8 thoughts on “Recommended Read

  1. Christian theologian Dom Helder Camera once caustically observed, “When I feed the poor they call me a saint, but when I asked why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.”

    Love it, love it.

    Let me tell you some hard truths. There will never be a worker’s paradise and there is no unseen hand of some capitalist god righting wrongs through the motion of markets. These are lies told into our hearts, which we would do well to expunge as quickly as possible.

    This distills the whole sermon down to it’s essence.

    Well, this is liberation theology: take care of those who are at the bottom of our social structure and you will take care of everyone. Find the ways to empower, to educate to provide healthcare, to make sure no one is left behind, and then you have something worth celebrating.

    This should be our motivation. Why do you want to take care of everyone? Because they will work better for you (if you are one of the rich/powerful). I think the rich keep us 3 paychecks away from homelessness because they feel desperation causes us to work harder. I don’t think it works that way. Desperation is very tiring and no one can work hard forever when they are tired.

    …the major action we’re called to by our relationship with the world is the alleviation of suffering. It’s the family project. Addressing the human need to work, to have adequate food, clothing and shelter, to have access to education and health care, to foster dignity for everyone as they are, are the tasks at hand. To give everyone a fair shake, and to try hard to leave no one behind. That’s the project.

    Why don’t rich people want this? I’ve never understood.

    Of course, some people will still be left behind. There are tons of poor people who are poor because of their bad decision making, their habits or their illnesses such as alcoholism. These are things we can’t fix in a free society. But even people who make decent decisions can be poor, bootstrapping to self-sufficiency is so rare that they report about it in the newspaper when it happens. Placing a safety net out will save them (us), too.

    Is there any rich person out there who believes the stuff Mr. Ford says? Or is it all from the bottom up; as soon as a few people get rich they go over to the other side and think everyone is trying to take it from them? Do we (working poor) have any advocates?

  2. Nicely written.
    “Throw off the shackles around your heart that enslave you, and enslaves us. Don’t let fear run your lives. Don’t let greed be your god, guarding your small treasure like a foolish dragon. Open your hearts and minds.”
    The problem is a simple one. The solution is not.
    When people in societies feel comfortable not only about today, but about tomorrow, fear plays less of a factor. The brilliance of what the right has done is the destruction of the middle class. The creation of fear about not just tomorrow, but today.
    I’ve written about this before, but when the middle class was strong, it gave rise to civil rights in the ’50’s and ’60’s, and womens rights in the ’60’s and ’70’s. And that, plus the unrest in 1967, 1968 and 1969, scared the crap out of the powers-that-be. So they have worked to systematically break down that middle class.
    And fear, economic fear, leads to greed. Not for more, more, more, but the greed to keep what you have. And that’s a deeper greed than the one that strives to move one up. You don’t worry about taking a step up when you’re afraid of taking a step down. You want to keep the step you’re on.
    It’s the greed that whispers, him/her not me, at work. Why should that person/group be allowed that, there’s only so much of that around, and any of that that they get means less for me?
    Conservatives stoke that fear, because it’s all they have to sell. All they’ve ever had to sell. To ‘conserve’ where you are, you can’t let others get ahead.
    They’ve created a society of foolish dragons who can’t open up their hearts and minds because they’re too focused on their wallets, what’s on the table, and how the future looks worse for their kids than it ever did for their grandparents.
    And how do you overcome that?

  3. Hey, I’m a carpenter* also, just like Jesus! I’m not to good on doing miracles,but I bet I’m a better coventional roof framer than Jesus ever thought of being.

    * although here in Florida it’s not the most desirable profession right now. Unemployment is about 13.5% and carpentry work is scarcer than hen’s teeth.

  4. I’m a better coventional roof framer than Jesus ever thought of being.

    And these days, that’s a lot more useful than curing lepers.

  5. It’s important to understand that to the likes of Glenn Beck, the loss of privilege is the same as the loss of fundamental rights. They don’t care about the difference because the difference is a matter of facts. What they want is more power, influence, and money for their own sake alone. Treating them as though they have a legitimate grievance — they don’t name even one — would be a mistake. They’re rich, powerful, and convinced they’re better than everyone else in society. That is, when they’re not busy pretending no one else lives in society.

    “This divide and conquer strategy has been used for decades, if not centuries, by the powerful to maintain and consolidate their ultra-privileged condition.” Actually it has been so for a very long time.

