An odd couple of weeks, very odd.
Pope Francis moves the Catholic Church slightly in the direction of liberation theology, its natural direction. Obama states inequality is an issue in our society. Wal-Mart workers went on strike, a rather nice middle finger to a company spreading like the plague. Fast food workers are out on strike demanding a living wage, which would mean we, the taxpayers, can stop footing the bill for these large corporations.
Or as the more inventive, psychologically deranged people in our society have understood it to be; Pope Francis is a communist who is similar to Obama and has no understanding of how Capitalism and Christianity really go together like pals holding hands and skipping down the street. Obama hated on the “makers” and is trying to build his socialist American ideal by giving everything to the banks and transnationals. Ok, the end of that sentence was actually something of the truth. I’ll come back to that. Protesters at black Friday are really professionals who hang out at coffee shops dressing like douchey frat hipsters making everyone want to punch them in the face. Fast food workers are just lazy and they should just work somewhere else, because, you know, it’s a “free” market.
The first one about Francis was stated by Rush Limbaugh and Adam Shaw, a real hack job. The second is basically any drive home listening to whatever variant of arrogant, self-involved talk radio host. The third is a propaganda piece you can find on YouTube or floating through your Facebook feed. The fourth was also said by every nutcase on talk radio. All of it a completely cynical joke, or worse, these morons believe the non-sense that seeps through the cracks of their teeth like doo-doo breath vapors of hate, paranoia, and misinformation.
Ok, so what is the reality beyond the insanity espoused by these basket-cases? Well let’s begin with the first one and move on through. Pope Francis hasn’t exactly been calling for a liberation theology revival in the church. He does speak about the preferential option for the poor, but quickly states that this is a spiritual matter; “the option for the poor is primarily a theological category.” Kind of throws the whole communist thing into disrepute, since the communists would want the preferential option for the poor to be an economic and political religious concept as it was with liberation theology.
This is not to say he doesn’t talk economics, he just doesn’t make the liberation theology link between the two directly. Instead, you have a spiritual concept of the preferential option to the poor and then a discussion of economics afterwards, where he states,
“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.”
Adam Shaw was kind of a tool to not notice that Francis cites Benedict XVI for this, therefore making Shaw wrong about Benedict XVI when he states, “Benedict XVI and John Paul II refused to kowtow to the liberal agenda [you mean stating massive inequality is grotesque; doesn’t seem to be anything more than a moral truism].” I guess he doesn’t remember John Paul II critiquing our economic system either. Or maybe he thinks he knows the prior Popes better than the guy who actually hung around them. You know the guy who is Pope now.
My favorite part of this nuttery on the right, was Rush and his fan base acting like it’s all a massive conspiracy by the “left” to mistranslate the Pope. Here is what was said by Rush:
“the pope didn’t say “trickle-down,” that the correct translation would be “spillover.” He didn’t say “trickle-down.” So there are people that are telling me, “Hey, Rush, the pope was mistranslated,” and my first reaction, “Come on, now.” But then I had to catch myself. They are — by “they,” I mean the worldwide left — they are entirely capable of this, and they wouldn’t hesitate to do it, if they thought they could get away with it.”
Ok, let’s just go check the Vatican’s official translation on their website:
“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down [sic!] theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
Either Rush can’t read, or the Vatican mistranslates itself. Pretty sure it’s the former. I think Francis just called the whole lot of them naïve and crude. Probably on the nicer side of things you can say about this group of self-righteous blowhards.
Then of course there is the whole craziness about Obama talking about inequality. First off, the guy has built a reputation saying a lot and doing nothing. Or he does stuff, but mainly to benefit his buddies on Wall Street and at GE. Just think of TPP, which will most definitely increase inequality, as has happened with other “free” trade agreements (really protectionism for corporations). Obama has seemed hell bent on making sure the system continues to be corrupted by oligarchy, not exactly the radical socialist he is labeled as. Obama didn’t exactly veto the bill that cut food stamps, which you figure a socialist would do.
