Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Christmas Eve 2015

A friend writes to me:

I understand--I really do understand--the sentiment which says that a political discussion can be dangerous, can lead to blows, or almost a mini-civil war.  And, I suppose that's true especially in such a situation as when you are in Northern Ireland and talking about the presence of British troops....or in Greece perhaps after the Civil War there, or in countless other situations.... 

But the USA in 2015 wasn't yet Belfast or Athens--even if the growing social and economic inequality is a wild beast waiting to escape from its cage.

In any case, I cannot accept or tolerate my sister's behavior.  She literally screamed at me, at the top of her lungs, and with fury and rage in her voice: "No! No! No!"--when I merely attempted to enunciate the following propositions:

1.  The Financial Crisis in the USA has harmed most people in the country, but those who caused it and benefited from the system have now recovered their losses, and acquired new profits.

2.  Economists did predict the crisis:  Michael Hudson and Steven Keen to name two.  (My authority for that is an Economics blog where Economists voted.)

3.  It is very unfair to suggest that "we" are all "greedy" as if all of us were to blame, as if all of us equally benefited from the economic system.  When an aging person wants a decent retirement, they merely want a civilized or non-poor level of living, not luxury.  When a Wall Street Hedge Fund manager seeks profits, he is not after a decent standard of living, but a luxurious one.  The truly rich own yachts and private airplanes, own companies (and freely fire the rest of us) and buy politicians.  It's not right to compare the aging pensioner or would-be pensioner to the wealthy and their servants.

There is a further oddity about (3).  My very own mother was accused by my sister of being greedy.
Yet, my mother, as a defenseless widow, merely seeks a decent life--not a luxurious one.

All in all, it was  a very sad evening.  My sister's performance was shocking.  She went on to engage in the most ruthless and factually inaccurate ad hominem.  And, here too, there are cruel ironies.

My sister's behavior suggests that her idea of "winning"  (sic) an argument consists in shouting loudly, insulting your opponent, and destroying their character with whatever slander comes to mind.

But the irony is this:  My sister complained that it was disgusting to have her Christmas Eve spoiled by an "atheist"--and she uttered that word with venom, contempt, loathing.  Oddly enough, it was not a visit to the Church that had been interrupted by a political discussion. Moreover, my sister is officially a member of the Roman Catholic faith.  Yet, the atheist's views (for the author of these words does indeed not believe that God exists) were much like those of the current Pope.

For the Pope himself has said that while greed is natural, that's no excuse; and we should oppose it.  Moreover, greed, he suggested, leads to the poverty of children and wars.

So, the evil atheist had, on Christmas Eve, been defending a view very much like the Roman Catholic Pope.  And the atheist was viciously attacked by a follower of the Pope.  Curious and ironic that...

I myself can think of nothing to add to my friend's story. However, it does remind me Yanis Varoufakis's reaction to the brick wall of deafness he met at the meetings of the EuroGroup.....

I suppose that someone might say that our ideal of free discussion and debate is often a mere formality or an excuse to prop up a sour system.  I suppose that it often is.  Yet, when I hear a story like this one, I do think that it should be possible to have a discussion with different points of view, without censorship.  I can't see why that should be so difficult. 


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