Monday, August 26, 2013

The Central Flaw in Capitalism, Democracy, and Freedom

Democracy!  Capitalism!!  Freedom!!!  God Bless America!!!!

These four proclamations are like sacred incantations in our American vocabulary.  They’re indelibly stuck in our American psyche and we faithfully repeat them (especially during political campaigns, which seem never ending), as holy American mantras.

But, assertive pronouncements, even with passionate devout fervor, give no guarantee to their faithful application.

As to “Democracy,” votes can still be bought and sold, or worse, ignorantly and blindly misled.  The masses are always vulnerable to being duped and naively misdirected, often shamelessly seeing nothing beyond their own self-interest, which is easily pandered to by shrewd and unscrupulous politicians.

As to “Capitalism,” it is a far from perfect economic system; indeed, many, many people suffer from its unchecked and unregulated excess, to say the least.

As to “Freedom,” we now act as if freedom is a kind of absolute personal right, giving us license to do whatever, whenever, however, we feel like—with the one qualifier: “so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else”—as if we are all islands unto ourselves with no interconnectedness in consequence and effect (notwithstanding the well-known chaos theory principle called the “Butterfly Effect”).

And, as to “God Bless America!” we evoke this as if we have the right of God’s favor upon us, as if God must be on our side.  What presumption!

God demands humility, mercy, justice, and truth from His people.  God demands personal integrity, as well as economic and social justice for His people.  He does not bless greed, or the abuse of wealth, power and status, or injustice, or a rebellious, wayward, and self-indulgent people.  As a nation, we conveniently seem to forget this while we cry out “God Bless America!”

In short, along with the privileges of freedom, democracy, and capitalism come the responsibilities of self-control and the ability for self-restraint, the limiting of self-indulgence for example, with respect to our freedom.  Or along with our enjoyment of a capitalistic economic system comes the responsibility for the systemic care of the poor, the sick, the weak and the needy.

Truth be told, the quality of a system—democratic, capitalistic, economic, political, social, or otherwise—is no better than the people applying it.  If the people within the system are greedy, selfish, and self-indulgent, having no larger vision than that of their own self-interest, the system will fail, even if it happens to be the best system around.

Systems are not corrupt, people are.  The weakness of any and all systems is in the humans who function within it.  A system’s greatest weakness is Human Nature and human character, not the system itself.

Hence, in actuality, certain values and principles that undergird other economic systems, such as socialism and communism, for example, might actually be worth applying to our own capitalistic system (modified of course)—so as to make our own particular form of capitalism more equitable, more functionally fair and just.  But those words “Socialism” and “Communism” are taboo, as if the evil of those systems were inherent in the system rather than in the corruptness of the people that function within them.

We tend to treat our Capitalistic and Democratic systems as if they were a religion—something to be believed in, by faith, without question or doubt.  Likewise so we treat their opposing systems, Socialism and Communism, as if they are of the devil, heretical, evil, and anathema.  What we probably really need, in terms of a good economic policy, is an economic system that applies the best working values and principles from all sources, be it capitalist, socialist, or communist, so as to ensure that the most people have the best opportunity to make a fair and just living off our limited lands, shrinking resources, and modest means.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Living in an Unjust World

We live in a cruel and unjust world.

For example, what are the consequences, or what should be the consequences, of grievous and horrible acts of violence and hatred?

From the purely human point of view, people DO get away with murder.  Scoundrels cheat, lie, and steal, and live quite well at the expense of others.  Some use brute force and naked power to oppress their victims and keep them in virtual slavery to their wants and wishes.  And, whether by official and legitimate means (as in the use of business and/or government office) or by unofficial and illegitimate means (as in the use of gangs or the mafia, for example) the end is the same.  People suffer dearly under their tyranny.

How will this be made right?  How is justice had, for those who suffer and die by the hands of unjust and unscrupulous individuals?

If there were no God, the question doesn’t matter.  Death equals nothingness.  And, here on earth, it becomes a simple matter of the survival of the fittest.  And so, the cruel, unjust, power hungry, oppressor types, live as such, embracing the old adage: “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”; which is to say, “Grab what you can, while you can.  Kill if you have to.  Do whatever you need to, in order to get what you want, for we’re here today and gone tomorrow.  Live it up!”

Will one eventually pay for one’s sins?

Funny, even the word, “sin,” is dismissed as outdated and immaterial these days.  People laugh at the word, a silly topic, too unsophisticated for polite conversation, even distasteful.  The word has become irrelevant for all too many.

