12 August 2009

Decoupling spiritual and material wealth

Undoubtedly, the most commented-on post thus far here on Swerve Left has been one of my off-the-cuff rants I made about Alan Stang, an odd ("ridiculous," in my opinion) character who has been described as a neo-Confederate. I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow account of the supererogatory flames, but one interesting meme that I noticed was the repeated attack on historical figures based on the failures of their business ventures. John Brown, to take just one example, is to be loathed because he was a "failure" in "everything" he did.

I guess the implication is that those who succeed financially should be praised since they've been "successes" in everything they've done. This coupling of capitalist success with personal virtue is something that I don't quite get. But it underlies a lot of rightwing rhetoric--this notion that we shouldn't hand out any benefits to the poor because they're the unvirtuous group that doesn't really deserve it. Many libertarian sites (Hispanic Pundit's a good example) expend much of their ink on protection of the virtuous wealthy against the poor rabble who want to steal their hard-earned money.

The meme doesn't fit in very well with any of my own experiences of the world. I think back on my own grandfather who was in constant motion until the day he died, working to the point of exhaustion, and who never really had anything to show for it, and then I reflect on all the superwealthy that I've observed (mostly from afar) who don't seem to do anything except expend resources and corrupt the political process. In my imagination, I'd love to trace their wealth up their family trees to its ultimate source. I'm pretty certain that instead of finding generations of hard-working virtuous ancestors, I'm more likely to see a lucky speculator (probably dealing in weapons or pirating) or someone on a horse with a gun watching slaves work a field--hardly the Joe the plumber sorts that the right parades about.

With this thought in mind, we need a few more statues and parades for the great "losers" in history, who stood up for what was right against great odds and . . . lost. We need fewer parades for Christopher Columbus and more busts of John Brown.


Martin Langeland said...

Start with Joe Hill?
Or, wotthehell, U. Utah Phillips?

Comrade Kevin said...

The old phrase it takes money to make money seems apt. The problem with the bootstrap myth is that it isn't just a case of working hard to become wealthy. It requires much more than that and luck is a big part of it, too.