I really do not know why I keep writing this stuff. I just have to write.
Rod Stewart sang “I wish to find a reason to believe” and, I was walking the walk with Jack the dog the phrase came to mind and got me to thinking about how desperately I need a reason to believe. The past two years have been wretched and much of my faith (secular in nature, of course) in America has been undermined. I no longer believe that I will experience democracy as a force for good, for humanizing nation and influencing the rest of the world to such by providing an example of what government by the people can do in regard to bringing about a more perfect union.
I wonder now about “the people” and its capacity to engage in good sense decision making and I am watching as the institutions charged with educating and informing the people, for very political reasons, do little to help in the creation of thoughtful and well informed public. I think the confidence man (see Melville for details) has not only been given more latitude to deceive but has become something of a model for what makes one a successful person. Indeed, the new president became president because good numbers of people understood him—as he wanted them to understand him—to be an effective swindler, a swindler who achieved ‘great things’ by skirting law and using flawed laws, often negotiated into existence by those like Mr. Trump who wanted the law to serve them, too often at a great cost to others who did not, could not, would not play the game, at least not at a level of any account.
The con game has become so well embedded in American society, in the way things operate in the society, that most, most of the time, hardly take notice, if at all. Yesterday was another Super Bowl Sunday and numerous companies payed considerable amounts of money to advertise because they knew (market research!) that they could, for several million dollars, put before the public pitches so obviously insincere in nature that no sensible person would ever be swayed to buy the products being advertised. They could put these insincere pitches before the huge audience watching the spectacle and sell enough product to make the money spent on advertising worth the while many times over.
Yesterday, Tom Brady, a cheater, and a fan of Mr. Trump won. Mr. Trump won. Neither can, or should, by their deeds, by the nature of their characters, be considered a good person if honesty and fairness are essential qualities of good character. But it is not character that will count in the way these two men are judged, it will be their ability to win, the tactics good ones because they were the tactics that produced the wins. Mr. Brady and Mr. Trump are American winners and they are American heroes for good numbers of American citizens. They set an example as do the winning corporate heads at Exxon and Goldman Sachs. Volkswagen just became the auto maker with the highest sales record in the world! They got caught cheating but it did not stop them, a bump in the road that never repaired, only forgotten to VWs benefit.
Swindles and swindling are an essential part of the mechanics of modern day American society and swindling, its acceptance as just the way business is done around the world, really is a bad sign for what the future holds. Nations, to be successful, will have to find ways to make right what is wrong. Indeed, there are and have been many nations, many of them now adopting in various ways various forms of capitalism American style, that have and have had woven into the fabric of their politics deceit, corruption and practices much, much worse. But until recently, such practices were known by most, even those responsible, to be something other than something good.
What capitalism and its acceptance world-wide as the universal basis for how people of nations and nations with other nations interact. There is something very sane about people being concerned with the economic realities that affect their lives and there is something also very sane about nations being concerned with economic matters that are related to how one nation interacts with another. What is problematic is that economics have become the main focus related to how people and nations get along with one another and, what is terribly troubling is how much a role swindling and its acceptance as “a part of doing business” affects what I will reluctantly call universal morality, that aspect of consciousness that takes into consideration right and wrong as factors and how right and wrong are defined.
If swindling is a part of making the propitious “deal,” if swindling is equated with being clever enough to win, then becoming a clever swindler becomes the goal of those who wish to succeed and honest and fairness come to be looked upon as barriers to success. Really, writing about honesty and fairness at this point in the history of the world seems even to me to be somewhat supercilious. Maybe in the coffee house but never in the bar do I feel comfortable mentioning the words in too positive a light for I have developed a sense that they may be taken as synonyms for foolish. The good con artist receives admiration, especially if his or her cons work. He or she who pitches honestly, there is little that is attractive in their stories.
I am truly demoralized. I am experiencing a world in which honesty, a factor of respect, an element of humane interaction with others, has been devalued to the point where it is a laughable rather than an imperative, where honesty and fairness increase the probability of losing and dishonesty and cheating get people to where they want to go, help them to succeed, realize their ambitions. This leads me to think that a part of the problem is with what they want and what they want to be. What they want and want to be, I think, is conditioned by the way success is defined in the societies in which they live. Capitalism, the kind of capitalism that exists today and the institutions that capitalism have done so much to shape in so many countries, by its very nature invests very little in honesty and fairness for the focus is, as corporate law reflects, almost wholly on the bottom line.
Corporations, to be viable, must win. That is their obligation to their stockholders. To lose honestly is to do considerably more harm than to win dishonestly. Dishonest dealings, exposed in the light of day, hardly draw much in the way of meaningful penalties or public ire. Good numbers of corporations caught being involved in very dirty dealings often regain the public trust rather quickly even when members of the public suffer, sometimes greatly, by the dirty deeds. There are people who are in the business of figuring out ways to very quickly get the public to trust again companies whose actions show that they are not trustworthy. Their success in doing so is touted, the companies lauded for their ingenuity, their people heroes in the business “community” and beyond.
I do not need examples here. I know that anyone reading what I write here knows many of the examples that provide the evidence that supports my claims. Certainly it is disconcerting that so few, if it is for business purposes, get penalized for lying and considerably more troubling that there is so little public outcry. Now we are headed in this United States of America to greater leniency for crimes by business, the penalties they have “suffered” said by some to be disincentives for building a healthy business community. What should be seen as abhorrent behavior by business is not seen as such, the behavior of those who sanction such penalties understood to be criminal.
This is the twisted nature of the state of reality in which we live and it is bound to get even more twisted in the short term and without much meaningful objection from the public. It seems that the public too much enjoys a good swindle and too many see themselves as benefiting in some way or another from the game and the way it is played. Budweiser or a Coke in hand, a snack from Frito-Lay, a cushy place on the couch, they can spend their best Sunday of the year watching multi-million dollar football players perform their heroics and, by winning by doing whatever it takes to win, become eligible for millions and millions more selling not only the crap they sell in the commercials (and through appearances on late night shows) but also the crap notion that things are good and as they should be in America.
It is time to shut it down but I don’t have much reason to believe that the many will risk having their goodies taken away even if their enjoyment is predicated on something terribly immoral. Wish as I might, there is not much to believe in anymore.