Every now and then I imagine how it could be so different.
Word on the internet is that we have a military-heavier, social welfare-lighter budget. I’m dismayed with the HUD cuts. I’m dismayed with the arts cuts. I’m dismayed by the cuts to meals for children and elderly and things that stated, as a society, that we cared for one another. If budgets are moral documents, as the participatory budgeting folks insist, I am dismayed that our top moral is dominance. More money to towards death of other human beings – literally. We’ll be building more weapons. Couple that with how capitalism is a competitive system, and when you cut the things that would make being on the losing end less painful, you assert the supposed-morality of dominance. Supremacy becomes righteousness. We could be so different.
As a society, we could do more to prioritize being human. Arts, mercy, charity, kindness, stuff like that. I am Unitarian Universalist. We disagree about a lot but we hold sacred the inherent worth and the dignity of every person. Being is enough. Inherent worth does not require that one’s body or abilities meets the metrics of what is useful or that one has lived their lives perfectly however society chooses to define “perfectly”. Inherent worth does not require a certain faith, ethnicity, or cultural heritage. I live in a society that often acts directly against that, in that we’ve distributed the things required for living on a basis of this competitive system, which ensures that some will go without. There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of excellence but no one should forgo the means of survival when there are enough resources for everyone. There will always be people doing well and people doing badly under capitalism – shuffle the deck and see how it will go. The only thing that changes are your personal odds of landing in various parts of the deck – someone will always be at the bottom.
How you spend your time, energy, and treasure says a lot about your values. “Your” can be a person, group, country, or culture. I feel such sadness watching us devote so many of our resources to war. The military of my country inflicts so much death in the name of pro-active safety for us, and only us. It is wrong and I feel powerless. We do this to maintain our dominance meanwhile we dial back the support of some of the people within the country that dominance is suppose to befall on. It is not that we care about us, it’s about how much we valorize strength and the morality of winning.
Being human is sacred. We’re so bad at respecting that. We reflexively retreat to tribalism of whatever our favorite defining characteristic is. We’re struggling (to put it mildly) to make the space necessary to let different people just be, to let the fact that we’re all people be the overriding factor. We do not look at each other with eyes seeking affinity.
Supremacy is a cruel ideology. Things like immigration bans, turning away refugees, ending meals on wheels and the Community Development Block Grants in the name of more military spending and tax breaks for the rich make a lot of sense if your belief is in supremacy. Refugees are people who lost. Immigrants are people who lost. If you believe in the importance of winning, then turning your back on the suffering of others is easy to do. You win by eliminating your competition in supremacy, not by empathizing with them. At some point, the targets are just details. I see the bigger fight as a radical effort against the logic of supremacy and dominance. Making it normal for the so-called losers in our society to be dignified members of it, that undermines supremacy. The president of my country rose to power decrying “losers”. He’s so directly into supremacy. I see people of my ideological affinity tearing apart the details of what he does when most problems come down to this pathological need to win, win, win. Think about the prosperity gospels. Think about the rags to riches story. Think about the fact that so many people see civil rights as a zero sum game.
It is not even just rights – people see life itself as a zero-sum game, acting like others are inherently our competitors. We act like we’ve cheated death if someone else dies first, and if their death makes us believe in our own triumph, so be it. We act as if the grim reaper isn’t standing in the doorway, thumbing her way through a list that we just haven’t been called up yet. As humanity, we could decide to make death our common enemy, put down our weapons, and decide we want to sink our energy into the collective pursuit and preservation of the sacred: life of human beings. We don’t. We never have, at least not in a complete way that doesn’t talk about of both sides of our mouth. We could be so different. Yet, here we are.
I work in homelessness alleviation as a way to defy the norms of supremacy. I advocate anti-racist ideology to undermine supremacy. I do my best to practice generosity as way to erode the cultural ethos that states acquisition and dominance is the most important thing. I don’t have it right. I think I have it better though, than living by the capitalist ethics of power. I think about it constantly – how do we level power? And how do I show other people my vision of how we could be. I think the way that I do largely due to religion – both the Catholicism of my youth and the Unitarian Universalist humanism that I practice now. That’s hardly universal. People of faith are the most radical dissenters and ardent enforcers of supremacy. So how do I go about making this better until my name shows up at the top of the grim reaper’s to-do list?