Towards a New Faith
It begins with dissatisfaction...
I'm in a mood and have been in one for weeks. My thoughts are still in creative flux as to what will emerge as a result. Matters such as this, for me, are weighty and, just as much, unpredictable. So, I am in a state of existential discomfort and dissatisfaction with many, many things in this world: the growing disdain for science; the developing hatred for democracy; the tensions between human rights and those who want an unregulated absolutist capitalism... or absolutist anything, without nuance, without any mind for history and circumstance, humanity, mercy.
There is a loss of anything akin to real ethics on a broad scale -- decisions being made piecemeal, ad hoc, all for the sake of pure selfishness and desperation, a country of starving dogs fighting over scraps while pigs wallow in the excess of terrified canine labor.
Jesus -- and the man did teach things that are meaningful, even if you are not inclined toward the religion allegedly founded on his teachings -- Jesus, when faced with overly legalistic people, once said something of immense value: "Man was not created for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was created for man." We create things of value or serve things of value because they benefit us -- that is the spirit of the law or any cultural item or interpretation.
The letter of the law is of no use to us and tends to kill us, enslave us to it, and that is not the reason we invent these things or find them. The economy exists to benefit us, all of us, to some meaningful degree: it does not exist to be served as a false deity or as something more important than any one of the people who must live within its influence.
It does not exist to benefit just a few, but it is a tool, like a hammer, like a paintbrush, and it exists to benefit all. We have become slaves to the money, to the requirements of a barely regulated and out of control economic system that is seen as an end in itself. It is as if a carpenter saw herself as existing to allow the hammer to function and sacrificed most of the rest of her life in order to serve the needs of the hammer. And this is beyond insanity: it is actual evil, the destruction of the possibility of real creativity and a truly human life.
Hammers, economic systems, theories, even gold have no intrinsic value whatsoever. That's why we designate them "things" and not "people." People are the source of value and come equipped with it -- no one makes you valuable: you simply are valuable. Hammers, economic systems, theories, gold, without us, are nothing meaningful. They have no value except as meaningful to and for us and our needs or desires or to expand our possibilities. Gold is a rock. Just a rock. No more valuable in itself than the rest of the rocks and common dirt out in your yard. We consider it valuable because of history and culture, because of beliefs we accepted without thinking about them. And that is all.
Dollars, paper dollars, function the same way. They have value for no other reason than because we have a belief, a faith, they have value. If we lost faith in them, they would be literally de-valued. In fact, dollars represent nothing except a bundle of ones and zeroes being shuffled around in the computers of banks. That's what you really have faith in: ones and zeroes. Which is no more or less meaningful in itself than having faith in moving around a bunch of shiny yellow rocks between bank vaults. It should only make sense to us to have faith in any of this and the system it supports IF it makes our lives more convenient, creative, fuller, and allows us to be better people -- not de facto servants of the ones and zeroes and shiny rocks and people who lust after them as if they are more important than human beings.
Because such people, in their selfishness, truly have no self, no "I" to speak of -- they are not creative, they do not create good lives for themselves, their communities, the future we are all implicitly entrusted with. They do not instantiate real values -- justice, mercy, truthfulness, caring, courage, temperance, prudence and so forth -- in this world through their actions and lives (which is the only way such things enter the world at all). No, they fill the hole that is themselves with things, the things they serve, their false gods, and that black depth in them is unquenchable: there is never such as thing as "enough." And they will use anyone -- and I employ the word "use" on purpose here -- to achieve their singular goal to accumulate things to feed the emptiness and power to extend their ability to manipulate and more easily use.
Such people, in our country, have become the power money junkies that control every aspect of your life. In the world, their hands are in every mess, turning it to their favor. Not by some sort of conspiracy. No, not at all: because of bad ideas, upside-down interpretations of reality that spread through our culture long ago like a virus. And you can't kill a virus with a gun. It takes a revolution of belief, a new faith, something that expands the horizon for what humans can be and do, that allows us to have and live our private destinies while supporting and encouraging others in theirs and all cooperating to take care of common needs. The "isms" of the past, especially those of the 19th c., are dead -- they took us as far as they could in their experimentation for better and, often, for worse. And this includes laissez-faire capitalism. Especially *that*.
No, I am unsure what ought to replace this, hence my consternation. My philosophical work is in ethics and it is minor, very, very minor and nearly insignificant. It will take more people with better minds and hearts than my own to begin the work of real change in belief... I'm just Johnny Appleseed or someone crying "make straight the ways" for a better belief than what holds the Earth in an iron grip at the moment. I am no one.
RVI 21 February 2014
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