Readings for 5th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 6: 1-7; PS 33: 1-2, 4-5, 18-19; I PT 2: 4-9; JN 14: 1-12.
This will be a quick “homily” this week — largely to share with you the difference between China and the United States in terms of housing and feeding the hungry.
The point is to show that China’s system is superior to that of the United States relative to concerns of Jesus and the early church as described in today’s readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. (That’s why I embedded the above video about lack of homelessness in China.) In fact, care of the poor, hungry, and homeless has been a recurring theme in our Sunday liturgies of the word since Easter.
Previously we saw that the early Christians practiced a kind of “communism with Christian characteristics.” Remember that? I mean, we’re told that the Christians eliminated poverty in their communities by sharing their goods and property “from each according to their ability to each according to their need” (ACTS 2: 44-45 and 4: 32-35).
China, we saw, is doing something similar and as a result (unlike capitalist economies) it’s succeeded in eliminating extreme poverty for more than 700 million people. That’s unprecedented – and dare I say it, very Christian.
Today’s readings emphasize once again the importance Jesus’ early followers gave to feeding the hungry — specifically, the children of single moms. But the selections also emphasize the Christian ideal of providing decent (and even luxurious) homes for everyone. According to today’s pericope from the Gospel of John, everyone deserves a mansion.
Such provision, the readings tell us, is based on the direct example of Jesus, who, we’re reminded, is the very image of God. Or as John the Evangelist has Jesus say, “I and the Father are one. Whoever has seen me has seen the father.”
Traditionally, those words have been taken to mean simply that “Jesus is God.”
But I’d venture to say that that’s not the most accurate way of putting it. I mean, more penetrating reflection shows that it seems more consonant with Jesus’ words not to say that “Jesus is God,” but rather that “God is Jesus.”
What’s the difference?
Well, it goes like this. . .. Saying that Jesus is God presumes that we all know who God is. However, we don’t.
Oh, we can speculate. And theologians and philosophers throughout the world have done so interminably. Think of the Greeks and their descriptions of God as a Supreme Being who is all-knowing, omnipotent, and perfect. Such thinking applied to Jesus leads to a concept of him that is totally abstract and removed from life as we live it from day to day. The God in question is well removed from the problems of hunger and homelessness addressed in today’s readings.
Those selections do not say that Jesus is God, but that God is Jesus. It’s not that in thinking about God one understands Jesus. It is that in seeing Jesus, one understands God. Jesus says, “He who sees me, sees the Father.”
To repeat: the distinction is important because it literally brings us (and God) down to earth. It means that Jesus embodies God – inserts God into a human physique that we all can see and touch and be touched by.
If we take that revelation seriously, our gaze is directed away from “heaven,” away from churches, synagogues, and mosques. Our focus instead becomes a God found on the street where Jesus lived among the imperialized, and the despised – the decidedly imperfect. In Jesus, we find God revealed in the offspring of an unwed teenage mother, among the homeless and immigrants (as Jesus was in Egypt), among Jesus’ friends, the prostitutes, and untouchables, and on death row with the tortured and victims of capital punishment. That’s the God revealed in the person of Jesus. He is poor and despised, an opponent of organized religion and imperial authority.
Following the way and truth of that Jesus leads to the fullness of life.
Take, for instance, today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. It shows us a faith community focused on providing food for those single moms and their children. The first Christians worship a God who (as today’s responsorial puts it) is merciful before all else. That God, like Jesus, is trustworthy, kind, and committed to justice.
So, we sang our response, “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” In doing so, our thoughts should have been directed towards the corporal works of mercy which the church has hallowed through the ages. Do you remember them? Feed the hungry, they tell us; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; visit the sick and imprisoned, bury the dead, and shelter the homeless.
In fact, providing shelter – homes for the homeless – was so central for early Christians that it became a fundamental metaphor for the human relationship to God. So, today’s reading from First Peter describes the early community as a single house whose cornerstone is Jesus himself.
Then in today’s gospel, John refers to Jesus’ Father as the one who provides a vast dwelling with many luxurious apartments. You can imagine how such images spoke to impoverished early Christians who would have been out on the street without the sharing of homes that was so important to early church life.
So don’t be fooled by the upside-down version of Christianity that somehow identifies our land with its homelessness, hunger, and widespread poverty as somehow Godlier that China, where extreme poverty and homelessness have been eliminated.
