How U.S. Capitalism Works: House Painters That Cover the Earth

“I heard you paint houses.”

“Yes, sir, I do. I also do my own carpentry.”

Those were among the first words exchanged between Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and his “house painter,” Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”

Of course, in the Mob’s parlance, “painting houses” refers to the blood splashed on walls when hitmen like Frank Sheeran do their work. “Carpentry” refers to getting rid of the resulting corpses. Sheeran does both.

I was reminded of “The Irishman” recently, when Antony Blinken all but admitted that the United States was responsible for the terrorist attack that (against international law) destroyed civilian infrastructure represented by Nord Stream pipelines One and Two.

Blinken said the attack presented America with a “tremendous” business opportunity – to sell natural gas to Europe.

His remarks made me realize first that the U.S. is in fact the most active “house painter” and “carpenter” in the world. Like the Sherwin-Williams’ claim, it “covers the earth” – with hitman efficiency. It gets rid of bodies by just not counting them — or at least by vastly undercounting them.

Think about the paint spilled.

“America” is responsible for virtually ALL the wars waged on the planet since WWII: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Ukraine. . . That’s the short list. And those wars have taken millions of lives – turned walls bloodred across the globe.

Remember, it’s not China that started and funded those conflicts. Neither is it Russia. It’s the United States.

But that’s not the end of the “Irishman” connections. Think about the logic behind the Nord Stream attacks. It’s how gangsters operate. It’s what “our” government does. It’s what capitalists do routinely instead of competing according to free market theory.

In fact, few of the most powerful among them seem to even like “natural” marketplace dynamics where business concerns succeed by producing a better product or service. No, they prefer to adopt mob tactics and simply whack their competitors. They deconstruct their rivals’ infrastructure.

Do you remember this scene from “The Irishman?” It’s where “Whispers” (“not that Whispers; the other one”) asks Frank Sheeran to do what’s necessary to put a competitor’s laundry business out of commission.  Here’s the exchange:

Note the similarities between Whispers’ request and Blinken’s intimations about U.S. involvement in Nord Streams’ destructions.

Like Blinken, Whispers is a business front man. He’s financing an Atlantic City laundry service that’s making money hand over fist.

Face it: Blinken is also a front man for oil, gas, and arms industry concerns.

However, both men have powerful competitors. Whispers’ challenger calls itself Cadillac Linen. It’s located in Delaware. It’s underselling Whispers’ business and threatening to take away its customers.

That’s like Russia and China for Blinken. They’re both outcompeting the United States in energy and manufacturing. That has Blinken, Wall Street, and powerful oil and gas concerns exactly in Whispers’ position.  As they keep insisting, they’re “more than a little concerned.”

In both cases, something must be done. But what? Whispers’ could lower his prices and upgrade his product to better compete. According to capitalist theory, that’s the way to win back his hotel and restaurant clientele now seeking lower costs and superior service with Cadillac Linen.

For his part, Blinken could simply recognize that Russia and China now enjoy overwhelming logistical benefits. They’re both much closer than the U.S. to the main buyers of their products.Their shipping costs are therefore lower. There’s nothing nefarious about that. Capitalist theory calls it “comparative advantage.”

Additionally, with its higher “social wages” (i.e., government subsidies in areas of food, rent, healthcare, entertainment, education, etc.) China can easily outcompete America with lower wages for its workers.

Under its present form of capitalism (with all but non-existent “social wages”) the U.S. simply can’t keep up. To get back in the game, Blinken’s handlers could decide to match China’s social programs to compensate for lower wages. They could arrange for workers to have nationalized health care and free college tuition. They could institute nationwide rent control and stop treating food and medicine as commodities instead of as human rights.

Alternatively, and according to capitalist theory, they could simply accept the fact that they can’t compete, back out of the relevant markets and seek prosperity elsewhere.

That’s the way the system’s supposed to work.    

But no. Both Whispers and Blinken instead choose bombing over free market competition. Whispers wants Sheeran to do to Cadillac what he and the U.S. army did to Berlin during World War II. He wants him to destroy his competitors absolutely.

Blinken evidently chose something similar relative to Russia’s Nord Stream I and II. All fingers point to U.S. involvement in the pipelines’ destruction. After all, “Dark Brandon” Biden had threatened to do the deed. Additionally, more than any other suspects, America had the motivation and capacity for performing the task in question. As Blinken’s words indicate, Wall Street, and U.S. energy concerns, and America itself benefit most from the destruction of Nord Stream I and II. As Blinken admits, the destruction of Russia’s property is “tremendous” for America.

It’s hard to believe the United States wasn’t responsible.

In their recent co-authored book, The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power, Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad compare the United States to the Mafia. Their identification is more than apt. Like the Godfather, U.S. mobsters demand that everyone bend the knee or else. Their answer to most problems of market competition involves threats, sanctions, guns, and bombs – almost never lower prices, product improvement, increased social wages, or diplomacy. Instead, in the form of death squads, hitmen like Frank Sheeran, and lethal drones, they continue to “cover the earth” with red just like the Sherwin-Williams ad says.

China especially is adopting a different tack. And if it can avoid being provoked into responding in kind to American Mafia tactics, it will probably come out on top.

China’s just better at capitalist dynamics than the U.S. or E.U.

Russia in Ukraine: Champion & Proxy for the World’s Oppressed

I never thought I’d live to see something like the biblical battle of Armageddon unfold before my eyes. But it’s happening, I’m convinced, as we speak.

However, in this case, the field of battle is not the fabled Plain of Esdraelon. In this case, it is the entire country of Ukraine.

I put it that way because the war in Ukraine is far more than a conflict between Russia and NATO. It’s far more than a proxy war between the U.S. and its former Cold War foe. No, the Ukrainian conflict represents at the very least an opening salvo in the long-awaited definitive showdown between the world’s oppressed and those who have subjugated them for half a millennium and more.

In other words, (as even U.S. officials have agreed) the war in Ukraine is surely a proxy affair. But in this case, I’m arguing, Russia is a stand-in for the world’s oppressed. NATO on the other hand is an umbrella organization whose core comprises Europe’s and the New World’s traditional colonizers. It represents the oppressors. (Grasping that fact, as the poorer countries evidently have, explains why virtually the entire Global South has refused to get on board with NATO’s proxy war.)

I realize that no one is saying what I’ve just written. I realize too that at first glance saying so might seem outrageous. After all, the dominant and simplistic narrative, “Russia bad, NATO good” is carrying the day.

So, let me explain by first presenting my reasons for identifying Russia as the champion of the world’s oppressed. Then, I’ll describe NATO as a desperate union of former colonial powers losing its larcenous grip on the world. Finally, I’ll try to show how Armageddon in Ukraine holds the possibility of producing a new and better world order.

Russia as Champion of the Oppressed

But you might object, surely, you’re not saying that Russia can be classed with the oppressed Global South.

However, that’s exactly what I’m saying. And I’ll tell you why.

