From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/01-1
by Doug Harvey
Published on Sunday, January 1, 2012 by CommonDreams.org
One of the more delusional aspects of capitalism is the idea that if one pursues the acquisition of private wealth with abandon, that this is somehow automatically “good” for human society.
The laissez-faire advocate and novelist Ayn Rand wrote that if one does not support this notion that greed is good and pursuing “enlightened self-interest,” (as Adam Smith characterized it), is the highest virtue, then one defaults to supporting a centralized oppressive regime that allows no personal freedom and no private wealth whatsoever. One supports living in darkness and despair or, in a word, Hell. This Manichean thinking is in keeping with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition dating back to the Indus Valley divide between the Vedic traditions and the Zoroastrian belief system of ancient Persia. The notion that the world is characterized by an ongoing “war” between the forces of light and the forces of darkness is at the base of much of so-called western thought.
In The Three Metamorphoses, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that humans are saddled with a heavy burden as children. Using the metaphor of a camel, he describes how we then venture into the wilderness with this burden, whereupon we are attacked by a great dragon. The dragon is covered with hundreds of scales, each scale bearing the words “Thou Shalt.” The human is then transformed into a lion in order to do battle with the dragon. If the lion is victorious in the battle – slaying the dragon “Thou Shalt” – the metaphor then turns to that of a child. The human then becomes what he or she was born to be – “a wheel rolling out of its own center.” One of the scales on the dragon for most of us growing up in the “developed world” is that “thou shalt believe in the war between light and darkness.” And, the societal assumption is that one aspect of this war is the capitalist notion of “enlightened self-interest” versus the evil “socialist” notions of public ownership and oppressive altruism that punishes the productive and rewards the unproductive. This has become conflated with the Judeo-Christian religious structure of “good versus evil” to the point where in some quarters there is no distinction between the secular and religious versions of the myth. To complete the Nietzschean metaphor in this context, most people do not slay the dragon. The result is a societal discourse that is largely delusional and controlled by mythic thinking, catch-phrases, and unquestioned assumptions.
While this is nothing new, the consequences are becoming too great to bear as humans acquire the unprecedented ability to wield cataclysmic power. What is needed is a strong commitment to reality; i.e., a commitment to jettison ideology and religion for fact-based analysis. The process begun by the Enlightenment was, by and large, a positive development at least for Europe. But this process has been interrupted not so much by religion – the antithesis of the Enlightenment – but by a faith-based secular ideology that says the pursuit by individuals of their own private material gain is good for all.
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/01-1