Anti-Capitalist Meetup: We need an economic Jesus by bigjacbigjacbigjac

First of all, I'm an adamant non-believer,
and I'm using the name of Jesus,
the concept of a savior,
as a metaphor,
a metaphor representing
the kind of idea we need,
the idea that could be the savior
of the economy,
the economy of the USA,
and,
potentially,
the economy of the world.

The enemy of humanity
is human nature,
the natural tendency
of some of us
to rape,
rob,
torture,
and kill
others of us.

In order to reduce
the occurrences
of rape,
torture,
and killing,
many people,
for thousands of years,
have figured out,
and written down,
basic principles which,
if faithfully followed by most,
should reduce violence
a great deal.

Two such principles are
those of Hammurabi,
and those of the fictional Jesus.

(I'm convinced the person of Jesus
is a literary device,
used to present many points of philosophy,
with the fictional Jesus presented as simply
wisdom,
personified.

"Jesus said,"
means
"Wisdom says.")

So,
Hammurabi said,
make the punishment fit the crime,
an eye for and eye,
a tooth for a tooth,
no less,
but no more,
exactly what is fair,
not letting either party have the upper hand.

The fictional Jesus/wisdom said,
do not demand an eye for an eye,
but rather,
if someone takes from you,
freely give more,
and wish them well,
to boot.

If we ask ourselves why
the gospel writers wrote such things,
maybe we can see
that if we demand exact justice,
it usually leads to escalation of the conflict,
because there may be harsh disagreement
on what is exactly fair,
what is equal to what,
in real world application,
in real world conflict.

The fictional Jesus,
I surmise,
is asking us to make certain
we don't escalate the conflict.

The way the gospel writers suggested
for avoiding escalation of conflict
is to be certain to demand less,
make it a point to be the generous party,
in any conflict.

Many people do this,
and it feels good,
(which is the real reason to do it;
folks are always completely selfish;
it feels good to be the hero,
the generous one.)

Now,
to move on to the topic
of armed robbery.

Here is a link to a short article on mercantilism:

http://www.landandfreedom.org/ushistory/us3.htm

I call mercantilism armed robbery,
because it's robbery,
taking things by force,
and the mother country in each case
had military people,
with weapons,
to enforce the robbery:
armed robbery.

Here is a link to an article on Adam Smith,
and his book,
and his invisible hand:

http://www.fairfightfilm.org/crf/AdamSmithProduction.pdf

Adam Smith is the Hammurabi of economics.

He suggested that everyone should give each other
exactly what is fair,
no more,
no less,
an eye for an eye,
a tooth for a tooth.

I don't have extensive research,
just a general impression I get from bits and pieces,
picked up over the years.

My general impression is
that now,
in modern times,
mercantilism is in full swing,
armed robbery still dominates our economy.

Once again,
I call it robbery,
because the rich get richer,
and I call it armed,
because the police,
who are armed,
side with the rich.

Let me explain the charge of robbery,
using the example of the biggest single company on Earth:
Walmart.

I work at a Walmart store,
and even though I have no inside knowledge of the details,
I have the impression that Walmart is cheating,
cheating in such a way that's completely legal,
no laws broken,
but doing things that seem like cheating,
if you look at the big picture.

No inside information,
just a guess.

Think about the many suppliers,
those many companies Walmart buys goods from.

Many items in the store,
fairly good quality items,
are simply priced about 5% lower
than the same or similar item
at any other store.

Because of this,
the vast majority of working class folks
shop at Walmart.

(It also helps a lot
that most Walmart stores are open 24 hours,
while K-mart and Target
close at 10PM.)

Notice,
Walmart is not robbing money from its customers,
it's robbing customers from K-Mart and Target.

This is my guess,
and it's only a guess,
as to how this works,
and why it's cheating:

I'm guessing that Walmart has cut special deals,
special agreements,
with many of its suppliers.

They have found a way
to prevent those suppliers
from making a similar deal
with any other retailer.

There is simply no way
that any other retailer
can get the special wholesale price
that Walmart gets.

Once again,
I don't know this for a fact,
but I simply don't understand any other way
they could have the prices
on nearly every item
so much lower than any other retailer.

Even if it's not true,
there must be examples of someone in the system,
the capitalist system,
cheating,
and,
by way of their cheating,
practicing some kind of mercantilism,
some kind of armed robbery.

I'm certain of this because,
the only goal of capitalism is profit,
and we turn again to the words of the fictional Jesus/wisdom:
You cannot serve two masters.

With time,
you will gradually come to love one of them,
more and more,
and despise the other.

The two masters in the Bible verse are:

1. Your net worth.

2. Your family, friends, neighbors, customers, etc.

Think about it.

Capitalism demands profit,
so,
the capitalist,
the true capitalist,
will gradually come to love his or her net worth,
or the profits of the company,
more and more,
and all humans less and less,
eventually despising nearly everyone.

This human tendency
is the tendency to commit
armed robbery.

We need an economic Jesus.

We need the idea,
the idea of not demanding fair trade,
to stop people from cheating,
to bring folks back from the brink of armed robbery.

We must,
somehow,
embrace the idea
that we cannot serve the master of profit,
we cannot demand an eye for an eye,
we cannot demand too much work from the workers,
we cannot demand special deals from suppliers,
we cannot push for more and more money,
no matter what.