After its rise from its Czarist ashes in 1917, Russia used its version of socialism to become in record time a kind of superpower. As phoenix, it quickly transformed from Europe’s most backward nation into a worthy opponent of the United States and its European allies. The development of the USSR’s nuclear capabilities insured a level of invulnerability against direct attacks from the colonial powers in Europe and America.

Despite the revolution’s many mistakes, Russia’s example frightened beyond description the capitalist nations. Its success inspired revolutions throughout the latter’s vast colonial holdings in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia.

Capitalist panic increased exponentially when China’s socialist revolution colored red its 20% of the world’s population in 1949. The fear rose higher still in 1959 when socialism entered the sphere the United States claimed as its backyard in the form of Cuba’s successful revolt against U.S. hegemony – and even higher in 1979 when Nicaragua attempted to establish a socialist system within driving distance of U.S. borders.

Opposing all of this involved a 70-year Cold War intended to thwart the possibility of any other former colonies imitating Russia’s and China’s socialist triumphs which removed them so rapidly from the list of the world’s underdeveloped countries.

Thwarting worldwide socialist aspirations involved a familiar four-step pattern invariably implemented by the U.S. and its allies relative to their former colonial possessions: (1) install a puppet government by hook or crook, (2) equip that regime with police and military hardware to eliminate from society all communist and socialist elements, (3) rob the country blind of its valued assets and (4) repeat steps one and two as necessary should the proxy puppet decide to disobey imperial orders.

Well, long story short, here comes Russia’s reduction to Third World status for fully a quarter century.

That is, when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, the U.S. and other colonial powers quickly followed the above pattern. They (1) installed a puppet government – this time under the “leadership” of Boris Yeltsin. (2) They used Yeltsin to largely neutralize Russian communists already drastically weakened and discredited by the widely perceived failure of all things Marxist. (3) Yeltsin obediently did the puppeteers bidding reducing his country to Third World status by selling off Russia’s publicly owned assets at fire sale prices to invading capitalist opportunists. He thus left the Russian people with nothing while creating a whole new class of billionaire mafia oligarchs. Then, after Yeltsin drank himself out of his job, the west endorsed Vladimir Putin as a worthy replacement marionette. (So far, so good.) (4) However, when Putin unexpectedly proved less than reliable (like other puppets such as Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein) it became necessary to discredit and replace him. After all, he tried to tame the oligarch class and objected to NATO threats to the Russian independence he unacceptably sought to restore. So, the imperialists embarked on their tried-and-true regime change gambit.

That’s where the Ukraine War fits in. As Joe Biden admitted, NATO wants Putin out of office. And as Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin put it, “We want to see Russia weakened” (i.e., returned to its third world status as “a gas station masquerading as a country.”) And as John Bolton recently admitted, regime change is for the United States its standard outlaw operating procedure.

But unlike Third World victims of similar imperial thuggery, Putin would have none of it. Unlike those others, Russia had managed to retain credible means of defending itself. Its well-trained and expertly led military was still intact and it possessed the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. Moreover, all of Europe was dependent on that Russian gas station – as well as on its supply of grain and fertilizer. Putin had those aces up his sleeve. They distinguished him from his less advantaged Global South counterparts. So, he found himself willing and able to take on the oppressive west either directly or by proxy.

Additionally, even though he presents himself as an enemy of socialism, the clever leader of the largest country in the world allied himself with the planet’s most populous country which happens to be socialist. Of course, I’m referring to China. It too is a nuclear power and is armed to the teeth. After what it calls its “century of humiliation” by the west (1839-1949) China has vowed never again to experience such imperial subjugation, come what may.

According to Russia’s and China Declaration of a NEW WORLD ORDER (Feb. 4, 2022) the friendship between the two countries “knows no limit.” That means that capitalist Russia (with its socialist history and large communist party) has allied itself with its ally’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Together they have pledged to establish a new era of sustainable development. In its service, they have specifically expressed their refusal to submit to U.S. hegemony. (I’ll return to this point later.)

NATO’s Union of Oppressors

Of course, the U.S. led NATO has been slow to understand the changed circumstances I’ve just described. Having performed their four-step tango in Ukraine, they’ve made the mistake of underestimating their Russian opponent. They’ve continued to treat it like some banana republic.

Explicitly attempting to throttle the Russian economy (to “make it scream” as Kissinger described the dance in Allende’s Chile) the western colonial powers have failed miserably.

Instead of making Putin’s economy shriek, their own economies are the ones suffering from the “mother of all sanction regimes” vaunted by Biden and company.

The sanctions have backfired in Europe and the United States with the recoil taking the form of general inflation and unacceptable price tags on fuel and food. It’s as if NATO members have sanctioned themselves.

Meanwhile, Russia’s economy remains relatively unaffected. As a result, NATO leaders are facing angry electorates in Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and America, while Putin’s popularity in Russia soars. Watch the political heads roll. Bojo has just resigned from Downing Street, hasn’t he? Macron has lost his majority. Italy’s Draghi will likely fall next. Then it will be Biden’s turn.

Who’s gloating now? Is that a satisfied smile I see crossing Mr. Putin’s face? Is that cheering sound in the background coming from the Global South as it finally witnesses their imperial oppressors getting their just deserts from their new champion?

The Emerging New World Order

Where all of this will likely lead is no mystery. The destination has already been envisioned in detail. It is an order that incorporates the west’s former colonies as respected partners rather than as objects of exploitation.

Towards that end, on February 4, less than three weeks before the onset of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, Russia and China issued a 12-page declaration with the mouthful title “Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development.” (The declaration was largely ignored in western media.)

There, the combined superpower alliance (calling itself “the Sides”) directly challenged the United States. The statement’s parties minced no words in criticizing the expansion of NATO and similar military alliances (specifically, the one between the U.S., Australia, and Great Britain called AUKUS). The sides rejected such unions as remnants of the long-ended Cold War concealed under deceptive rhetoric about the spread of democracy.

The joint statement also proclaimed the strength of the two powers and their refusal to submit to U.S. hegemony. Towards defending themselves against that now defunct unipolar arrangement, they announced a new Russia-India-China East Asian Cooperation Association. It will include, they stated, mutual trade and defense provisions whose purpose is “peaceful and gradual development” across the planet without arms races or nuclear proliferation.

According to the Side’s declaration, such alliance should be seen by everyone as mutually beneficial. Therefore, the new Asian trade partnership and China’s Belt and Road Initiative should be encouraged and joined (not opposed) by the rest of the world. Their purpose after all is to help developing countries catch up with the developed world by prioritizing sustainable transport and fighting climate change.

As for democracy, the Russia-China joint declaration recognized that no one system fits every context. The validity of various systems (based on specific national and cultural contexts, histories, and traditions) should be recognized by all. According to the Sides, it is up to the people of individual countries (not outsiders) to judge whether their country is democratic. They further affirmed that outside interference in the name of foreign concepts of democracy and human rights only incites divisions within given countries and undermines local systems.

Finally, the Sides called for world peace founded on true multilateralism, mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win/win cooperation. The new order, they said, should be based on international solidarity rather than on artificial divisions, confrontation, and the law of the strongest. This means the end, they asserted, of international bullying, idiosyncratic “rules,” and arbitrary sanctions.

