Swans Commentary » swans.com July 13, 2009  



The Dreaded S Word


by Charles Marowitz





(Swans - July 13, 2009)   If the culprits who committed acts of torture and violations of both the Geneva Convention and the Constitution are to be rooted out through congressional investigations so that justice can be served, why shouldn't the Wall Street traders and those responsible for the criminal actions on the stock market be forced into the open as well? When there has been wrongdoing in the military and we agitate for full disclosure to indict the wrongdoers, why should we not just as fiercely investigate the bankers, brokers, and traders whose collective greed and underhanded actions caused the miseries of the present Great Recession? In both cases, we will never feel morally cleansed unless wrongdoing is thoroughly exposed and wrongdoers publicly prosecuted.

In our present state, we are suffering the consequences of crimes in which virtually no effort is being made to rout out the criminal instigators. Is this because top-flight, well-heeled, Wall Street movers-and-shakers are in some way immune from prosecution? In some way, not to be classed as criminals because they are involved in activities where the criminality is rooted into the established system and therefore cannot be assailed as criminal acts?

The assumption appears to be that the "system" went wrong, not the people who were consciously working it to their own advantage. But all efforts to fix the system without indicting the people who consciously manipulated it for their own ends creates a kind of tacit tolerance of larceny and blurs the lines that separate criminality from "normal business practices." Are we not reaching that point where we have to admit there has been a systemic failure that has produced a slew of wrongdoers, and that systemic failure is embedded in the matrix of capitalism?

It is curious the way the term "socialism" has generated the worst kind of opprobrium in the present turmoil. It is alleged that the worst thing that Americans can do in the present circumstances is resort to socialist practices like the government bailing out the banks, acquiring a large controlling interest in failed corporations and stopping the divine flux of an unregulated Free Market. And yet, virtually every meaningful intervention being made in this crisis smacks of the kind of governmental control that we historically associate with socialism.

The hysterical response to this trend is understandable. If "socialism" can be applied in order to "bail out" organizations that have been brought down by heinous acts of capitalism, doesn't that suggest that there might be virtues in the tolerated system towards which the government is inclining? It is too horrific a word -- socialism -- not to scare away all those people who have benefited from the criminality of capitalism; but if its precepts are consciously applied, does that not suggest that there may be a practical alternative to the failed system that takes for granted "booms and busts" and has now experienced the most lethal "boom" and the most harrowing "bust" in recent history?

Are we not reaching the point at which a new system has to be considered, rather than the footling patchwork being applied to rescue one that consistently fails? No, we mustn't call it socialism or too many people will have instantaneous heart attacks and the Republic will wither in violence and mass bloodletting. So let us call it "revised democratic procedures" or "governmental assistance measures," but let us at the same time acknowledge that many of those salvationary features stem from an alternative notion of government that may just provide the key to genuine rescue for a mess, which, if one takes the broad view, has been with us since the nation was first created. If we instinctively incline towards a therapy that is actually helping the patient, does that not suggest we have to discard failed procedures such as "bleeding" or praying for supernatural assistance from mythical powers above?

This is a period in which the evils of capitalism are too large to be ignored -- or justified in accordance with convenient clichés about The American Dream and the virtues of democratic rule. The disturbing facts are we have been hammered by the freedoms that we have been led to believe are our saving graces. Almost every day we are obliged to rationalize the frauds, deceptions, and flagrant corruption of people who have pledged their allegiance to the tenets of what we call the American Way of Life. It has brought us misery, poverty, massive unemployment, and the realization that the shibboleths of democracy are rooted in fraud; that we are at the mercy of suave manipulators who engineer deceptions to rob us of our savings and uproot us from our homes. In any small-scale Latin American country this would cause riots and national chaos. Here it merely adds misery to apathy. If our legislators were as clever as our computer technicians, we would have found a way out of this morass but as it is, we mope, struggle, and pray for deliverance from politicians who, despite their partisan differences, belong to the same mindset and jointly place obstacles against measures that might relieve the pain.

If a flawed, fallacious, and sometimes fatal American-styled democracy is not the answer, we should be searching for other remedies. But we have to begin by acknowledging our shortcomings and then, painful as it is, rethink our ideology.


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art15/cmarow142.html
Published July 13, 2009