But wait, John Hayward at Red State says, “Obama-style socialism is particularly concerned with protecting the free market’s “losers.” Because now socialism is about protecting corporations, at least according to Hayward who says, “Big Business loves Big Government – they do a lot of business with each other.” You get what I was saying earlier about Obama trying to build his socialist American ideal by giving everything to the banks and transnationals. This is what socialism somehow means to the loons on the right nowadays. Silly me, I always thought it was about the destruction of banks and corporations. But what do I know, I just read the anarchists and socialists; Hayward psychically knows what they really mean.
And of course, libertarian socialists and left-wing Marxists want nothing to do with the government, actually pushing ideas of council communism or syndicalism instead. And last time I checked, if Obama was a state socialist he would have already begun nationalizing everything. Or, if he were some kind of libertarian socialist, begin a process of turning over power to communities. Neither of these has happened, so maybe he is what he says he is, a moderate state capitalist maintaining the empire. But when you live in a land of convoluted concepts and fantasy you are bound to run into a lot of errors in your logic.
One last thing on this topic, Hayward seems to believe this is all a game. This is why he talks about winners and losers. Life is not a game. People starve and die. Families get destroyed. People become homeless. Talking about it like it is basketball is just immoral and sickening. These people are really something else when they begin to act like it’s a video game where people can just pop up with extra lives.
Next is the propaganda against the Wal-Mart strikes exhibited in a video online, which was more ludicrous and silly than actually useful for Wal-Mart. On top of it telling you to go out and buy, it demeaned working people who were really on strike. These weren’t professional protesters (whatever the hell that is), but people who have to provide for families and need a minimum wage congruent with both inflation and productivity. Yet, the video makes it seem like protesters are three rich white kids who have nothing better to do than swig beer and bring signs that say “Down with Job Creators”. Ya, because you know when I protest, I use slogans that support people who are against me.
This is also linked to the Fast Food strikes. Most of the talk radio loons label these people lazy and say they should get better jobs if they want more money. This is the ridiculous notion that because you are free to sell your labor, somehow you are always free to get another job. Labor markets just don’t exist for these people. I would like to refer them to Wilhelm Von Humboldt on this point:
“Man never regards what he possesses as so much his own, as what he does and the laborer who tends the garden is perhaps in a truer sense its owner, than the listless voluptuary who enjoys its fruits. And since truly human action is that which flows from inner impulse, it seems as if all peasants and craftsmen might be elevated into artists, that is men who love their labor for its own sake, improve it by their own plastic genius and inventive skill, and thereby cultivate their intellect, ennoble their character, and exult and refine their pleasures; and so humanity would be ennobled by the very things which now, though beautiful in themselves, so often go to degrade it.”
Freedom is undoubtedly the indispensable condition without which even the pursuits most congenial to individual human nature can never succeed in producing such salutary influences. Whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very being but remains alien to his true nature. He does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness. And if a man acts in a mechanical way, reacting to external demands or instruction, rather than in ways determined by his own interests and energies and power, we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is.”
And when the commons is robbed and handed over to the capitalists (as it was with the closure of the commons in England), the only way to deal with external demands is to sell your labor. It is not a free act, but a mechanistic one that must be done in order to survive. Here is a quick couple of statistics to demonstrate how absolutely ridiculous all their propaganda really is:
*Fast Food CEO’s got a $183 million tax-deductible gift from “performance pay”
*Fast Food costs $7 billion a year of tax payer money to subsidize their low wages.
*Tax payers subsidize Wal-Mart wages at $5,815 per employee (on average).
*Wal-Mart has 1.3 million employees. You do the math.
*In 1968 the minimum wage got you $19,553 annually in today’s dollars. Today it gets you $15,080, which is below the poverty line.
*That means the minimum wage is 22% less than it was in 1968.
*Between 2000 and 2012 American wages grew 0%.
*Productivity has increased 71%, while hourly compensation has only increased 9.5%. Due to inflation that means we make less.
*If hourly compensation kept track with productivity as it did in the post-World War II period, the minimum wage would be $18.72
When you look at these facts, just remember this is exploitation on a massive scale. Every year the working class is exploited a little more. It also means we pay Wal-Mart to hire people. Therefore, the job creators are farcical, except when they get a hand out for it. And remember, Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the US. If this isn’t structural inequality, I don’t know what is.
So, yes a very odd couple of weeks. Maybe the boat is being turned left-side up again. We can only hope and struggle harder.
Andrew Smolski is an anarchist sociologist based in Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org