    You would best make that millennia. Divide and conquer has ruled since the ages of the earliest kings. Though it was all the easier and more effective when they could claim with a straight face they were descended from God/gods and had the divine right to rule, regardless of the actual quality of life in the kingdom. The lack of effective communication and transportation technologies probably made propaganda and lies even easier to maintain, though less easy to spread to a wide audience.

    For the sake of argument, let’s just stipulate things are pretty rough out there in the world, in the country and right here in River City. And, but, in fact, it always has been so.

    Well, yes. Hardship and suffering are nothing new to the human condition. However, something has changed over the course of our development and the growth of civilization. That fundamental suffering is no longer necessary. The bizarre contradiction of our times it that it exists and is even growing nonetheless.

    And this is what is going on. Peter Phillips in his top twenty-five censored stories of 2007, reports in the United States at the end of 2001, 10% of the population owned 71% of the wealth and the top 1% owned 38%. On the other hand, the bottom 40% owned less than 1% of the nation’s wealth.

    That was 2001. It’s gotten worse (google for “wealth distribution in the U.S.”, “income equality in the U.S.”, and so forth to bring up quite a large number of articles on the topic). One telling measure is this: the 400 richest Americans own half the wealth in the entire country.

    Those who mention these uncomfortable facts are currently accused of fomenting class war. Well, you know, that war has been going on for a long time, and if you think about the numbers, you know who is winning. But, in fact, as dreadful as that distribution of wealth in this country is, I think that’s more a symptom of a deeper problem than anything else.

    You left something out there. Accused by the rich, and those in their direct payroll. The conflict of interest is rather important in understanding the propaganda.

    And it is propaganda; oligarchs rule public policy on almost every meaningful topic in this country today. War (“defense”), tax rates, social programs (including education, Social Security, Medicare), transportation and communications infrastructure, markets and economic structure, employment…

    The horrifically skewed distribution of wealth is, indeed, a symptom. It’s a symptom of selfishness, incompetence, and foolish myopia. Don’t bother to tell our leaders that, because they dismiss you as a communist. Oops, sorry, that word went out of style in 1991. “Socialist”.

    It’s not that a free and fair market system can’t in principle produce a relatively even wealth distribution and broad prosperity. It’s that it doesn’t in practice, because a relatively tiny population of very powerful people game the system to their own ends, distorting the laws, establishing monopolies, crushing competitors with lies, expanding the barriers to entry with endless copyright, increasingly inane patents, and establishing trade codes and government regulations so specific and so intricately worded that only a lawyer could like them.

    The lesson to be learned — that should have been learned a century ago — is that you need populist and government controls on the accumulation of wealth and power. For the government, that means taxes — especially a steeply progressive income tax. (Other taxes, include sales or excise, may actually hurt.) For the people, that means protests of selfish companies, boycotts of products made from cheap labor, and civil disobedience of laws that benefit the rich.

    And, I don’t think Glenn Beck is on any payroll, or that he gathers with a group clad in black robes in some cave somewhere plotting to distract the American people from the real issues. The motive is simple enough. He is afraid.

    The only thing Glenn Beck should be afraid of is that a cult of capable, equally unhinged nutcases will band together and start assassinating people in his name. Or is that what he wants, a fascist violent revolution ?

    The prevalent ideologies socialism, capitalism and its currently popular variation libertarianism; are all informed at core by false perspectives, or, rather inadequate perspectives. So, the cluster of socialist views, in their varying degrees, ignore the need for the individual to be creative and free in action. While the cluster of capitalist and libertarian perspectives ignore in their varying degrees our profound need for each other and our deep familial connection.

    Absolutely. Ideology is the enemy of progress and sanity, and it should be challenged at every turn. Only reason and evidence can take us forward to a better future.

    Such as why are some in our family treated like kings while others are made into peasants, why do some get great educations and others next to none, or even none, why do some get healthcare and others do not, why are some in our family so poor they’re actually starving? The litany of ill is long, very, very long. The system stinks. So, why aren’t we trying to do something about it?

    Some of us are trying to change it, actually. Even to the point of advocating individual policies. Unfortunately, and ironically, in order to build something new you often have to tear something else down. In this case, we have a lot of useless laws, useless corporations, useless politicians, useless judges, and useless sycophants concern-trolling for the powerful to deal with. Even more importantly, we have a lot of ignorant people that were brainwashed to think that the way things are is and must be the way they will always be, reality be damned.

