Saturday, August 1, 2009

Swami Beyondananda on "Godless Capitalism" and Banana Republicans

Notes From the Trail
July 29, 2009

Close Encounters With a "Republican"
My Personal Introduction to Godless Capitalism

by Steve Bhaerman

I recently had a close encounter with a "Republican."

I put quote marks around the word for two reasons. First, because the man used the word to describe himself. Second, because I'm old enough to remember when Republicans were more than the top-hatted guy from the Monopoly game or Mr. Potter from "It's A Wonderful Life." They were the pillars of small town communities, and in larger cities - like New York - they were honest, racket-busting counterparts to the corrupt "political machines" run by the Democrats. They personified noblesse oblige, expressed in the Gospel of Luke as:

"From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded."

No, this guy wasn't that kind of Republican. He could best be described as an Enron Republican. Like the Enron energy traders who took joy in the pain of grandmothers gone bankrupt, here was a guy without an ounce of noblesse, nor a smidgeon of oblige. He cheerfully presented himself as a pure "Darwinist."

I first encountered this brand of "Republicanism" while watching the Republican convention in 2000. A descendant of Theodore Roosevelt was being introduced to talk about preserving the environment. A group of "Republicans" from Texas hooted and booed him, in utter disregard and disrespect. Anything that didn't pad their personal bank accounts had no value.

Trudy and I met our "Republican" friend on a walk through a nearby neighborhood. We stopped to admire a huge oak tree right by his house. This was a relatively new subdivision, where fortunately the old trees had been left standing. It was close to dusk, and the crows had gathered over his house, squawking and fussing.

"I hate the crows," he volunteered. "They crap all over everything." He was a pleasant, clean cut guy in his late 30s, and we began a conversation. There were two homes for sale on the street, and he told us they were foreclosures. He had no sympathy for the foreclosees. "It's survival of the fittest," he said. "They obviously didn't have what it takes."

He, on the other hand, had been smart enough to buy gold. He had figured out that he could buy up to $20,000 worth of gold through his business each year (as a nontaxable business expense), then sell the gold at a profit to local coin stores. "Why do you think there are so many coin stores in this town?" he winked. "It's certainly not because we have a lot of coin collectors."

He then went on to lay out his complete Darwinist case for how life on the planet works. "It's the law of the jungle. It's me or you. That's life, and that's that." He was absolutely convinced that he was absolutely right. His well-rehearsed argument had the veneer of sophistication, and he had the "science" to back it up. When I suggested that Darwinism has been modified - if not debunked - by the latest science showing that an organism's "fitness" is ultimately determined by its "fittingness" (how well it fits into an environment), he dismissed this as "a belief" that he simply doesn't believe.

The Golden Rule? There have been a minority of people who've suggested this throughout history, he told us, but they're "just plain wrong." Remember how the right wing used to rail about "godless communists?" Well, here was an honest-to-badness godless capitalist. He reminded me of Jeffrey Skilling, former CEO of Enron, who considered Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene, as his atheistic Bible. Skilling would actually announce that the bottom ten percent of producers at Enron would be fired each month, and each month he would follow through. This created a fiercely competitive, cutthroat attitude in his sales people - the same trait they would need to ruthlessly screw the marketplace.

It's not clear exactly when Ayn Rand supplanted Abe Lincoln as Republicanism personified, but this passage must be duly marked if we are to understand American and world politics properly. Enron Republicanism is now the official operating system of empire. While the Olympia Snowes and Arlen Specters might seek to soften and mitigate it, while Obama speaks of hope and being "all in this together," the godless god of the power of money now forces all knees to bend.

The good news in this bad news is that more and more "conservative" religious folks are seeing the contradiction. As author Paul Ray suggests, a major realignment is already taking place, as evidenced by the shift of many social conservatives to Obama in the 2008 election. Of course, that raises the question ... whither (or more accurately, wither) the Democrats?

While individual Democrats and even Democratic Party caucuses have attempted to stand up to the power of big oil, big pharma, big banking and agribusiness, the Democratic Party as an entity has shown no willingness to make the transformational changes necessary. They are simply here to soften the blow of pure, brutal capitalism, to be "not as bad as the other guys," and to ultimately be the final resting place for progressive votes.

This distinction is important for the same reason that I am putting heart and soul into launching the Department of Heartland Security. I would have to describe my neighbor's "Republicanism" as heartless. Cheerfully heartless, but heartless nonetheless. This gentleman had no use whatsoever for any form of nurturance, which he thought of as weakness. When I suggested that in an emergency he would help a neighbor, he looked at me funny.

What's even more insidious about this heartlessness - some might even call it borderline sociopathy - is that its perpetrators represent it as "natural." Adding injurious insult to insulting injury, these folks have sought to convince the rest of us that their "inhuman nature" is the true human nature. Of course they lie. Why wouldn't they? You can read this astute article on the Great Tax Con Job by Thom Hartmann, to see how this self-serving mind set is used to convince us that our self-interest is aligned with those of the predators.

So, what is to be done? First, we must understand that what we call "human nature" is a choice. At the effect of invisible programming, we may not realize we have a choice. However, as we awaken - individually and en masse - to see how we have been and are being manipulated (and even more importantly, how we've bought in to the manipulation), we can choose one or the other. Science is now showing us that much of what we dismiss as "human nature" is really human nurture (or, too often, lack of such), learned behaviors that can be unlearned and replaced.

In this awareness, we can see clearly how those who benefit from heartless exploitation would want to convince the rest of us that we are just like they are, only not as skilled. Along with the awareness, there is one remedy: Heartfulness.

In this global local community where - like it or not - we are all in this together, our task is to bring together the coherent forces of heartfulness, of love, sanity, and nurturance for mutual benefit, and to proclaim that we choose to put "human" in human nature. As Heartland Security officially launches some six weeks from now, we hope to facilitate putting this new world view into practice to "weave a web of mass construction."

And how about our "Republican" friend? So secure in his certainty, so convinced his view of nature is correct, he couldn't see his relationship with the web of life his world view threatens. It was beyond his imagination that the crows who plagued and taunted him were trying to tell him something. Native American lore associates the crows with "natural law." Their caws had no effect. Here was someone who staked his claim through unnatural law, and didn't even know it.

And yet...

We had been talking for nearly a half hour when the man's wife emerged from the open garage. "Hey," she told him, "we have company. Remember?"

"My in-laws," he explained. And as she took him by the arm and trundled him back into the house, he turned to us a bit wistfully and mouthed the words: "You are much more interesting."

... and Speaking of Heartland Security

What if ...

... all facets of a healthy world - physical, economic, political and planetary - were woven together into one community that strengthened and empowered each and all?

... there was an effortless and obvious way for individuals to match their mission and talents with the needs and desires of a growing "global local" community?

... a new healthy and sane economy was being born, and anyone with value to offer could become a part of it, and flourish?

... a worldwide, non-coercive moral authority was emerging based on the virtues and "heart core" values that 90% of humans share?

... all this was being done in the spirit of joy, play and humor?

What if we shifted the attention, energy and resource from "homeland security," and focused on Heartland Security instead?

This is exactly what is happening now ... and you are invited to become a part of it. If you'd like to find out more, please respond to this post and put "Heartland" in the subject line, and if you haven't already done so, join the Heartland community here.

It's free.

Swami’s 2009 State of the Universe Address
Department of Heartland Security Blog