Instead, the Sides called for international relations governed by the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Only under such predictable international governance, they said, can regionally balanced powers have a chance of being respected.

It should be no surprise then if the Global South welcomes the proposed new order and suspects that the war in Ukraine has its interests at heart.

Conclusion

In the light of what I’ve just sharedis it an exaggeration to describe the war in Ukraine as an Armageddon showdown? Perhaps. However, at the very least (and by the accounts of many) the war portends a shift in global power from unipolarity to multipolarity. And that can only be good.

Moreover, in Ukraine, we’re dealing with an agent of that shift that enjoys vital links not only with the Third World, but with world history and culture. All of us are hugely indebted to Russia which should be seen as an ally whose record identifies it as an irreplaceable beneficiary of humankind instead of a one-dimensional axis of evil.

Think of what Russia has conferred on us all by way of art, music, and politics. Think Chagall, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pasternak, Stravinsky, Nureyev, and Pavlova. Think of Russia’s political accomplishments as the first nation in the world courageous enough to experiment with socialism as an alternative to capitalist exploitation. Despite its numerous inevitable, and lamentable errors, the new system demonstrated its power to lift an entire people out of misery in an extremely short time. Think of how its Great Patriotic War played the key role in the defeat of Nazism, though at the cost of 22 million deaths of its heroic people.

Though we might not be witnessing in Ukraine Armageddon’s final confrontation between good and evil, we’ve got to go beyond the official narrative of “Russia bad, NATO good.” It’s simply not true. The reality is much more complicated. NATO, I’m arguing is closer to bad, and Russia to good.

And we shouldn’t be surprised if the poorer nations see it that way.

Russia & China Vs. NATO (aka “The Machine That Destroys Humanity”)

Here’s a little experiment on my part — me sharing some thoughts about the world without writing them down. Just reflecting on life. Let me know if you think this is a good medium. More importantly, let me know your own thoughts on the topic I’m addressing. Thanks.

Only Critical Thinkers Taking to the Streets Can Save Us

­I just finished watching an hour-long interview on Garland Nixon’s “Saturday Morning Live with Scott Ritter and Ray McGovern” (see above). Both the guests are former U.S. government insiders with wide experience in Russia.

As an anti-imperialist, I found the program quite sobering.

Scott Ritter, it turns out, has drastically changed his assessment of what’s occurring in Ukraine.

His previous analysis was quite certain that the Ukrainians would be no match for the Russians. Now however Ritter’s evaluation of Moscow’s threefold goals (liberation of Ukraine’s Donbass region, denazification of its army, and general demilitarization of the country) is much more nuanced.

He still sees the Russians moving ahead (but much more slowly than anticipated) with the liberation of the Donbass and with destruction of significant Nazi cadres there and in Mariupol.

However, he now admits, that destroying the Ukrainian military has been gravely complicated by the influx of money and weaponry (most recently, $40 billion worth) from the United States.

That flood of support has allowed the Ukrainian army to reconstitute itself in Ukraine’s west.

So, even if the Russians might be successful in the country’s southeast region, the question becomes what next? Reconstitution of the Ukrainian army complicates achievement of the goal of demilitarizing Ukraine.

All of this also raises the question of maintaining any gains the Russians might be able to achieve in the Donbass region. Maintenance there could potentially bleed the Russians dry in terms of resources, materiel, and lives lost. Will it be necessary for Moscow to keep an occupation force there to protect the breakaway republics of Luhansk and Donetsk?

Such developments and questions have forced upon the Kremlin serious decisions which include:

  • (1) Declaration of “mission accomplished” after the Donbass region has been secured and (2) subsequent withdrawal of forces from Ukraine, however without securing the surrender of the Ukrainian government or the country’s demilitarization
  • In pursuit of the goal of demilitarizing Ukraine turning attention north towards Kyiv and the military capabilities developing in that area of the country. This option would entail extensive bombing of western supply routes, depots and garrisons.
  • However, this would also involve widening the conflict from a “special military operation” to a declared war on Ukraine along with a corresponding mobilization of millions of Russian troops – with the social and economic costs inevitably associated with that decision.
  • Broadening the war even wider to include Finland’s threat to Russia before it can become a NATO member under the protection of Article 5 of the NATO Charter.

Of course, all of this involves China (by far the ultimate and real target in NATO’s crosshairs) which is keeping a close eye on the situation.

According to Ritter and McGovern, China’s fear is that NATO will try to draw it into a debilitating conflict like Russia’s in Ukraine. To that end NATO’s imperial forces seem bent on encouraging Taiwan to declare independence from China.

In the eyes of McGovern and Ritter, China would not tolerate such a move and would act immediately and decisively to keep Taiwan under control. They point out that the island’s situation is far different from Ukraine’s. Whereas Ukraine can be supplied militarily from surrounding NATO countries, that same possibility isn’t available for Taiwan. As shown by the sinking of the Russian flagship (the Moskva) any NATO ships carrying materiel would be easily sunk by Chinese artillery onshore.

So, Taiwan has two alternatives, both including ultimate control by China: (1) Taiwan can either continue with its mutually beneficial socio-political and economic arrangements with the mainland or (2) those arrangements will be maintained under Chinese occupation. China will tolerate no third eventuation.

Conclusion

Of course, both McGovern and Ritter were quite clear that none of this need be happening. No critical thinker should forget this or get swept up into our nation’s current war fever.

Instead, critical thought entails remembering that it is the bellicose insistence of the United States on widening NATO right up to Russia’s borders (rather than the dissolution of NATO itself as an outmoded organization) that has provoked this entire crisis.

Absent U.S. insistence on expanding NATO and installing missiles on Russia’s border, the Kremlin represented a military threat to no one in Europe. Neither does China constitute anything other than an economic competitor to the United States. Militarily, it is nowhere threatening the United States.

Rather, within the web of capitalist sanctification of competition as the ultimate value, China’s mortal sin consists merely in the fact that it greatly outperforms the U.S. and Europe in terms of economic growth, foreign assistance, and elimination of world poverty.

It is the decision of the United States to allow no economic rivals, it is its arbitrary and criminal insistence on maintaining “full spectrum dominance” that lies behind the current lamentable set of events. Only an anti-war movement taking to the streets in the name of clear vision, critical thinking, and sanity can prevent our government’s warmongers from leading the world to ultimate disaster.  

Gleeful Liberal Pundits Arrogantly Bash China’s Covid “Dystopia:” 10 Reasons to Mistrust Them

The war in Ukraine is far from over. Yet already even the so-called “alternative media” are softening us up for the next conflict – this time with China.

That’s the conclusion easily drawn after witnessing a recent Sinophobic segment of “Breaking Points” with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti (see above). Together they gleefully tag-teamed on China’s Covid-19 “dystopia.” (“Dystopia,” you recall is an “imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives.”)

According to Enjeti and Ball, that’s China for you. Under its “authoritarian” regime, the people there lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives. A familiar story this side of the pond.

