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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mea Culpa

When my adopted people, Jews, start the new year. They do a prayer known a the Vidui. Usually it's sung as part of a ceremony.

This year this was back in September. But for me every day is a new year so I'm thinking "new year" all year and prefer not to wait til the end of the year to think about what I need to change. And the subject weighs on my mind as much due to Christian, new age and Buddhist influences as Jewish ones. The Vidui is important.

And since most people in all religions sleep through sermons and translations, they do it in English as well as hebrew, so it's a collective thing. Where Catholics get in a booth and confess privately to a confessor, Jews do it in public and at least twice a year. It's a list of things we all do. Some of us maybe only once in a life time. Some of us repeatedly. It's a long confessional [Text of Al-Chet] that is rendered differently in different communities. But

We abuse, we betray, we are cruel.
We destroy, we embitter, we falsify.
We gossip, we hate, we insult
We jeer, we kill, we lie.
We mock, we neglect, we oppress.
We pervert, we quarrel, we rebel
We steal, we transgress, we are unkind.
We are violent, we are wicked, we are xenophobic.
We yield to evil, we are zealots for bad causes.

Have to Stop it. Not just confess it.

And of course we have to stop it. Not just confess it every year and hope we are forgiven somehow.

Zealots for Bad Causes

But the one that always sticks to my thoughts is the "zealots for bad causes." Bad causes has to meanings. One is we are zealots for causes that are bad, ill conceived, wrong. And of course the other one is that we are zealots for bad causes that bring us bad effects. What goes around comes around. Reincarnation or just and endless cycle of causation and it's effects, we have to do something about this.

Three Fingered Thing or Why I'm thinking about this

Both left and right spend a lot of time criticizing the President. But to me much of that criticism is as much self criticism as it is legitimate criticism. When Carter practiced some conservative Liberalism he was expressing ideas that resonated with me. When the politicians and pundits first started to talk about privatization it seemed reasonable that the government should contract out some of it's work. I've been unable to get a Government job because I've spent most of my life working as one of these contractors. It had it's pluses and minuses and seemed like a reasonable thing until the privateers got their hands on it. Had I been more successful (and more mercenary) at the business of consulting I might have remained a true believer in the idea. Some of what is right wing ideology a lot of us "moderates" thought was true too.

We really did think that public private alliances could be made (and they can) and that the result would be leaner, better government and healthy businesses. We really did buy into trickle down lite theories that we could "reform welfare", use technology to make government and business better, and that somehow it would benefit everybody.

We were wrong. We were zealots for bad causes.

Too many businessmen (and women) are social dominators, grown up bullies. People are numbers for them. An employee is a cost who has no business having any say in the business he works for. Combining, fighting, bullying to make huge numbers in the money and status game are the real business of business and selling a good product, producing a valuable service or goods, or even providing a pension for employees are secondary to winning that game of status and power that is modern business. We bought into the idea that we could take our eyes off of businessmen because we bought their professions that business has to be win/win or it is lose/lose. The idea that executives could play zero sum or even negative sum games where they were willing to cut payrolls by 100's of thousands of people to pay themselves a bonus, even at the actual cost of profitability of their company -- just never seemed rational to us. But we thought their BS.

It wasn't just Milton Friedman who was surprised by the behavior of many of our business class. I remember I was surprised when I first started getting intelligence about the Tech Boom frauds back in the late 90's. When Start up Shysters started boasting about how they could sell startups to dumb investors and that the more they lost on the business model the more they could make with the IPO, I knew that the tech revolution was turning into a bubble swindle. Even so it was profoundly disheartening. The 2008 disaster didn't catch me by surprise only because I'd had my shock response and gone through all the period of mourning 10 years earlier. We helped the Cons build a system which they happily picked our pockets with and then proceeded to dump us to the side of their ambition. It may be an enthusiasm for bad causes that will destroy the country, but they got away with it because too many of my generation went along with them. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and a host of "new Democrats" bought into a pack of lies about "triangulation", balanced budgets and reform. Folks who are coming of age now probably see right through it. But you have to be patient with the rest of us. A lot of us won't admit it, but we were suckered too.


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