I don't have a vision of how this would work.

I don't naturally go from this to communism,
or anarchism.

I simply suggest
that we look clearly at human nature,
the natural desire of some
to rob,
rape,
torture,
and kill.

Hammurabi took us one step away,
with fair exchange;
'Jesus' tells us,
to avoid escalation of conflicts,
do not demand and eye for an eye.

Adam smith took us one step away
from armed robbery;
we need to turn to an idea,
the idea that will be our savior,
the idea that if capitalists
are allowed to act freely,
they will not conduct fair trade,
the will indulge in mercantilism,
they will indulge in armed robbery.

And,
remember,
it's armed robbery
because the police are on the side of the capitalists,
and the police are armed.

Thanks for reading.

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Bus?

triv33's picture

Hahahahahahaha!!!!! Well, yes a few run around here, but not to Target! I could get to the Mall--if I ever wanted to, which I don't. I go shopping once a month, most months.

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Well, one runs here ...

BruceMcF's picture

... and it runs from the town I live in, through the Wal-Mart, then Kent State, then to the Target, then to the Kent State airfield.

If by "mall" you mean one of them there fancy indoors malls, that would take switching to the intercity Akron bus at Kent State and then changing to an Akron city bus at the Akron TC. I'm sure it would be possible to get to a mall by public transport within three hours. Maybe within two hours if the connections work out right.

The bus service in this county is a merger of the county RTA and the Kent State bus service, and it is the second part that gives it the "right" to run to Target, which is over the Summit County line, since it is "really" on the way to the University airstrip, where it turns around.

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This is beautiful

geomoo's picture

There is so much I want to talk about here. Of course, being me, I want to go to the critique. This is not because I feel generally critical of the essay; it's the opposite, this touches on something that is dear to my heart. The aspect I care a lot about is the notion that our forebears

have figured out,
and written down,
basic principles which,
if faithfully followed by most,
should reduce violence
a great deal.

I think this is true, and that one of the cornerstones of hope for the future is in more wide-spread and more serious practice of these principles, or more specifically, one principle which can be called the golden rule. Do unto others, consider that who you are extends beyond your immediate body and world to include others. It's not even giving really when you are sharing with yourself. Karen Armstrong has devoted considerable energy to convince non-believers like the diarist and Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins, that scorn for religion is in part based on an inaccurate reading of how things work. Whereas idea people, abstract thinkers, want to stress the truth side of religion, believing in fairy tales sort of thinking, the heart of religion is in practice. It is a common tunnel vision of our time that we over-estimate the power of thought and literal understanding. We may have a wonderful theoretical grasp of giving more instead of seeking vengeance. While contemplating this idealistic notion, we may feel all warm inside and fond our belief system. But two hours later, we may find ourselves in an emotional exchange in which either we have no memory of our intention to give more or we remember but are feeling too justified to give in and be generous. The point is, learning to live by rules or ideals, whether or not they are based on absolute truth, requires conscious practice. It is not easy.

For the above reasons, I think substituting an idea for Jesus makes the road a lot steeper to climb, simply because of how the mind works. A foremost challenge of our unique age is an habitual outward focus. There is a reason Jesus instructed not to pray in public but to pray in private--this is because quiet, inward presence is essential to prayer, assuming prayer involves more than a wish list to god; specifically, the essential aspect of prayer is a mental, emotional, and physiological transformation. Often, even non-believers will find their thoughts turning to something like god when they feel their solitude. Then, from inwardness, one may experience a transformation. This is a crucial aspect of giving more, the inward feeling of expansion of the self, a felt sense that one is the world, that one's own need for well-being extends into the world. Without this inward aspect, which might be called love (whole different aspect of the discussion there), and instead practicing a theoretical, abstract notion of giving more because it makes sense logically, I believe this is possible but more difficult to sustain, because it leads to bargaining with the universe, things like "I've been good, why didn't so and so . . ." Sustaining giving more in the face of stealing is a rare accomplishment. It only comes, I believe, with conscious practice.

So, finally I think I've gotten to what I want to say. Since inwardness is necessary, using a human image (historical or literary), works well for the brain. The practitioner focuses awareness on a human, and it is easy to project ones wisest inner knowing on another person. This creates a paradoxical situation in which the practitioner is both inward and in solitude while simultaneously feeling the presence of the other. This creates practice in integrating self, essentially with giving more. Using an idea rather than Jesus to create the same degree of visceral understanding and emotional commitment to the behavior would require the practitioner to be comfortable enough with his own solitude. I think the practice feels more severe and, sadly, is as filled with its own sorts of pitfalls, a couple of which I have alluded to.

So, with that critique of ideas as sufficient motivators of behavior, let me go back to how love plays a role in this human engineering, a way of saying basically the same thing from a sociological perspective. Emile Durkheim theorized that people are basically, . . . well, as the diarist puts it

The enemy of humanity
is human nature

Durkheim calls it exploitation--humans will exploit one another in the absence of one thing: a devotion to the group springing from the emotion of love. When one loves one's group, then one chooses not to exploit. In the absence of this love, people will invariably exploit themselves, others, and their environment.

Sorry to be so long-winded. This is a very important idea to me. So beautiful the way you came at this from an economic and a secular perspective. Very helpful and enlightening. It softens and enriches some of my takes on these notions. Thanks very much.

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