Gabriel’s Mad(ison) Ave. Horn
March 21, 2015
Although Americans have a prevalent national faith, Christianity, we have another at least equally as fervent: Capitalism. In America both are mythic and fundamental, which means they’re bound to our psyches like barnacles and cannot easily be shaken off —not that millions of us would want to.
Of these two faiths I’d argue that capitalism is the stronger and more fervent. I may be wrong about that, but these faiths have at least become so enmeshed in our mythic indoctrination that if you threaten one you threaten the other. A non Christian may be merely “unsaved”, which may be considered a foolishness of omission. But a non-capitalist is automatically a socialist or worse, a communist (both of these are considered sins of commission) —regardless, unsaved, socialist or communist, all are thought ungodly.
How capitalism became almost synonymous with Christianity in the United States is a tale of confusion wrapped in inherent practicality. How the story of shared loaves and fishes found in the New Testament became the tale of two cities: the Shining City on a Hill and the impoverished one at the base of the hill, is an example of Jesus’ ongoing battle with America’s 18th,19th, 20th and 21st centuries’ practical politicians as they co-opted the teachings of that 1st century Nazarene bleeding-heart —as they re-defined them while clawing their way to the top. In the United States a capitalist cocooned in a corporation can do no wrong even while she or he is poisoning your water, contaminating your air and robbing you blind with payoffs to your legislators. She or he is legally and (to some minds) morally invulnerable no matter how corrupt they might be.
But maybe, just maybe, we’ll break out of our nation-wrecking stupor soon enough to avert the most extreme effects of it. But it will first take an epiphany followed by an immediate commitment to de-toxify.
A good starting point would be to imagine a future free of our Christian-capitalist conflation. As writer Justin Smith muses, “I’m still dwelling on how ironic all the feverish proclamations of capitalism are going to look someday.” I think it won’t be pretty. We’ll see that more clearly once we’re freed of having dumpster dinners at the corner of Wall Street and New. We’ll know we’re on the psychic mend when we’re finally not sold by a Coke sign’s faded blush —when we’re embarrassed at how it thrusts itself from desiccated dollar dunes.
Just yesterday I came across an article that reported how in California, now in the midst of a drought severe enough to elicit predictions that the state will be out of water in a year (short of a miracle that some foolishly rely upon), the Nestlé Corporation continues to bottle city water to sell back to the public at a big profit, local activists charge. A Sacramento environmental coalition spokesperson, Andy Conn, said, “This corporate welfare giveaway is an outrage and warrants a major investigation. For more than five months we have requested data on Nestlé water use. City Hall has not complied with our request, or given any indication that it will. Sacramentans deserve to know how their money is being spent and what they’re getting for it. In this case, they’re getting ripped off.”
It’s really not surprising City Hall is in hunker mode. There’s a zealous, capitalist mindset in US government at all levels that makes such things possible.
I can’t help but wonder how we’ll feel about having added our own breaths to the cyclone that slew the sacred cow as gangs of suited crooks blew through. As their fingers itched to milk her dry until there was nothing left to suck or bust. Will we be coy then and beg mercy from our god, Capital —or the other one? You gotta wonder.
But I have a sense there’s finally beginning to be a wider appreciation that we’re in trouble. I have a sense that more Americans are realizing that climate-change-global-warming deniers like Senator James Inhofe (R- that OK) are, at best, well-meaning people who are innocently and sincerely stupid —scientifically stupid at least. People like Inhofe are so caught up in their peculiar anti-scientific, mystical doctrines they simply refuse to read the actual signs of the times: the arctic ice melts, the accelerated calving of the Antarctic glacier, the weird weather patterns, the warming oceans leading to rising seas.
So like Justin Smith I’m anxiously curious how all the feverish proclamations of capitalism are going to look someday. In the meantime I still hope that all of this capitalist religious fevor will finally be rejected by Americans and that the force of what’s coming will be mitigated by clearheaded commitments to change the way things operate. I’m hoping that enough people will change their belief in the infallibility of this capitalist model and say, “I’m done. We’ve lurched too long through spoiled earth as Gabriel’s Mad(ison) Ave. apocalyptic horn more croaked than blew.”
by Jim Culleny