Posts Tagged ‘people

01
Dec
09

The Myth

Perhaps the greatest lie originating (and arguably, perpetuated by) Capitalism is the idea that the wealthy are wealthy because they are intelligent, disciplined, and hardworking and the poor are poor because they are ignorant and lazy. As a result, if a man in a business suit and flawless grammar knocks on your door and asks if he can use your bathroom, chances are you’ll let him. You probably wouldn’t do the same for a man in a ragged bathrobe whose grasp of the English language was sub-average. Indeed, the quality of treatment you offer people is usually determined by what social class they hail from. We make assumptions about people based on whether or not they seem to be poor, middle-class, or wealthy.

Quite simply, we’re bigots.

And not without reason either. If a person is less willing to let a homeless man into his house than a man who is (or at least, seems to be) doing quite well for himself, then the person’s fear is not completely unfounded. A wealthy man has less reason to rob you than a poor man. Crime rates, alcoholism, and drug abuse are highest among the lower classes. Likewise the poorer classes tend to have the lowest levels of education. Statistically speaking, yes, you are more likely to be mugged by a poor person than a rich one, but so what? Bigotry is never tolerable, no matter what. So what if you’re more likely to be mugged if you get a poor guy into your house instead of a rich one? You don’t know either man. Maybe the man in the bathrobe is an honest, honorable person who’s had a run of bad luck. Maybe the man in the suit is a sociopathic murderer or a con artist. Judging people according to how wealthy they are is, no matter how you look at it, wrong!

So why is it that we’re prejudiced to trust the middle-class and wealthy rather than the poor? Is it because the poor are ignorant and criminal while the wealthy are intelligent and decent? Of course not! The poor aren’t poor because they’re criminals; the poor have high crime levels because they are poor. Sure the poor man is more likely to mug you, but is that because of him or the fact that he’s cold and hungry? Obviously there are those who are poor because of their own issues- all humans have a propensity towards greed and indolence. At the same time, it is ridiculous to claim that the poor are only poor because they’re lazy. It’s the poorest of the poor who have the heaviest workload. Across Africa, Asia, Latin America and yes, even Europe, Australia, and North America there are millions of those who for ten hours a day for wages of less than a dollar a day! There’s a reason we call them the Proletariat– the working class! It’s because they’re the ones doing all the actual work. They do the farming, the mining, the sweeping, the building, the cleaning, the producing and manufacturing! Why on earth would we even dare to consider these people to be lazy?

Because we’re lazy.

As I’ve said, humans are lazy. More often than not we don’t take the time and effort to investigate something for ourselves; we simply make assumptions or believe whatever our leaders and the media feed us. Since the poor are poor and unable to afford decent (if any) healthcare, we immediately assume that the poor are simply dirty. Since the poor can’t afford decent (if any) educations, we immediately assume that the poor are ignorant and stupid. Since the poor are poor and can’t always afford food/medicine/etc., many are forced into lives of crime- we immediately assume that the poor are naturally criminal. But laziness isn’t the only reason we don’t ask why the poor live in poverty.

Humans are also naturally arrogant. The idea- no, the myth– that the poor are poor because they are lazy makes us feel better about ourselves. We’re where we are because of our efforts! We’re wealthy because of our intelligence, our skill! We’re where we are because of our work-ethic, our self-discipline, and our decency!

Egotistical lies.

We’re where we are because of our own efforts and the efforts of our parents and their parents before them and because of the state of the world we live in and the class we were born into. Personal effort makes up about ten percent of it- the rest is accident of birth and dumb luck. A person pulling himself to the top from nothing is such a rare event that we make a major Hollywood film out of it. If you’re born poor, chances are you’ll stay poor no matter how hard you work unless you get not one but a whole chain of lucky breaks. If you’re born into a middle-class family, you’re probably going to stay middle-class unless you get a bunch of lucky breaks (though less than if you were poor). If you’re born into wealth and privilege than you haven’t done anything to deserve your life and don’t have to do anything to maintain it. Like I said, it really comes down to accident of birth. If you’re lucky, you’re wealthy, if you’re not, you’re poor and probably will be poor for the rest of your life. The Caste System isn’t exclusive to Hinduism.

So in short, don’t believe in the fairy-tale that the wealthy are the best of society and the poor are the worst, or that the poor are poor only because of their own efforts. We are, for the most part, fixed in our place by statistical chance- individual effort has very little effect on us.

