Saturday, November 21, 2009

Class Warfare?

Some who represent the bankers are repeating what has been said before, "This is class warfare on bankers." They may not actually know what that is. If they were a banker when Andrew Jackson was President, they would know what it is for real. Jackson succeeded in persuading the Congress to go along with him and removed all the money of the Federal government from the The Bank of the United States and distributed it to various banks in various states. Their charter was allowed to expire and they dried up like a squash who's vine had been cut.

If one could define predatory lending policies as class warfare one could say that the reverse is true about who is waging the war. If one could could define taking billions from taxpayers as salvation from total ruin during the "great recession", then recording record profits and paying CEOs obscene bonuses as waging war on the peoples treasure, one could say that a war of piracy is going on waged by the bankers. Is that class warfare?

The thing which got this mess going is the same thing which occurred with the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s. Banks making fraudulent real estate loans and no one charging them with a crime. The current sub-prime banking scandal presents the same MO, no one yet charged with a crime...unless one said that the taxpayer was to speak.

Yet we still have those who say that the key to success in business and government is deregulation, privatization, and the principles of free "lassez faire". Hands off! Turn em' loose! Let the banks and the government practice self regulation. The people need not be involved...their too stupid. Yea, so stupid that we keep getting ripped off!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Questions on Veterans Day

Are we treating our troops fairly? That question persists. If the American public experiences generally no sacrifice what so ever in connection with the fact of being at war now for eight years, how could we say that is fair to the soldiers and their families? Are they the only Americans we are willing to ask to sacrifice?

Historically our citizens were asked to sacrifice when we were at war. Try to think of one single sacrifice which you have made since 2001 if you are not in the military or a military family. Bought any war bonds? Experienced any rationing; sugar, tires, meat, gasoline? Has any of your family been subject to being drafted to fight in our wars? Has your Congressman or Senator had sons or daughters or grandchildren exposed to being drafted for war? ...or any of the children of the board members of IBM, General Electric, General Dynamics, DuPont, Boeing, Lockheed, Kraft, or Ford? No. What sacrifices have they made on Wall Street for the wars? This is an insult to our troops...a smack in the face! As they suffer the most horrible conditions of war, can you imagine their thoughts about whether the people back home know or care?

What kinds of options are available for our troops? Does the nation provide higher educational opportunities for lower income citizens? Are other jobs and careers readily available? Is training available for professional and skilled jobs for those with little resources? Was joining the military their only way up?

During the American Revolution, General Washington as well as other commanders faced the daunting task of persuading soldiers to remain on the battle field when their enlistments expired. By the thousands their enlistment expiration dates would arrive. Washington faced the possibility of loosing half of his army on a single day. The soldiers decision was compounded by the fact that their pay was sporadic at best. Some were never paid. Some paid only after the war. Their families were suffering from lack of income. Wives, friends, and family tried to keep food on the tables. What a terrible choice for a soldier. But they saw it as "the glorious cause" and enough decided to fight on for eight long years to win independence. It was their choice.

Perhaps...since the American public is so reluctant to make any sacrifices for our present wars...we should consider limiting our wars to those with "a glorious cause". Limit our wars to the ones where on the question of sacrifice, it is obvious what course we should take.

On this Veterans Day we should think about what it means that we are willing to ask others to make sacrifices which we ourselves are unwilling to make or to participate in.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Western Cultural Superiority Complex

It is claimed that George Bernard Shaw said "...patriotism is the belief that your country is superior to all others simply because you were born in it..." It's an arresting challenge but the feeling of nationalistic superiority is probably more complex. I knew a young fellow Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M who worshiped the idea of the greatness of Texas but didn't really know specifically why he held such a view. It was my contention that he learned that view by osmosis from the Texas culture into which he was born and reared. The fact that Texas was a Republic with a war of independence and is so damn big may be a key to this braggadocios air.

Texans are not the only ones with a bloated sense of pride. Most of the world thinks that Americans are inflicted with the same virus of unbalanced pride in the United States. The very idea of questioning such patriotism is near to treason in the minds of lots of North Americans. What if that sense of pride causes us to force our culture on others? How could we continue to be so smug?

It is not my wish to describe in detail this many faceted malady. It is rather to explore it's origins. Most would agree that it is European. But how did it begin? Certainly not in the "dark ages". Europe was a hideous place then; filth, superstition, and ignorance. What was there to be proud of? When the black death enveloped European cities in the 13th century, their panic and prejudice exploded and they murdered Jews by the thousands thinking the plague came from god's displeasure at the mere presence of such infidels and especially from the fact that many made their living from the evil practice of usury.

But things changed. Some apparently brilliant individuals from Europe began to sail the seas discovering new worlds. The list is long. Columbus, Vespucci, Coronado, Cortes, Drake, De Soto, and on and on...all Europeans. Virtually all of these world explorers came home and published their thrilling accounts of the wonders of discovery. Suddenly Europeans had something to be proud of. But it all got quickly out of hand.

The pride in the accomplishments of these brave explorers turned into arrogance; into the belief that of all the people on the face of the earth, Europeans were the smartest, the bravest, the chosen of god if you will, to rule the earth. They came to believe that their culture was superior, their art, religion, languages, technology all were superior to all other cultures and peoples. What's worse, they came to believe that all other peoples were barbarians compared to Europeans. Other peoples were savages, animals. Artistic depictions of the inhabitants of the new world showed that they were not human but had cloven hooves and horned heads.

What followed in the wake of these beliefs was a violent European conquest of the known world. It proceeded through several centuries culminating in the British Empire, a vast worldwide colonial empire; among other European empires. It was believed that the resulting massive wealth and power was no accident and in their view it was the stamp of divine design.Going out from Europe and into the "inferior world" was European religions, culture, and law. The idea was to remake the rest of the world in the image of Europe. However in reality it began the 600 year destruction of peoples and cultures around the world. It was the exploitation of global wealth which flowed from the other continents of the world to Europe.

Has our pride turn to arrogance? Some time around the First World War, the United States of America became the wealthiest nation in the world by means of the exploitation of the natural resources of the North American continent taken from the Native Americans by conquest,and from Mexico by force. That wealth was enhanced by more than 200 years of slave labor. Today that single nation views itself as the single greatest nation with the best form of government, culture, system of justice, and capitalistic business practices. Now we are the center of the universe! Wall street is the center of the world. The American Dollar rises to the top as good as gold. We are the chosen of god! It is "manifest destiny" that we are the saviors of the world it is claimed. The interest of The United States is the most important issue! Are we attempting to make the world in our image...for the purpose of bringing the world's wealth to us?

The fact that this phenomenon was 600 years in the making doesn't make it one worth keeping. It should be changed. Europeans and especially North Americans should not be so damn ignorant! We are dunces and ignoramuses if we think that we are superior or that god chose us to be superior to others. It will be changed. It is in the process of change now. We are behind the curve. This change should not be feared but embraced. We can relax and leave the nations of the world to run their own affairs. If we have the means to assist them, we should. There's no need to make war on everyone...just calmly quietly defend our land.

We could regain our soul. Transformed we could hold justifiable pride.