This is my next installation in my economic series about the coming Corporate Feudalism and how we avoid it.
I was raised in a Christian family, more specifically, a Methodist family. (I’m Catholic now, but was Methodist then.) In our church, while the adults attended services, the children attended Sunday school. In Sunday school, we would be told the stories in the Bible and talk about how those stories applied to our lives today. One of those stories was of David and Goliath.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with that story. Back in the days when Saul was king of the Israelites, a great Philistine army came to their borders. The Philistine general sent word to Saul that instead of the two armies fighting each other, each side could send out a champion to do battle, and if the Philistine champion won, the Philistine army would take over the land of the Israelites, and the Israelites would become their slaves. If the Philistine lost, the Philistine army would become the Israeli subjects. Then they brought forth Goliath. He was a huge man, and he had been supplied by the Philistines with the best weapons and armor that could be forged at that time. He struck fear into the hearts of those in the Israelite army. For 40 days, Goliath came out in the morning and at night shouting this challenge. For 40 days and nights, the Israelite army quivered in their tents and did not send anybody out to meet the challenge. Finally, one day, David (who wasn’t in the army, he stayed home tending sheep) was visiting his brothers in the army and taking them food. Goliath came out and bellowed his challenge. When nobody stepped forth, David said, “I can take him,” and volunteered. He picked up five smooth stones from a nearby stream and used his sling to hurl a stone at Goliath. The stone hit Goliath in the head, and Goliath died. David won, and the rest is history. Or a morality tale. I have no interest in arguing which.
So then the Sunday school teacher began to talk about how this story was applicable in our lives. She said, “You see? David was just a boy, not very big, not trained to be a soldier. But he was able to kill Goliath. If you have faith, and if God is with you, even you can beat the big bullies you come up against. You can beat the bad guys.” And so it seems, that whenever anybody goes up against a big corporation and wins, or goes up against a big anything and wins, we recall the story of David and Goliath.
I got to thinking about that story a while back (I don’t know why, I just do things like that sometimes). Today, there is a Philistine army looking to enslave us. It is corporate America. They have an army of Goliaths, in the form of managers. The armor they have given their Goliaths is the power of the corporation. The weapons include, “company policy,” and “it’s the going pay scale,” and “nobody else expects …,” and “if you don’t like it, we can always find somebody else,” and “team player.” Those words have as much bite to them as the sharpest Philistine sword, and they beat employees into submission even more quickly. You have to be quite a David to stand up to that.
And here’s where something about that story began to bother me. Suddenly it dawned on me. The passage in the Bible doesn’t say how big the army was, but in context you can gather that the army was tens of thousands. On top of that army, there were the non-soldiers of Israel, who, like David, were doing normal things. David was tending sheep. Others were also tending flocks, or raising crops, or building houses or whatever people did. So in all of Israel were more than tens of thousands of people. Yet, in all of those tens of thousands, there was only one David. Only one. The odds of that one in tens of thousands being any particular person were really small. Sunday school teachers were talking to the children as if each of them could be that one in tens of thousands. But in reality, there was a higher probability of any one of them becoming a professional NFL player than being that one David. Applying that to today, the chances of any employee being able to stand up to the Goliaths sent out by the Corporate Philistines is really, really tiny. The Corporations set forth their terms, and the employees surrender. Another thing. Saul had chartered David to represent the Israelites. Whatever David gained was gained for and on behalf of all the kingdom. If a single employee does somehow manage to be a David, he is not chartered to represent anybody but himself. Anything he is able to wrest from the local Goliath is only for himself.
Something else occurred to me. There was only one David, but behind him was an Israelite army of tens of thousands. That is a part I have never heard anybody talk about. Recall that every day, for 40 days, Goliath came forth in the morning and at night to bellow his challenge. 40 days. The Philistine Army sat idle for 40 stupid days. Armies aren’t meant to sit in a camp waiting to attack for 40 days. Why didn’t they just attack? Because in front of them was an army of tens of thousands. While the Israelite army was not full of Davids, it was made up of tens of thousands of trained, competent soldiers. Those tens of thousands were standing in solidarity, defending their freedom, defending their families, their land, their homes, their futures. They did not have to be Davids to be good soldiers. They were prepared to put up a good fight. Even if the Philistines were able to defeat that army of tens of thousands, many would die, and many more would be badly injured. And they could lose. For some reason, this feared army that had rolled over other kingdoms en route to Israel did not really want to fight this battle. So they sent their Goliath out in the belief that their Goliath could defeat anybody the Israelites could bring forward. If there had been no Israelite army, there would have been no David. Rather, without that army, the Philistines would have simply run over the kingdom killing anybody who got in their way. That would have included David. Standing alone, the people were helpless.