But then, from whence is real justice?  Certainly not from us humans; we want it, even long for it.  We try with all our might to properly exercise it.  Still, we fall short of it, often missing the mark quite badly even phenomenally so!  But it doesn’t stop us from aiming for it.  Yet, when push comes to shove, we want it for others, but seldom for ourselves—when we are the ones in the wrong, that is.

And so, accepting that God IS, we also would hope that God is Just—a Just and Righteous God, Holy and True.  But if that is the case, how will we measure up to this just, righteous and holy God?

Ah, therein is our dilemma.  What will God do, what shall God say about our own unrighteous acts, our own unjust deeds, our own little wrongs that we’ve committed against others?

Perhaps we need take more seriously the wise observation made in Ecclesiastes (12:12-14): “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

There is good reason why the message of the Gospel of salvation offered to humanity in the person of Jesus the Messiah is called “Good News”!  For, in terms of God’s standard of righteousness, justice, and holiness, do any of us stand a chance, if we are to trust in our own self-righteousness?  To even consider the possibility that we have the self-sufficient potential to pass God’s moral scrutiny, with approval, reveals our blindness to the real truth of our moral failings.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Problem Solving Strategies

Problems, problems, problems, life is full of problems.  And they never seem to go away.  It is a fact of life.  So, instead of avoiding problems or hiding and running from them, or wishing they’d go away, the best strategy is to learn how to deal with them when they come.  Here are some helpful strategic ways to deal with problems.

(A) Put them in perspective.  That is, view your problems in light of your life’s big picture respecting your life goals, priorities, values, and life’s end.

Problems are easier to deal with when you clearly understand how they affect your greater goals and purposes, allowing you to determine the level of impact and thus their immediacy (from the severe, demanding immediate attention, to the insignificant, which can be ignored).

This presumes that you have the big picture of your life in mind:  Where are you heading, what are you doing to get there, what are the obstacles that may prevent you from reaching your life’s goal?  How do you want to be remembered when you die and what accomplishments do you hope to have by the end of your life?  In short, view all of your “problems” from the vantage point of one heading in a certain direction toward a certain end and deal with them accordingly.

(B) Accurately and clearly define your problem.  This sounds simple enough; however, sometimes the “problem” you believe you are facing is not the real problem.  The issues that lie behind or underneath the surface may be the real problem.

This requires bold honesty within one’s self, to one’s self.  Ask yourself, why is this a problem for me?  Why would I prefer to run or escape from dealing with it rather than to confront it head on?  What am I not admitting, acknowledging, or accepting about this problem?  Try to get to the root or heart of the problem in the process of defining it.

(C) Clarify whose problem it is.  That is, is this a problem that you caused and that you are able to resolve or correct or is it a problem that is beyond your ability to control, manage, or solve?

First of all, keep in mind that not all problems are yours.  There are a lot of people who are happy to make their problems YOUR problem.  Don’t take on other people’s problems—unless it is your job, or you personally feel called to do so, or unless you know that you have to share the problem as part of a group or community that has collective ownership of the problem.

Secondly, know your limitations and the extent of your ability to adequately and satisfactorily deal with the problem.  Understand what the problem requires and determine your ability to solve it.  You may need help or it may be a problem that cannot be solved.  For example, when the Titanic hit the iceberg and started to sink, there was no way to solve the problem of its sinking.  The only solution was to abandon ship and man the lifeboats.  That is to say, deal with problems that you can actually solve.

(D) Examine: look, listen, and think before you take action.   Problems are best dealt with when you fully understand their details and how best to tackle it.  This requires some reflection, contemplation, information gathering, and assessment taking.  Then, “make it so” and do what you have to do.

You have options. You always do.  Determine what those options are.  Put them in perspective as to timing and urgency.  Compare long term solutions with short term solutions and their consequences.  Take the time to consider the advantages and disadvantages between various options.  Yes, take the time to do so, if you have the time; however, do not procrastinate.  In the end, you must make a decision and take action.  Once a decision is made, neither vacillate nor hesitate, rather, be swift and to the point about it.

(E) Follow through.  You now have a plan or strategy.  You know what needs to be done.  Some problems require ongoing attention, miner steps and major steps, process, and time.  Follow through to the end.  Do not stop halfway, midway, or somewhere in between.  Or there is a good chance that the problem will never truly be dealt with and thus will never really go away.

Be ready to adapt, modify, and change strategies along the way if necessary.  Sometimes you may have to step-back and re-evaluate, even take a “wait-and-see” approach, but you are still in the mode of addressing the problem.  And monitor your progress.  Only when you know that the problem has fully and completely been dealt with, do you put it behind you and move on.