Protesters outside the G20 in Pittsburgh
demanding fundamental change.
Consider these quotes:
“The great and chief end…of men’s uniting into commonwealths and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.”~ John Locke, 1689
“But as the necessity of civil government gradually grows up with the acquisition of valuable property, so the principal causes which naturally introduce subordination gradually grow up with the growth of that valuable property.”~ Adam Smith, 1776
“Till there be property there can be no government, the very end of which is to secure wealth, and to defend the rich from the poor.”~ Adam Smith, 1776
Pittsburgh police, defending the rich
from the poor at the G20.
If you didn’t know who wrote these words you might think they were from the pen of Karl Marx. Interesting. More substantive than economic systems and their ideologies (and their debates) is the concentration of power and its supporting hegemonies. In other words its all about who inherits the earth and how they keep it. Little do they know…
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. ”~ Jesus, c. 30
The gentle, or meek, have a different relationship to property and wealth than those who climb over others to make the world their own. It is not that they do not want the world, it is that they recognize having the world for their own is not worth being the kind of person who has no interest in loving others as their primary motivation. To love the world is to give up loving people. It is not a good trade – no matter how free the market. Gaining the world is not worth a lousy character, and no amount of economic ideology can convince otherwise.
Questions of character are always personal, but what about our institutions of power? We live in a world that places a kind of sacred halo around the idea of private property. We know that the Declaration of Independence almost contained the phrase “life, liberty and the protection of property.” I don’t want anyone to take my home away from me, but I have to think that the ownership of property and all its attendant rights (real or perceived) only gets understood as sacred in a world that has turned its back on truth. The irony is not merely that to gain the whole world is to lose one’s soul, but also to gain one’s soul is to gain the world.
There is that old adage that all governments lie. It is just as true that governments, first and foremost, exist to protect the haves and the things they own. Only secondarily, and usually through great struggle, are benefits secured for the have-nots.
I stand, in spirit, with the protesters who call for change and accountability from our governments and the captains of industry. I stand against the obvious seeking of power and influence for selfish ends. I stand against clearcutting forests and mountain top removal mining, and against the pollution of our air and water, and against insurance companies managing our healthcare, and subsidies to weapons manufacturers and to farmers of vast genetically modified monocultures. And I stand against the use of violence to solve problems, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The list can go on and on.) On the other hand, I cannot demand that those in power give up the world, as it were, so that I might have it instead. Though my power and influence is small, I am not morally superior than they. Rather, they must give up the world because it does not belong to them.
One thought on “Who inherits the earth?”
You wrote that policemen, being human, damage their souls when being abusive… My personal experience on the receiving end of group beat-downs (pretty much what the police do – they don’t fight one to one,
they gang up on one person, beat them to putty, and move on to the next) is that in any group, there is at least one sadistic person who becomes the ring-leader. Thus, policemen aren’t necessarily undergoing an internal dichotomy when faced with crowd control / protest control. I think that many of them (people who voluntarily take jobs as weapons-carriers in a mostly non-weapon-carrying society) become police specifically to give themselves an excuse to bully and beat other people. Generally, police outnumber their victims. During political protests, they are outnumbered, and thus angry: One of the few times they could actually ALL be beaten to death… a bully realizing that they make actually be made to pay for the “crime” of putting the hegemonie’s blue target on their back.