It isn’t fair, is it? Only a sadist or an idiot could honestly state that this is an ethical system. Most of us simply shrug our shoulders and say that “life isn’t fair” or “that’s just the way things are…”. I say that when someone’s been murdered, we can’t stick our hands in our pockets and say “life isn’t fair”. I say that when any injustice has been committed, no matter on what scale, the only ethical course of action is to establish justice. Yes, life isn’t fair- but maybe that’s because no one’s doing anything about it!

17
Nov
09

This Land is Your Land…

There’s an old Native American proverb which states “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” What this means is that land doesn’t belong to any one person, but rather land exists for all people. The concept of land-ownership among the Native Americans existed solely in a territorial sense. That area belongs to (or rather, is being used by) that group, this land is being used by us, and so on. Indeed, this concept is almost universal to all hunter-gatherer, pastoral, nomadic, and horticulturalist people groups.

This all contrasts very sharply with our modern, Capitalist belief in private property- especially in regards to land. For some odd reason, humans enjoy being able to state “this land is my land, it sure aint your land”. We take pride in our ability to put up fences, barbed wire, and “no trespassing” signs.

Now this is a concept I have difficulty grasping. We somehow imagine that we can divide the world up into little plots of land, separate them by borders, and claim that we own them. How on earth (yes, that’s a pun) can we do this? We don’t own land, the land owns us! To pretend that everything within points ABCD is ours and ours alone is ridiculous. Now if we created the land, then the concept might have some (and only some) weight to it. The fact of the matter is, however, that the land was here millions of years before some person got it into his head that these twenty square acres belonged to him and no one else. Yet the vast majority of our planet is sliced up into neat parcels of land which most of the time aren’t even being utilized by the so-called “owner”. If he isn’t living on it, then why shouldn’t you be able to enjoy it? Have angels descended from the heavens and proclaimed that by divine mandate, this mountain exists solely for the use and pleasure of a single man? No. All that happened was one man decided that these twenty-or-so square acres were going to belong to him and that if anyone disagreed, he would fight them.

So how is that right? Carving out a stretch of land by simple superior firepower (which almost always eventually translates into legal justification) for sole purpose of satiating greed (which incidentally, isn’t satiable) – is that ethical? No matter what your politics, you have to come around the belief that this land is as much yours as it is mine. This land was made for you and me!

29
Sep
09

Communism, Capitalism, and Patriotism

The word “Patriotism” is used a lot these days. Some people understand patriotism to be the unconditional and unquestioning support of the government, others hold that patriotism is the defense and advocacy of certain values, and still others maintain that patriotism is any participation in the process of government. But what is true patriotism? At its most basic level it’s simply a love of one’s country- but what does that mean exactly? Who is being patriotic, the person who supports the war in Iraq or the person who opposes it? Who loves their country more, the person who opposes high taxes or the person who lobbies for them? In reality, you can’t attach patriotism to any one side of the political spectrum- after all, a person who believes that strict gun control is right for the country is being just as patriotic as the person who wants as little gun control as possible (provided his motivation is a desire to do what is right for his country).

Sadly, the word “Patriotism” is often misused to the point where its meaning changes altogether, resulting in what we would call “Jingoism”- the belief that one’s government is right in all things. We see this on both sides- people are labeled as unpatriotic (even anti-American) for protesting the war in Iraq and people are labeled as unpatriotic for refusing to support Obama’s policies. If patriotism is “the love of one’s country” then jingoism is a dangerous obsession.

Communists have experienced this more than others- indeed, the 1950s government detachment for investigating and combating the Communist ideal in America was called “The House Un-American Activities Committee”. Now were several problems with the committee, primarily that its creation was a gross violation of the constitution, and also because of the assumption it made that Communism was somehow unpatriotic and anti-American.

Now this raises an interesting question- which of these two world views is more patriotic? Capitalism or Communism?