But are such charges valid? To find out, consider first the accusations themselves, secondly the hubris behind them, and finally a real-life example suggesting caution about indictments of cultures and policies few in the west can understand.

Accusations Vs. China

According to Enjeti and Ball, the People’s Republic lockdown strategy, though admittedly spectacularly successful in combatting the first two waves of Covid, is failing miserably with the Omicron version.

“Whew, thank God,” they seemed to gloat. “That was a close one. Imagine, if we’d have to admit that China’s universal healthcare system and prioritization of citizens’ lives and community health over business profits and getting people back to work has something to teach us.” Close one indeed.

Ball specifically expressed her happy relief by observing that she and others like her initially experienced a kind of “China envy” regarding the way the country so efficiently and effectively dealt with Covid since the pandemic’s dawn in 2020.  She then admired the way lockdowns, testing, contact tracing, provision of personal protective equipment, vaccinations, and expansions of hospital facilities kept Chinese fatalities minimal compared with the nearly one million pandemic deaths in the United States where such policies took months to develop. All of that seemed to explain why even though China has four times the U.S. population, over the first two years of the pandemic, it experienced only a fraction of America’s Covid fatalities.

Thankfully, however, in the welcome light of China’s struggles with Omicron, the truth has come to light. According to a chuckling Enjeti, China’s “dystopian nightmarish lockdown” reveals the sad truth. “This is what full communist collectivism really looks like,” he said.

Say what? “Full communist collectivism?” China?

In other contexts, commentators like our intrepid pair explain China’s economic and social successes as “not really socialism.” Instead, China’s capitalist nature is what accounts for its success.

Now however it’s “full communist collectivism” that explains everything.

Such self-contradictory and infantile analysis enabled Ball to chime in that though there’s “a long way” before we in the U.S. have a real true democracy, “at least the say of the people (she rolled her eyes appropriately at this point) “means something. And I will take that and all of the strife and messiness that it entails on a daily basis over drones circling overhead chastising your soul for wanting freedom.”

Ball’s reference was to Shanghai residents’ being admonished by drone loudspeakers to (according to somebody’s translation) “Please comply with Covid restrictions. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing.”

Oh, the horror! What could be more authoritarian than asking people to control their soul’s desire for freedom and ask them not to sing?  What evil masters the poor Chinese have!

And imagine this: government food deliveries (to Shanghai’s 27 million people!) have been disrupted. Black markets for scarce commodities have resulted. The elderly are especially threatened.

According to a smirking Enjeti, the other end of the mortality table is threatened as well. Officials in Shanghai, he reports, are defending the policy of separating babies and young children from their parents if they test positive for Covid-19. “So, they’re literally taking children, he lamented, who are testing positive for Covid and administering treatment to them in public health centers.

And besides that, “there are people kneeling (sic) in the street and as people pass by, they check their ID passes and swabbing them constantly. This is the full stuff of nightmares of authoritarian lockdown.”

According to the “Breaking Point” hosts, all such horrors are due to Shanghai’s “total zero policy” regarding Covid.

Luckily, Enjeti claimed, we know all about this, while the Chinese people do not. According to young Sagaar, “We probably have a better idea of what’s happening in Shanghai than people in Beijing and in the rest of the country, just because of the Chinese government’s ability in order to crack down. In the Chinese equivalent of Times Square there were signs saying, ‘Don’t believe everything you see on social media and do not share viral videos’.”

Yes, it’s gotten that bad. Shanghai’s government is actually telling its people not to trust what they see on social media. Dangerous advice indeed.

Unhinged Hubris

Please excuse the sarcasm that leaked into my account that I had planned to be simply descriptive. However, the ironies and arrogance of the “Breaking Points” segment was so stunningly slanted and obviously anti-Chinese that I just couldn’t help myself.

I mean, think about the pomposity of young pundits living in a country that has experienced many more per capita Covid deaths than China criticizing a 6000-year-old culture that apparently places the common good above individual “freedom.”  Consider 10 such overreaches by Enjeti and Ball:  

  1. To begin with, they adopt a moral position that amounts to the pot calling the kettle black or people in glass houses throwing stones. To repeat, Americans whose government failed miserably to protect their citizens from a viral pandemic, have no moral right to criticize a government like China’s which did.
  2. That U.S. failure is never seen by commentators like our 2 exemplars as indicating the systemic failure of capitalism. Yet, China’s successes with the first two waves of Covid along with its vigorous efforts to combat Omicron somehow indicate the failure of Enjeti’s “full communist collectivism.”
  3. Enjeti and Ball also naively take at face value a 4 second video (showing buildings somewhere at night with sounds of people wailing in the background). They present the footage as unquestionably demonstrating the plight of Shanghai’s suffering millions. Instead, in the light of recent revelations about CIA and Pentagon deceptions, such easily faked video should have evoked strong journalistic skepticism.
  4. Similarly, Enjeti imagines Shanghai residents’ understandings of complex concepts such as “soul” and “freedom,” and “sing” (and of “government” for that matter) are accurate, non-ideological, non-propagandistic CIA translations of the Chinese terms involved.
  5. He further imagines that such terms have the same meanings for Chinese as they do for Americans.
  6. Moreover, Enjeti actually claims that he, a 20 something American, and the rest of us have a better understanding of what’s happening in Shanghai than the Chinese do. Such hubris needs no commentary.
  7. “Breaking Points” also gives the impression that children separated from parents “to be taken for treatment in a health center” represent permanent involuntary separation of child and parent (like that practiced by the U.S. at the Mexican border) instead of simply taking children (with their parents’ permission?) for treatment.
  8. Perhaps worst of all, “Breaking Points” never explains or even speculates why the Chinese government has adopted its lockdown, zero tolerance policy. The program simply leaves the impression that zero tolerance is a question of the mean communists exercising arbitrary power for the sake of doing so. Could it be however that Beijing actually cares about the health of the Chinese people and prefers saving lives to a return to normal that will increase corporate profits while causing preventable losses of life?  
  9. Finally, the “Breaking Points” hosts assume that the term “authoritarian” is univocal in meaning. China is “authoritarian;” the U.S. is not. “Communism” is authoritarian; capitalism is not. Such misunderstandings fail to reflect the undeniable fact that ALL extant systems of political economy are authoritarian, be they capitalist or socialist. Certainly, it’s undeniable that by definition America’s capitalist “empire” (a term enthusiastically embraced by its politicians) can never claim to be democratic or a respecter of human rights. It’s essentially authoritarian. That is, by nature, empire is imposed upon (not chosen by) its subjects. The same goes for capitalism itself. Yes, it has its Tweedle Dum vs. Tweedle Dee elections. But under capitalism, most of our time is spent working for wages under completely authoritarian bosses who give us no say over how we spend our time and who can fire us at whim.
  10. With all systems sharing authoritarianism, the question is which kind do we prefer – one that takes care of ordinary people or the type that prioritizes the needs of the rich. It’s clear from the examples like “our” allies Brazil, the Philippines, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, etc.., which type of authoritarians the United States prefers. Policies towards China (which has virtually eliminated poverty among its people and enjoys their 85% approval) as well as towards Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, do the same thing.

