A juxtaposition on the front page of the NewStandard news site jumped out at me today:
Chicago Turns Down Discounted Venezuelan Oil
Chicago’s poor face transporation fare hikes while city snubs cheap fuel offer (12/28)
This Winter, Some Choose Between Warmth, Food, Health
Families suffer through cold months unable to afford the very basic necessities (12/27)
Well, kiddies? What’s it going to be today: food, a warm house, or a trip to the doctor? Choose carefully, because you can’t have them all. Which is hurting you most: your empty stomach, your frozen fingers, or that flu bug you so carelessly picked up at school? Only one of them counts today. The other two will just have to wait until the next cheque–pay or welfare–clears the bank.
Sound barbaric? It should. This is the kind of third-world life millions of Americans are leading right now. And it’s all thanks to the poor-bashing policies of the right.
To the Personal Responsibility crowd, all of this is no concern of theirs. Their stomachs are full to overflowing, their houses are airtight and tropically heated (or breezily air-conditioned, as the case may be), their private health plans the best that their considerable money can buy. And they credit it all to their own umimpeachable virtue. It’s proof to them that their hard work has not been for naught–and no do-nothing welfare queen is gonna get her filthy black mitts on the proceeds thereof! If Those People want the good stuff, well–they’re just gonna have to work a helluva lot harder, aren’t they? After all, WE did…
So goes the reasoning.
Of course, it bears mentioning that the biggest welfare queen in America isn’t even a real person, let alone Ronald Reagan’s imaginary Cadillac-driving black woman. It’s Wal-Mart–surely the last place in America you’d expect to be welfare-dependent.
But WallyWorld’s dirty secret is that it’s as hooked on government money as a junkie on smack. It’s profitable for them to be, just as it’s profitable for them to use Chinese slave labor to manufacture all that cheap crap they sell, and profitable for them to drive entire small-town business sections out of business, only to abandon ship once the town is dead. And since they have the best lawyers money can buy, who can find and exploit every loophole in the legislative Swiss cheese, well–why not? It sure beats having to work for a living, like the harassed peons who work the cash registers or greet customers at the doors of the establishment…
By the way, those working stiffs, as hard as they work, aren’t adequately covered by Wal-Mart’s company insurance plan, which in any event costs too much for many of them to afford. Do you have any idea how many of them are using welfare just to make ends meet? If not, you’ve got some major homework to do.
But don’t think they’re not insured. Oh no–it’s also profitable for Wal-Mart to take out insurance on them, in case one of them kicks the bucket at work. Or while employed by you-know-who. The kicker is, it’s not the spouse and kids of the Dearly Departed who benefit from that insurance policy–it’s Wal-Mart!
Frankly, if you work for WallyWorld, you’re worth more to them dead than alive. So why should they not work you to death? Why not benefit from a dead peasant as only a slaver or a landlord can? (And believe you me, they can.)
While not all of this is strictly legal (the dead-peasant insurance policy sure isn’t), it is definitely symptomatic of a society where the Golden Rule no longer applies; those who have the gold, should get to make the rules, runs the Personal Responsibility crowd’s thinking. Money is a direct function of virtue, remember? If you’re rich, no matter how you got that way, it must mean that God loves you. Prayer of Jabez, and all that other neo-rightard crap (actually just the latest trendy variation on a flyblown pile of paleo-rightard crap, which has been discredited but has yet to be discarded.)
It’s all one fine rationalization for a buttload of behavior that would otherwise never pass the sniff test. Ethics, schmethics! It’s only us liberal social democrats, poor saps that we are, who talk and think earnestly of ends and means, or who concern ourselves with the legality and morality of it all, and even, O Horror of Horrors, sometimes stand up on our hind legs and fight back. But who are we to have the temerity? We’re not With The Program. We’re not Virtuous, because we aren’t pushing premarital abstinence, state-sponsored compulsory “Christian” churchgoing, or institutional racism, sexism and homophobia (for the right amount of moolah from a well-heeled faith-based right-wing think tank, natch). Therefore, we are Destined To Lose. Or so the rightards say.
But here’s the rub: if the end justifies the means, then how to explain so many grand schemes that fall apart in the end? And if God favors the (self-)righteous so much, why do so many of them come to grief–sometimes through the very methods they claimed were God-guaranteed to make them succeed? And above all, why do so many people who don’t fit the popular profile of the Righteous, or end up stinkingly wealthy because of it, still manage to move the levers of the world toward actual justice? Rosa Parks was just an ordinary black working woman, but she brought a white establishment to its knees. Gandhi was just a brown Hindu, but he kicked the British out of India without striking a blow. Hugo Chavez is just a mixed-race Venezuelan who grew up poor, but thanks to the Bolivarian Revolution he set in motion, his country, once only a banana republic, is becoming richer and more self-sufficient with every passing year. What the hell is their secret?
It damn sure isn’t some silly prayer. Nor is it a lot of empty talk about Personal Responsibility. Though all these unlikely miracle-makers are spiritual (as opposed to merely religious, which any damned fool can be and a great many damned fools are), I don’t think that alone is the answer. They all had a means, a process, that they stuck to consistently and made their spirituality work in the world: Parks was already an active member of the NAACP long before her famous bus ride; Gandhi found in meditative yoga the inner peace that fueled his nonviolent resistance; Chavez, an avid historian, intensively researched the lives of Simon Bolivar and his contemporaries, along with those of modern leaders he admired, then applied the lessons he learned to his own career–first as a soldier, then as a president. And not only that, but he held them up as examples for ALL Venezuelans to follow, which many now do. (Bolivarians outside Venezuela have also joined the movement and are following the teachings, working within their own communities to achieve justice, peace, prosperity and freedom in their own way.) None of them arrogantly claimed a one-size-fits-all approach, though there is certainly plenty about the varied approaches they took that can be universally applied (with modifications as needed, of course!)
But what all of them have in common, undoubtedly, is the sense of a PROCESS. The MEANS, not the end; a philosophy that is practical, not pretty talk. Not that they didn’t have goals in their sights (oh, did they EVER!), but they all possessed a firm conviction (which reality has borne out) that if the means is right, the outcome will take care of itself. Quite the difference from the “he who has the gold makes the rules” crowd, eh?
This is why those who try to dictate things from the “purpose-driven” standpoint tend to fail, and fail spectacularly, while those who devote themselves
to process can face setbacks but never really lose.
Consider the means, then, and let the end take care of itself. Because it will…and it is not unmindful of the means, either.