So while I was sleeping and working, Capitalism has blown up the Pagan bloggosphere. Honestly, I can’t say I’m all that surprised. Capitalism is one of those hot button issues to Pagans, and given the recent conversation about starting up Pagan temples and shrines and the financial cost no doubt triggered money thoughts in people’s minds.
I think this all started with a post by Alley Valkyrie, which then sparked posts by John Halstead and Rhyd Wildermuth. Now, I haven’t read the Valkyrie or Halstead posts, but I have read Rhyd’s post and P.S.V.L.’s posts. Both of which raise valid points to their point of view. Rhyd and I have an interesting relationship (at least to my mind) where we respect each other as intellectually capable, perhaps even gifted, and completely disagree with each others politics and occasional conclusions at the same time.
Both of them reference some meme about “poor magicians are poor magicians.” This is something I completely disagree with (talent is not measured in wealth). Though I have seen the opposite view where any magician who sells his wears is a poor magician. I think we just have an issue with respecting the capabilities of people who live differently than we do.
Anyways, getting to what I wanted to say. Rhyd came out very strongly in his anti-capitalism stance on this issue. PSVL seems to largely agree, but point out that capitalism has benefits to people who otherwise would die with out the progress created by that same capitalistic engine. Both have valid points, and I’m not actually here to debate points with them on this.
I, personally, am pro-capitalism. I understand that many have suffered from Capitalism, but I also understand that many more have been helped by capitalism. Even the poor, made poor by capitalism, have some benefits from capitalism. The truth is though, that we seem to have a messed up interpretation of what is normal when it comes to economics.
Rhyd talks both in the above post and in previous ones, about how the poor are made poor by capitalism. This…is not exactly correct. I’m speaking from my degree here, but through human history there have been two classes of people: The “wealthy” and “The poor.” Under every economic system out there, these two groups have appeared. Feudalism, Barter, Communism, and Capitalism. Typically, wealth has followed political power. Aristocracy, Chieftains, Party Leaders, and Politicians. Typically, wealth was then passed down through family lines. There is only one economic system which has allowed the rise of some of the poor above their poor station and into an area between the two, or equal to the “wealthy:” Capitalism.
We tend to believe (since we’ve lived in capitalist countries for close to four hundred years) that a capitalist society is the norm, that a middle class is the norm, and that poor people exist because of capitalism drawing money away from the poor and centralizing it in the hands of those who already have money. This, however, is a biased perspective. A biased perspective that we have then projected onto the world. Because “Western” countries are capitalist and wealthy, and non-western nations are poor, it must be the evil capitalism which has made these countries poor.
Ignoring both the history of economics, as well as the local histories of peoples both inside western and non-western countries. The truth is that without capitalism, we would return to a world of Poor and Wealthy, without any mobility between (except perhaps through warfare, which was the typical way of changing one’s lot in life). There would still be the wealthy, capable of doing whatever they pleased…and the poor, who could do nothing they pleased, as it had been for thousands of years. Many would die, unable to pay for the medicines they need (as PSVL points out). Sure, we could conceivably stop global warming because with the loss of “wealtheir” western citizens, we would produce a lot less of those climate change variables (at least according to Rhyd)…but then no one would have the economic power by banding together to prevent the wealthy from completely strip mining everything. Because the wealthy would do that, the middle class isn’t just a group who benefited from capitalism, they end up working as a stop gap to check the wealthy. Because the poor do not have that power.
At least, not without mob violence. Which we can see the result of in the French Revolution…with its blood shed, eventually turning into an Empire which then did arguably worse deeds than their monarchy did. So…hardly a positive by the logic presented in the anti-capitalist bullet points.
There will always be poor people. Destroying capitalism will not change that. Capitalism does have some negative things to it. Part of the problem though is that too many Pagans assume that “negative effects” equals “evil thing to be done away with.” So I will leave you with a thought.
Hela is the Goddess of Sickness and Death. Sickness, as a rule, has far more negative effects upon a person and even population while it is happening than any positive effects. Yet, after sickness and plague, the body (both individual and group) is made stronger. The weak have been purged, those who cannot survive leave behind those who suddenly find themselves with more. More space, more resources, more options in society. The greatest thing that happened to Europe, the thing that paved the way for democracy and later expansion was the Black Death. Before that, Europe was over populated, poor, and everyone was locked into their lot in life because there were so many people there were no open positions to move around. There was such as surplus of labor that the wealthy could starve the poor and still get richer. The Plague changed that. Suddenly, a negative thing no one wanted allowed so much of the population to rise above not just their hopes, but their dreams.
Sometimes something we see only as negative is helping us to rise above where we would normally be.