“Every generation must fight the same battles again and again and again,” said Tony Benn in one of his more memorable speeches. “There is no final victory, and there is no final defeat.”
Those who buy into what those trying to shift power from the ballot box to the market-place with austerity, balanced budgets, so-called free trade, and socially liberal fiscal conservatism repeat as a mantra like cult members on a mission from their God remind me of this story.
Scorpion comes to the edge of a creek he needs to cross to get to where he’s going, and wonders how he’s going to accomplish that.
“Hey, Frog,” he says to Frog, whom he sees resting by the creek-side, “how about giving me a lift across the water?”
“No way, Scorpion,” said Frog. “If I put you on my back, you’ll sting me as we cross the water, and I’ll drown.”
“Do you think I’m an idiot?” asked Scorpion. “If I do that, I’ll die too.”
Frog thought for a minute. “Ok,” he said, “I guess that makes sense”.
So Scorpion climbed on Frog’s back and they began swimming across the creek.
At about the halfway point, Scorpion’s stinger whips forward and sticks Frog in the back of his neck.
“But Scorpion,” Frog said miserably as he began to weaken and sink, “why? Now you’ll die too.”
Scorpion smiled sadly. “It’s in my nature.”
There is no god but Profit, and Ayn Rand is its Prophet. Or so say the 1% and their minions in the governments of UK, Republic of Ireland, USA, European Union, France, Germany, and even those which claim to hate all things Western, like that of Turkey. All of them have these words written in their hearts, and teach them diligently to their children, talking of them while sitting in their house and walking down the street, when they lie down, and when they rise up. They bind them as a sign on their hand and wear them as a frontlet between their eyes, writing them on their doorposts and on their gates.
Whatever name it wears, be it pragmatic progressivism, neoliberalism, supply-side, objectivism, trickle-down, horse-and-sparrow economics, it amounts to the same thing: telling us that if we feed their horse enough oats some will eventually pass through to be shit out onto the road for us sparrows to eat. We are living in a theocracy, a theocracy in which the greed of the few outweighs the needs of the many, in which avarice for excessive wealthy and ambitious lust for ever more power through robbery, slaughter, and plunder are elevated to the level of supreme virtue. By comparison, practicing Satanists have more morality.
Whenever anyone in government, any government, speaks to you of realism and pragmatism while calling for austerity, balanced budgets, cutting taxes, “job-creators”, globalization, privatization, pay caps, cutting costs, free trade, free markets, deregulation, corporations as persons, market-based solutions, personal responsibility, the value of work as an ethic, benefits earned rather than human rights deserved, how an individual’s sole worth is their ability to create profit, you are listening to a sermon. As a religion, it is evil, it is psychopathic, it is inhuman. Because as an ideology, it is indeed a religion, one which worships at the temple of the Invisible Hand of the Market-place, the Church of the god Profit.
Perhaps I shouldn’t call it evil, though, since psychopaths lack a conscience. They are like predators in the jungle. Why do Theresa May, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Malcolm Turnbull, Boris Johnson, Nikki Haley, Michael Gove, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Tony Blair, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Tony Abbot, David Cameron, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and their ilk look at us the way they do? Because to them we are food, morsels at a banquet of excess. And yet they themselves are not even the masters; they are instead the house slaves, their masters’ pets.
Atop the pyramid of humanity our global economic system allows eight gods incarnate to take up as much as 3.72 BILLION other individuals humans or 465,250,000 (nearly half a billion) each. The same system allows the lesser gods and demigods below them to likewise use and waste huge amounts of the resources that are left, so that humanity’s wealthiest 1% take up as much as the other 99% of humanity. That 1% is 73 million individuals total, and if you take out the eight gods incarnate, it leaves 72,999,992 individuals who collectively take up as much resources as 364,927,000 other humans, for an average of 50 other individual human beings combined each. When I look around and see what that does to my brothers, sisters, and cousins around me and across the planet, I get bothered. I get angry. I get enraged.
Our so-called leaders, the enablers of the 1%, tell us to be rational, be reasonable, to accept life the way it is. Mostly because life the way it is put them and their patrons where they are. They make it seem sensible. They make selfishness and greed sound pragmatic. They make it seem as if willingly acquiesing to their manipulation, subjugation, and dehumanization will make us part of the in-crowd, that if we resist, if we fight, if we protest, if we ask questions, if we look around and say “Why?”, then we won’t be one of the cool kids, one of the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal”, one of the “pragmatic progressives”, one of the “progressives who get things done”, one of the soulless minions of their orthodoxy who accepts things the way they are, eating the sugar-covered shit they offer with a smile as if it were a brownie.
But good people don’t do that. Not if they are awake. Not if they are not numb, but bothered, angry, and enraged. They see the world as it is and refuse to accept it. They fight it, or at least begin to look for a way to fight it. Like Banksy wrote, “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we don’t remain neutral, we side with the powerful”.
So, to paraphrase Tony Benn, pick up the torch of anger against injustice in one hand and the torch of hope for a better world in the other and use them to fight for for us all.
As Bobby wrote on the 14th day of his hunger strike, “Everyone has his or her particular part to play. No part is too great or too small. No one is too old or too young to do something”.
At my junior high, there was a small group of friends who got picked on a lot. Then one day they were standing around and decided, “Hey, an injury to one of us is an injury to all of us”. So, when one of them got picked on, they all would go meet the bully and tell him would have to fight each of them one at at time, or he could quit. That started when they were in 7th grade, and by 9th grade there were several scores of them. They never picked fights or pushed anyone around, but they did stand up for each other, and even kids outside their group. And they never had to fight, not even once. They were the runts, but not even the biggest bully wants to fight 50 runts, even one at a time.
Our fight is not to win, because if we fight to win, to overcome, to rise above, then we are like the slaves who never become really free because they dream of becoming masters. The only way to win the game is not to play.
2 thoughts on “The Meaning of Life part 3 – The Endless Struggle”
This reminds me of a piece I saw where people were proudly wearing the “neoliberal” badge and trying to justify its morality. Tons of mental gymnastics in that piece. Your thesis is spot on: there is no “pragmatism” when encouraging the continuation of harmful institutions and philosophies.
Wonderful writing! There are other ways of of viewing life on this planet, and you certainly have a way with words. I specially liked your description of our place in existence!!! Thank you for your expression.