4/23/02...Stewards of Life
2/19/02...Corporations: "Individuals" on the Dole
1/31/02...What does being "Anti-American" Really Mean?
2/19/02...Corporations: "Individuals" on the Dole
Ok, ok...lets forget that capitalism is a distorted, inverted, and exploitative way to organize our material reality for survival needs. Lets forget that it only incidentally provides for human and social needs and then only for those who can afford it and that its very processes reduce that number substantially each and every day, week, year, decade, and century. Lets forget that markets are a creation of not just supply and demand but rather, of supply and buying power. Lets forget that it is founded on the basest and most narrow concept of human nature...that is, pure self-interest. Lets forget that the sole source of capital is labor and that the only source of profit is the surplus value created by labor which the capitalist keeps for themselves. And most certainly lets forget that the fundamental principles of capitalism...its very premises...and the fundamental principles of democracy...are antithetical, complete opposites. Lets forget all these things for a moment and just be "practical"...practical, that is, on capitalism's own terms, ok?
All the rants, my own included, against corporate greed, corporate welfare, and ongoing and increasing corporate domination of our every day lives and consciousness fall on deaf ears of many people...although there is often a dim perception on their part that something is just a bit amiss about our political economy. But this dim perception is covered up and clouded by the constant bombardment of those who own and control the "means of consciousness creation"...which keep many focused narrowly on the up close scenes of their lives...while others do what they want to maximize their own. While many of these rants/critiques are to the point, they often miss another point...a much more fundamental one. Here's what I mean:
The ability to incorporate is a fundamental premise of the monopolization of our lives by capitalist owners, managers, and sympathizers...it made an organization equal to any single individual in our society...thus, exempting the officers of that organization from personal liability for the actions of the "corporate individual." Never mind that the original premise of incorporating was to be for the public welfare and on a temporary basis...we all know that those days are long gone and that businesses have taken over and altered that original impetus. Thus, as "individuals" no more or no less culpable for their actions than any individual human being, corporations have in essence agreed to be responsible for themselves just like any other individual...and certainly one of the hallmarks of capitalist production, consumption, and marketing is individual responsibility...to make a decision to purchase, contract, and fulfill their responsibilities without recourse to help from any other entity. This is, of course, why so many people feel that governmental intervention in supplying "help" to individuals is "wrong." People, so it goes, should do for themselves and if they can't, they should be held accountable for any arrangements they've entered into and accept the consequences, period. So, on those very terms, why is this not the standard that "corporate individuals" should be held to, also? After all, we as individuals are told constantly that's our lot in life...if you can't pay...then delay. So, again, the very premise of governmental bailouts, tax-breaks, assistance of all sorts, and promotion is counter to the very principles of capitalistic operations and its philosophy...using nothing but its own principles as a standard.
What I'm saying is that corporations should abide by their own principles...the very ones they apply to us, the real human individuals. They should be willing to go it alone...just like you and me. But, no...they say, they need incentives to "do business" or they might fail. They need, they say, not only the ability and right to exist, but help in order to flourish and succeed. If we as individuals should not expect help, then corporations shouldn't expect help either. Any individual who dares to say that we should have the right and ability to exist in terms of basic fundamental survival needs through the societal mechanisms of government, well...we're told we are "weak"...unable and unwilling to work hard and get ahead...we're told in the familiar tones of "social darwinism" that if we can't survive and flourish, then we don't deserve to survive, much less flourish. After all, again, based on this circular and bankrupt philosophy...a thinly veiled cover for allowing anyone to do to us what they might without interference...those who have succeeded must have deserved to do so...all on their own efforts. Likewise, those who haven't succeeded must have deserved to not do so, again, because their efforts weren't good enough. Social Darwinism (an inverted and complete distortion of Darwin's evolutionary ideas) is at the heart of capitalist philosophy...so why isn't it applied to themselves and the corporate shells they exist and hide in? Why does a contradictory double standard carry the day? In other words, if we supply the basic needs of survival or help to ordinary people, we're told this will destroy their incentive and motivation to do anything for themselves. Yet, at the same time, we're told that capitalist needs this very assistance or they won't have the motivation and incentive to succeed. Hmmm.
