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Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Ethics, Shmethics

"Ethics" is a word you hear bandied about quite a bit these days, and like any word repeated too often, it begins to lose meaning. So let's define it, or better yet, let Webster's do it:

1 plural but singular or plural in construction : the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
2 a : a set of moral principles or values b : a theory or system of moral values ethic> c plural but singular or plural in construction : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group ethics> d : a guiding philosophy

So, ethics is a value system. These things will vary from culture to culture, and as time passes. We grow, we learn, we often realize a set of ethics we believed in was completely wrong. I suppose that's all a part of the human experience, as we attempt to acquire wisdom.

Of course, there's a lot more out there to acquire than wisdom. There's money. And there's power. And if you're rich enough and powerful enough, you can decide what is right and wrong. That's the Golden Rule:

He who has the gold, makes the rules.

And no one knows this better than the ruling class in this country. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has directly and indirectly funneled many millions of dollars to politicians in the United States, is going to jail for bribery, fraud, and plenty of other crimes. The beauty of Abramoff's deal is, he's naming names. He's going to roll over on his friends, which is what lowlifes do. This sets the stage for the possibility, however remote, of seeing some current members of Congress marched off to prison. And, oh, this is a group that needs it.

As Abramoff's deal and conviction became imminent, dozens of our representatives are scrambling to give away the money they were given for favors, influence, and God knows what. As if giving dirty money to charity somehow cleans it, or the act of accepting it in the first place. The investigation will continue.

In the meantime, Congress has discovered its love of doing the right thing, and has vowed reform, to clean up the scandals, to make rules that will somehow keep the ownership class of this country away from the people who make policy. As if one could pry these two apart with a crowbar and dynamite. Which is a pleasant thought...

But it's impossible, because they are one and the same. It is difficult to not think back to a time where Americans were only allowed to vote if they were landowners. It was codified that if you didn't own, your opinion was irrelevant. But then, as now, po' folks was still allowed to join the Army. The working class must be kept busy, lest they become restless and disenchanted with the people in charge.

But giving poor people rifles seems counterproductive. Not a problem. Just keep manufacturing pretenses under which we can ask our poor people to shoot other poor people, ideally, ones who dress differently and speak another language.

Forgive my abrupt change in direction, but Martin Luther King Jr's birthday was earlier this week, and I had some time to re-read some of his speeches. These many years later, King is praised as a man who wanted equality among the races, and that is true. But the activist that he had evolved into is rarely spoken of these days. In his last days, King had become focused on class struggle in the United States.

Doctor King had come to the realization that the struggle was not simply black versus white, but ultimately, rich versus poor. And that's how it always is. Malcolm X railed, at times nonsensically, against "white devils" as he fell deeper and deeper into the madness of the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad. But after visiting Mecca, and seeing Muslims of all colors praying together peacefully, he reformed his view. Knowledge and truth are powerful tools. In an interview not long before his murder in 1965, Malcolm, when asked about interracial marriage said this:

"I believe in a society in which people can live like human beings on the basis of equality."

So, he wasn't really talking about race anymore. Weeks later, he would be killed. Three years later, King would meet with Mexican farm workers, coal miners from the Appalachians, organized labor and others. In other words, King's fight was not about racial inequality, but class inequality. By the spring of 1968, Martin Luther King would be assassinated, too.

Organizing one group of working people to fight with another group of working people doesn't bother the owners of this country very much. If a black gang wants to fight a Latino gang or a white one, well, no one who matters very much is going to get hurt. But if those three gangs join together, organize, demand societal change, insist on things like a decent wage or health insurance, well, then they are a threat to all things the Christian ruling class holds dear. And that will be when you see real violence, perpetrated once again on the poor, by order of the shareholders in America Inc.

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posted at 9:58 PM

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