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For Ourselves and For All

By Rootsie
March 12, 2004

I find these days it's getting harder and harder for me to go about my business. These comforts and consolations we take for granted every day: viewed through the lens of basic justice and morality, these little things, going to the grocery store, sleeping in on Saturday, lying in my comfy bed and reading my book, take on a monstrous aspect.

There is such a thing as knowing too much to continue living the way you do.

"Well we all know the world is f*d, so what would you suggest? If all the suffering people in the world had the chance, they'd live like this too. So what are we supposed to do? Give it all away and live in the dirt scrabbling for food? All we can do is try in our little ways to make things better." Even the most 'radical' among us play for the most part by the rules as they have been set down. Membership in the global elite has its privileges, and we take these for granted, even as we protest and express our outrage among ourselves and pride ourselves that at least we know the score. The poor are poor so we can be rich. This is our historical position. We did not choose it.

O but how we suffer, and it's amazing that we see no connection between our numerous physical and psychological complaints, our general feeling of discomfort, and this historical position. It is also a moral position we were born into, and it is debilitating and deadly. Our favored status in the world is killing us in countless ways for the simple reason that it is unjust. And the universe, as any physicist will tell us, operates according to laws that are unwavering. No disequilibrium can be sustained for long. Our most 'primitive' ancestors understood that the same laws which govern the largest movements govern the smallest ones. And with part of us we know that this ride has an end, and this accounts for our flashy and gaudy and desperate culture. The hippie generation has entered its middle age, and to a great degree has simply fallen into the assumptions it despised in its youth.

The 'humanism' which has intellectualized the problem of injustice to the point where it maintains there is no solution, or contents itself with 'dreams' of a just future, is a false humanism, and is inhuman in fact. It is no better than the 'fundamentalism' it claims to despise. Like the fundamentalists, most liberals hold out an irrational faith that at some future point 'everything will be all right.' But can they live with the paradox that, while in some absolute sense that may be the case, even that in fact everything is all right all the time, at the same time humans must struggle to claim their humanity, and support others in their struggle to do the same? People born at the short end of this stick have the right to expect certain sorts of conduct from privileged people of goodwill. It troubles my heart to think that people all over the world are looking to the people of the West to get their houses in order, to get their rapacious governments and corporations in check, and get on with this business they keep saying they are about in their exalted rhetoric. I feel people waiting, with faith, for us to make a move at least to see to it that the bullies among us leave them alone.

The unique aspect of the modern world is the hundreds of millions of people who live in peace, safety, and plenty, with a voice in their destinies, license to move and speak freely, and an opportunity to dictate the direction of those who govern them. It is dishonest and in fact wicked to shake our heads sadly and say like Jesus, 'the poor will always be with us,' for the conditions that afflict most of the people on this planet are preventable, the solutions within our grasp, and furthermore these conditions are the result of hundreds of years of atrocious conduct on the part of our ancestors and countrymen. We are born into an inheritance bought with the blood of millions. This is the definition of dirty money, of 'filthy lucre,' and it poisons us with its filth.

We speak of 'grassroots activism' and 'progressivism' and yet allow our governments to crush popular 'from the bottom up' democracy wherever in the world it rears its dangerous head. And we literally live off the spoils of a massive pillaging campaign that has gone on unchecked for 500 years.

I don't want to give up my warm bed, but I don't rest easy in it, and that is justice. The malaise and 'depression' and 'heart disease' and 'acid indigestion' are just. Justice is done no matter what side of the equation we humans choose, for there are huge realms over which we have nothing to say, no matter how much we think we do.

But the things we do have a say in? To know and do nothing is a crime. To plead powerlessness or claim some moral high ground by virtue of political beliefs on which we do not act consistently, daily, is simply ridiculous. It is a hallmark of our privilege that, whenever we feel like it, we can revert to introverted pleasure-seeking without a second thought. The least we can do is to keep a constant mindfulness, and allow the necessary suffering which results to lead us to seek its end. For ourselves and for all. Once and for all.


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