Democracy struggles against oppression: the good it pursues is freedom, the greatest personal freedom for each individual. Capitalism, on the other hand, is interested in only one freedom: free trade.
American ideology at the turn of the millennium bears an internal contradiction that runs so deep that our political and personal discourses cannot begin to portray accurately the most basic truths of our lives. The talking heads babble on about the wisdom of markets and the sanctity of the individual. They speak in reverent tones about the importance of freedom, but “freedom” is an empty concept, a meaningless, absurd, unintelligible idea. “Freedom” is not a thing in and of itself. It is not even an abstract intellectual thing.
It is, in fact, a kind of double negative, a form of emptiness: freedom is the absence of restraint.
We cannot, as a people, do anything about the slow collapse of our financial, political, and personal ways of life because we do not understand the nature of our institutions or of our values well enough to manage them competently.
We live by our myths: The Rugged Individualist is heir to The Pioneer Spirit. He is self-reliant. He eschews both government and charity, striking out to find his place in life, to stake his claim to a role in a society that he has invented. Everyone conveniently avoids mention that his ability to survive in this way rests on his taking, by violence, the natural resources (Land, Water, Air) from the Peoples previously living here. Our national hero is a conman and a cheat, a thief and a murderer.
Meanwhile the conventional wisdom holds that those who lack the vision, the stamina, or the will-power to chart such a course for themselves, (i.e., the poor, the uneducated, the most recent immigrants) are either lazy or morally decadent. Their poverty is proof of their moral failure.*
By “Individualism” I do not mean Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman only: I mean Wayne Dwyer, Oprah Winfrey, and Pastor Rick Warren as well. The “Left” is as much in thrall to the myth of fingerprints as is the “Right”.
As Gore Vidal once said, “We don't have political parties: we have one political party with two right wings called the Democratic and the Republican.”
REQUIRED VIEWING: “Money as Debt”
This hour-long lesson on the nature of our banking system looks and sounds like the kind of educational films I saw in grade school. (Remember “Our Mr. Sun?) Pay particular attention to the quotations that appear onscreen in print and to the names of the people being quoted.
If you learn this lesson thoroughly, you will understand Obama’s greatest failure. In the opening days of his first term, he clearly proved himself to be no different than John McCain or any other politician holding office today. I had expected nothing from a man who hails from the University of Chicago, but I was still sad to see the moment that might have revived the Republic pass. Never again will a President have the chance to nationalize the banks and allow the people to regain some control over their destiny.
*MRM, my ex and nemesis, once told me that my poverty was proof of my moral failing. He also taunted me when I first applied for General Assistance, saying “Push out your lips. Push out your lips. Push out your lips. You’ve gotta practice so you can look like all the other niggers getting their welfare checks.”