Conclusion

I have a Chinese friend who takes part in a prayer circle my wife and I participate in.

Recently, at one of our sessions with our Chinese friend absent, members of our circle were lamenting the plight of Shanghai’s residents as reported by news outlets like “Breaking Points.” “It just all seems so inhumane,” most prayer circle members lamented.

The next night we checked it out with our this-time present Chinese sister. We knew her elderly parents lived in Shanghai. We were worried about them.

“Well, what about the horror of Shanghai?” we asked her.

“Oh, that’s nothing,” she replied. “It’s just the Chinese government overacting a bit to Covid. My folks are o.k.”

“Wow,” was the response of others in the group. “I guess you just can’t be sure whom or what to believe.”

Podcast Episode 17 in ACIM for Social Activists: “I See Nothing as It Is Now”

AUDIO

TEXT:I See Nothing as It Is Now

Today, we have reached Lesson Nine in A Course in MiraclesWorkbook for Students. It reads, “I see nothing as it is now.”

The lesson addresses the fact that most of us are living in the past. So, we end up with a world view dictated by ideas and understandings that my wife, Peggy, keeps dismissing as “so 20th century.”

For those committed to social justice, such dated concepts and explanations have to do with patriotism, but also with Jesus whose voice is centralized in A Course in Miracles.

As for outdated patriotism, we continue to live as though the U.S. were not the failed state that it is – as though, for instance, China’s system were not proving much more efficient in providing for its people and responding to emergencies such as COVID-19. China has been spectacular in eliminating grinding poverty.

Meanwhile, the failed nature of the U.S. system is shown by its systemic gridlock. It simply cannot make the decisions that must be taken even to deal with basic health care. For instance, with a population of just over 300 million, America has lost over 800,000 to COVID-19. At the same time, with a population four times larger, China has lost fewer than 5,000 to the pandemic.

Even more basically, the U.S. economy and political system are far less efficient than China’s.

Here in the United States, we’ve become dependent not on producing goods and services, but on the financial sector – on investments, banking, debt, stocks, and bonds. As economist Michael Hudson keeps pointing out, these sectors are unproductive and parasitic. They represent overhead rather than productive income.

By contrast, China has a far healthier economic system that actually provides manufacturing jobs and a rising standard of living for its people. In our globalized economy, that’s possible, because industries are drawn to China by wages that are much lower than in the U.S.

Yet, even with low wages, the Chinese working class is prospering, because of the country’s centralized economy that provides health care gratis and free education for its people along with subsidized housing, food and transportation. Those “social wages” constitute the equivalent of thousands of extra dollars added to each month’s paycheck for Chinese workers.

Besides that, the nationalized Chinese banking system (absent the profit motive) can easily remedy any debt problems by simply erasing debts should any sector develop problems.

As a result of all this, catching up with China will be virtually impossible for the United States as long it continues embracing the neo-liberal capitalist model. For one thing, that arrangement finds it unthinkable to engage in long-term planning; it can’t see beyond projected returns on a quarterly basis. Among other liabilities, that makes it impossible, for example to cope with climate change, that demands anticipating weather events decades from now.

In fact, to actually compete with the centrally planned elements of China’s economy, the U.S. would have to follow systemic suit. However, America’s programs of privatization, deregulation and tax reduction has the country moving in the exact opposite direction.

Course correction would have to include the ideologically “impossible” steps of taming of wage spirals by:

  • Taking de facto central planning away from Wall Street and returning it into the hands of elected government officials
  • Raising taxes on the 1%
  • Nationalizing the banking system
  • Enacting a Green New Deal to provide productive, environment-saving jobs for the unemployed and under-employed
  • Providing free tuition for all post-secondary students
  • Forgiving the $1.5 trillion that students still owe for their educations, thus freeing them to actually buy homes, automobiles and other necessities
  • Nationalizing health care thus relieving both employers and employees from the burden of meeting the costs of medical treatment and pharmaceuticals

The sad truth however is that without some apocalyptic catastrophe and without transcending our hamstrung two-party system, the chances of taking such measures (even if Democrats were to retain control of both houses of Congress) are nil. Consequently, China will continue to outstrip the United States economically and socially. Simply put, its system is more flexible than the neo-liberal model.

In today’s 9th lesson in A Course in Miracles, Jesus’ voice is once again addressed specifically to North Americans. He calls us to depart from the vision promulgated by the propaganda of our cave-prison. His message suggests for instance that China (and other socialist countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela) are not our inveterate enemies. According to A Course in Miracles, no one is our enemy. No one is attacking us. There is really only one of us here. The Chinese are our sisters and brothers. There is no distinction between them and us.

Today’s lesson tells us that understanding this simple idea (as difficult as it might be to accept) “is a prerequisite for undoing your false ideas.” It is necessary to clear the mind of its “debris that darkens it.”

So, today during your practice periods as you watch the news that touches our country’s “official enemies,” say to yourself:

I do not see China as it is now.

I do not see Russia as it is now.

I do not see Venezuela as it is now.

I do not see Nicaragua as it is now.

I do not see North Korea as it is now.

I do not see Cuba as it is now.

See if you can remember to repeat this exercise three or four times during the day.

Jimmy Lai vs. Julian Assange: Prophets without Honor (A July 4th Sunday Reflection)

Readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Ezekiel 2: 2-5; Psalm 123: 1-4; 2nd Corinthians 12: 7-10; Luke 4: 18; Mark 6: 1-6

I can’t believe that we’re still expected to believe that the United States and Great Britain are concerned about human rights or press freedom or that either has any leg to stand on in such posturing.

I mean, how can any of us still believe after the lies about Iraq, Abu Ghraib, the refusal to punish Saudi Arabia for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the imprisonment of Julian Assange, the demonization of Wikileaks, and the cooperation of the mainstream media (MSM) with all of it.

You’re telling me that either London or Washington has the right to pronounce on press freedom? On human rights? Please!

Demonization of China

Nonetheless, they’re at it again in relation to China and the desperate campaign of both Great Britain and America to demonize Beijing and its implied invocation of an Asian version of The Monroe Doctrine in relation to Hong Kong [which, by the way, (unlike the U.S. relationship to Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, or Venezuela) is actually part of China.]

More specifically, we’re supposed to join the MSM and “our” government as well as England’s in worrying about the recent shutdown of the Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong – a publication that sounds a lot like The National Inquirer.

Judge for yourself. A recent cover story in The Guardian describes the paper as a tabloid-style publication that has “a chequered history including cheque-book journalism, muckraking and sometimes unethical reporting alongside fearless investigation into government corruption and police brutality.”

What? Chequered history? Paying sources for information (probably with money from the CIA or the National Endowment for Democracy) and unethical reporting?

Oh, and the paper is owned by billionaire Jimmy Lai who has been imprisoned (according to The Guardian) “on protest-related convictions and national security charges.”

So, now it’s “Hands across the Planet” for poor Jimmy and his yellow journalism.

