Aristotle, of course, this meant that the Aristocrat--the man of virtue as he defined--desrved more because that was "fair" within the aristocratic way of looking at the world. In the mdoern world, such an idea aeems unjustly unfair. There is, perhaps, the notion that all have an equal right to a fair share of the goods and resources. As you note blow, however, this might revolve around such things as "hard work," etc.

This assumes of course that those who get less are somehow working less hard than others. It also assumes that all have equal access to such things as education and equal employment opportunities. I don't know that Bill Gates, for example, is any smarter or works any harder than the avergae white-collar worker. He may have had access to situations that the rest of us did not: he came from an upper-class family, he was lucky in certain situations where others were less lucky, etc.

These are exactly the points that must be discussed. Depending on how you answer this question or believe the questions can be addressed, then that will in some way determine how you characterize yourself in political terms.

The simple assertions of the revolutions in America and europe was that all men are created equal. On some level, this means that all men should have equal access to the bounty and good that any one society provides. Yet, as noted here by Spengler, not everyone _is_ created equal. Each has/her own talents, destinies, capabilities (physical and psychological), etc.

Those who tend to fall on the left side of the political specturm think the inequalities should be addressed by governmental processes that equalize the inequities; those on the right think it is a matter of "individual" effort that proves whether someone can pass the tests that show they have given their fair share towards the social goals.

I humbly submit, however, that capitalism itself brings with it an unfair advantage built into it (something even its greatest theoretician, Adam Smith, did not realize). It does not provide for the general welfare in any way, but only rewards those who can accumulate capital by whatever means.

These means, under the capitalistic ideology, do not need to abide by any meaningful parameters of social or individual virtue. Indeed, as any fair-minded survey of capitalism would show, it is the most aggressive, immoral, and mercenary who succeed, leaving others who cannot win in this zero-sum game either bleeding by the roadside or simply left to lick their wounds. Those who are even less blessed by nature with the psycho-physical armature required to succeed in this system of things fare even worse--they are simply left to rot away in poverty, self-contempt, and marginalization.

As far as theodicy is concerned: I submit that that is the role of Xtianity within capitalist countries. It attempts to explain the inequities by preaching pie in the sky heaven treasures and talking about acquiescence in suffering rather than "giving to God what's God's and to Caesar what's his." Modern evangelical Xtianity, sepcially in the forms espoused by the twin toads Robertson and Falwell, perform exactly this function in capitalist America.

I have argued for the last 10 years that there are not two parties in the US; there's simply one party with two--sometimes nuanced, sometimes not--arrangements of the same song. One is faster and a bit more hip, the other is more nostalgic and a bit less hip. Now which one is which? They are two sides of the same coin.

Your basic "insider" Democrat is usually rich with a liberal angst about that old money that has gotten them where they are. They go to the same schools, have the same netowrk of friends/non-firends, and probably even go to the same social clubs. The liberal insiders patronize the great unwashed masses with ingratiating solicitude; the conservatives say, "take your medicine" and shut up. Yet they both ultimately speak for insiders and work for insiders and simply make sure that the great unwashed masses do not get any funny ideas.

There is the notion that the modern spiritual malaise can be solved by invention or technological innovation. This is what I call the technological superstition. It revolves around the idea that you can invent or discover your way out of the problems. But I argue that the "problem" is a spiritual crisis and the idea that a spiritual crisis can be resolved by materialistically oritented notions such as invenstion or taionalistic processes is a category error. It commits the error of seeing spiritual issues in terms of quantitative issues.

I find it funny that the modern Xtian phenomenon of evangelicalism has indeed caught onto this capitalist angle of things. That is, it has commericalized Xtianity into a marketable product. Instead of filling the spiritual vaccuum now, a Xtian simply believes that they will reject secular chulture by "buying Xtian." Go into any Xtian bookstore--the amounts of consumer products is astounding--nauseating if you look at it from a certain perspective.

My question is: how many gew-gaws and refrigerators and anitseptic soaps can you make to fill that spiritual crisis that afflicts so many people who find themselves foundering and looking for some meaning to life beyond this ersatz world of finitized eternity? Capitalism has become so powerful that it has transformed the very basis of human nature and attempts to feed these basic needs with a plethora of products and life-style options that deflect the normal search of people for a lasting meaning to life.

Capitalism works under some very basic assumptions about human nature: that self-interest will generate a manageable modicum of justice and equality; that meeting the basic animal needs of the human will satiate the search for any other values; and that all realms of human reality are quanitifable and ultimately consumable/packageable. Whether or not these assumptions are correct forms the fault lines along which various socio-political solutions fall.

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