I am trying to write a poem a day at the moment- a return to an old discipline that I have found useful. I may post some of them on here… inevitably the quality will be somewhat variable- although I have long tried to stop measuring poetry in terms of whether it is ‘good’ ir not – even my own. Rather I try to decide whether it is meaningful.
I have been thinking about the stories that hold our society together. A few of us watched a video clip and discussed it via Zoom on Sunday, and it occurred to me (not for the first time) that in order for things to get better, we have to find better stories, and we have to come to see the old ones as flawed.
The title of this piece, by the way, comes from here.
The process begun by the Enlightenment was, by and large, a positive development at least for Europe. But this process has been interrupted not so much by religion – the antithesis of the Enlightenment – but by a faith-based secular ideology that says the pursuit by individuals of their own private material gain is good for all.
To dissent against this faith-based secular religion is to be consigned to Purgatory and Hell by the Upholders of the Faith. When the upholders of such a system see a dissenting opposition that is so threatening it must be condemned, it is probably worth asking, “So what’s the threat?” This is what makes a study of the writings of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and other dissenters from the secular faith so fascinating. Before “Marxism” was codified into a tool of repression by state capitalists, (Soviet Union, China – regimes that used Marxist rhetoric to repress their own people), it was and still can be a useful critique of the secular religion of capitalism and very revealing in its analysis. Some have helped bring this nineteenth-century dissent up to date on the basis of a critical scientific analysis of the evolution of the capitalist system, (Paul Sweezy, Howard Parsons, David Harvey, John Bellamy Foster, et al.).
The most valuable critique is the questioning of the “enlightened self-interest as public good” assumption. This assumption is based on the false premise that humans are separate from their environment; that somehow, we are “above” the normal consequences of action in the field of the life-death continuum of Planet Earth. A brief perusal of the consequences of this false premise should be sobering to any thinking person. The pursuit of resources and markets to feed a system that MUST grow to survive has made the planet and all of its inhabitants commodities. In capitalist mythology, EVERYTHING has a monetary value, including and perhaps especially, people. The fact that humans are dependent on a healthy environment is not a central consideration – capitalists who acquire financial independence can BUY a healthy environment as one of their private acquisitions, it is assumed. Everyone else must either enter into the field of competition and buy their own “healthy environment,” or be consigned to a life that Thomas Hobbes called “nasty, brutish, and short” – a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one.
Here is the poem;
Lies we tell each other
Money greased the wheels that turn
The world around, and
I am not lost, I’m found
The bigger men will harder fall, for they
Lack our humble cushion
Our enemy is Russian
Fulfilment comes consuming this
Joy is made through data
I’m just a late starter
When we wish on falling stars
Trickle-down comes calling
All poetry is boring
The common good embraces this;
My own accumulating
Stress is enervating
Christmas comes but once a year
We show great love through spending
Our world is never ending