08 May 2003


There is only one theory behind this -- tell me if you think I'm wrong.

1) Wealth, power, and tradition are the three pillars of Republican ideology. First, wealth. One of my sister's former boyfriends once powerfully suggested a reason for voting Republican: "The good money is behind it." People feel that they are more likely to grow rich under a Republican administration. The Republicans adhere to a Calvinist ideology that has, for all practical purposes, transmuted the Christian God into a likeness of Mammon. Mammon is, of course, the god of wealth, and even though the Republicans may deny their Calvinism and the Calvinists may deny their Mammonism on a spiritual level, their actual business behavior says otherwise, and the enormous disparities in wealth throughout global society reveal the hidden hand of Mammon within the Republican ideology that says who's powerful in today's economy (the "Washington Consensus," "free trade," etc.).

The Calvinists, as one might recall, believed in a theology favoring "God's Elect" -- there is supposedly a rich elite who have God's favor, and this elite has earned God's favor by pursuing a wildly-successful "calling" as well as through thrift, hard work, and perseverance. God, being all-knowing, ostensibly has granted the rich not just their wonderfully-rich lives, but passage to Heaven as well. "Accumulate, accumulate: that is Moses and the Prophets," as Karl Marx once said.

And then, there is the "dark side" of the Republican belief system -- this peculiar malady called "compulsive gambling." Sin City, Las Vegas, blah blah blah. One can reflect, then, that the Republican Party's in-house moralist Bill Bennett has revealed that he is in fact a compulsive gambler. What is gambling, anyway, besides the sacrifice of money in order to garner Mammon's favor?

Besides wealth, then, the Republican Party's Mammonism, it has in its favor the imprimaturs of tradition and power -- the duct-tape securing the cult of wealth. Second, power. America's breast-beating victory over its defenseless foe in Iraq has made power-for-power's sake a hot item these days -- Leo Strauss has become a big Republican patron saint, standing alongside von Mises and von Hayek in the academic pantheon. Of course, the primary purpose of conquering Iraq (besides W.'s infantile revenge motivation, and besides the maintenance of an enormous and growing US military, by far the world's largest consumer, resource exploiter, polluter, and arms dealer) was and is its profit-potential for the Federal Government's owning corporations, so even with power-worship (and the whole flap about "American empire" that the pundits have recently endorsed), we're back to money.

And then, on top of all of that, you have, thirdly, tradition -- people lead religious lives in the Republican mode because age-old doctrines have decreed that they do so. This third value is where Republicans are labeled "conservative." Richard Kahn of the Vegan Blog has pointed to an article by Glenn Scherer that suggests that ecocide -- for instance, all of the various measures taken by the Bush Administration to destroy the Federal Government's ability to regulate the environment -- is driven by a millenarian ideology:

"Many fundamentalists see dying coral reefs, melting ice caps and other environmental destruction not as an urgent call to action, but as God's will. In the religious right worldview, the wreck of the Earth can be seen as Good News!

Some true believers, interpreting biblical prophecy, are sure they will be saved from the horrific destruction brought by ecosystem collapse. They'll be raptured: rescued from Earth by God, who will then rain down seven ghastly years of misery on unbelieving humanity. Jesus' return will mark the Millennium, when the Lord restores the Earth to its green pristine condition, and the faithful enjoy a thousand years of peace and prosperity."

Of course, this theology attempts to reinterpret a human-caused disaster, the disaster caused by pollution, a disaster we choose as people possessed of free will, as God's will. So our will to pollute the air has become "God's will," and in "playing God," we are apparently playing the same God the Republican endorsers of ecocide know and love. And then this ecocidal theology assumes, falsely, that the greenhouse effect (the most onerous effect of human pollution, the effect discussed by Scherer above) is a signal of the "end of the world," whereas in reality the greenhouse effect will just make life a lot worse without ending the world in any way. But being wrong never stopped Republicans, especially fundamentalist Christian ones, because an effective untruth is self-serving. (Wasn't that Strauss' doctrine of good government?)

Cementing these fantasies, as well as the fantasies of "Creationism," religion-based cornucopianism, etc. is tradition, which is the motive force behind Biblical literalism, the "crusade" against Osama and Saddam, and the Christian Coalition's support for Israel's attempt to re-establish the boundaries of the 3000-year-old Kingdom of David and Solomon. The rank-and-file of the Christian Coalition are, of course, the "shock troops" of the Republican Party, and in Bush they have their "born-again" President. Thus their unquestioned success. Given the lack of serious opposition, the Republicans should dominate American politics until the limits to Earth's capacity to tolerate state capitalism (or mere economic collapse) threaten the Republican god Mammon.

I've already explained in previous columns why the Democrats do not represent a serious challenge, because they do not offer a contending ideology. The most the Democrats have to offer is a wistful vision of a Keynesian populism that its own elites no longer endorse. My guess is that the elites fear that the American economy will become too much like the economies of Europe, which they would declaim as "stagnant" even though Europeans generally enjoy a higher standard of living. At any rate, Democrat proposals are still sifted through the ideological rhetoric of "private enterprise," which has mostly deserted the Democratic Party and put its stake in Republicanism for the reasons I've mentioned above: wealth, power, tradition.

What's needed, then, is a powerful popular ideology which can contest both Democrat and Republican ideological visions while at the same time presenting a definitive case against Mammon-worship. Socialism suggests a tradition of sufficiency for all. But socialism will not offer such a challenge (even if it were to regain its popularity of old), because today it is easier to satisfy one's needs through "private enterprise" than through solidarity. The Green Party offers an ideological alternative to Mammon-worship without, unfortunately, being popular -- because only the wealthier classes can afford environmental concern when it is difficult to participate in a capitalist economy. But together...


Post a Comment

<< Home