    And the major action we’re called to by our relationship with the world is the alleviation of suffering. It’s the family project. Addressing the human need to work, to have adequate food, clothing and shelter, to have access to education and health care, to foster dignity for everyone as they are, are the tasks at hand. To give everyone a fair shake, and to try hard to leave no one behind. That’s the project. And like on to it is to care for our planet and to find ways to walk gently on this good earth.

    The critical emphasis here, and I alluded to it earlier, should be on the fact that we can already provide adequate food, shelter, and medicine for everyone. We don’t. We place a higher priority on property rights and the accumulation of wealth and power than on the well being of other persons.

    Progress in society has always come, no matter what period in history you look at, from one of two sources. First, technological development. By increasing our knowledge of the natural world and our ability to manipulate it, we improve efficiency by creating entirely new tools and methods. Second, broad cooperation on specific goals with the targeted use of finite resources. Competition of ideas is one thing, but competition over the control of resources is an entirely different matter. You can only compete so much over the capacity to use land, water, energy, and other key resources before you have wasted a massive amount toward poorly planned and poorly executed projects. Often times, this waste cannot be recovered or recycled in any meaningful sense, and it compounds itself over the course of generations.

    There are many examples of this in action if you look around. Our competition over land has lead to the development of super-suburbia. Cities are a far more efficient use of land, not by any small margin but by orders of magnitude. But the fear and hatred of other people, and apparent inability to live in close proximity to others, has created a land crisis where there is no longer enough available public land to meet demand. So long as population growth continues, and land use policy continues to emphasize low density sprawl, we will never be able to shelter everyone properly and land and housing prices will continue to increase. The rich love this crisis, however, because they have nearly all the land and capital and can auction it off to the highest bidder.

    Transportation ties into land use policy a great deal. Suburbia would never be able to develop and thrive without a land use policy that encourages personal transport over collective transport. To put it simply, cars over trains. This emphasis and subsidization of individual transport has been a collective disaster for the country. Now we must deal with the consequences of excessive traffic, ever rising fuel costs, and extremely expensive long distance journeys. All to gain the “freedom” of having to drive oneself around every day. The “freedom” of never needing to walk anywhere — can’t have a lean and mean population, that might be dangerous.

    Likewise, we compete rather than cooperate in most sectors of the consumer economy. Should you go with an Intel or an AMD central processing unit? Well, turns out they run the same architecture and will get you roughly the same throughput-per-dollar and performance-per-watt. Should you buy Windows from monopolist Microsoft or Mac OS X from wannabe-monopolist Apple? Magical drug Q made from substance F, or magical drug R made from substance F? Cheap plastic cups from Chinese factory X or Indian factory Y? Beef from factory farm A or beef from factory farm B? Cheesy psycho-drama Choice1 or cheesy psycho-drama Choice2 ?

    We are wasting most of the potential, energy, and resources of mankind on equivalent competing solutions whose only purpose for existence is to extract profit for particular people. This, friends, is the fundamental economic reality of our time.

  6. Thank you for recommending this article. I think it is important to continue seeking salvation even in the midst of the current political circus. Joe Campbell succintly summed up the dragon mentality, “A dragon hoards gold and young maidens when it has no use for either.” I think this also works strongly against the idea of sympathetic joy. Some dragon-like people I have known seemed irritated when they confronted someone who appeared to be joyful, a kind of Sympathetic joy in reverse. To Paraphrase Mencken, “A puritan is someone haunted by the possibility that somewhere, somehow, someone might be happy.”

    Swami, back in my youth, I used to frame down in Tampa, Florida. I remember in the worst of the summer, it would rain briefly each afternoon, just long enough to wet the slab and the sun would come out to turn it all into steam. It was like framing in a sauna. It makes me want a “G and T’ just thinking about it. I still can’t believe that I used to climb ladders carrying a sheet of 3/4” plywood. As I recall, Jesus’ name used to come up fairly regularly. It would kill me now. There are advantages to being a codger.

  7. Even though I have no personal use for church, I think that Ghandi’s statement “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians” is an accurate appraisal of the good and bad of much of what is called Christianity. If the words of Jesus as I recall them (from 45 years ago) were to be put on billboards, they would be attacked today. Of course, the Constitution and Bill of Rights would get the same.

    The article you linked to was good, unlike what passes for common religious pronouncements I hear from conservatives.

  8. Pingback: Intelligence and Intellect With A Dash of Youth « Liberty Street

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