It is no different when the employee faces the corporate Goliath. If he stands alone, he has no chance. The corporation has all the advantages. It is only when employees band together into an army and stand in solidarity that the power is leveled. Because the union army will be standing in solidarity, defending their freedom, their families, their homes, their futures. When they form a union, join the union, and stand with the union, they are on a common footing with the corporations. It is then that the union can find and charter a David to go to battle on behalf of all the members. And what happened when David killed Goliath? “When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron.” While we don’t expect the union army to kill all the corporatists, we can expect the corporations to back off. Back in the day, before Ronnie the Destroyer broke the air traffic control union and his party began to dissemble unions, unions had won for their members (and for many who weren’t in the unions) pensions, paid vacation, health care coverage, competitive salaries and safer work environments. As unions have been dismantled, all those benefits have either been eliminated or cut back drastically. We need unions to help get them back. Because we can’t do it individually. There was only one David. And even he didn’t stand alone. The Israelite army made David possible.
My next piece will be about how we help our unions regain influence and what unions need to do.
A tad over six months ago, I was writing a series about economics and labor. In my last installment, here, I said I would talk about the Union movement in the US. But before I can do that, I realized that I have to talk about what the US looked like economically from the early days of colonization. I thought that could be quickly researched and dispatched. As it turned out, as I will explain later, I hit a bump that I just couldn’t get past. Once I got past it, I had to do a lot of thinking and reevaluating of a lot of my own education and beliefs. Then I had to figure out how to put the pieces together. The result was that instead of taking me 2 weeks to put it together, it has taken 6 months. I am still wrestling with my findings and what they tell me about me as a person and us as a country. I hope my readers can assist me with that battle.
I begin with the notion that there were essentially 3 economies in the colonies. One was the urban economy. The urban economy consisted of tradesmen (furs, timber, etc), craftsmen (apothecaries, wig makers, blacksmiths, etc), fishermen and hunters, shopkeepers and merchants. This accounted for about 5% of the colonial population.
Another economy was what I call the agrarian economy. This economy was differentiated by the one I will discuss next, by the size of the farms. This economy consisted of the family farm, which raised produce and livestock on about 35 acres or less. What the family did not use was traded in the nearby town or city, so these farms did depend on having some town or city near enough to go to for trade. Often their produce or livestock was bartered in exchange for needed goods or services rather than exchanging moneys. This economy accounted for 90% of the colonial population.
The third economy was the plantation economy. Plantations, in maturity, were an economy unto themselves. The plantation had the craftsmen on site. They produced enough to feed the entire plantation population and enough more to yield large profits for their owners. They ranged in size from 500 to 1000 acres and raised about 5000 plants. This is where I hit my bump. While it was easy to figure out who the early urban settlers were before coming to the colonies, and who the early farmers were, I could not figure out how a new settler could look at virgin territory and bingo, there would be a plantation. Who were the settlers who came to the colonies with the idea of such a large enterprise? How did they transform the virgin land to a high producing plantation?
I should point out that I have been trained to do academic research. So I first laid out a series of questions that I would need to answer in order to get over the bump. The first question was, who were these plantation owners before they migrated? I began looking up who owned plantations and who they were back home. I was not terribly surprised to find out that the majority that I was able to identify were from noble families or attached to noble estates. That is, they were either children of nobles or they were servants in the castle or manor (who were also frequently children of nobles), most from England or what is now the United Kingdom. However, those who were children of nobles were second, third or later sons, not the first sons. The first sons would inherit the estates in their homeland. Second and later sons would become knights, lesser nobles with no land claims, scribes, religious, etc. The best they could hope for is that the elder son would die without an heir, and they could inherit the estate.
These children of nobles came over to the colonies knowing that there was land for the taking (in many cases they bought their lands from royalty to whom the king had granted stakeholds). They believed that land ownership was the ticket to wealth, because that is how it had operated in their homelands. However, in Europe, land ownership led to wealth in large part because owning the land meant owning the labor of the peasants who worked the land. Since all the land was owned, the peasants had no choice but to stay and work it. They had to put total effort in, in order to meet the nobleman’s tax and have enough left over to feed and clothe the family. And in a good year, perhaps put aside a small profit. These children of nobles did not themselves have the skills to work the land or even to build their homes. So how did they convert virgin territory to plantations? At what point did slavery come in? I had so many questions.