So, on capitalism's own basic premises, the favorable climate for profitable accumulation of capital promoted and supplied by a capitalist government is, in fact, contrary to what capitalism is suppose to be all about. They tell us that unfettered competition is the lifeline of capital growth...yet, they contradictorily tell us that they must be given special considerations. They tell us that corporations and all capitalist businesses must be willing to compete and survive on their own devices, but continue to take from the public coffers to gain advantage over others in this so-called competitive free-for-all system. They tell us that unregulated competition leads to more competition...but in reality it leads to monopolizing a given market. It tells us that free enterprise must be free of governmental interference, except, of course, when that interference (now defined by them as natural and needed assistance) favors their supposedly "free" system of profit-making.
See, one doesn't really need an outside source (i.e. Marxist analysis) to understand capitalism...all one needs is to take them at their own word and then examine just what they DO in contrast to what they SAY they do. So, although very important, forget all those things I mentioned in the opening paragraph...and forget an appeal based on morals...just stick to the facts of actual behavior by corporations. They just hate to be reminded of things like this...they just hate to be told about themselves...they just despise it when they're held to the same standards they try to hold everyone else to...us poor ole real individuals. Corporate individualism is of a different kind that human individualism...although legally it isn't really. So, I say to the corporate giants as well as to the small-fry of corporate capitalism...it's time to grow up and stand on your own “two feet.” Quit expecting special favors...if you want to make a buck, do it the old-fashioned way...the way you tell US to do it...earn it. This, alone, would be an improvement.
From My Perspective...
David H. Kessel
So just what is "anti-Americanism"...a term being thrown around a lot these days. People in this country and outside of it are being labeled this polar term for simply questioning the policies of the current administration. Any country or group of people in any country, which criticizes the U.S., is called anti-American. It now seems that merely being critical or questioning of American culture is anti-American...where will it stop...or will it?
Probably the best place to start in trying to understand this term and its implications is to examine its obvious opposite...pro-American. See, the two terms are polar opposites...each, seemingly with its own reality...the mirror opposite reflection of the other. There is no allowance for the possibility that pro-American can include criticism of this country and that anti-American...at least on the part of Americans themselves...can include support for and appreciation of America. Apparently that would be too complicating for some...one must be one or the other with no room for anything in between. It's like the ubiquitous notion we should "support" the policies of this country, especially since 9/11...but most certainly existing prior to then...and its leaders. Anything less, we’re told, will lend aid and comfort to those who “don’t support” it, especially those outside our borders. Is any of this very far at all from the famous or infamous (depending on one's position, of course) bumper sticker of the 1960's...America: Love or Leave It? Of course, this dictum was resurrected in the 90's and really had in fact never left and certainly is making yet another comeback in the guise of the current anti- and pro-American admonitions.
So what does being pro-American actually mean? If we're to believe the ideological jingoists of today, it means to unquestioningly accept and promote the view that America never has, is not now, and can never in the future do ANYTHING wrong. It seems to mean that everything America does do is detached from any other conditions, current or historical. It means, according to this rendition of patriotism, that attitudes or actions of those outside our country are NEVER justified...simply because America never gives anyone any basis for it...we're pure and that's simply that. We, of course, do everything because its right and proper...because it's good and according to our "national values," which clearly float somewhere near the throne room of the God who just as clearly is an American but who just lives elsewhere. It means to discount any criticism from within or outside of America as being biased and twisted...with no terms of its own...just simply put, sour grapes of some sort. We, on the other hand, are never biased much less twisted. After all, so goes this perspective, look at all the wonderful things America has done for the rest of the world...now, of course, utilizing history in the service of this “objective” view...and for which we are so, so under appreciated. How dare "they" criticize us after all we've done for them? The anguished cries of the good red-blooded American patriot are so passionate as to shame anyone who might think differently. So, in short, pro-Americanism is the absence of thinking, the absence of assessment, and the absence of connecting the dots of history...in fact, it recognizes no dots at all...save those that America created and of course, paid for. Amen, brothers and sisters, say AMEN! We should quickly add, also, that this God-who-is-American must bless America upon command...if he himself doesn't want to be denigrated as being anti-American, right?
Using this knee-jerk logic system predicated on polar either-or's, one really doesn’t need to detail what being anti-American is all about. After all, just flip over everything said above and there you'll have it. But lets try a little detailing anyway, just to be sure and safe about our terms...wouldn't want to confuse anyone...wouldn't want the slightest doubt seeping into their perspective, would we? The infamous "anti-American," inside this country, is one who understands that no event ever occurs in a material/historical vacuum...damn that kind of thinking. The anti-American is one who rationally...and hey, even passionately...assesses the outputs of America's policies, rather than just believing in and being supportive of America's pronouncements about itself. Foolish anti-Americans, huh? The anti-American knows there's a difference between stating ones' values and principles and actually living them...picky, picky anti-Americans, aren't they? They also know that merely declaring something to be a certain way is not a guarantee that it actually is that way...obviously the weakest link in the fabrication that IS anti-Americanism, no? (Now, just as a reality check...lets remember that the truth of anti-Americanism is based on the truth of pro-Americanism, right? Right!...just checking to see if you're still with me...lets keep going...)