Rather, remember that God is Jesus. God is the one reflected in the lives and needs of the poor, the ill, and despised. With Jesus, the emphasis is on this world – on eating together, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, on elimination of poverty, and sharing all things in common. That was Jesus authentic Way – the one followed so faithfully by the early church focused on God’s mercy and the merciful acts it inspires. It should be our Way as well.
So, look at the video above with the example of Jesus and the early church in mind. Notice the contrast (in the video itself) between China’s approach to poverty and homelessness and the laissez faire (i.e., unchristian) approach we have in this country.
Then reflect on the need for (Christian) revolution here in the United States. China shows it’s possible.
Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2, 14, 22-33; PSALM 16:1-11; 1 PETER 1: 17-21; LUKE 24: 13-25
Our celebration of the resurrection myth, and of Life’s unlimited powers and possibilities continues for a third week. It invites thoughtful people to scan the list of contemporary events to identify where resurrection might be happening – where death is being defeated by Life’s overwhelming force.
With that in mind, today’s readings for this Third Sunday of the Resurrection suggest that we embrace resurrection as an unexpected new world order arising unperceived before our very eyes.
Could it be that it is surfacing at the hands of Russia, China., and other BRICS Plus nations?
That emerging order can remind attentive truth seekers that movement towards the entirely new and seemingly “impossible” arrangement that Yeshua referred to as the Kingdom of God is not only possible, but necessary. It’s required to draw our species back from the brink of annihilation habitually fostered by a necrophilic United States with its cult of bombing, sanctions, and threats of total annihilation.
Though it might be hard to endure, please let me show you what I mean.
U.S. As Enemy of Humankind
To begin with, resurrection calls us to face death. And in the context, I’m suggesting, we must face the fact that the entity most responsible for plunging the world towards omnicide is our own country.
The Sandinista hymn of the 1980s expressed that clearly when it denounced Yankee imperialism as the “enemy of humankind.”
With that shocking phrase, the Sandinistas were only echoing what in 1967 Martin Luther King had said about the U.S. when he identified it (not the Russians or the Chinese) as the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence.”
Even closer to our own time is Vijay Prashad’s description of NATO (of course headed by the United States) as the “machine that destroys humanity.”
Careful thought makes it difficult to deny the truth of such denunciations:
“We” are the most belligerent country in the world maintaining about 750 military bases across the planet – about 3 times as many as all other countries combined.
“Our” war budget is similarly unprecedented, outlandish, and grossly inflated to more than $2 billion per day.
“We” are the ones responsible for wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine, and who know where else?
Besides all of that and on an unprecedented scale, “we” have intervened militarily and wantonly changed regimes across the planet for more than a century, especially where the regimes in question have tried to improve the lives of ordinary people rather than the bottom lines of American corporations.
“Our” country is the only one that has ever actually used nuclear weapons and has repeatedly and unilaterally opted out of arms control agreements.
With just 4.6% of the world’s population, the United States aspires to control countries like Russia, China, India, and the whole continent of Africa whose populations (not counting the rest of the Global South) total more than half the world’s inhabitants.
“America” is historically the world’s greatest polluter and is even responsible in large measure for environmental degradation in the Global South (including China), where U.S. corporations have largely relocated for the last forty years.
In summary, the U.S. has worked hard to ensure that it possesses the same control of the world that Hitler coveted for capitalist Germany.
Accordingly, it is easy to see how victims of such policies might well see the U.S. as the greatest purveyor of violence, as the enemy of humankind, and as heading a belligerent organization well characterized as the machine that destroys humanity.
Such stark realizations no doubt weigh heavy on the minds of once-proud “Americans” – if they even let them in. We might be like the two disciples in today’s Gospel reading. Like Americans with the historical consciousness just rehearsed, the two were sad and discouraged. For them, all seemed lost. They could think and talk of nothing else but their disappointment about Yeshua’s crucifixion and their frustrated hopes and convictions that he was the messiah their people had hoped would liberate them from Rome’s oppression.
But then amid their sad commiserations, the risen Yeshua somehow joins them. Improbably, the two men don’t recognize him. So, they recount the tale of their dashed hopes for the stranger’s benefit.
But then by breaking bread with them, Yeshua gets his friends to see the truth of what I said earlier – that death must precede resurrection. The old must die, he says, before the ultimately new can arise. Death and resurrection manifested in bread sharing are part of Life’s process – part of the divine “prophetic script.”
For us, and according to that blueprint, death of “America’s” preeminence must precede the New Life our world absolutely requires.
