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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

May, 2005

 

Mortality vs. Morality
By Frank Scott

"Those not busy being born are busy dying."
Bob Dylan
Sometimes reality can seem reduced to that notion, writ large on the TV screen of mass consciousness. Celebrity birth is not usually a public event, given that few start life as famous people. But recent celebrity deaths have offered spectacles that may have benefited some, but certainly not the dead and dying, or most of the millions forced to participate in ghoulish ritual. Nor those being born into a world that respects no dividing line between the two, when the births occur among the global majority who live well below middle class material standards.
Contradictory images are common TV fare, but watching global leaders who make war on Iraq act gravely concerned while gazing at the dead body of a pope who stood against their murderous action was only one of the mind boggling contrasts visible during our most recent death festival. The pope's body was dragged out to the world and featured in a nearly endless orgy of world leader hypocrisy, contrasted with the real grief of sincere believers who found some comfort in this public production. But before that we had another, far more ghoulish spectacle.
The sad story of a woman in a vegetative state for years, and brain dead by any test of science or reason, but whose loved ones fought bitterly over whose right was supreme in controlling her living death, was played out before millions. This private tragedy became a public circus, with media geeks crawling all over themselves at a place supposedly dedicated to death with dignity. A hospice was put under assault by commercial and political forces which wouldn't know dignity unless it wore a price tag. Serial killers in government boldly stood up for the rights of the living dead, as many of them do for the fetus. Their worship of life before consciousness begins or after it ends, and their contempt for much of conscious life in between those states, highlights the dementia of their political religion
The same mass murderers who allocate billions for weapons and death while cutting budgets for health and life were reduced to screeching wailers, bemoaning the heartless nature of any who would let a living soul die, when that soul allegedly lived only because it was not decomposing . And the sad victim of this perverted attention had not entered the state of decomposition only because of mechanical devices which offered an artificial sense of humanity, but only to those so desperate in their pain that they might perceive the image of life in an artificially breathing corpse the way a believer can see the image of Jesus in a pizza. Still, this awful private ordeal became a mass media production for the world, and the cheapest form of reality TV for media profit seekers.
While warped concern for one life became a ghoulish spectacle, actual birth and death continued, unabated, and in the usual numbers. The US murder rate, for instance, didn't decline, and killers didn't stop in order to watch the hit reality show of perverted entertainment. More important, social war crimes endured, with a vengeance. The long term business venture of the war on terror continued returning short term profits to its misery merchants, who thrive on the commodification of chaos. And the longer term problems of global warming, and a new fear called peak oil, were adding to problems mostly hidden from general public awareness, so that public spectacles could cloud consciousness from anything but individual, celebrity death, so that energy could remain focused on the consumption of irrelevance.
That consumption fetish plays a major role in maintaining the image of a thriving culture, even though it consumes far more than symbolic money while it creates impossible debt. The wanton waste of a system based on endless production of cheap, often useless goods, for sale at value levels which are almost all totally artificial, has created a serious problem for humanity. Critical resource concerns now occupy the minds of even those who profess belief in the system, and are beginning to make them wonder at what is going on. But their wonder should be our fear, and that fear should motivate our action.
Hundreds of years of a capital dominated market system have brought not only terrible problems that threaten our future, but possibilities for their solution that can bring about a far better tomorrow . Instead of reducing the labor time needed to produce the means of material social survival, private capital has increased the needed labor time to produce the means of immaterial, individual survival. Instead of freeing people from needless work, it has created needless work that enslaves people. If we don't turn that around and save ourselves, and our natural environment as well, real despair looms on the horizon. If we do not produce democratic changes in our political economy that bring about a totally different reality, we will not be able to stop the criminal waste that could bring our downfall as a civilization .
The rising of the poor global south is a hopeful sign, but if the rich global north, and its majorities of indebted, upscale servants, does not rise with that south, we face a bleak future, with failing nature contributing to the increasing signs of a failing political economy. In the long view, not only individuals, but societies are born, and eventually die. While we have gained a little control over individual mortality, it will take an awakened collective morality to help us prolong life for humanity. But only by democratically ridding ourselves of the empire of immorality that makes a spectacle of individual death, to keep us unaware of the dangerous possibility of collective death.
Societies not busy being born, are busy dying. Which end of that spectrum are we experiencing? Don't let someone else decide.


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