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December, 2003

Shopping for Democracy?
By Frank Scott

 

   Commissars of capital hope that the annual celebration of consumption will soon reach its peak. Our economy is supposedly rebounding, though the  jobs creation rate of the last quarter  would have to be maintained  for at least five years to simply  get back  the more than two million jobs  our economy has lost. But ministers of the mall preach that the holy shopping spree is needed to make everyone prosperous again.
   This festival of frenzied buying is somehow related to popular legends about our divine ancestry. Some of those fables inspire us to become loving members of a single human race, however mysterious our origins may seem. But more often,  biblical mythology acts as rationale for the most despicable behaviors human beings can indulge in, and offers a godly acceptance of the mass murder we call war.
   The dominant patriarchal legends that reduce the awesome mystery of the universe to an invisible entity with a penis, can inspire good as well as evil. Unfortunately, those who interpret biblical testaments about darker  experience to bring out the brighter side of humanity are reduced to being  spiritual immaterialists, by those whose interpretations are far more materially murderous.
   Whether Jesus was a prince of peace teaching about love, or the world's first self-hating Jew, or the Jew  most hated by other Jews, or the inspiration for generations of Christian murderers, or never existed at all, is of less importance than the major holiday need:  millions of Christians, Jews, agnostics, atheists and others must trek to the mall and shop, until they drop.
   Capital's market needs consumers,  and whether they participate in this annual feast with innocent joy or greedy avarice makes little difference. Shop with love, with fear, with spirit or with cynicism, but shop. This is the  ritual  of the season, however much attention may be devoted to various prayers and rites practiced during the festival of spending.
   Sadly, many who indulge these holidays by opening their hearts to an immaterial spirit of peace will in reality simply be emptying their wallets for a material god of war.
   The middle east is where civilization is said to have begun, and it is the geographic center of biblical belief. But more important is its central role  in an economic religion's warping of humanity into acceptance  of racism and murder as somehow godly practices. It is where much of the world's oil is found, and that oil is what powers the civilization that has created better lives for millions, and abject misery for millions more. This contradiction  makes the economics, like the religion , difficult to fathom, and  easy to bury in  simplistic axioms that make  "buy cheap, sell dear" sound more godly than "love they neighbor as thyself."
   The religious belief in peace and justice, honored in words,  is servant to the  economic  pursuit of  profit, honored in deeds. Doctrines of racial supremacy, and the organized chaos of the market under corporate control are more important than prayers. Capital rules, and religion serves  economic god by making the morally material  seem insignificant compared to the spiritually immaterial . 
   So we shop for loved ones, and for many we don't love, just to honor the season , keep our jobs, maintain social appearances, and for other reasons that make it seem  sensible to buy at holiday time, as though there were no tomorrow. For many,  there will be no tomorrow, especially in the "holy" land.  The Judeo-Christians of capital, who dominate not in  number of believers but in number of  weapons , presently focus their attention on that area,  which looms large in both religious and economic mythology. 
   There is profit in making weapons that cause bloodshed, and there is profit in making Band-Aids to stop the bleeding. The manufacturers, salesclerks and transporters of weapons and Band-Aids  earn  paychecks and create  profit, without any thought on their part of loss, good or evil. But the moral madness, the colossal contradiction of capital is that profit pursuit  means that both war and peace can ring up sales, so what difference does it make whether we love one another, or hate one another? Six of one, half a dozen of the other,  a dollar is a dollar, yay god.
    Iraq can have its government and infrastructure  destroyed by the corporate Likudniks of USrael, and then rebuilt, at a profit, by the same corporate Likudniks of USrael. A nation can be established to provide a homeland for a tortured people, and become a racist colonial power, creating another tortured people. And  religious believers, inspired by biblical testaments old and new, can fill the air with song, joy and tales of human wisdom, just as they fill that same air with bombs, bullets and acts of inhuman terror.
   We can try to shop with love in our hearts, but as long as our governing policies are driven by racial supremacy and  disrespect for most of  humanity, we'll never spend enough to blot out reality, even for just a single holiday. A religious theory of  love and peace that is actualized into a political practice of hate and war is a contradiction as large as the economic foundation on which it rests. Resolving that contradiction would be a much greater good than emptying the malls of product.
   As we shop-if we haven't maxed out our plastic-let's remember that millions of our own people  are unemployed, unhoused and unhappy at this supposedly joyous time. And as many of us bewail-and many profit from the bewailing-the fanatics who preside over our system of godly serial killing, remember that we live in a democracy. It is ultimately  our responsibility that these dreadful dimwits are in power. The best gift we can give ourselves  is to replace  the US government with a real democracy. That can't be accomplished by passive consumers or parishioners, but only by active citizens.  Happy holiday.  
 

 

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