Sunday, November 07, 2004

Privatizing Social Security & what it means

The issue of privatizing social security gets to the heart of what has happened to American culture at the popular level, which used to exist only at the commercial/political level. Such is the power of sustained propaganda.

In general, what has happened is that Scrooge has won and Tiny Tim is dead. There have not been any intervention of "spirits" or "ghosts" to re-warm Scrooge's heart and re-humanize his soul. The lesson of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" has fallen on deaf ears and stone cold hearts.

Since we cannot expect the heartless to care, another way must be found to remove them from power. In looking back over history, the peasantry have always been at a disadvantage. They are not able to organize as effectively. More importantly, they are controlled by a culture that puts a premium on the individual and not the group. It is quite true that the culture of America and its individualistic mindset will have to change for a better paradigm before any permanent changes can be made. The paradigm shift rests on moving the model from seeing individuals as the basic constituent of society to seeing the family as the basic unit. Once that shift is made, then all the values that are used in family life can be applied to society at large in general and the role of government in particular. George Lakoff has begun that shift with his "Family as Nation" metaphor and the "strict father family" and "nurturant parent family" models.

In the meantime, there are serious legislative issues on the table that are being driven by an ideology that is in direct opposition with the way the Right Wing Machine (RWM) operates. They are pushing very hard on "individualism" and yet they operate more collectively than any group I've ever heard of. They are extremely focused. Unfortunately, they are also very coercive in order to maintain their unity. here to read more....

On the other hand, Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority (read "Moral Minority") is the largest cult on earth. All these people are brainwashed and have no clue how they've been manipulated. The problem is that their religion has been used against them for a purpose they themselves would not in fact approve if they actually understood how their faith is being betrayed to serve a completely different purpose.

At the same time, the reaction of the religious right to the social liberalism begun in the 1960s has merit. Women's lib, Roe v. Wade, free sex, easy divorces, and in-your-face sex and violence everywhere on TV, in movies and video games has reached the most disgusting proportions. All the normal standards have given way to cultural and moral "relativism" and an absolute devotion to "freedom of expression" no matter how disgusting or reprehensible it may be to the general population. This is tyranny of the minority.

For example, questioning the very notion of what is "normal" is the very definition of America's problem. No one knows anymore and any effort to define it is vehemently attacked by "liberals" who are just as rabid as the right wingers they've created. Barry Goldwater and George Wallace both came out of the 1960s in reaction to the anarchy they were witnessing.

This is not to say that everything in the 60s was bad such as the Civil Rights movement. But the alarm bells were rung very loudly then against the status quo (white, rich, anglo-saxon, protestant, & male) and the status quo has fought back ever since. This is the leagcy of the intellectual history of America beginning with the "City on a Hill" speech in 1629 on the Arabella.

Here we are nearly 400 years later dealing with the same religious fervor to impose its will on the rest of the world as the Puritans tried to impose on Europe, for which they were persecuted and for good reason. So they got on ships and came to America. But now, there is no where else for anyone to go and the culture war is on between the religious zealots and everyone else, both in America and around the world.

Add to this mix the foxes of commerce and power guarding the chicken coop of the religious peasantry coupled with the doctrine of "self-interest" begun by Adam Smith in "Wealth of Nations" and the advent of enormous riches to be gained in industrial capitalism and here we are today trying to make sense of this polyglot culture we have. It's a Gordian Knot. How are we to cut through it to release us from its grip?

To me, the first place to begin is to establish a safe haven of like minded people willing to live by a clear and binding ethic that is enforced among themselves. This IS what the religious zealots, Republicans, and social Conservatives have done to great political effect. Unless the "left" is capable of doing the same, then they have no excuse for living under rules imposed by the "other" side. By saying "left" I am meaning rational, sane, moderate, and humane people. I do NOT mean the rabid left who would dispose of all rules of normality or ethics that the majority of people on both sides want to have. What people want most is fairness and to be shown respect and dignity as living human beings.

