"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Progressive Angst–So Much To Worry About, So Little Time To Be Happy

Alfred E Newman
Not only is the Earth heating catastrophically, black churches burning, economic equality increasing, home-grown terrorism a real threat, campus rape at epidemic proportions; but all these destructive trends are linked. Capitalism is at the heart of America’s evils. Our market-driven, free-enterprise system has always been a predatory, savage system of injustice. Industry has always exploited labor, squeezing the last bit of dignity and honor from the working man. 

Corporate money rules Washington and statehouses, and right-to-work laws, spreading to over half the country, are emasculating the labor movement. The inner cities have been forgotten and dismissed by investors who cannot look beyond profit and see the pain and suffering of poor, marginalized communities.  Greedy land developers, venture capitalists, and multinational corporations have ignored the planet, seeking only short-term profits regardless of the environmental impact of their investments.


Not only are all of America’s ills thrown into one catch-all basket; but each of them are are functionally related, thus creating a nexus of evil within an already corrupt economic system. Race and gender, for example, are inseparable.  The same conservative sense of white male entitlement which is at the root of racism is at the heart of gender discrimination.  Men’s universal cabal excludes people of color, women, and gays.  If you are against racism, you must be against sexism, for they spring from the same source.

Environmental degradation is related to the exploitation of migrant labor.  Poor Mexicans work long hours in the fields of agribusiness, slaves to abusive overlords and unwillingly but necessarily perpetuating the ignorant overuse of natural resources, pesticides, and fertilizer.

A recent article in a progressive journal suggested that now race and environmental pollution are related.  A disproportionate number of people of color live near coal-fired power plants, the article notes.  Thus not only do the owners of these installations willingly dump billions of tons of mercury, sulfur, and other pollutants into the atmosphere, they are racist in doing so. Not only are they affecting the lives and health of millions of Americans living downwind, they are blanketing poor, black communities with their poisons.

If, then, one looks at America through a progressive lens, the network of evil and the constellation of malicious forces is universal.  There is no institution, no family, no community that is not somehow linked into this web of ignorance and injustice.

Image result for logo the nation magazine

The theory of Gaia is popular among many environmentalists.  It states that all living things on the planet are interrelated.  The Earth is one, singular, living-and-breathing organism. There is no such thing as a singular event.  The breaking of a twig, the clearing of land, and coal-fired smoke are universally injurious.

Image result for images gaia

The James Cameron movie, Avatar was Hollywood’s paean to such environmental and spiritual universalism. The Navi people, unlike the Americans who had colonized Pandora only to extract valuable natural resources, were sensitive to the environment and to the spiritual energy that runs through it.  The Tree of Souls was the cultural and spiritual center of their culture. The toppling of the Tree by the Americans was not only an act of punitive aggression, but a naked attempt to destroy the very heart and soul of the Navi.

Avatar Tree of Souls_thumb

No movie captures progressive angst so well as Avatar. Its elements of capitalist greed, destructive ambition, ethnic and racial hatred, and short-sighted and short-term purpose coincide perfectly with progressive worldview.

The River Road Baptist Church is a small congregation in Robertsville, Mississippi. Worshippers are all devout Christians who have faith in Jesus Christ and who believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  The congregants are united by faith, uplifted in spiritual rejoicing, and are guided in their secular lives by religious principles. 

“Of course they are happy”, said an acquaintance of mine who had worked in The Movement for decades.  He went on to mention how fundamentalism was antithetical to reason and objective judgment. Evangelists reject Evolution, he said, and in their literal interpretation of the Bible slavishly accept its injunctions against homosexuality, its praise of the procreative family and the preeminent role of men – all of which must be seen within the historical and social context of the times and not applied now.  In other words, devout Southern Christians are ignorant and wrong.

Robertsville is a poor community.  Most residents work two jobs to make ends meet, make do with old cars and cranky appliances, eat simply and cheaply, have health issues and little or no insurance.  There is no doubt that they would like a more comfortable, secure life.

“Spiritual joy”, said John Weathers, the pastor of River Road Baptist, “is not happiness.  It is something more fundamental, more universal, and more complete. Only the faithful can know it”.
“Ignorance is bliss”, said my old acquaintance. “A bit harsh perhaps, but true; and ignorant bliss is worse than no bliss at all”; and so the lines were drawn. Progressives believe that the world is becoming a better place but only if the committed work at making it so. “Ignorance has no place in social evolution.”

Even his explanation was morose, dark, and joyless. He had been locked for so long in a ‘serious’ world of ethical and moral conundrums that he had lost all humor, let alone happiness. “There’s nothing funny about racism”, he said.

How hard it must be to be a progressive.  How unpleasant and dire it must be to lose sleep over nothing. One does not have to be a committed nihilist to see that the course of history is a repetitive, predictable one. Men have always been predatory, territorial, aggressive, and self-serving.  There is not one iota of evidence to show that the world is evolving towards a more tolerant, compassionate, and respectful place, so why not relax and enjoy the show.

  “What, me worry?”, said Alfred E. Newman the genius.


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