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February 10, 2005



Off subject, but covering topics you have been posting on lately: privilege, self-restraint, and self-discipline, I have wondered why your socialist values don’t come more into play? Many things you regard are a privilege to you, those same privileges are what others work hard to obtain, and even others can only wish for. But you language, actions, and solutions to these issues are based on capitalistic privilege—not socialism. You applaud socialism and deride capitalism. You fly around the country to run when you can run in your “backyard”. You have a $2000+ bike when a $1000 or less bike would give you a greater workout and enable you to donate the rest to folks who need helmets. Socialism, ideally so “they” say, would ensure more people are feed and with balanced nutrition; yet, it is capitalism that enables you to even think of maintaining a vegan diet. I am not calling you out as a hypocrite, please don’t misunderstand that. But if the ills of Western capitalism are such as you have scorned, why consider the privilege and charity of the same. If I wanted to enjoy the benefits of a capitalistic economy and value socialism at the same time, I would first give up 50% of my income to charities of my choice and then worry about how I am going to maintain a vegan diet, $2000+ bike, and flying around the country/world, I almost forgot the clothes. The virtue of privilege may then become more self-apparent and someone like myself might understand what your talking about, especially regarding self-restraint and self-discipline.

Hugo Schwyzer

Joe, before I spend a dime on clothes or bikes or anything else, I tithe. Trust me, that doesn't come easily -- it's scary, regardless of income. Giving 10% of $1000 or 10% of 1,000,000 is an act of faith and conviction.

I do want to see democratic socialism in place, my brother. That however, is a long and arduous process. I am striving to make wise and healthy choices with my money and with my time.

Plenty of poor folks maintain vegan diets. Ask the Jains of India.


Isn't "democratic socialism" kind of an oxymoron?

Hugo Schwyzer

Hardly. http://www.dsausa.org/dsa.html


Ah, the Lord may require 10% but what of democratic socialism? Can we assume that giving near 50% of our income an "act of faith and conviction". I'm just curious if that should be more apparent in your post or as equally so as feminism or your faith are. But, "That however, is a long and arduous process" I would say many of the goals of your feminism are just the same. If capitalism is the culprit, to various feminist's issues as you have suggested, could you not "kill two birds with one stone".

Hugo Schwyzer

Oh no, capitalizm isn't the culprit. Capitalism is the symptom; the disease is our own sinfulness, manifested in a failure of imagination and a failure of compassion. Thus the primary focus needs to be on changing the human heart, not just changing the system.


There is truth to your last comment. However, a benevolent dictatorship would be best to ensure compassion and a free market economy to encourage imagination.



Not to hijack the thread here, but...

How do you resolve your Christian views with a belief in socialism? I understand the connection with seeing others taken care of and of a rejection of materialism, but I interpret much of the Bible and specifically the New Testament to be very much against the idea of a civil institution that provides for peoples' needs.

The most obvious of course is "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, render unto the Lord that which is the Lord's." Then the one that says "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." Then of course in the Old Testament there's the whole story of the tower of Babel.

So I guess the way I interpret it, Jesus gave us all the responsibility to take on the compassionate role of providing and serving as a personal mission rather than a government mission. And when they say "Love thy neighbor as you love thyself" it's more or less telling us to love someone as you know them for real rather than as simply an abstraction.

Hugo Schwyzer

Yours is a classically American Protestant view of the Gospel, craichead! "Render unto Caesar" means that there must always be a clear distinction betweeen the church and the state. But it doesn't mean that Christians ought not seek to turn the state into an instrument of God's justice. (Paul makes it clear that that is what the state is.) My Mennonite side disagrees with that, calling it "Constantinianism of the Left", but I am inclined to believe, along with my brethren on the Christian right, that Christians are called to do justice and love mercy both individually and as citizens. And though the state is not perfectable, and is no substitute for the Kingdom itself, it is an institution that can be brought into line with basic Christian values.


I think you and I would agree on the idea that a society does have a responsibility to see that people who can't -- or won't -- meet basic needs have those needs met. Where we would disagree is on what "need" really means.

I think of this very much in terms of the New Testament and what it's basic theme was. People debate about the miracles that Jesus performed. I find them in a way more meaningful if they're thought of more as symbolic miracles.

By that I mean, if you look at it in the context of Hebrew law and teaching of the time things may not have been as literal as we sometimes accept -- ie was Lazarus truly dead, or only dead in a figuritive sense in that he was ostracized from his community and therefore "dead" to them. Did Jesus literally heal the leper or did he simply take matters into his own hands and declare the leper "healed" so that he could be considered clean and free to worship in the temple?

So viewed in that way what Jesus did was remove the power to regulate worship and a relationship with God from the hands of the Pharisees and temple priests and placed it within the hands of the individual. See what I mean? I'm in a rush and not explaining this well.

So in the end, what he was correcting was the fact that the institution of the temple and its priests had become more important than those they were supposed to help connect with God.

And so it is, the problem I find with socialism -- that in the end the institution of the government becomes the "real" thing and its subjects become the abstraction.

Maybe I should take that idea over to my own blog....

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