Meanwhile Julian Assange wastes away precisely in a British prison for publishing government secrets exactly about U.S. war crimes in Wikileaks – a source that publishes the Washington’s own unquestionably true confessions of the criminal acts it desperately wants kept secret from the rest of us.

So let me get this straight: Jimmy Lai’s a hero. And we’re all supposed to get misty-eyed about the Hong Inquirer’s brave reporters. But Julian Assange is a criminal. And Wikileaks doesn’t even qualify as journalism.

And, by the way, we’re supposed to forget that there was absolutely no press freedom all those years the Brits controlled Hong Kong.

Does anyone else sense the irony?

Today’s Readings

Such considerations are especially relevant this July 4th as we celebrate our supposed “freedoms” and the tarnished ideals of the United States. Significantly, this month marks as well the 100th anniversary of the founding of China’s Communist Party (CCP) whose good example (in drastically reducing world poverty and extending foreign aid) our country so fears.  

Besides being July 4th, today also happens to be Sunday, time for a weekly “Homily for Progressives” where the theme of the day is prophecy in the sense of social criticism in the name of all that’s holy.

The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel implicitly reminds us that there were two kinds of prophets among the ancient Hebrews. Both are still with us today.

One type was a “court prophet” telling the king and power structure what they wanted to hear – justifying their oppression of the poor. (On this Independence Day you’ll hear a lot of their drivel as they praise “America” as though it were not – as Martin King put it – “the world’s greatest purveyor of violence.”) Think about The Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai and our MSM as court prophets.

The other type of prophet spoke for the Truth that was commonly referred to as “God.” The words of such men and women were routinely dismissed by the powers that happened to be. Some prophets (as is the case with Jesus in today’s final reading) were even rejected by the very oppressed people they were trying to champion. Their words were thought too dangerous and, in some cases, too good to be true. Think about Julian Assange as a prophet in the mold of Ezekiel or the Nazareth construction worker many of us claim to follow.

In any case, here are my “translations” of today’s selections. You should really check them out here to see if I got them right. As you read, think of Julian Assange.

Ezekiel 2: 2-5

I was startled
When God’s Spirit
Demanded that
I criticize my own people
As ungodly and stubborn
Telling me 
To make them uncomfortably
Aware
That a fearless prophet
Was at work
Among them.

Psalm 123: 1-4

Great and holy Parent
We invoke your compassion
On your prophetic
Servants and handmaids
So eager to serve you
Despite contemptuous mistreatment
At the hands 
Of our so-called “leaders”
With their pride and arrogance
Directed 
Against your beloved poor.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

Neither do prophets 
Have to be perfect.
Even Paul of Tarsus
Despite his many gifts
Suffered under
“An angel of Satan”
And “a thorn in the flesh"
To keep him humble
Lest he take credit
For the work
Of the Holy Spirit
Within him.

Mark 6: 1-6

But like Ezekiel
Jesus was rejected 
By his own townsfolk
Who complained that
He had gotten “above his raisin’s”
They didn’t even
Call him by  
His father’s name
(Implying he was a bastard)
While dismissing
His brothers and sisters
As quite unremarkable.
There’d be
No mighty deeds
For such whiners.
Only cures for
A few ailing beggars.

Conclusion

In a recent New York Times editorial, another court prophet, Yi-Zheng Lian, the former chief editor of The Hong Kong Economic Journal, joined the chorus of warnings about China’s grave threat to the West.

To an audience acquainted with the revelations of Edward Snowden Lian decried China’s surveillance system. To those whose country has bombed and killed Muslims by the scores and thousands every day over the last 20 years, he complained about treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. To Americans who have lived through a Trump presidency, he criticized Chinese governance by lies. (His example? President Xi Jinping actually claimed that China seeks an international image that is “trustworthy,” “respectable” and “lovable.”) The horror of it all!   

Nonetheless, Lian also pointed out the fact that the Chinese Communist Party retains high popularity among a vast majority of its people. In fact, the party has grown by 20% annually since its foundation 100 years ago. There are no refugees from China. Travelers and students come and go at will and usually return home.

For Lian, the bottom line is that China is showing no evident signs of decline. This means that it will remain a formidable force continuing to threaten the United States and Western allies for years to come. This will be true, he said, not just militarily and ideologically, but also technologically and economically.

So, the West, Lian concludes, had better get used to the CCP’s threatening presence “at its front door.”

Of course, all this talk of threat and menace from a country that (unlike the United States and Great Britain) has bombed no one in the last 40 years – all this imperial identification of a country more than 7000 miles away as at “our front door” is nonsense.

So is any continued posturing about “our” championing of human rights and press freedom. July 4th in the context of faith reflection is a good time for reminders of such home truths.  

Mad as Hell!

Don’t get too excited about Joe Biden and his pretense at boldness in the model of FDR.

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FDR? Don’t make me laugh. Biden doesn’t even measure up to Eisenhower’s liberalism!

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The man and his party have already surrendered to the fascist Republicans who are busy passing new Jim Crow laws to insure their continued minority rule. The Democrats could prevent that by passing the “For the People” Act (HR1). But that would insure continued Democratic rule. It would also require suspension of the Senate filibuster. Uncle Joe and the Dems tremble at the very thought.

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Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats just won’t play hard ball. Remember how the fascists refused to even consider Obama’s SCOTUS appointment, Merrick Garland? With the presidential election 11 months off, they said they wanted “the American People” to have a voice in the matter. Then the fascists turned around and rushed through the appointment of a right-wing fanatic Amy Coney Barrett – less than two weeks before the 2020 election!

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That and the appointments of sexual predators, Thomas and Kavanaugh, have rendered the SCOTUS absolutely corrupt. None of us should recognize the validity of its decisions.  

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Yes, Trump is gone for the moment. But enjoy the respite while you can. He’ll soon be back in one form or another – very likely worse than in his last incarnation. And the reason he’ll be back is because the Democrats are gutless wonders who don’t represent any of us. They represent only their rich donors.

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Think about it: “The American People” overwhelmingly support Medicare for all, $15 an hour minimum wage, free college, tuition debt forgiveness, gun control, and higher corporate taxes. But can we expect “our” elected officials to follow suit? Of course not! They don’t care what we want — only what their donors demand.

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Face it: we’re living in a failed state. Gridlock remains the order of the day. Nothing substantial is done for any of us ordinary people.

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Compare “our” government’s gridlock with China’s efficiency – which enjoys (according to U.S polls) the approval of 90% of its population. That sounds like democracy to me.

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Do you know how China solved its drunk driving problem? It decreed that a first offense would result in 2 weeks in jail. A second conviction leads to the permanent confiscation of one’s driver’s license! Problem solved.

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Last week, there was an extremely rare school shooting in Russia. Immediately, President Putin introduced new restrictions on gun ownership. Our country has mass shootings every week. How do our legislators respond? “Thoughts and prayers.”