To me, this is embodied by the Golden Rule, of treating others with the same dignity and respect they want for themselves. AND, not doing to others what they would not want done to themselves. This does not mean expecting perfection from others nor does it imply the need to read anyone's mind as to what they want. It just means showing people basic courtesy and yet giving them the room to be who they are, however quirky they might be, as long as they commit no deliberate act of harm on others.

At the same time, being quirky does not mean flouting social norms and then expecting everyone to find it acceptable. Such things require being sensitive to time and place and allowing general society to have its norms while the sub-culture goes about its business below the radar. In other words, there are some things best kept in the closet, meaning in private, out of the public eye. This is the crux of the culture war. The border between private activity and public acceptability has become non-existent and the sub-cultures are expecting public approval. I'm as liberal as they come but I will NOT consider Goth to be vogue except on Halloween. If the sub-cultures are not going to show respect to the mainstream, I see no reason for the mainstream to show them any respect either. The private/public border is very important in order to keep the two realms separate. This guarantees protected spaces, including the public sphere which should be about the concerns of us all and not any group in particular. By this I mean that if civil unions are a civil rights issue, then work on civil rights instead of pushing for gay marriage. If it's about sharing health care benefits, then work for universal health coverage instead of spousal rights. This topic is worthy of its own essay but perhaps you get the point.

Organizationally, the "left" right now is in too much disarray. The various activist groups are too involved in their own agendas to unite in a common cause. Perhaps this past election will break through their narcissistic individualism and make them realize their own little pet project needs to become part of a larger agenda. For example, environmental issues, important as they are, do not have the same impact in daily life as the lack of a living wage or lack of health care or price gouging by pharma. Families are under major assault and parents are bearing the brunt while their children suffer its effects. Workers must now "prostitute" themselves to corp America just to get by and have enough to eat.

The Democratic Party is supposed to be the party to address these issues, but they have been co-opted by their own greed for money and power. The Green Party only cares about structure by pushing for IRV and proportional representation. The moral foundation that drives their platform is not well understood in practical terms. The MN Greens are as ideologically driven as every other ideologically based group. Dealing with reality is not high on their list of priorities. Nor are third parties an answer to the cultural quagmire America is in. They only serve to further shred what remains of the social fabric which has always been about sharing our common bond as human beings who only wish to live in peace, free from coercion, pursuing what little happinesses life has to offer in our families, friendships, and in the work we perform for our bread. Life is tough enough without throwing in the evil of man's inhumanity to man.

This will mean that the resistance will have to draw back the curtain on the Bush administration and those that support it to reveal the robber barons they are. They have plundered our treasury, committed us to make war on innocent people, robbed us of our livelihood, poisoned our air, water, and food, and put every American's life at risk in one form or another for their own personal gain. They have done this by severing the connection between the individual and the society in which they live that supports our collective existence. Just as no child born ever grew up to adulthood all by itself, no individual lives in complete isolation from their fellow human beings. What affects one, affects us all. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." More importantly, it shows how those who now run our government have committed treason against the American people by abdicating their obligations set forth in the Preamble of the Constitution.

Getting back to the issue of privatizing social security, this maneuver is purely a shell game designed to ensure that every retirement dollar put into the stock market flows into the hands of the already mega rich.

This leads us to the single greatest issue facing us today: understanding the purpose of government. That is where the real culture war is at. And yet, those who advocate smaller government and fewer regulations are the greatest perpetrators of governmental expansion and intrusion of privacy. They have won the propaganda war and now people support a government that does not genuinely serve their interests. In other words, a sick and dying Tiny Tim is supporting Scrooge's greed and heartlessness in the name of individual responsibility. It does not matter that Scrooge does not pay a living wage for Bob Cratchit to support and care for his family. This makes Scrooge directly responsible for Tiny Tim's death. But that connection is conveniently left out because there are no family or moral values that can condone such cruelty and yet, we are living in such a time. The elected who have done this to America have abdicated their contract with the American people established by our forefathers. This is a treasonous act of betrayal and they should be tried as traitors.