There are certain customs that still hold sway in the small, mid-western town in which I reside, one of which is the meeting of locals to simply have a chat.
Sometimes these chats are over tea and sometimes they are over an adult beverage. Either way, the conversations rarely leave out the state of the world. The current state of the world is often seen in very negative terms, even by those who are doing well for themselves. In small towns like mine there are people who are doing very well for themselves since they own land and may own one of the town’s monopolies. In a time of economic downturn, competition often fades away. There is one restaurant, one gas station, one grocery store.
One of the people I spoke with last week described himself as “comfortable,” and told me something I found quite interesting. He said he understood that the country was in trouble, and he listed the big three problems causing that trouble: corporate corruption, government deficits, and the increasing gap between rich and poor.
“But,” he cautioned, “I know there is a lot to fix, but I do not want anything to be done that will take away anything I have.”
This is an understandable point of view, but puts a solution to the problems America face in doubt. Americans pride themselves on their generosity, but generosity is not sacrifice. Here we are, I was thinking, in the midst of the Easter season, which is the greatest story of sacrifice ever told in the Western world, and we do not want to sacrifice anything in the process of change.
Is this possible if the change we face is radical? I listen to a lot of Internet radio and read a lot of Internet exchange, and after separating the wheat from the chaff there seems to be a growing polarization of ideas about what needs to be done in America. There is a growing status quo voice that wants to avoid any radical change. In fact, I have even seen articles that promote the idea of an America with two major parties that are exactly the same. In short, this point of view preaches that by now America should have reached agreement on the fundamentals. None of this talk about anything radical, such as abolishing the public school system, but rather how instead we should base our votes on the integrity of the candidates and their willingness to preserve the status quo.
The radical side wants to tear apart the status quo. Do not let Ron Paul fool you, for example. If he got his way and abolished the Federal Reserve and eliminated vast amounts of government spending the lives of many people would be radically altered. Somewhere along the way someone would have to make a sacrifice for the betterment of all in the future. This is one reason why he is greatly despised by the left. In practice, leftist politics no longer involves sacrifice. Have you seen the president’s wife Michelle Obama making any great sacrifices lately? (Somewhere, I suppose, in her bags of travel receipts, she has a receipt from a Motel 6?)
There are many on the far right and far left who contend that radical reform is impossible within the election process itself, making the election of 2012 a sideshow. On the left, Pulitzer prize winner Chris Hedges makes a case against expecting elections to solve America’s problems, which is due to what he considers an indisputable fact — America is run by corporations. Our current president, Barack Obama, has arguably been better to the banking and corporate interests than the man the left considered the worst president in history, former Republican President George W. Bush. America, from this point of view, can only be changed from a populist movement outside of the current political structure. The corporate state is too powerful to work within the system.
To back this up, take a look at the conviction this week of Lee Farkas, former head of Taylor, Bean and Whitaker. It sounds like a great victory — a bank president will finally go to jail! The news articles, however, explain that he was convicted of ripping off his fellow bankers; no mention of illegally throwing people out of their homes. He committed a crime against the banking community, not the general public. This reminds me of the denunciations of Joseph Stalin after his death in 1953. The Russian Communist Party denounced Stalin’s crimes against other party members, but they were mostly silent about his crimes against the population as a whole.
When the next round of budget debates begin, someone is going to be left out. The Easter message has always been that no one is left out. Salvation is for everyone. (I’m purposefully leaving John Calvin out of this.) The sacrifice of Christ is the sacrifice made for all of humanity, not just a particular group. The fear of radical America reform arises, I believe, from a fear that particular groups of people will be pushed aside. The market system of capitalism runs contrary to this fear. In a market system failure is not only expected, it is necessary.
In retrospect, the single failure of the Presidency of George W. Bush may have been his reluctance to make the citizens of America sacrifice. America fought expensive wars around the globe, and yet the only people who had to make a sacrifice were the soldiers and the families of the soldiers. The citizens of America expected a boom economy. No war tax. No rationing. If a space alien had landed in a large metropolitan city in America in 2005, there would have been nothing to indicate he landed in a nation that was at war.
Two thousand years ago Christ gave his answer to the human condition through sacrifice. Today, the answer that is given to the problems of the world is education. Christ said that He was The Truth. Today, The Truth is given to us by psychiatrists, psychologists and our all-knowing educational system. That is why now, more than ever, America must salvage its educational system — even if it means, oddly enough, turning our backs on it. Radical change can only come from a people who have the ability to understand and accept what needs to be done. If America maintains the status quo there are many, including myself, that fear for America’s capacity to survive. Christ fought the status quo, quite literally to his death.
On April 10, 2011, Chris Hedges posted an article on Truthdig entitled Why the United States is Destroying Its Educational System. I will end with this quote from that piece:
The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business. Thought is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. They remember who we are, where we come from and where we should go. They remain eternally skeptical and distrustful of power. And they know that this moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think. Those who are endowed with a moral conscience refuse to commit crimes, even those sanctioned by the corporate state, because they do not in the end want to live with criminals—themselves.