"For now we see as if through a flawed pane of glass..." (I Corinthians 13:12)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Maelstrom


There’s an old saying: “Any system will work for you if you’ll work the system.” There’s another saying, credited by many to Mahatma Gandhi: “Beware of the illusion that you can create a system so nearly perfect that nobody has to be good.”
Western culture has been in love with “systems” since the emergence of the Greek city states; yet, system after system has gone down the drain. In every case, it was not the system that failed; rather, it was human ethics and morality that failed.
Take the myth of “free market economics” for example. Free markets don’t exist except in theory and in text books. Eventually, some person or entity will control any unregulated market and will make it work for its own benefit. Too frequently such selective benefit is obtained through unethical—and often illegal—means. Almost always, some segment of society becomes ultra-rich, while another segment becomes disadvantaged (economic survival of the fittest). Then, some segment of society (usually some structure of governance) responds with a sub-system (regulation) that will level the playing field and give everybody an equal shot at success. When that happens, even the illusion of “free market” disappears.
Essentially, our choice is not whether the market is controlled but, rather, who will control it: the players on the field, or some (theoretically) objective regulatory body. Obviously, since there always will be at least one fox in the hen house, the players on the field can’t be trusted. Enter that regulatory structure to police the market. The problem here is, there’s no guarantee that the participants in the regulatory body are trustworthy either. The big players in the market can buy enough regulators that they continue to accrue benefit, to the disadvantage of the rest of the market. So much for “free market” theory.
The problem with trusting systems is that systems always are administered by humans, and humanity is broken. “Beware the illusion that you can create a system so nearly perfect that nobody has to be good.”
Soviet Communism didn’t fail. Human corruption and lust for power broke it. Socialism doesn’t fail. It is dragged down by the same manifestations of human brokenness. Democracy and free enterprise, the fair-haired love children of 18th century American idealism, are no more. In their place is a corrupt, capitalistic oligarchy. “Beware the illusion that you can create a system so nearly perfect that nobody has to be good.”
Systems cannot succeed or fail, because they have no life of their own. They have no inherent value. They are tools. Nothing more. They can be used for the common good or they can be misused to create an ideological or economic dictatorship.
As another example, take the American system of jurisprudence, so much at the forefront of American awareness of late. It is being dragged into the maelstrom, not by some flaw in its design, but because humans are unwilling to allow it to fulfill its designed role in the checks and balances of the tripartite government created by the genius of our American founders. Instead, our system of jurisprudence is being ravaged to satisfy a jingoistic obsession to guarantee the dominance of one ideology over all others.
Democracy thrives on lively debate, and nothing has been more destructive of democracy and the American experiment than the effort to shut down all but one perspective. It’s one thing for the partisan pendulum to swing from one side to the other. That’s what happens in a healthy democracy. But, when one party controls all levels of government, it becomes possible for that party essentially to shut down the voting process through gerrymandering and through disenfranchising a significant population (basically, people of color in the current example) by enacting laws to prevent “voter fraud” (which is an extremely minute problem. The reality is that voter fraud efforts generally end up disenfranchising more legitimate voters than preventing fraudulent voters.) At that point, the polling booth is a farce, and government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” no longer exists. “Beware of the illusion that you can create a system so nearly perfect that nobody has to be good.”
The free exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of democracy, and access to the polls is the heart that pumps that lifeblood. America is spiraling into the aforementioned ideological dictatorship. 
A pastor friend recently posted on Facebook: "We need conservative Republicans, liberal Democrats, and everything in between. We are better together... but not if we demean one another and aren’t listening to one another."
So, while Democrats and Republicans square off and point accusing fingers at each other, a large measure of the fault lies with another element, namely the non-voter, including the pouting, “Bernie-or-bust” boycott of the polls. Not voting is not a protest; it’s a surrender. 
“Any system will work for you if you’ll work the system.” And when you don’t work the system, you surrender to those who do. 
Please vote on November 6 (or whenever your area is holding the mid-term elections this year).
That’s the way I see it through the flawed glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,
Jim

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