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Biden’s foreign policy is virtually the same as Trump’s. Old Joe’s man, Tony Blinken says he’s worried about China, the Uyghurs, and the world’s “rules-based order.” But he won’t condemn Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, will he? He won’t even cut off funding of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince or call him the “killer” he is. Oh yes, “Putin’s a killer,” but not the man who had a Washington Post journalist murdered and dismembered.

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What rules-based order?

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And what about Cuba? And the Iran deal and old Joe’s continuance of the Donald’s crippling sanctions there? And Venezuela?

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And the Pro Act? There’ll be no protection of workers under the Biden Administration. Why? See my note above on filibuster.

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I hate to break the news, but it’s all smoke, mirrors, posturing and hypocrisy.

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We’re living in a failed state. Yes, Trump will be back.

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God help us!

The Biblical Roots of Our Pandemic Response: The Chinese Alternative

Over the past week, three approaches to the widespread availability of anti-Covid-19 vaccinations have crossed my desk. One was the comical music video (above) celebrating a supposed post-vaccine normalcy including a return to restaurants, movies, gatherings with family members, friends, grandchildren and mask-less interaction with the world at large. I couldn’t help smiling and laughing at my own relieved celebration of freedom’s prospect after more than a year of quarantine restrictions.

The second approach however was more sobering. It was an essay by Ernesto Burgio published in the Wall Street Journal’s Science and Technology International Magazine. Its basic message was “Not so fast; the human race is not nearly out of the woods.”

The third slant on the expected end of our current crisis returned me to the world of comedy and entertainment – to Bill Maher of all people and his recent riff on China’s competition with the United States (see below). He called it “We’re Not ‘Losing’ to China – We Lost.” Without saying so, Maher’s thesis implied that China’s system of governance holds much more promise of dealing with Burgio’s dire warnings than does our own.

Finally, and speaking specifically as a theologian, the three pieces just referenced caused me to jump to a fourth level, a spiritual one. The leap had me concluding that nothing less than a China-inspired change in the West’s guiding spiritual mythology will save us from destruction.

Let me explain.

The 1st Anthropocene Pandemic

In his Wall Street Journal piece, Burgio pointed out that scientists have been predicting something like SARS-CoV2 pandemic for the last 20 years.  In fact, Covid is merely the most dramatic manifestation of a long-expected more general biological crisis resulting from a two-century long “War on Nature” – from what Pope Francis has called a systemic attack on humankind’s “Common Home.”

In recent memory, pandemic precursors have already surfaced as outbreaks of:

  • Ebola
  • Nipah
  • Hendra
  • Marburg
  • Flu-Orthomyxoviruses
  • Bat-Coronaviruses
  • SARS 1
  • H1N1
  • HIV AIDS

Covid-19 and those predecessors along with the pandemics to follow are the consequence of climate change, deforestation, and the creation of mega-cities that pack humans together in circumstances redolent of our related mistreatment livestock on factory farms.  The upshots of it all were prepared by related culturally induced comorbidities such as obesity and diabetes exacerbated by unhealthy diets dominated by sugars, salt, oils, and chemical preservatives.

According to Burgio and in view of such systemic causal links, it is senseless to seek salvation primarily in pharmaceutical remedies (including vaccines). What’s demanded instead is systemic reform of the post-modern lifestyle including rejection of fossil fuels, adoption of environmentally friendly diets (with drastically reduced meat consumption), and careful restoration of animal habitats and ecosystems.

The problem is, such radical lifestyle reforms are virtually impossible for capitalist cultures like the one found in the United States, the most powerful causal engine of environmental destruction. Especially here, where private enterprise is king, there is simply no central authority powerful or effective enough to institute the rapid comprehensive changes required to head off future pandemics, much less to save the planet. Indeed, half the American population cannot bring itself to even recognize that the pandemic is real, that human activity causes climate change, or that we’ve indeed transitioned into a new (Anthropocene) geological age.

And that brings me to Bill Maher’s observations suggesting that any hope that the human race might have lies with China.

The Chinese Promise

The title of Maher’s piece says it all: “We’re Not ‘Losing’ to China; We Lost.” That’s because (in Maher’s words) unlike us, when Chinese authorities see a problem, they fix it. For example, and specifically relevant to Covid-19, when the pandemic hit, they threw up a quarantine center with 4000 rooms in 10 days. They made robots to check children’s temperatures and got them back in school almost immediately. As a result, China has returned to something close to normal. It will be the world’s only major economy to register significant growth during this extraordinary year.

In fact, Maher’s rant echoes what Burgio himself pointed out in his essay when he said:

“. . . it is an indisputable fact that Asian countries, first of all China, but also South Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore have been able to stop the pandemic in the bud. It is also clear, to refute those who say that only authoritarian governments have been able to stop the pandemic by limiting civil liberties in a coercive and sometimes violent way, that Cuba, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland have done the same and have had very few deaths and minimal economic costs. All these countries have implemented precise strategies to contain the chains of infection, tracking and monitoring systems, organized quarantine areas and departments specifically dedicated to medium-severe and critical cases, implementing the gold standard in the management of pandemics: focusing on and strengthening primary health care.”

So, if it wasn’t because of the “authoritarian” character of its government, how explain China’s flexibility not only in dealing with Covid-19, but with its short-order elimination of extreme poverty, its rapid development of infrastructure, and its uniquely effective “foreign aid” as demonstrated in its Belt and Road Initiative?

Answering that question brings me to the earlier-mentioned realm of theology and spirituality. The answer is that China’s “Civilization State” (and eastern culture in general) is more effectively spiritual than anything found in western “Nation States.”

Spiritual Resources

The fact is that Chinese culture deeply influenced by Marxism recognizes more clearly than do westerners the truth of Burgio’s starting point – his approving reference to Pope Francis’ recent encyclicals (Laudato Si’, and Fratelli Tutti) with their defense of the earth as humankind’s “Common Home.”

Instead, the West’s individualism and emphasis on competition prevents it from embracing anything resembling Francis’ appeal to the common good. This has been especially so since its endorsement of Margaret Thatcher’s dictum: “There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first.”

Regrettably, Thatcher’s point is supported by the fundamental Judeo-Christian myth of creation. As interpreted by Augustine, it spins the tale of our first parents’ “original sin” that corrupted all humans and all of creation as well.

If we’ve been told from birth that we’re all corrupt and that nature itself has been vitiated, why would we be surprised to see one another as enemies with whom cooperation (vs. competition) is impossible? Why would we be surprised that we harbor rapacious attitudes towards Mother Nature herself or that we easily excuse governmental depravity?

Obviously, China (along with most eastern cultures) does not believe any of that. As a result, in the name of the common good and with support from the vast majority of its people, it can turn on a dime when faced with problems like the Covid-19 pandemic. As Maher says, “When the Chinese see a problem, they fix it.”

By contrast, our culture with its crippling spirituality and adversarial conception of democracy finds itself gridlocked into a syndrome of discord and immobilizing cross-purposes.

Conclusion

As Burgio says, Covid-19 is not a mere bump in the road. Instead, it represents a “syndemic” – an entire set of health-related problems involving myriad interacting afflictions that cannot be cured by hospital-centric health systems whose ultimate response is technological and pharmaceutical.