Anti-Americanism abroad is, of course, based on a narrow self-interest and self-definition of their own realities...and an abject rejection of the truth and accuracy of America's definitions of things. Being anti-American...here or abroad...is premised on that shaky ground that not all "helping" is really helping...what ingrates these thinkers are. And certainly, almost above all else, being anti-American surrounds itself with the sinful claim that this God isn't any nationality...and in fact, may not even exist...but if she does, she has different manifestations around the world...and is, careful now...most certainly culturally based. Oh, one can hear those heathens making these anti-American claims in their own synagogues, mosques, or in their bedrooms on any given "holy/unholy" day that exists. The shame of it all and the sacrilege of it, too. So undoubtedly we can summarize the anti-American as being non-homogeneous...tattered and frayed with all its relative-ness...and almost ... nay almost...IS actually tentative in its conclusions. The biggest sin of anti-Americanism is that it allows for difference ... it allows America to be diverse and lordy be, WRONG sometimes. Hey, anti-Americans often, but not always, claim that the people of America can be very nice...what contradictory nonsense, huh?
Ok, now that we have that all clarified, what are we left with? In the same polar terms which our dear pro-Americans just love to use as their own starting point...anti-Americans are thinking and relative-minded people...some, but not all, though. They are people who can resent and react based on what's been done to them, and most of all, they are people, especially IN America, who know that loyalty is tenuous and that support is at least a tad connected to principle and actions of those they're supposed to support. No wonder the pro-Americans hate them so...they confuse the actual simplicity of being for or against something. Shame on those of us who are anti-American...how dare we live in this country...how dare we speak up...how dare we think about things...how dare we remember history...and how dare we realize that there might just be a bit of justification for people hating America...despite, of course, our own clean bill of health concerning the poor, the exploited, and our record of unblemished support for human and civil rights. How dare we?
What have I been thinking? Go America...go on believing your own claims. Blame America first, who, me? Never...why would I want to do that.... I might get labeled as being anti-American, no matter what the truth is really about. Come to think of it...dialectically, of course...if I want to be a good American according to our principles and values, I have to be a bad American according to the jingoistic patriotism of today. But if I DON’T adhere to the current brand of jingoistic nationalism, I’ll be labeled anti-American. But if I’m anti-American, I’m actually being a good American according to our principles and values. Did I get that right? Yeah, I got it right. When ‘bad’ is defined as being good, but what is defined as ‘bad’ is really ‘good’...then what’s defined as being ‘good’ is...really very ‘bad.’ Oh well, I guess I’ll just keep on remembering, connecting, assessing, and let those pro-Americans, who are really being rather poor Americans, keep mouthing their slogans. Hell, if I’m confused by all of this, just think what they are!!
From My Perspective...
David H. Kessel
As I sit here after reading the news of the day, I'm contemplating serious matters, deep matters, and certainly sensitive matters. Right now I feel even less than I usually do like a citizen of a city, state, or nation. I feel even less than usual like a member of any social racial category. I feel even far less than usual like a member of a gender group or a professional group. At this moment I'm feeling more like humanity in full bloom, paradoxically, both a warm feeling and a cold shivering feeling at the same time. I truly like feeling part of the human variety...knowing that nothing human is alien to me...at one with all who have and do now exist. Sometimes it's a "warm fuzzy" that can make you forget some unpleasantries. But in this instance, it's not a warm fuzzy I'm experiencing...it's the cold, icey shivering experience...for as we look around we must conclude that we humans are indeed, very poor stewards of life.
As I watch from afar the goings on in the Middle East, the ongoing activities in Afghanistan, the political mess of Venezuela, and the almost countless other "hot spots" of strife going on in our world, not to mention the social and political realities of my own country, I'm wondering if any of us know what we're doing. I've not forgotten the many millions of people who are trying to be good stewards of life, it's just that they (dare I say us?) seem so grossly outnumbered by those who barely know what life even is...much less how to be a good steward of it. Of course, "life" means so many different things and comes in so many different degrees and shades, it's impossible to know if we're even talking about the same thing. But nevertheless, life at it's most basic, no matter the differences between us, is survival...the mere living from day to day. Beyond that, it becomes mindboggling complex. But we need to start unraveling this complexity...we need to stop letting it obscure the cross-cultural truth which confronts us all. We need to separate life from nationhood, from personal self-interest, from paying back those who have actually or seemingly harmed us, from our favorite beliefs, from our routinized rationalizations, and yes, even from our intellect...which is often the most misleading of our guides to what life is really about on its most fundamental level.
