January 10, 2008

Socialism, Anyone?

From the always illuminating mind of Albert Einstein:
"Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate."...

The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil...

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights...

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.
US citizens have been indoctrinated to equate the word "Socialism" with "Communism". Alarm bells ring in the US citizen's lizard brain whenever someone associates lofty concepts like "equality" and "compassion" with an economic model.

As Einstein said back in 1949, "under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo".

The US economic model, which was founded on the usurping of land and livelihood from the natives, has always been based on a combative ruthlessness: "Greed is good", "Business is business" and only "winners" deserve respect.

That mentality has brought us to where we are today. Unfortunately, it is now threatening to kill the entire planet.

It seems to me that words like "socialism" and "capitalism" and "working class" and "bourgoise" have now become so loaded with emotion and historical baggage that they can easily sidetrack a debate. Let us dance around them if necessary.

But let us not pretend that a more equitable, peace-loving and just society is not critical to our survival as a species. We need to globalise our own minds, empathise with all people of all nations, and the key to that, as this article suggests, is UNITY.

2 comments:

Bukko_in_Australia said...

When my daughter (who I hadn't seen since 1999) was down here over Christmas holidays, I discussed socialism with her. She's a tattooed punk-rocking 18-year-old uni student who goes to anti-war demos with my ex. More left than most Americans twice her age. So I wanted to see what her view of socialism was.

She said that she went to one meeting of something that styled itself the "socialist club" in her high school. They were forbidden to meet on school grounds, so they gathered under a tree outside the campus. Her perception was that they were a bunch of 9th-graders (she was in 11th at the time) who were primarily interested in talking about how "all the authorities suck, man." She was not impressed.

This is coming from someone who's at the prime age and mindset to have a flirtation with socialism. (Unlike me, who's biologically committed, al la Einstein's declaration of our innate natures, to work hard so that I might amass MORE material comfort to support my bourgeois lifestyle. But not in Gordon Gekko ways that screw over other people, I might add. I mean, I earn my keep [in part] by cleaning up people who have pissed themselves, in order that they not get bedsores from lying in their own mess.)

Where was I, before I got off on a tangent? Just finished my fourth 10-hour midnight shift in a row, and I'm winding down before I collapse on a day that promises to hit 41 degrees. In Melbourne! Is that fucked-up or what? Oh Oh! Renewed tangent alert!!!

Anyway, my daughter should be a prime candidate to be a red-heart socialist. But she sees socialism as a mob of immature, petty whingers. That's America for ya. Socialism is the new black (and I mean that in the 1950 Negro sense of the word...)

gandhi said...

What was it the teacher kept telling Holden Caulfield? Don't digress!!!

But I digress... :-)

I remember going to my first Marxism 101 tutorial at Sydney Uni in 1983. The tutor asked the class how many thought there would be a social revolution in Australia within their lifetimes, and HALF THE CLASS PUT THEIR HANDS UP!

I was gob-smacked. What planet were these people on? I was only attending the class because I had the hots for a beautiful Argentinian girl, who was equally bemused by their response.

I guess some of them must be thinking nowadays that Bush is the best thing that ever happened to global politics, since he has quite possibly hastened any potential "revolutionary" changes by a decade or two.

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