Wednesday, December 14, 2011

late night thinking out loud... no. 1

Around the world, partisans of every side are saying the solution to all our problems is democracy - or it's capitalism - or it's social democracy - or it's some other ism.

Captialists point to the enormous creation of wealth under their system. Well, fifty years ago, Russians would think with pride of their rise to power - from a backward country whose huge armies just a couple of generations earlier had been pushed to the modern USSR which ranked with the US as a superpower. It was easy to forget the gross brutalities of Stalin that  made such advances possible. Nor would many foresee the crash that was to come.

Capitalists, as they point with pride to the growth of wealth under their system, forget the the enormous poverty and suffering in places like Africa and Central America that made their accumulation of wealth possible. They also ignore the reality of the crisis we're living through. That, too, is overlooked. Capitalism has been used to create wealth out of destruction. And it's even now turning its destructive powers on itself.

Democracy, socialism, communism, capitalism will sometimes work and sometimes not work. None of them is based on any fundamental and eternal truth of on any infallible formula. All of them are created by people and run by people. And people, alas, are not perfect mechanisms.

Communism, as practiced by Stalin and by Mao, bore slight resemblance to the ideals of Marx. The United States, even as it was founded on the prncipal that all people are created equal, elected as first president the man who was the biggest slaveowner in the country. And, though a country that constantly praises democracy, has oven overthrown democratically elected governments and installed dictators all over the world   (Haiti, Guatemala - all over Central America, Iran,Chile...)

The problem is not in any particular system of government or of economics. The problem, surely, is in the people who exercise power (or who fail to exercise power) within those systems.

So why do we have those systems in the first place?

 Can we agree that we look for systems because we want to live in a society - and not in isolation?

So maybe - remember this is thinking out loud - and hoping to hear responses - maybe before we start demanding the ism of month as the solution to our problem, maybe we should look at ourselves.

Why do we want a society? What kind of a society are we thinking of? And, if we want a society, how do we propose to hold it together?

These, surely, are the first questions we have to answer. We can't solve problems until we define what they are. Why? What kind? How will we hold it together?

There are questions that were asked and answered all over the world thousands of years ago. And all over the world, the answers took the form we call morality.

But you can't build morality into a political or economic system. Systems aren't people. It's the people who run the systems who have to be moral. Within a democracy, that means we have to be moral. And we aren't. That's the cause of our problems.

(No. I'm not going to suggest we should all jump up and clap hands for Jesus. Morality can be found in churches. But churches (like political and economic systems) are run by people - they can scre up just as badly as capitalism and socialism do.)

No - let's think a bit about what morality means..

And remember, I'm thinking out loud. So you do it , too.

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