Monday, May 13, 2013

Week of 05/13/2013

Capitalism Is Its Own Worst Enemy
– by David Matthews 2

As a fan (and as a fan-based creator) of comic books, I know that a hero is only as good as his or her enemies.  Indeed, quite often the hero’s greatness is defined by the enemy it confronts. 

For instance, Superman’s nobility and selflessness stands out against the greed and narcissistic arrogance of Lex Luthor.  Someone who gives constantly of themselves without reward will always be seen in a much more clearer light when compared to someone who simple takes and takes and flaunts their ability to get away with it.

Indeed, sometimes the hero ends up creating their worst enemies, whether they want to or not.

Going back to comics, all we have to do is look at the history of the Joker and how he came about to show how he became the iconic foil for Batman.  Batman created the Joker, whether by accident or negligence, and thus the Joker became the opposite of everything Batman stands for.

So riddle me this, Internet readers: how you spin a flawed and otherwise bad guy into a good light?

The answer is simple: you create an enemy that appears to be even worse.

We will excuse evil and even enable it as long as we fear something worse than it.  A battered wife will excuse her abusive husband and even defend him for fear that leaving him would be worse.  Molested kids will rationalize their victimization by saying that they would rather endure it than to know that their siblings would be next.  Whole school districts will rationalize allowing out-and-out criminal activity to go on by their athletes for fear that being branded as “losers” would be even worse.  An assistant coach can molest children repeatedly and the university will be silent for fear that the scandal would “stain” their legendary head coach.  A church can be allowed to hide and shuffle around predatory priests for fear that the scandal would “stain” the church’s reputation.

So picture, if you will, society during the Industrial Revolution. 

Greedy industrialists are openly exploiting the workers, causing a division between the haves and the have-nots that rivals those of the old system of feudalism.  They know that slavery is being discouraged, even sparking a Civil War in the United States. 

There is no more fear of “brutal heathen savages” that used to keep the people in check.  Sure they “exist”, but you have to actually go out looking for them at this time.  It’s not like they’re going to show up in the middle of New York or Boston or London.

There’s always the threat of war… but that’s one industrial country against another, rehashing old egos.  No real “threat” to capitalism there.

No, there needs to be something really scary waiting in the wings.  Something that will frighten the average overworked and underpaid grunt so they will actually defend the very institution that is plundering them.

Capitalism needs a boogeyman!

So they invented one.

They took a little piece of speculative fiction by two German theorists by the names of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels and turned it into the capitalist version of the Dark Grimoire; a book of blasphemy so profane that it should never be uttered in the presence of a capitalist for fear that their very souls would burn.

That is what “The Communist Manifesto” really is, folks.  It is speculative fiction.  It is fantasy.  No different than the speculative future of the late Gene Roddenberry in the TV series “Star Trek”, or the speculative future in H.G. Wells’ book “The Time Machine”, or the dystopian future in George Orwell’s “Nineteen-Eighty-Four” or James Cameron’s “The Terminator” movie series.  You take current events and you speculate as to how the future could turn out.

But it also became the perfect foil for Capitalism.  It combined past and current trends of the time – namely the battle over slavery and the economic disparagement of the Industrial Revolution – and threw in references to evolution, which in and of itself was seen as a profane threat to the power-hold of Christianity, and theorized a “future society” in which all the trappings of wealth and power would no longer exist.

Now for some stuffy rich industrialist sitting in the parlor of some elite social club smoking a cigar that costs more than the year’s wages for one of his child-workers, the very thought of a future without all of those things is scary indeed.  Wouldn’t you consider the perceived “loss” of all that you have amassed to be frightening?  And the more that you have amassed, the greater the fear that you could lose it all.

Of course it also helps if you have someone actually trying to make that fictional future society real.  Take a country suffering from a perpetual inferiority complex, like Russia in the early 20th Century, and convince certain people that they could somehow skip all of those countless years of social evolution and actually be in that “perfect utopian society” today.  Then you have some idealists talking about how “wonderful” it would be if we could live in that kind of world.  Now you have a physical enemy to point to.  Now you have a force that industrialists and politicians and religious leaders can all point to and lump in the perceived world’s evils and demonize in one-felled swoop.

But it’s still just an enemy in name only, even after fifty years of waging a war-in-name-only called the “Cold War”, after McCarthyism and the Sword-of-Damocles threat of Mutual Assured Destruction. 

Sure the Soviet Union fell, but in hindsight we realize that it couldn’t be the “all-encompassing enemy” that the almighty world of capitalism feared.  The Soviet Bloc fell, with the USSR not far behind it, because what they had wasn’t that “next step in social evolution” but merely oligarchs and stratocrats. 

Here’s a hint, boys and girls: if you need to put up walls to keep people in, then yours is not the “next stage in social evolution”.

No, the enemy that capitalists and their cronies in politics and the media so loudly bray against is neither a country nor a person.  It’s an idea.  An idea that suggests that there is an alternative to the misery of the status quo.

It’s an idea that must be replenished somewhere, right?  Someone or something gives reason for this idea to continue, otherwise it wouldn’t have lasted this long.

The culprits, boys and girls, are none other than those within capitalism itself!

Let’s get brutally honest here… if there is any group that is to blame for people yearning for communism or socialism, the movers and shakers and self-professed “masters of the universe” need only look into a mirror.

Just like communism and socialism, capitalism itself is merely an idea.  An idea is only as good as those that live up to it and claim to champion it.

But when you have rampant instances of greed, corruption, systematic injustice, and an economic disparagement that rivals events prior to the French Revolution, and you have the audacity to call that “capitalism”, you are not encouraging people to support it.  Indeed, you are driving people to look for an alternative… any alternative.

The Russian leadership fell almost a hundred years ago not because of Vladimir Lenin, but because people were without food.  Lenin wasn’t even in the country when the Russian Revolution happened!  The revolution happened because the system failed the masses.  Lenin had to engineer his own revolution in order to get his ideas imposed, and even that involved screwing over the masses in the same way the Czars did previously.

Likewise, do you know what caused the Soviet Union to fall?  It wasn’t because of the strength of capitalism.  It was because the people again realized that they were being screwed over by the ones in power.  The oligarchs and stratocrats that called themselves “Communists” but were living like French nobles.

The biggest selling points for socialism and communism are not the “superiority” of those ideas, but because of the failings of capitalism.  Because of the greed and the corruption and the systematic injustices and the economic disparages.  People will not support a system that is failing them.  They will not support a system that screws them over while at the same time make other people obscenely rich.  And if they are presented a way that will screw over those folks that have been screwing them, guess what?  They’ll probably take it.

The people that claim to be the champions of “capitalism” have a responsibility to themselves and to others to make sure that what is being delivered is what they are promising.  You want to truly defeat the ideas of “communism” and “socialism”?  Then don’t give the masses a reason to consider alternatives.  Stop creating your own enemies and start living up to the “heroic roles” that you pretend to serve.

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