During my search, I came upon articles about the Scottish prisoners of Dunbar and Worchester in 1650 and 1651. Of 10000 prisoners taken in the battle of Dunbar, 150 were sent as indentured servants to Massachusetts to work in the iron works. Another batch were sent after the Battle of Worchester to Massachusetts. However, between the two battles, about 3000 were also sent to Virginia, where the plantation owners bid for their services. These men were essentially slaves, except that their indenture only lasted for 7 years. And a bit more research indicated that the plantations had been using indentured servants, some prisoners and some debtors, to work the lands and build the homesteads. The original plantation houses were not, at that time, the grand estates we see today.
However, acquiring indentured servants was not an easy task, and there was not always a big battle with a lot of captured soldiers. When the 7 year indenture was over, these servants did not stay with the ones who had acquired their services. They would move on to their own land or their own crafts and there was nothing the plantation owner could do to stop them. A more permanent solution was needed.
As early as 1501, the Spaniards had been bringing slaves from Africa to Santo Domingo to work the sugar farms. This was not, however, race based slavery. The Spaniards bought the slaves from African tribes who had defeated other African tribes and taken the defeated tribes persons as prisoners. It was conquest based slavery. This is an important distinction. Never, in the known history of humankind, had slavery been race based. The most common form of slavery had been conquest based, the second most common form had been debt based. And, rarely had it been for life.
In 1619, 20 slaves were brought to Virginia. However, they were most likely more like indentured servants who were freed after their indenture. The first slave carrier was built and launched in 1636 in Massachusetts (so much for it being a southern thing). In fact, Massachusetts was the first colony to legalize slavery in 1641. Up to this time, most cheap labor was indentured servants. Over time, owning slaves became legal pretty much throughout the colonies.
So, for all the “coming to America for religious freedom” talk, how did such “religious” people condone slavery? I found something interesting. There is an obscure verse in Genesis (Genesis 4:15) that suggests that God put a mark on Cain so that anybody who harms him should be slain. Until slavery took hold in the colonies, I can only find reference to the “Mark of Cain” in a few obscure places usually referring to somebody with a deformity from birth. At some point, churches in the colonies began to refer to “Mark of Cain” as referring to skin color, that people of color were decedents of Cain, inferior to white people and destined for punishment for the sin of Cain. In other words, they justified their ownership of human beings by perverting their own religion. What had been an obscure verse with little application became a mainstay in many protestant churches. It is important to note here that that interpretation was never adopted by either the Catholic church or certain mainstream churches like High Anglican, Quaker and Presbyterian. (In fact, it was those churches that incubated the anti slavery movement later on.) The notion of white supremacy was created to enable the economic success of the slaveowners. (If you look at the ratio of large scale plantation owners to the population, it is about the same as the ratio of wealthy corporate moguls to current population.) It could be argued that the reason for the article in the first amendment, freedom of religion, is because many of the founding fathers wanted to ensure that they would be able to continue to own slaves.
By the time of the Revolutionary War, the new interpretation of that verse in Genesis had become widely accepted as a major piece of a large portion of Protestantism. By the War Between the States, it was cemented. This was the genesis of White Supremacy: the slaveholders cynically perverted their religion, their way of relating to their God, in order to facilitate economic bounty. That perversion stuck. When the South was fighting the North, it was over slavery. But by this time, it was over more than that. It was over their religion, the one they had modified to allow a few to own human beings. When the war ended, the slaves were legally freed. But the religion remained, and does to this day. That religion is not just in the south. It also has adherents in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri and many other states. It can’t be legislated away as long as we have freedom of religion. It can’t be removed by force. Somehow, we have to figure out how to make those who believe that white people are superior change that belief. The election of a black person to the presidency brought that belief to the surface so we can all see it, now we have to figure out how to wipe it clean. Surely this is one way the sins of the fathers are visited on the children.
The Tea Party followers and many other Conservatives insist that this is a country founded on Christianity. While many of us realize how revisionist that claim is, it does not serve us to argue with them. Unfortunately, the founders of this country are not here to defend themselves when they are misquoted and misinterpreted. Even the sainted Ronald Reagan would be appalled at how his words and actions are twisted and/or ignored to define modern day conservatism. So let’s not argue with them about whether this is meant to be a Christian nation. Let’s have the discussion about whether their ideas on being a Christian conform to what that religion actually says. Let’s play a game with them. I call it Scripture Tossing.
