Wednesday, November 10, 2010


From AlterNet, my favorite left-wing journalist with a Master of Divinity from Harvard, Chris Hedges, lets loose another fiery rant:

Commerce cannot be the sole guide of human behavior. This utopian fantasy, embraced by the tea party as well as the liberal elite, defies 3,000 years of economic history. It is a chimera. This ideology has been used to justify the disempowerment of the working class, destroy our manufacturing capacity, and ruthlessly gut social programs that once protected and educated the working and middle class. It has obliterated the traditional liberal notion that societies should be configured around the common good. All social and cultural values are now sacrificed before the altar of the marketplace.


That human society has an ethical foundation that must be maintained by citizens and the state is an anathema to utopian ideologues of all shades. They always demand that we sacrifice human beings for a distant goal. The propagandists of globalization—from Lawrence Summers to Francis Fukuyama to Thomas Friedman—do for globalization and the free market what Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky did for Marxism. They sell us a dream. These elite interpreters of globalism are the vanguard, the elect, the prophets, who alone grasp a great absolute truth and have the right to impose this truth on a captive people no matter what the cost. Human suffering is dismissed as the price to be paid for the coming paradise. The response of these propagandists to the death rattles around them is to continue to speak in globalization’s empty rhetoric and use state resources to service a dead system. They lack the vision to offer any alternative. They can function only as systems managers. They will hollow out the state to sustain a casino capitalism that is doomed to fail. And what they offer as a solution is as irrational as the visions of a Christian America harbored by many within the tea party.

here for the rest.

Well that's a mouthful.

But that's what I like about Chris Hedges. When I talk like that, I'm making, say, only a couple of points. Hedges makes like twenty, a master of concision. Indeed, what he's doing is offering a core philosophical argument for rejecting conservatism: "societies should be configured around the common good." Such a notion ought to be a no-brainer. After all, if society isn't about the common good, then what good is society? When it's every man for himself, you might as well join the Mafia--you'd probably get a better return on your money.

And that's the point. Without the unifying concept of the common good, we're nothing but a gangster society, with everybody trying to get what's best for himself, and it doesn't matter who stands in the way, who you have to eliminate in order to get what you think is coming to you. But then, market ideology has brought us dangerously close to making Gangster America a reality. For years now we've been seeing the vicious cut throat morality of corporate America mirrored in the actions and everyday relationships of regular ordinary citizens. For many Americans, whether in the board room or in the workplaces of hourly schmucks like you and me, commerce really has become "the sole guide of human behavior." So many of us now have absolutely no problem at all with fucking over their neighbor if there's some profit or gain to be had.

This comes as no surprise. Our leaders, in both Washington and Wall Street, and in Hollywood and the professional sports world, have modeled this kind of immorality for decades. We've come a long way since celebrating George Washington's mythological statement, "I cannot tell a lie," to this modern era when presidents lie all the time, when corporate CEOs apologize for their misdeeds, but only as a public relations gambit, when celebrities check into rehab to wash away their sins, when professional athletes swear they didn't do steroids while retaining high priced lawyers to defend them from perjury. It was only a matter of time before everybody outside the spotlights followed suit.

Wrong-headed market ideology hasn't simply brought our economy to its knees: it has also deeply eroded the very moral fiber of our nation.

The worn out justification that "it's good for the economy" must no longer go unquestioned. Apart from the well documented fact that oftentimes it's not good for the economy, even if it generates some wealth somewhere for some people, it is now obviously and mind-numbingly clear that society has more, many more, concerns than simply creating an environment which is friendly to business expansion. Indeed, the Great Recession has been over for some months now, but unemployment remains extraordinarily high, and is projected to remain high for years to come: what good is economic expansion if it doesn't benefit most people?

But the Soviet-styled talking head propagandists on TV continue to tell us that "what's good for Wall Street is good for Main Street." Most of us continue to believe. As a nation, we have fully embraced the values of the corporate board room. And the most important of those values, really the only value, is all encompassing greed. That is, as a people, we now celebrate and live lives of unadulterated egocentrism.

A society mired in narcissism cannot last long. Ours is collapsing around us while we deny it.