Abraham Lincoln once said, Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
This is so obvious on its face, that the overwhelming power of capital, the Capitalization of capital as the head Capo de Capi is one of those mysteries that can only be explained by mythology. The superiority of Capitalist storytelling must be acknowledged – particularly the bit conflating capitalism and democracy. Good trick that.
Many many Americans do not know that there is a difference. While people often see the primary conflict of the last hundred years as Capitalism/Democracy versus Communism, we are well into the next war of Democracy versus Capitalism. What is so awe-inspiring and horrifying is that the mythos that possesses the ‘developed’ world is so dominant that to even tender another value besides material value is simply considered quaint, possibly interesting, possibly entertaining, but naive, a little silly, something a child would do. Don’t worry your head about it, princess, Big Daddy Money will do the real stuff.
When a myth is this powerful, when a culture or a world is possessed so completely by a story, the most important thing we can do is to hold to the wider and deeper stories and thus values, while the craziness rages around us. We have to tell each other the other stories over and over so we don’t forget them. Yes, universities once were a place for scholars who valued learning more than money! Yes, people actually used to care about art! We may need to put this stuff in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, but we must also hide it in our hearts and push back the crush of gold for each other, so that when the avalanche is over, when the cracks made by the inherent insanity around us begin to appear, there is someone left who can remember that there are other ways of living and of understanding the world.
I often think about the Irish monasteries where much learning was preserved during the Middle Ages, but perhaps more to the point is a moment in Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Yuri, Dr Zhivago, has been captured during the Russian Revolution by one side and then after escaping, by the other, and each time forced to perform his services as a doctor. He is speaking with his half-brother who is a commander in the Red Army, General Yevgraf Zhivago, who says to him, with plenty of good Russian novel philosophy about why, you must choose a side. And Yuri says, No. Somebody needs to remember how to live.
While the insanity of a world at war during a revolution may be easy to spot, the insanity of the war within ourselves, against the environment and each other created by materialism is less obvious, though possibly more destructive. The good part may be that the depravity and consequent poverty could awaken us to the importance of valuing things other than money, and that the weakening of religion will free our perception of the spiritual.
It is the stupidity and wickedness of materialism that gives religious fundamentalism its strength. Fundamentalists may be fearful people who need an authoritarian hand, but they are also people who feel in their bones that the reality and importance of the spiritual life is being shut out of an increasingly selfish materialistic world. Their solution is backward and a blanket denial of modern values, like science, because thinking it out is too hard, because religion in its most childish form is a blanket to lay over the ravished soul, no nuance, no thinking, no understanding. Cynical religious leaders use the deeply felt longing for spiritual life and twist it for their own purposes. They use this precious essence of the human being for power and politics.
Fundamentalism asks us to sacrifice our brains and materialism asks us to sacrifice out hearts. Unfortunately, these are both essential organs, so the very choice itself is bogus. Meanwhile, somebody needs to remember how to live.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
* Helen Schucman
Tattoo – John Clark Tattoos, Arlington, TX