I have always believed that it is a good idea to know what other people are talking about so my own opinions could be at least well informed. I find you don’t have to agree with a book to read it and know about it. This got me into trouble when I was in Junior High, because I read Karl Marx. When my teacher started ragging on what Karl Marx had to say, I said to her, “But he doesn’t say that.” She said “Yes, he does.” I said, “Have you read it?” She hadn’t. I, being the know it all that I am, said, “How can you talk about what he says if you haven’t even read it?” Which entitled me to a trip to the Principal’s office. My point here is, you don’t have to agree with Christians to read their book. In fact, if you do, you are better armed to discuss what they claim to believe as opposed to the venom they spew. So here is some material from their textbook in case you get a chance to have an intelligent discussion. They will, of course, try to come back at you with verses of their own, so it would help to know the whole thing. This is just for starters, what I consider to be tokenss in a game called “Scripture Tossing.”
So, Mr. Conservative, while I don’t agree with you about this being founded as to be Christian, for argument’s sake, let’s accept that premise and talk about what it means to be a Christian nation.
First and foremost, you would have to agree that, as God, Jesus had to be an integrated personality, right?
And as such, his actions and words would match his beliefs and concerns. Right?
Right. (If they don’t say “right” here, you are arguing with an idjut and the conversation should end.)
So do you see the Bible as a book to be taken literally or figuratively? (They will almost always say literally, this establishes ground rules in case they start “interpreting” the words for their cause.)
So in NO PLACE in the Gospels does he mention abortion or homosexuality.
Those are both sins. God says so.
Show me one place where Jesus addresses them. (They can’t. He didn’t. They will bring up Leviticus.)
Oh, yeah, the same place where there is a ban on Christmas Ham and crab dip. Or Easter ham if you do turkey for Christmas. Am I right? (Leviticus 11 7-8)
Yeah, but that was made OK by Peter’s vision.
Did it say exactly what parts of Leviticus were still in affect or merely say specifically it was ok to eat anything you want? (Specifically, Acts 10:15 says, “The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”” NIV. This could include anything including believing homosexuals. The exact word is “anything,” not “ham.”) Reading the entire section, you see that associating with gentiles was now made ok. So it wasn’t just food being addressed here. Take out the old testament and the letters of Paul (clearly he had a hard time of letting go of many of his prejudices) and there is NOTHING that makes homosexuality a sin.
Anyway, if Jesus was so hard over on homosexuality, wouldn’t he have said so? I mean, he sure spoke out on things he cared about. Here is what he DID care about. The poor (one verse won’t suffice here, it is all over the Gospels. Start with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)). The sick (ditto – 28 such stories). Children (Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.””) NIV. Caring for strangers even of different ethnic background (The story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37).
But homosexuality was not known at that time. (Hey, I don’t even have to tell you that it existed in Greece, the predominant culture among the elite at that time.)
I do know that Jesus said the number one command was to love one another (John 15:17, Matt22:37-40). He also said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye”. (Matthew 7:1-5 KJV)
The last paragraph is the reason we cannot be a Christian nation and still have DOMA or DADT, deny rights to immigrants, legal or otherwise, or claim that poor people deserve to be poor or any of that other hogwash. It is the reason we can’t justify withholding assistance because people are different from us.
Finally, for those who know for a certainty they are speaking God’s words and following God’s will comes this message: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:31-45 NIV)
Surely, those who have denied extensions of unemployment benefits or voted against SCHIP or not moved to help people stay in their homes are not acting by the above. The idea of homeless children is unspeakable if you believe what Jesus taught. The Arizona Papers laws go against Christian principles, as do any laws to deny employment or citizenship for those born here. Bigotry is not acceptable. If this is a Christian nation, homelessness and hunger cannot be tolerated. Neither can corporate greed. Universal health insurance is a must. Wars to benefit corporations? Not a chance! If, in fact, the literal Bible is the textbook, their entire movement is out of alignment.
While I do not call myself a Christian, per se (long story mostly because the word Christian has been so badly polluted and my cosmology is not acceptable to them), I do believe these teachings are wise and moral. I also find almost everything Jesus said to align with the Progressive agenda. I do not know how you can be a real Christian and not be a progressive.