Hope from Russia & China
Still, prophetic script or not, if you’re like me, you remain discouraged by the awful realization of what our country has become. But where’s the resurrection hope to be found?
Strange to say, I see it in two great movements taking place before our eyes – one that’s violent with Russia as its protagonist, the other that’s non-violent and headed by China.
“What?” you might object. How can Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have anything to do with resurrection? The same might be asked about China and its authoritarianism we’ve heard so much about.
Though we might not be able to see the Ukraine War as “resurrectional” (Let me coin that word!) – as changing the world for the better, our brothers and sisters in the Global South can. That’s especially true if they adopt liberation theology’s understanding of “violence.”
You see, according to Global South church leaders like archbishops Dom Helder Camara and El Salvador’s St. Oscar Romero, all violence is not the same. Much of it isn’t even recognized as such. And a great deal of what we do denounce as violence is justified self-defense. For instance, most don’t even recognize international sanctions as violent. But they are. They kill hundreds of thousands.
Neither do mainstream commentators see regime change policies and coups as violence. But they are, especially when regimes that would prevent starvation are replaced by business-friendly governments concerned only with corporate profits.
According to this kind of analysis, Russia’s action in Ukraine is justified self-defense. It’s defense against a U.S.-led NATO’s attempts (since 1990) to reduce Russia to the vassal-like status of the west’s traditional colonies.
It’s no stretch to say that Russia’s resounding “NO” to NATO represents what most Global South countries would choose to shout at NATO if they had Russia’s military might. Arguably, that’s why so many from what we used to call the Third World refuse to condemn Putin or Moscow.
As for China’s non-violent movement towards the “other world” required by our times. . .. It’s enough to point out that China hasn’t bombed anyone in more than 40 years. Instead of dropping bombs on the poor, in effect its Belt and Road Initiative drops schools, roads, ports, high speed railroads, and other infrastructure on them. Like the risen Christ, it “breaks bread” as a sign of God’s presence. It has eliminated extreme poverty for almost one billion of the world’s starving. No wonder Latin America, Africa, and South Asia embrace Beijing and reject DC.
Let me hasten to conclude that I’d be among the first to admit that any war, self-defensive or not, can only be justified as a last resort. And it should justifiably shock anyone to find an alleged follower of the risen Christ lending anything like approval to armed conflict.
But then, it’s also true that most would-be Christians (me included) are emphatically not pacifists. Are you? They (we) fight wars against fellow Christians all the time – as exemplified in Ukraine itself.
However, in attempting to justify violence, one must ask several crucial questions as explained in today’s Sunday reflection. We must ask what kind of violence are we talking about?
Is it largely unperceived structural violence like that embodied in NATO, the machine that destroys humanity?
Is it the violence of self-defense as seems the case in Russia’s refusal (on behalf of the world habitually bullied by the U.S.) to submit to humiliating and suicidal surrender to the 4% attempting to impose its will on everyone else?
Is it the reactionary violence of that 4% to the second level of violence (expressed e.g., by the U.S. arming and advising Ukrainian proxies) to punish Russia’s “NO”?
Or is it the violence of state terrorism represented by all those wars and policies of regime change implemented on weaker (mostly non-white) nations over decades upon decades by the United States?
Of these, only the second level of violence can (reluctantly) be justified in any way.
Ironically, however, the other three are routinely accepted (even by people of faith). Meanwhile, the second level is usually vilified as somehow violating imperialism’s sacrosanct “rules-based order.”
The suggestion here has been that recognizing and accepting the distinctions just explained have something basic to do with resurrection. So does “breaking bread” with the hungry as a sign of resurrection and God’s presence. It’s all about the experience of death to old necrophilic practices and beliefs while recognizing newness of life and new world orders as unlikely manifestations of the risen Christ.
Readings for the Second Sunday of Easter: Acts 2: 42-47; Psalm 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24; First Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31
Today’s rich reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles shows how China’s socialist policies – relentlessly vilified by our political leaders, educators, mass media, and churches – are far more in accord with the spirit of Yeshua and the early church than the corresponding policies of the United States.
That shocking fact is born out by the results of measures that China has for decades identified with its drive towards “Common Prosperity.” Even since the time of Mao Zedong, the campaign’s goal has been to narrow the wealth gap between the country’s rich and poor.
