Lesson #60 : Free speech. One each.

This featured image shows a Sadhu, an Indian holy man. He owns nothing but is wealthy beyond compare.

What seems like many years ago I was watching a news program on television and observed the following situation: a cop was beating a young man with his nightstick somewhere in the good old U.S.A. You could hear the crunch of bones but they had bleeped out the swear words (“shit”, “fuck” etc.) uttered by the man being beaten. Talk about the theater of the absurd.

Advertisers there and in Canada as well will tell you how to get your dishes spotless, your whites white and your toilet to sparkle. The emphasis is on defeating visible dirt. What about the dirt which is hidden below those spotless surfaces which consumers covet?

American society is fucked for the most part. Right wingers of all political stripes – from the Tea Party to the Neo-Nazis, from the greedy assholes to the opponents of Medicare and socialized medicine – continue to live with little if any consideration for others unless they are related to these “others” by either family or corporate ties. The “right” by definition is opposed to a more equal distribution of power and wealth. This means that wealthy members of the right wing can, for example, be expected to support the idea of a flat income tax rate, say twenty percent for instance, which would mean that every adult in the country who earns a certain minimum income would be liable to pay twenty percent of his net income in tax.

Steve Forbes* is an American multi-millionaire who is the editor-in-chief of the business magazine Forbes as well as the president and chief executive officer of its publisher, Forbes Inc. He was a Republican candidate in the 1996 and 2000 presidential primaries and one part of his campaign platform was his promise that if he became President – as it turns out he didn’t even get his party’s nomination – he would introduce the flat tax into the American economic fabric. Someone did some research and discovered that personally, Forbes, with a net worth of close to $500 million would have saved roughly two million dollars in income tax in a tax system in which everyone paid a tax rate of seventeen percent I think it was. Take from the poor and give to the rich?

*For his 2000 presidential campaign, Forbes raised some $86 million in campaign contributions of which $37 million, a little less than half was self-donated. (Wiki, Ask.com)

How much is really enough for fuck sakes?

The United States sends its youth to die in wars, most of which are fought for economic reasons and all of which are regarded to have potentially positive effects for the American economy be it in the form of new markets for products made in the U.S.A., or cheaper sources of American petrochemical imports. In the interests of the American oligarchy, the privileged few, much American blood has been and will be spilled. Two Persian Gulf wars since 1991, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have and are being fought purportedly to save the United States from al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist groups, some on the radar screens of the American intelligence system and some not, or so the propaganda goes.

Ever been to Disneyworld? It seems they celebrate the wealth, freedom and the patriotic way of life every fifteen minutes there. Remember Nancy Kerrigan, the Olympic skater being caught on mic while participating in some kind of parade at Disneyworld saying and I quote from memory that “this is the most corniest thing” I have ever done? Well that type of thing was frowned upon by the pigs who run the complex of theme parks collectively known as Disneyworld resulting in Ms. Kerrigan summarily being banished never to return.

It is mostly tragedy including natural disasters which brings people together – 9/11 and other terrorist acts like the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings, and the assassinations of popular figures like John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, Martin Luther King Junior and John Lennon all function as unifying factors as people band together to fight a common enemy or to mourn negative stuff that happens.

Joy can have the same effect in the sense that happiness sparked by events as different as a declaration of peace ending a war, the destruction of a wall which used to divide a city or the birth of a child in the aftermath of a typhoon can all serve to make friends out of otherwise total strangers as people share in the abundant happiness.

But things are different during our everyday lives. Rather than banding together to help and serve each other, we live our lives divorced from and oblivious to the situations in which our brothers and sisters, other people in other words, find themselves. We think of ways not to discuss or dwell on the difficulties of others. All we seriously consider is the welfare of family members and good friends as well as our associates in business or at work, the latter groups because we may not have a choice as far as our survival instinct is concerned. I can’t tell my piece of shit boss where to go because I need my job.

Aside from our family and friends we don’t really care about others although lip service comes easily. We give to charity partly because our donations are tax-deductible or because in a very slim minority of cases – Bill Gates and Warren Buffet immediately spring to mind – we have more money than we know what to do with. Remove the tax deduction incentive attached to charitable donations and watch both the total number and the monetary value of these donations plummet. Guaranteed.

We live in a society which does not encourage cooperation. Everyone knows that you have to be competitive in order to maintain what can be called a “comfortable” lifestyle. I used to ask my high school classes how they would feel about participating in the type of society where everything was shared based on the notion of “from each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her needs” and illustrating how this would work within the confines of our classroom.

For instance in the case of a test, everyone would receive the class average – say seventy percent – with the implication that a student who scored a grade of ninety percent would have to give up twenty marks to help another student or other students attain the same mark. In other words if one student got a fifty, he would end up with the same grade as the ninety per-center as a result of this person giving up twenty marks to the lower achieving student.

Their initial reaction was negative; they argued that this system was unfair and that the lazy would benefit from the hard work put in by the higher achievers.

My response to these upper middle class kids was two fold. First I would tell them that Marx was of the opinion that in order for this ideal type society to function, the lazy and dishonest among us would have to be done away with after a reasonable effort had failed to socialize these people into agreeing that the welfare of the collective was of paramount importance and that consideration for others should be the final determinant of one’s behaviour.

Second, everyone, including my students, would think differently than they do now if they and we had been raised in an environment typified by cooperation and compromise rather than one distinguished by its emphasis on competition and getting ahead even if we have to step on others on our way up. We are because of what we were. If we grow up in a world defined by greed and competition, we naturally become greedy and competitive. Alternately, if we are born into a society founded on principles like cooperation and sharing we become cooperative people possessed of a sharing nature. In the latter type of psychological environment, how can we enjoy our high marks when we know that there are others who have not been successful? In that case giving of ourselves for the collective good would make us happy.

I don’t see anything wrong with being “stuck in the sixties”.

Free speech, one each. (Courtesy of Roy Harper)

Perpetrate an act of generosity today.

Commit random acts of kindness every day.

Fake it until you make it.

Come on people, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now. (Courtesy of Jefferson Airplane)

Peace out.


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