Using shame to rob us of our rights
We are always being taught that it is noble to sacrifice oneself. When goods are unequally distributed, I can see the point of telling those who have the most to share with those who have the least. Of course, those being asked to share would protest that they have the most because they earned it or won it. That’s the way conservatives think and that’s why they favor policies that enable the rich to keep what they have. I can sympathize with that point of view. If I have something, I don’t want to give it up. Of course, that doesn’t preclude generosity. But one is generous to a point where he can spare something and still have most of what he wants to keep. And true generosity is in line with one’s desires. So acting on a generous impulse gives one pleasure so it’s not a sacrifice.
Many have-nots on the Left believe they have been unjustly shortchanged and they work politically to take their share from those who have too much (in their judgment). We live in a democracy (of sorts) and, since the have-nots and have-lesses outnumber the haves, the latter are in danger of the have-nots voting to confiscate their goods. To prevent that from happening, the rich have set up think tanks which have successfully spread ideas that stopped the have-nots from using their political power to equal the distribution of wealth. Russia had a Communist revolution which the opinion molders of the West lost no time in demonizing. “Communism” and even “socialism” have become dirty words, especially in the United States.
Economic inequality causes some very real suffering and hardship among the poor. During the Great Depression, Communism was looked at favorably by greater numbers of Americans. While there was a real possibility of revolution, President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt instituted his New Deal which softened many of the hard edges of Capitalism. It allowed people to retire when they got old and live a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. Unemployment Insurance gave workers a soft cushion to land on when tossed out of their jobs. The idea that government could make the lives of the struggling working class easier using tax money was accepted as reasonable by all except the rich and those ideologically committed to “free enterprise” capitalism.
Ronald Reagan’s presidency was a turning point in ideological trends. The US has been moving to the Right ever since the Reign of Ronald the Terrible. An article called Fire From Below: Advice for Activism in the Trump Era From Bill Ayers explained these changes in detail. But that’s not really what this article is about. Fire From Below describes how unions had to give back a lot of benefits their workers had won when changing circumstances took away the unions’ bargaining power. The Right is on the march, trying to reverse as much of the New Deal as possible. One of their problems is that lots of their own base are enjoying benefits of the New Deal and have no desire to give them up.
Here’s the real subject of this post. Mainstream morality has a belief in the “virtue” of selflessness. What’s wrong with this value? While a small number of people achieve enlightenment, a state that transcends the ego, to most of us the self and the ego are one. A truly egoless person identifies with the entire universe. This removes the idea that we are limited to our selves. We are everything. So what happens to us as individuals isn’t important. To be in that state of consciousness feels blissful, sustaining it long-term can be difficult. Spiritual ego results when someone experiences that ego-less state and then returns to normal but still thinks he is enlightened. The ego is cunning. It takes credit for the spiritual high one has achieved and claims to be that state. Everyone on a spiritual path is aware of spiritual ego as a snare to watch out for as one evolves. I wouldn’t know but I have a theory that as one reaches higher states of consciousness, spiritual pride becomes more subtle and harder to detect. I think the highest souls give up on trying to “be” spiritual and just carry on with their lives. As Baba Ram Dass said, “chopping wood and carrying water.”
For the vast majority of us who have not transcended the ego, at least not in any sustainable way, each one of us is a self, ourself. To be self-less is to be at odds with one’s very self. A house divided against itself cannot stand. That statement is usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln but it was originally made by none other than Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel of Mark 3:25, Jesus states, “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”, in response to the scribes’ claim that “by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.”
Jesus is all about agape love, the purest empathy, identifying oneself with the Other. That is a state of consciousness akin to the eastern ego-less enlightenment. Most of us raised in a Christian society, even those whose parents aren’t Christian, are taught that selflessness is a superior way of being. That value is forced on us as children whether we like it or not. Most professing “Christians” are far from real selflessness while preaching it. That’s kind of like the spiritual ego of those who think they are in an “ideal” state of mind but are really just themselves. Not being a Christian, I’m not overly concerned with this apparent contradiction. As a psychopath, I have a gut-level antipathy to the very idea of selflessness. I am my own greatest advocate. If I’m not for myself, how can I expect anyone else to be for me? I have had to fight the pressure to bow to selflessness all my life.
Giving up one’s own possessions or advantages is a value that has been pushed down our throats from an early age. Children are made to share. Sharing can have value, of course, when all parties have something to gain. If I have a toy train and you have a set of toy tracks, sharing is a natural. We can have a lot more fun putting our toys together for a better game. But parents often don’t wait until a child sees the advantage of sharing. The kid is just supposed to let other children put their hands all over his things whether he wants to or not. Joan Crawford took it to a ridiculous extreme. Her adopted daughter, Christine, was showered with birthday gifts. But she was forced to give away all but one present. Mommie Dearest was apparently unaware of how married she was to her own ego while trying to force her child to prostrate her own ego.
While we normally think of selflessness as an ideal of the Left, this depraved “ideal” is now being used by the Right as an excuse to take benefits people have won through political struggle. The latest is trying to guilt-trip Boomers into “sacrificing” for Millennials by giving up our Social Security. Ageism makes it easy to hate Boomers. Cartoons depict us as ugly and ungainly while young people whom we’re exploiting are beautiful. Before we had Social Security, the elderly who were not independently wealthy has wretched lives or were dependent on their adult children. The Right is trying to persuade us that we must return to those days as an act of virtue and as an economic necessity. The fact of the matter is that there is no real economic need to deprive any generation of a life with dignity. The 1% want us to battle among ourselves instead of stop the constant suction of all wealth from the 99%. Occupy Wall Street did a great thing by making the 1% more visible. Instead of seeing another generation (or race) as the group that threatens to take our resources (or to which we must give up our resources), we need to see who is really consuming the lion’s share of what we need to sustain life on earth. This isn’t supposed to be a political blog and the political-economic arguments about this are stated in other posts which I’ll link to below.
This blog post is concerned with the moral aspects of the way people are being shamed into sacrificing ourselves foolishly.
- The Social Darwinism of Ayn Rand. My Soapbox
- A Modest Proposal. The Euthanasia of the Poor
- Self-Esteem or Sacrifice. The People’s Temple through Two People’s Eyes
- Libertarianism and Psychopathy.