Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6: Sunday morning..... what the hell (figuratively speaking), let's talk about morality.

No, I am not going to start quoting from The Bible. The trouble with people who glue their noses to The Bible is that they lose the point of the whole thing. Morality is a practical matter, a central matter for politics, economics, all those things that fill the news, though seldom with any mention of morality.

So let's start with politics and economics. Capitalism works. Socialism works. Communism works. They all work or, at least, they all CAN work.

You don't think communism can work?  Communism took Russia, the most backward of European states, one so incompetently run that huge though it was  it could be beatan easily by much smaller nations like Japan and Germany. But, despite a civil war, then an invasion of almost the full force of the German army and one that created massive levels of death and destruction, communism made Russia into a super power in just over a generation. I cannot think of another country that has matched that.

No, the US didn't. Despite it's protected position, almost invulnerable to attack, the US took almost two hundred years to become a world power, and then a super power.

But Russia did it with terrible levels of brutality and murder? Yes, indeed. And so did the US. How many Mexicans and native peoples were killed to expand the US from the Atlantic coast? How many tens of millions of slaves died just in transit from their African homes to the US? How many were whipped, beaten, starved, and worked to death?

If anything, the development of the US was bloodier and crueller than Stalin's USSR.

But, you will say that Soviet communist failed because it collapsed. Very true. And what do you think is happening to American capitalism today? In that country, the country with the most favourable conditions in the world for growth and prosperity, over two hundred years of unfettered capitalism has produced a society in which a quarter of the population lives in poverty, tens of millions live on food stamps,public schools rank among the worst n the developed world. As for health? Thanks to private health, the richer live longer than the rest, about eleven years longer.

Most political and economic systems can work. Most of them do - for a while. Then they collapse. Their great difference isn't in the systems. It's in people.  Communism, socialism and capitalism don't fail because of their faults. they fail because of the faults of the people who control them.

Even the words are meaningless. The USSR was never communist. The western powers are not capitalist; they are largely welfare states for the very rich. It's obvious where this is taking us. For the last thirty years, those people who call themselves capitalist have been doing very uncapitalist things like buyinig governments, cutting their own taxes in half - and even less - taking huge gifts from taxpayers for themselves and, with frightening speed, taking the greater part of the nation's wealth for themselves.

For all the poverty and all the scrambling to make cuts, we're not short of money. It's still here. It's just that most of it is in the pockets of a very small number of people that gets smaller every day. And they have no intention of sharing it.

The system of capitalism can work. It's those people called capitalists who wreck it.

It takes no genius to see where this is going because we're almost there. The proportion of poor will continue tp grow rapidly. Out of that will come demoralization, protest - and out of that will come(already has come) repression, domestic spying, secret lists of 'dangerous' people like environmentalists, loss of personal freedoms like free speech. As already is happening in the US, we''ll see arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, torture, fear, hysteria... This is the future - and it's begun even now.

It's not the fault of any system.Oh, for the same reason, you can also stop wasting time arguing over liberal and conservative. Neither of those is a political or economic system, and few know what either word means, anyway.

So where does morality come into it? It's the key to good government.

I have no idea whether Moses brought down tablets from the mount. I have no idea whether God dictated them.  The important thing about the Ten Commandments (and you will find at least the spirit of them in pretty much every major religion in the world) is that they work. They're practical.

Moses was leading a disorganized mob of hundreds of thousands. Without rules, they would become a pack of animals, eventually to scatter and, most of them, die in the wilderness. He needed a set of rules that would bind them together as a society, giving them a collective strength to work together for survival. There is nothing arbitrary about the commandments. These are basic, common sense rules of survival. No society that tolerates murder, theft, greed, lack of concern for others is going to last.

But that's the kind of society we have. We worship greed as the key to success. We're trained to covet, to want, to buy. We take pride in not giving a damn for others. Remember that de Adder cartoon in the TandT? the one about welfare and bingo? Damn right. People on welfare are just lazy.

Remember the editorial about how bus drivers aren't worth $25 an hour? That's making people into commodities, paying them for their 'worth' (whatever you can get away with) rather than for what they need. That editorial was immoral. It wasn't just bad economics. It was immoral.

It's just as immoral as editorials of two cenuries ago that said there was no need to give slaves any money at all - or even any decent food. They weren't worth it.

Meanhile, we have to presume that corporate bosses who make  $25 a second are well worth it. At least, I never seen an editor with the brains or balls to say any different.

Our economic and political questions are not  essentially economic and political ones. They're moral questions. And the great issues are not whether we elect communists or socialists or capitalists. The only issues are the morality of those we elect, and the standard of morality we hold them to.

For many people, morality is a religous matter. It may be. But it's not only religious. Morality is a supremely practical concern that lies at the heart of our survival.

Our political and economic leadership is incompetent. It's not the systems. It's the people. And too many of the people at the highest levels of economic and political power are incompetent because they are immoral.

It would be nice if some of our churches were to catch on to that instead of demonstrating their own immoraltiy by point self-righteous fingers at gays.

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