I'm speaking now not as a member of a specific group, but rather as a member of the human group. I'm not speaking for this side or that side, this cause or that cause, favoring or disfavoring any idea being fought over, for or against. Can't we hold aside all that for a moment? I'm trying to do that, but although it's terribly hard to do...it can be done. Look at us...just look at us...killing each other at a pace that puts former civilizations to shame, so to speak. From the physical environment to all the animals and living plants, to just how we address each other, and all the way to our physically harming each other...we are a disgrace...a disgrace despite all the wonderful and terrific things we have produced and become as a species. We act as if there's no accountability...we so-called stewards of life. We seem to think we can fight on and on for this or that cause without reprecussions...what fools we are...we don't even deserve to be called POOR stewards of life. The fact is, most of us individually, and all of us, synergistically/collectively, aren't stewards at all. Rather, we are a cancer, a parasidical growth on life...even though we, the humans with a "different" kind of consciousness, are supposedly "in charge" and believe we know better than anyone or anything else. What hypocritical hogwash we live and wash in...stewards of nothing, that's us.
Yes, I can hear the depressing quality of my words...who can't? I can hear some voices denying what I'm saying. I can hear some saying yes, he's correct and what we need this belief or that meaning system, or we must humble ourselves before this or that diety or reality or whatever...in order to get a handle on our demise and to be accountable. Have faith, some will say...do this, others will admonish...pick up this weapon, some will shrilly command...kill in order to live...repress in order to free...reject in order to achieve clarity of mind and purpose. But I think all these and other admonitions too numerous to recount here are part of the problem, not its solution. None of these...no matter how fervently felt or warmly believed...none of these equate with stewardship...none bring us face to face with our most radical/core problem...the lack of accountability to...ourselves.
We're either to proud to admit our faults or too humble to think we can do anything substantial about them. We either blame others or claim that fate has ahold of us. We either say yes...but, or we will...but later. We avoid ourselves like a plague...we humans who are and aren't stewards of life. We're not the "boss"...we're not the "owners" of anything...this isn't stewardship. Stewardship is responsibility and accountability and that's the one thing we tend to skip over in any meaningful dialogue about our "pastpresentfuture" as we scurry around being righteous about so many meaningless things.
Who am I? Nobody special...just a human who's better than some and worse than others...like all of us are. But, at least I take time for vision, for without vision, it's impossible to see where we might go...or where we've been. The matters being bitterly fought over these days in our world are nothing compared to our responsibilities as stewards of life. If I had the power to call a halt to them all, I would. But alas, stewardship doesn't bring power...it creates it. We need to be busy doing just that. Tell yourself, tell another, tell everyone...be a steward of life...put aside all the petty things...call a halt to the ongoing spiral of hubris and pride...we have life to live for...as all real stewards already know.
This is not some dreamy-eyed utopia I'm speaking of here...it's as practical and real as the hair on our heads. The funny thing is...we are already what we can become...interestingly, it takes being a steward to become a steward. Each of us IS life and therefore, each of us knows what to do. Being a steward of life is both a solitary task and a joint task...just like thinking itself. One must start in solitary effort to steward life...and paradoxically, this unites us with others doing the same. Forget the ideologies, forget the intellectual combat of concepts, forget regrets about what might have been...be a steward of life and create what we can be and what we already are...that's our task. We must bring to bear the standard of stewardship of life to our world and relations with one another...there is no greater task. If not, we will remain mired in the claims and counterclaims of belief, tradition, and narrow self-interest. As has been said, to truly understand a problem and to know what to do about it...is the same thing. Stewardship of life is not something we "add" to life...it IS life. Stewardship is what life demands of us...we know what we must do. The difficulty of any task is never a sufficient reason not to do it anyway...so be a steward of life no matter how daunting the task may seem. Be accountable to ones self...and expect others to be the same...what else do we really have to do?