Ultimately, the response must be spiritual and civilizational. We must face the fact that normalcy is gone. “Vaccine Day” happy talk won’t save us. Nor will attempts to defeat, stifle, control or replace China as the world’s emerging leader not only economically, but spiritually as well. Only fundamental change along the lines of China’s flexibility and efficiency inspired by notions of common good and common home can save us now.

Don’t Listen to Blinken: China’s System Is More Just Than Ours

Readings for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10; Psalm 25: 4-9, I Corinthians 7: 29-31; Mark 1: 14-20.

The liturgical readings for this Sunday are about designated enemies often being readier to recognize and respond to divine wisdom than are believers who consider themselves God’s People.

Accordingly, the selections present the mind-blowing discovery of the reluctant chauvinist prophet Jonah (he of belly-of-the-whale fame) alongside the habitual people-centered attitude of the courageous universalist prophet Yeshua the Christ. Together, the readings’ call is to open ourselves to the wisdom and goodness of despised foreigners and the non-elite.

That theme (explained below) reminds me of China and its bipartisan vilification by U.S. politicians and mainstream media. Like the Ninevites in today’s first reading, China has gradually and unquestionably become the enemy du jour as described not only by outgoing Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo but by his incoming counterpart, Antony Blinken.

The Case of China

Like Jonah’s assessment of Nineveh, neither can say a good word about China, even though (according to western polls) its government enjoys something like 90% approval by the Chinese people. (Furthermore, according to Dorinda Elliot of the China Institute, rather than diminishing its popularity, the government’s success in dealing with Covid-19 has made it more popular than ever.)  

Still, on his way out the State Department door, Mr. Pompeo denounced China not only for stealing western intellectual property, but for its policies on Muslims and ethnic minorities in its western Xinjiang region. According to Pompeo, those policies constitute “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.”   

In his testimony before the U.S. Senate, Antony Blinken fully agreed with Pompeo’s assessment. Both painted China as an enemy rather than a hugely successful competitor with whom our country might well cooperate and from whom we might learn. Relative to crimes against humanity, both Pompeo and Blinken ignore the facts that their own country’s policies:

  • Continue to kill Muslims every day in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia
  • Imprison and torture them in Guantanamo and other black sites
  • Have done so for nearly 20 years
  • While maintaining concentration camps and baby jails for immigrants and asylum seekers on its southern border.

Despite all of that, Mr. Blinken had the temerity to criticize China’s use of reeducation camps as its particular method of dealing with Muslim terrorist threats rather than “our” method of endless wars, bombings and drone strikes. (In Iraq’s illegal war, such have taken the lives of more than 1 million people — with no official mention of genocide or crimes against humanity.)

Moreover, Pompeo’s and Blinken’s denunciations ignore the facts that China’s system of political economy has (in Jonah’s terms) “repented.” It has self-consciously departed from the inefficient and destructive ways of capitalism-as-we-know-it. Yes, China’s way involves a large free-market sector. But a huge part of its economy is under direct government control. The results of that combination have been astoundingly successful.

Moreover, according to economist Richard Wolff, accusations against China’s alleged stealing of intellectual property are nonsensical. According to Wolff, the transfer of intellectual property was part and parcel of the bargain long since struck between U.S. companies and the Chinese government when those companies were given access to Chinese labor and the country’s markets. On China’s part, the understanding was: we give you access to our market and cheap labor; you share profits with us and give us the right to reverse engineer your technology. It was an at least implied quid pro quo agreement that everyone understood.

The result was the Chinese Way that enjoys huge success not only internationally, but domestically. According to Bloomberg News, the Chinese economy is set to grow by 2.5 percent this fiscal year, despite the ravages of Covid-19.

In other words, Chinese “repentance,” its unprecedentedly rapid response (in just over 40 years) to the needs of its people, has saved it from the destruction our version of capitalism has arguably made inevitable for us. Like the prophet, Jonah, our politicians and business elite don’t want to hear any of that.

Today’s Readings

As I’ve been saying here, all of this is closely connected with today’s readings. In the first selection, the Spirit of Life sends Jonah to learn from Nineveh, Israel’s archenemy. He’s completely surprised to discover that the Ninevites, like China, are more responsive to the way of Yahweh than Jonah’s own people.

Similarly, in today’s Gospel selection, Jesus departs entirely from conventional wisdom. He selects illiterate workmen (rather than temple priests or members of his country’s elite) as recruiters for his Kingdom of God Movement bent on creating a world governed by divine principle rather than Caesar’s brute force.

Here’s the way I translate today’s readings about the superior ways of those (like China) whom we routinely despise as foreign and inferior. You can find their original forms here to see if I’ve got them right.    

 Jonah 3: 1-5, 10
 The reluctant prophet Jonah
 Braved Nineveh’s
 Hostile urban jungle
 To announce Yahweh’s
 Urgent call
 For Israel’s Great Enemy
 To change its entire
 Unjust system.
 To the patriotic prophet’s
 Great chagrin
 The enemy listened
 Changed completely
 And transformed
 Its destructive way
 In just 40 days!

 Psalm 25: 4-9
 So, Great Mother-Father
 Teach us the way
 Of the Ninevites.
 For the enemy’s
 Path of justice
 Humility, love
 Kindness, good
 Truth and compassion
 Is your way too.

 I Corinthians 7: 29-31
 Our time for such willing
 Social transformation
 Is quickly running out.
 Choosing it
 Is more important
 Than sex,
 Our little trials
 And triumphs
 Our trinkets
 And work.
 But actually,
 Our Great Father-Mother’s
 Drastically New World
 Is inevitable.

 Mark 1: 14-20
 Yeshua recognized
 That inevitability
 After conservative forces
 Arrested his mentor,
 The Great prophet,
 John the Baptist.
 Ordinary workers
 With simple names like
 Simon, Andrew,
 James and John
 Saw it too.
 So, they left everything:
 Work and companions
 Father and mother,
 Wives and lovers
 To join Yeshua’s
 Working class movement
 For the sake of
 Good News
 To laborers like themselves
 About the Great Mother-Father’s
 In-breaking New Order. 

Conclusion

Like Yahweh in the days of Jonah and Jesus centuries later, the Spirit of Life today is calling us in so many ways to repent and imitate the equivalents of Jonah’s Ninevites. Like Paul in Corinth, the Great Mother-Father tells us that the time is short. Climate chaos itself underlines that urgent message. Our task is more important than anything our culture presents as essential.

China’s example of repentance, its departure from capitalism-as-we-know-it, its construction of an economy based above all on meeting the needs of its huge population represents a path forward – if not for imitation, for inspiration and instruction.

It tells us that we must reorient away from profits and wealth for the few towards the creation of a society with room for everyone and abundance for all – just what the working man, Yeshua, demonstrated in his choice of working-class people to introduce the Kingdom’s new heaven and new earth.   

We’re called today to listen to the prophets of such unconventional wisdom rather than to Pompeo and Blinken’s misdirection.