We are as ordinary people often given religious advice by many theologians of ‘faith’. Often the advice is anodyne, be nice to each other that kind of thing and sometimes it might be a little less nice, kill the non-believer for example. These theologians will, of course, argue their faith is the true faith and that you should follow them. What of course they won’t tell you is that faith is the product of economic circumstances. They won’t say that because they don’t believe it. Religion comes from heaven and not the earth upon which we walk they will say.
That may be a hard concept to grasp at first. Well, let us explain it like this. Imagine a world where you had to steal from other groups just to survive. You would be imagining a world that hasn’t really existed for at least 2000 years but has existed in the past. You have just imagined the ‘economic circumstances’ and pretty rotten they are too! Such a world would kill with little mercy. You don’t want many male prisoners but some women and girls would help to build your tribal strength. You would have no concept of rights. It would simply be to kill or be killed, submit and obey. ‘Ownership’ would be by possession. The man, and of course back then warriors were only men, would acquire ownership without a “contract” they took what they wanted and that as we have said included people, so no “rights” either. To our way of seeing things, this is scary stuff. Sparta in Greece was like this in antiquity and other places were too. It was a common phenomenon for early humanity and it was called by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels ‘Barbarism’. It is easy to see why.
Having established the economic circumstances, we have will have behaviours that reflect those economic circumstances, such as killing, stealing and owning by violence, punishing with cruelty. To make sure this system worked one would need some ‘morality’. A morality that reflected the harsh material circumstances and justified the brutal behaviour. It would serve two functions it would unite people and also ensure that stealing and fighting were accepted as a way of life under strict conditions. You could not steal from each other for example.
There is a line in the film ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ where they take farmed fish and put them is a tank of water. The water is still and the fish swim everywhere. However, once the water flows the fish swim against the current and once character remarks “ah it is in their nature”. The theologians of faith would like us to believe that their expectations of us are “in our nature” so that we submit to their teaching. Often, they will talk about issues to do with sex and gender, so it looks like things might be ‘in our nature’. But we are not farmed salmon. We, economic determinists, say there is no ‘human nature’ just the beliefs and values that relate to the economics of various periods in history, promoted as still relevant today in the form of religion. You may have ‘spirituality’ but religion is a way of shaping that spirituality to the advantage of an ancient or in the case of modern ‘bourgeois’ Christianity more recent economic elite.
Today we have morality and laws derived from the values of capitalism to thank for our way of life, bourgeois morality as Karl Marx called it. It is the most modern morality, but even it is it is becoming out of date as our economies in the West take a turn for the worse. With capitalist morality came contract, choice and consent, which in turn gave us our freedom and an 18th-century democracy. It took a while to throw off older pre-capitalist values like gender, faith or racial inequality, but in the end, we did and now our rights reflect our ‘economic’ circumstances, the capitalist inspired free market.
So, we can stop worrying then? Well yes and no. The free market like the capitalist system itself needs real value derived from hard productive work to survive but now it is on the life support machine of debt. Our modern ‘bourgeois’ bankers, elite politicians in US or EU etc can see that our ‘economic circumstances’ are weakening by the decade, so they will want to maintain their power whilst controlling us in an impoverished economic situation. A State managed debt dependent ‘free market’ will have to have a new morality and at its core won’t be contract, choice and consent, we will have to behave or else. There are signs this is starting to happen now, and there are religions that can see an opening for a new kind of oppression, handy when our Nation has been bankrupted by our State elites and people are angry. Unless we use our hard-won capitalist values wisely we will undermine the case for them and someone will come along and challenge their legitimacy. Then we will all be in trouble…a sort of pre-seventeenth century trouble too…..nasty.
Next weeks second (and final) post in this series will look at how we as individuals can use contract, choice and consent in a way that ensures their survival and preserves our freedom. And yes it is determined economically and in a collapsing western economy.