From My Perspective,
David H. Kessel
What does the man have to do? What does the country have to do? The man is Fidel Castro and the country is, of course, Cuba. Has Cuba ever attacked the U.S.? Has Fidel ever actively interfered with internal American politics? It's 2002 and with the current visit of Jimmy Carter to Cuba, the same old crap is being rehashed again. Fidel is bad, Cuba is bad...Jimmy is bad...how tiring it all is. Why doesn't it ever dawn on those in this country who hate both man and country that if the U.S. ever started acting toward Cuba the way we moralistically demand they act toward everyone else...that maybe, just maybe, Fidel would take us more seriously about it?
Nevermind the advancements in the quality of the lives of Cuban people...even the World Bank acknowledges it...nevermind they have survived decades of our scorn and embargo. Nevermind that Castro has every reason to utterly ignore everything and everyone "american"...but doesn't. Nevermind that we are learning more and more about the dirty tricks this country has tried to inflict on Cuba, Fidel, and the Cuban people. The National Security Archives are full of the actual documents about it all.
Nevermind that we've given sanctuary and support to countless Cuban exiles whose main claim to fame is they or their families lost out on the elite status they enjoyed pre-Revolution...the immense wealth they accumulated as supporters of Batista, the Maifia, and ethnocentric American policies. Sure, they lost it all and their "sour grapes" hasn't diminished one iota during the intervening years...they still want "their" country back, plain and simple.
Ok, Fidel wasn't exactly kind to the former elites when he took over...probably even did some terrible things to them...but lets think back and speculate about our own country's beginnings, shall we? Do you suppose that after the successful American Revolution that we warmly embraced the elites of the Colonies who maintained their allegience to the King of England? Do you suppose our new rulers of our new (and unstable) nation tolerated constant critique of the new regime by those who had lost out? I doubt it, although we never have heard much about what the "victors" did to the "losers"...did we? I'm not excusing Fidel, nor our own early leaders...just trying to point out that when a successful revolution takes place there will be a need to deal with those who lost and who are still around. Ask Lenin, ask Mao...it's a political reality anywhere...including Cuba.
Ok, there is a fairly tight lid on open dissent in Cuba, even today. Yet, we still hear it despite Fidel's efforts to suppress it. We hypocritically contrast this reality in Cuba with our own so-called freedom of speech and dissent...but has ours always been what we think it is? Ask those who have dissented about so many issues in the 20th century in this country? Did they pay any price for it? Of course they did. Since 9/11, the chill against dissent has gotten even chillier. In relation to Cuba, does Castro's policies mean that there is no freedom of speech in Cuba? I doubt it means that. Hell, in this country we can't even openly advocate the forceful overthrow of our own government...no, that's treason. Bet it is in Cuba, too...huh?
Let me be very clear about this...I support freedom of dissent anywhere by anyone about anything...including in this country of ours...AND in Cuba. If there is one question I could personally as Fidel Castro it would be...Fidel, why not allow, after 40 years since you gave Cuba back to Cubans, more dissent...wouldn't you have a more satisfied population if you allowed open critique and thinking? What is the danger...today, huh? I'd really like to ask him that...I'd be very interested in his reply and reasons.
What it comes down to for me is...just what business is ours of anything Cuban ? What threat does Cuba and/or Castro pose to the U.S. I rack my brain trying to figure out this one...and I can't think of anything realistic. They never have posed any threat and don't today, either. So what's the problem, huh? Clearly it has everything to do with our own national "sour grapes"...he kicked our ass out and we've never forgiven him for it. We don't like that, especially from a former fiefdom of ours a mere 90 miles away. It's time we got over it...way past time, for sure.
I want to openly and publically thank Jimmy Carter for having the integrity, honesty, and yes, guts, to go to Cuba and find out some things for himself. Instead of beating the "anti-Jimmy" drums again, we ought to be listening to him and to heed the advice he will surely give us once he returns. Fidel respects him...not because he likes everything about him now or while he was our President...but because he has a humanness which is undeniable. And...I betcha...if we ever allowed ourselves to see it...so does Fidel. We have documents from the early 60's which indicate that Castro was willing to have a repproachment with the U.S. even then...so was Kennedy. But we know what happened to JFK, don't we? We also know that LBJ was smart enough...in terms of his own survival...to drop the matter immediately. Today, all these years later, Castro seems to have the same attitude about repproachment that he had the day he was sitting in his office with an American emmisary discussing the repproachment...and when a note was brought to both of them that Kennedy had just been killed. It's time for a change...but we are far too arrogant to do that...unless, unless we demand it from our leaders. When will we do that? I am right, now...how about you?
From My Perspective,
David H. Kessel