And in a very short time, China has advanced towards its goal far beyond what Americans have been led to understand. That is while hunger, tent cities, ineffective schools, deteriorating infrastructure, and large population swaths without health care proliferate among us, things are quickly moving in the opposite direction under the aegis of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Think, for instance, of the CCP’s verified announcement (vastly underreported in the United States) that it has virtually eliminated extreme poverty for over 800 million of its people. No wonder that according to surveys sponsored by U.S. pollsters, the Chinese government boasts approval ratings of nearly 90% of its people.
One might think that such unprecedented accomplishments and support would be widely celebrated across the planet. You’d think that it would be taken as a sign that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is superior to neoliberalism’s laissez-faire system.
However, China’s success is not even widely acknowledged or celebrated among Christians who (judging by the reading from Acts just referenced) would embrace such accomplishment as a sign of progress towards the North Star Yeshua proclaimed as the “Kingdom of God.” You’d think they’d embrace it because the early Christians practiced what might be called “communism with Christian characteristics.”
Let me show you what I mean. Take that reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
Think about what we read there – a description of life among Jesus’ first followers after the experience they called his “resurrection”:
“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.”
Luke the evangelist repeats that refrain later in the same source when he writes: “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to any as had need.” (Acts 4:32-36).
There you have it. The early Christians:
* Lived communally * Rejected private property * Including land and houses * Instead held everything in common * Pooling all their resources * And distributing them “from each according to ability to each according to need.” * As a result, they eliminated poverty from their midst.
Did you catch the operative words: they divided their property “among all according to each one’s needs?” As Mexican biblical scholar Jose Miranda points out in his Communism in the Bible, those are the words of the Bible not of Marx or Engels. In other words, the formula “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” comes straight from the Acts of the Apostles. They have nothing to do with atheism. On the contrary, they have everything to do with faith.
They have everything to do with following Jesus who himself might be called a communist. He’s the one who said, “Every one of you who does not renounce all he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:3).
Jesus, not Marx, is the one who set concern for those in need as the final criterion for judging the authenticity of one’s life. He said, “I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink, was a stranger and you took me in, was stripped naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me, imprisoned and you came to see me” (MT 25: 35-36). Everything, Jesus insists, depends on recognizing his presence in the poor and oppressed and responding accordingly.
Of course, it’s often pointed out that the Christian experiment in communism was short-lived. Jesus’ followers soon backed off from their early idealism. That observation is supposed to invalidate their communistic lifestyle as impossibly utopian and therefore no longer applicable as Christians’ guiding North Star. In fact, this objection is taken as justifying the persecution of the communism the text idealizes and recommends!
But the same argument, of course, would apply to the Ten Commandments in general or to the Sermon on the Mount – or to the U.S. Constitution for that matter. In our day (and in the course of their histories) all those statements of ideals have only sporadically been lived out in practice. Should we then throw them all out? Should we persecute those espousing the Sermon on the Mount ideals or observance, for instance, of the Fourth Amendment? Few in the Christian community or in the U.S. political world would make that argument.
Others anxious to distance themselves from the communistic ideals of early Christianity would point out that the communal life adopted by Jesus’ first followers was voluntary not imposed from above. In doing so, they point to another passage in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. That’s the one involving Ananias and Saphira – a couple whose life is exacted for claiming to have sold their property while keeping some of it back for themselves.
Referring to their property, Peter says to Ananias, “Was it not still yours if you kept it, and once you sold it was it not yours to dispose of?” (Acts 5:4) But (again as Miranda points out) what was optional was not selling their property – Christianity’s indispensable condition. What was optional was the choice to become a disciple of Christ. Choosing the latter option required practicing communism!
As for economic systems imposed from above. . .. Can you name one that isn’t?
How many of us have really chosen to live under capitalism? The answer is that none of us have. That’s because to make an informed choice, one must know the alternative. However, our families, schools, churches and civic organizations, our films and novels and news programs mostly conspire to vilify alternatives and keep them hidden.
Besides that, our government and military have made sure that experiments in alternatives (like the one implemented in China) are consistently portrayed as failures – lest their “bad example” undermine capitalist claims to be the only viable system.
