Friday, October 22, 2010
Dr. Ralph Noyer told the young president of Anderson College, Robert Reardon, “if you hire small-minded people, soon you will be knee-deep in midgets” (Callen, FAITH LEARNING & LIFE, AU Press, 1991).
That’s profound! It tells me unless I have within myself that which is above me, I will gradually succumb to that which is around me. Wow! I look around and see man’s inhumanity to humanity and I do not want that to happen to me, or anyone else for that matter.
On the other hand, Harald Ofstad wrote an insightful book examining Nazism, sometimes given to Nobel laureates (Our Contempt for Weakness). On that ugly subject, Ofstad wrote:
“If we examine ourselves in the mirror of Nazism we see our own traits--enlarged but so revealing for that very reason. Anti-Semitism is not the essence of Nazism. Its essence is the doctrine that the ‘strong’ shall rule over the ‘weak,’ and that the ‘weak’ are contemptible because they are ‘weak.’ Nazism did not originate in the Germany’s of the 1930’s and did not disappear in 1945. It expresses deeply rooted tendencies, which are constantly alive in and around us. We admire those who fight their way to the top, and are contemptuous of the loser. We consider ourselves rid of Nazism because we abhor the gas chambers. We forget that they were the ultimate product of a philosophy which despised the ‘weak’ and admired the ‘strong.’
“The brutality of Nazism was not just the product of certain historical conditions in Germany. It was also the consequence of a certain philosophy of life, a given set of norms, values and perceptions of reality. We are not living in their situation but we practice many of the same norms and evaluations” (italics added).
I am not surprised when Desmond Tutu says, “That is frightening” (p39, God Has a Dream, Image Books, 2004). It is not only frightening, it is a present reality affecting all of us, athletes, the religious competition, our national diplomacy, even our economic philosophies.
I see it playing out all around me in our philosophical-political behavior. Consider what Desmond Tutu of South Africa wrote: “The capitalist culture places a high premium on success, based as it seems to be on unbridled, cutthroat competitiveness. You must succeed. It matters little in what you succeed as long as you succeed. The unforgivable sin is to fail” (God Has a Dream, 35).
Tutu describes what I see around me in our dog-eat-dog society of cannibalistic capitalism and “free market philosophy” where anything goes and expects government to be laizzez faire (hands off). Must it be all LEFT or all RIGHT, politically speaking? OR IS THERE a principled middle ground without the extremism (neither of which I can support).
What is it that gives us (I, me, you, us) our ultimate value today? Our success? Our social status? Our skin color? Our gender, or wealth, or poverty? What? I suggest that what validates us is our likeness in the image of God. It is one thing to say it, but saying it does not always mean we understand it. Truthfully, what really validates us as people--human beings--is each other.
I suggest we validate each other as human beings, regardless of gender, skin color, achievement, race or religion. We are whole and healthy only when we are in wholesome and healthy relationships; it was not good for Adam to be alone with the animals, says the biblical record.
With this in mind, when I read the following New York Times “breaking news” I see a philosophical parallel between the Nazism of WWII and the “free market politic” that fights any government intervention (call it socialism) and allow the corporate world to crush citizen rights for equal public protection. The principle is the same: the strong win at any cost; weakness is despicable and must be overcome. The weak and vulnerable are like human trash, only to be avoided. They could do better if they would!
The New York Times reported this story (10-21-10):
“Top Corporations Helping U.S. Chamber of Commerce Influence Campaigns
Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation's financial regulations.
“Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed new rules to tighten security requirements on chemical facilities.
“And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation seeking to limit the ability of trial lawyers to sue businesses.
“These large donations -- none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber -- offer a glimpse of the chamber's money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an
orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall's Congressional elections.”
Not only do these efforts raise political questions; they raise the moral issues of the ages. Are we merely political apes in a political jungle of the survival of the biological and economic fittest? If we are a human community, why should Wall Street be allowed to gamble their money (our investments) and profitably sell fraudulent “paperwork” and make money out of nothing but turning over paper, then need another bail-out?
Why, I ask, should Dow, or any business, be allowed to operate without public accountability (government watchdog) and remain free to pollute our air and waterways? BP only trashed a Gulf that was already polluted immeasurably, by public and private means, but there was a great outcry when the President wanted accountability (I thought my government was there to protect the public (me) and well as private corporate interests!!!)
Is there no such thing in America as public rights and common good? Or, ethical decency? What gives us our ultimate value today is not our success, our socials status, our skin color, gender, wealth, poverty, et al. What validates us is our likeness in the image of God as His Children, which means we validate each other as human beings, regardless of gender, skin color, achievement, et al.”
I am troubled because I naively believed we live in a democracy, where people were what counted, where love and reconciling relationships were what were really of MOST VALUE. Yet, I see a so-called conservative surge from the political right supporting policies that affirm that we live politically in a jungle dominated by the biggest, strongest, and wealthiest, “baddest” and “crookedest” Apes, by the Law of the Jungle ... little different philosophically from the empowered crush of the boot heel of the Nazi stormtrooper).
This struggle is a struggle for the SOUL OF A NATION; it is at the heart of the American political scene today, as well as at the United Nations, where nations strive (compete) with nation. Power (politically or militarily), finance, or social status are not what it is all about.
The most powerful and most wealthy are not yet convinced, but ordinary humanity can take comfort in the inalienable right we have for liberty and for government of-for-by the people. Take away anyone’s rights and you subvert yourself to the inhumane. Send a black man to a “Blacks only” drinking fountain and you subvert who you yourself are. Write the laws so they protect wealthy chemical corporations and allow them to pollute the air and water of the citizenry, and the whole system becomes polluted, (politically subverted) and inhumane--certainly not humane).
The story of the rustic Russian priest is both cute and timely. This priest was confronted by a brash young physicist, filled with his arrogant but erudite atheism. With authority, he informed the priest, “Therefore I do not believe in God.” The priest not at all disturbed by this display, quietly responded, “Oh, that doesn’t matter. God believes in you” (Tutu, 18).
The alternative is not very pretty. It really doesn’t offer a choice. I do trust in the God that still believes in us, the God who gives us inalienable rights of liberty, love, and reconciling relationships. That reconciling love will win, sooner … if not later … as sure as the sun will rise in the morning.
From Warner’s World,
as I once heard Lyndon Johnson say, “Yesterday is not ours to recover but tomorrow is ours to win.” walkingwithwarner.blogspot