[print_link] LIFE IS BARREN in a padded cell, leading one to incessantly reflect on matters large and small. My present preoccupation is the reluctance of disaffected capitalists to adopt socialism, and I am not referring to the uninviting amalgam of democratic socialism. Understandably, some “closet socialists” are fearful of being ostracized by such a declaration. For most, however, it is not trepidation that dissuades them, but an aversion of cultural origin that begins with first breath.
I suffer from no such hesitancy, and wear the defining dimensions of my being transparently—some of which forcefully collide. Mercifully, Emerson’s deprecation of “foolish consistency” absolves me of my contradictions! In addition to my socialist tag, I am a poet readily seduced by beauty’s myriad permutations, Spinozan pantheist embracing Nature as my equal, radical who eschews bloodshed, and plebeian with a decided penchant for smooth Merlot. Some will find this admixture too adulterated for their informed palates, and I bid them safe travel.
No one is unscathed by the cultural overlay that chisels our beliefs, reinforced by an unforgiving stigma attached to malcontents. The implausible commonly passes for the norm, with the intermingling of fact and fiction blurring our perceptions. Progressives represent a quintessential illustration, as many hold that capitalism is subject to systemic remedy through reform measures. This is not the format for a theoretical treatise, and count yourself fortunate! I would, however, like to explore some of the tripe disseminated by illusionists in capitalist garb. Their candy is seductive, but the aftertaste is caustic.
“Those who cannot compete, or elect not to partake in narcissistic lunacy, are left to fend for themselves…”
Nothing grates on the ears more than the contrast drawn between the “copious freedoms” we enjoy and “heavy-handed” socialism. Hugo Chavez would find this amusing, as his recent referendum met a higher bar of access and accountability than our presidential elections. Even granting greater freedom of expression to capitalist democracies, is that the sole criterion by which freedom is defined? This assault on reason, prevarication at its worst, serves only to obscure the rapacious face of capitalism.
Does freedom not incorporate the right to food, housing, medical care, and education? The plaque on the Statue of Liberty reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…,” but a winner-take-all crapshoot awaits them, not relief. Those who cannot compete, or elect not to partake in narcissistic lunacy, are left to fend for themselves. In the survival-of-the-fittest capitalist jungle, the lamb is not only prey to the lion, but is castigated for being the victim. As practiced by the privileged, compassion is a lonely stranger.
How can an egalitarian candle stay aflame in this climate? It cannot, and irrespective of how the parts are arranged and rearranged, the system will only bend—never break. Why would the insatiably acquisitive corporados, who worship at the altar of wealth and power, redistribute their bounty for the common good? Yes, there can be beneficial “reforms” that place capitalism in a gentler light, but such facelifts are ephemeral. Under capitalism, systemic change will forever remain a suitor-in-waiting.
A factoid I am not, but statistical findings elucidate capitalism’s virulent underside. Interested readers can apprise themselves of our ignominious standing in the UN Poverty Index of “developing” countries, OECD listing of high-income nations, and US Census Bureau report. This shameful ranking, odious by any measure, is the certain byproduct of a callous and parasitic system. Capitalism has little tolerance for those who, by choice or circumstance, do not fuel the avaricious machine.
Nearly 46 million Americans live in abject poverty. Why? An astounding 84% of privately held wealth is concentrated among the top 20% [and 90% of the wealth of this privileged 20% is again densely packed at the top 1% of that pyramid] leaving a paltry 16% for 80% of the citizenry. Is it surprising that millions struggle for survival on the streets, with children represented in grievous numbers. Countless others subsist in a state of “quiet desperation,” searching in vain for a morsel of comfort and hope. This magnitude of suffering is obscene by any standard, but is indictable in the wealthiest country the world has known.
For those who find capitalism wanting, but are wary of socialism, that is a rant for another day. It is approaching lights out here at the asylum, but I hasten to inject that the mythology surrounding socialism could fill the caverns of Croatia. Baseless assertions are many and varied, from socialism being discredited by the fall of the former Soviet Union to its inherent conflict with human nature. As with all specious contentions, they readily disintegrate under the light of scrutiny.
This is not the format, as alluded to above, for an in-depth theoretical treatment. Indeed, these streams of consciousness allow for self-expression absent the rigors of scholarship, a luxury of the highest order. There are occasions, however, when less is more. Never was this truer than when Marx, the sagacious curmudgeon, put these memorable words to paper: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” The absence of this solidarity (soul, if you will) is the cancer of capitalism, a pernicious malignancy that feeds on the powerless. There is no magical elixir, only palliatives to ease the symptoms. The antidote lies at the source. —E.D.
Ed Duvin, is Cyrano’s Journal’s Editor-at-Large and head of CJO’s editorials section. He also serves in the same capacity at THE GREANVILLE POST. For decades, his writings and example—at times inevitably controversial but always uncompromising— on politics, philosophy, civil rights, and questions relating to the morality of human interactions with animals and nature have inspired generations of activists in the US and abroad. In 1989, Ed wrote a landmark article that ignited the “no-kill” movement among humane societies. Until then, most shelters just gave the animals a few days’ reprieve for adoption and after that, it was the final injection. Today many shelters and humane societies—not just in the US and developed nations— have banned automatic euthanasia from their normal procedures. This new column at CJO, Notes from the Asylum, inaugurates Eddie’s “in-writing” contributions to Cyrano.