Well, firstly let us investigate the ideals of Capitalism. As has been stated many times by now, the purpose of Capitalism is capital– money, which is to be obtained through the buying, selling, and general exchange of goods and services. Government regulation is equated with corruption, and tariffs and subsidies (created primarily for the purpose of benefiting the country’s local infrastructures and citizens) are deemed to be nothing more than hindrances to the economy’s growth. So is Capitalism patriotic? Absolutely not. If the purpose of Capitalism is the acquisition of money, then the Capitalist’s loyalties are not to his country but to the markets- and a country is made up of people, not economies. For example, a person in one country could attempt to acquire money through selling products- this is Capitalism. However, if the products he is selling are the country’s natural resources, or even sweat-shop labor, then this- while Capitalist- is far from patriotic. Or take for example the selling of faulty or shoddy products. If a person sells products decorated in lead-based paints, then he- while fully following the creed of Capitalism- is damaging the public and the country.

So what about Communism? Well, the primary purpose of Communism is an attempt to improve society by creating justice and equality through the abolition of the class system, private property, and currency, and the establishment of a free, democratic government. Simplified by Chairman Mao, the Communist’s primary goal is to “serve the people”. Now as stated above, a country is not comprised of its wealth or markets or economy but of its people. What could be more patriotic than a system where serving the public is the end goal?

In short, in a contest between the two, Communism is by far more patriotic than Capitalism can ever hope to be.

28
Jun
09

Communism and Human Nature

As a Communist, I’ve heard many arguments against the Marxism but not quite so common as the “Human-nature-argument”.

Essentially what is argued is that Marxism is a “Utopian” system which can only work if humans were perfect. Since humans are naturally fallible, Communism can never work- indeed, the only system that can work in an imperfect world is Capitalism, which functions on the assumption that humans are naturally greedy and egotistical.

This argument, while popular, is nonetheless flawed due to (1) false assumptions about Communism, and (2) false assumptions about the nature of government, society, and economics.

Firstly, Communism is by no means a Utopian system. There will always be issues with any system, and Communism recognizes this. Where in the works of Marx or Engels is Communism labeled a panacea for humanity’s ailments? Where in Das Kapital or the Communist Manifesto is Marxism promised to solve all of man’s problems? Nowhere. If anything, Marxism promises increased conflict, class warfare, and revolution! Hardly what one would call a “Utopian” system. It is because humans are naturally greedy and self-serving that Marx argues for Communism and against Capitalism. Humans are naturally violent and even murderous- that doesn’t mean we create a legal system that makes allowances for humanity’s shortcomings. As James Madison once put it, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary…”. How then can it be argued that Communism, a form of government, is based on the idea of humanity’s perfection?

Secondly, advocates of Capitalism will point to the fall of the Soviet Union and claim that this is prove that Communism doesn’t work because of human nature. One, the Soviet Union was not Communist (and this cannot be emphasized enough) and two, if the person making this claim would only look at the state of the world, he would realize that nothing works in the long run. According to the laws of physics, everything goes from a state of order to a state of disorder over varying lengths of time. This applies not only to eroding rocks or decomposing meat but to society as well (this is often referred to as “Social entropy”). Every society, regardless of it’s political, economic, or legislative system will, at some point, become corrupted and self-destruct (or become weakened to the point where it is wiped out by another system or force). Is there anything inherently wrong or flawed about democracy? In general, no. Will democratic countries last forever? Absolutely not. Athens, the Roman Republic, pre-WWII Germany were all democracies and they all fell in ruin. Was it the fault of the system? Of course not- it was the fault of humans. As much as we try to halt the advance of disease in our bodies or corruption in our governments, we can only delay the inevitable process. The ancient Chinese were aware of this and rather than attempting to come up with a system of government that could circumnavigate social entropy, they based their political theory on the simple belief that what goes up, must come down. Their system was called the “Mandate of Heaven”, which stated that when a dynasty became corrupt, the people had not the right but the obligation to revolt and instate a new government- a philosophy later echoed by America’s founding father’s in the Declaration of Independence (“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men… That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government…”). Yes, a Communist government would eventually become corrupt and collapse on itself, but so would a Capitalist government. The laws of physics aren’t optional.

In short, since Communism is based on the belief that humans are naturally predisposed to greed, lawlessness, and violence, it is impossible and illogical to argue that Communism relies on the belief that humans are naturally good. Likewise, because a Communism government- like everything else- will at some point self-destruct (though hopefully, only to be replaced with a new Communist government), it is impossible and illogical to argue that Communism is an unattainable Utopia capable of solving the human curse of war, disease, crime, and conflict. And even if, purely for the sake of the argument, Communism is a Utopian cure-all for death, destruction, and decay, aren’t there worse things to struggle for?