Even worse, our church leaders (who should know better) jump on the anti-communist band wagon and present Jesus as a champion of a system he would despise. Church people speak and act as if Luke’s passage from Acts had read:
“Now the whole group of those who believed lived in fierce competition with one another and made sure that the rights of private property were respected. They expelled from their midst any who practiced communalism. Consequently, God’s ‘invisible hand’ brought great prosperity to some. Many however found themselves in need. The Christians responded with ‘tough love’ demanding that the lazy either work or starve. Many of the unfit, especially the children, the elderly and those who cared for them did in fact starve. Others however raised themselves by their own bootstraps and became stronger as a result. In this way, the industrious increased their land holdings and banked the profits. The rich got richer and the poor, poorer. Of course, all of this was seen as God’s will and a positive response to the teaching of Jesus.”
When are we going to stop this bastardization of Christianity?
The emphatic answer should be RIGHT NOW – beginning today on this Second Sunday of Easter!
To do so, we must before all else face it: Jesus’ followers practiced “communism with Christian characteristics!” Yes, they did!
Then as followers of Yeshua the Christ, we should:
* Read Jose Miranda’s manifesto, Communism in the Bible. * If we can’t bring ourselves to sell what we have, give it to the poor, and live communally, at least conspire with like-minded people to share tools, automobiles, gardens – and perhaps even jobs and homes in an effort to reduce poverty and our planetary footprints. * “Out” the “devout Catholic,” Joe Biden and other “Christians” in our government whose budgets attempt to balance federal accounts by increasing the ranks of the poor whose poverty the communism of the early Christian community (and of contemporary China) successfully eliminated. * Pressure our government to get off China’s back and allow it to experiment in prophetic ways of living that can save our planet. * I’m sure you can add to this list.
This week, Joe Biden summoned 49 African presidents to D.C. for an international conference.
In doing so, the administration offered assurances (through National Security spokesperson, Jake Sullivan) that in contrast to previous gatherings, it would not scold or lecture Africa’s leaders about not obeying U.S. demands, e.g., in the United Nations. (There, by the way, just recently African leaders had to endure something like a schoolboy’s dressing-down when many abstained from supporting American resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.)
Rather, Sullivan claimed that this time the purpose of the conference would be to listen respectfully to the leaders in question and to help them work out solutions to the continent’s problems on their own terms. Participants would be treated, Sullivan pledged, with respect and as equals.
The reason for the change in attitude? It’s that the United States finds itself currently locked in mortal competition for global influence with its chief rival, China. And, of course, that includes Africa.
There, the U.S. seeks not just access to the continent’s vast mineral and other resources, but also to Africa’s strategic geographical position and its market of over 1 billion consumers. The United States also wants to prevent spread of Chinese influence into what it and its European partners continue to understand as their inviolable post-colonial domain. For those reasons, it’s important to enter into agreements with nations such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with South Africa, Libya, Egypt, and Kenya.
But if that’s its goal, the United States has a problem that renders it virtually incapable of competition with China in Africa – or anywhere else for that matter.
I’m referring to U.S. ideology and its history.
As the world’s chief proponent of economic neoliberalism, the ideology of the United States makes it all but constitutionally unwilling to accommodate anything that smacks of socialism.
Relatedly, the U.S. track record shows that wherever there’s a whiff of leftist state ownership, market control, or increased taxes on the elite, Americans will predictably apply sanctions, engage in regime change, or even assassinate, or invade. Think of Egypt’s coup that stopped the Arab spring in its tracks. Think of Ghaddafi’s ignominious fate and of Mrs. Clinton’s epitaph on his behalf, “We came, we saw, he died. Ha, ha!”
All of Africa – all the Global South – remembers such disgraceful interference with their national aspirations.
On the other hand, the People’s Republic of China is hampered by no such limitations. After all, it is run by a party that calls itself “communist.” That party describes its own economy as “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Its mixed economy has a huge section owned and controlled by the government. Its private sector is tightly regulated. China therefore has no quarrel with public ownership, market regulation, or with taxing the rich. It loves socialism.
Additionally, China’s track record has it freely cooperating with neo-liberal regimes, with despot kingdoms, and with other states aspiring to socialism. Compared with similar arrangements with the United States, China’s loan contracts, Belt-and-Road projects, and other agreements generally come with far fewer if any strings attached.
So, if an African country wants to follow China’s suit of socialism, its leaders will not have to fear sanctions or regime change, much less assassination or invasion from its international economic partner.
To repeat: that’s not the case in dealing with the United States. And that’s why the latter will never triumph in its Global South competition with China!
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.
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.
In the light of what I’ve just shared, is 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
He further imagines that such terms have the same meanings for Chinese as they do for Americans.
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
Today, we have reached Lesson Nine in A Course in Miracles’ Workbook 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.