My sister and I went to Ellis Island last week, the portal of our entry into the United States in 1951. I remember standing on deck at the railing, holding my father’s hand and cheering at the sight of the statue and land. I knew we had arrived for a new life and home. My father was a socialist and brought me up to respect labor and that capitalism was an exploitive form of human relationship. He was a scholar, an “upper maker” by trade, (the top part of the shoe) and worked at Henry Ford’s cutting upholstery. My mother worked there too, sewing it. She had been a seamstress. He wanted to teach me how to make shoes so that I could always earn a living. I told him I didn’t need to; that I would go to college and be safe. Now, after many professions, I find myself gathering things “the fruit of human labor” to put together in some form that honors the story behind them and–so that I too can finally say I have made something with my hands.
As much as I read and have read about economics now and in the past, I feel most of what we say about it is fiction. The land is still here. The houses are still here. The farms are still here. The people, hands, minds are still here. It is an affair of the heart, giving and receiving.
That’s where the problem lies, writ large. Socialism en route to communism, are spiritual economic systems: to give according to our abilities and receive according to our needs. And, the final state, the withering away of the state, is the time when we no longer need external rules, laws because we have we have become our best, highest self, and are unafraid to know that we are all one.
All things get distorted. Laissez-faire has it’s theoretical validity too, a belief in personal freedom, which after all is also the highest goal of “the withering away of the state”. However personal freedom unmoored from spiritual development can become greed and ruthless disregard of the the other and the best in ourselves.
Many celebrated when “communism” failed in what seemed “not with a bang, but a whimper”. We won, we won! And now, who will say forthrightly–capitalism, unfettered markets and unaccountable profits have failed, bringing us down with a global bang. We do not live the truths in each theory, we live and create from the truth of who and what we are.
Yes, we are at an interesting juncture. The sky is falling. Crisis/opportunity palpable. Can we create an economy of caring and cooperation? Evolution takes a long time, but emergent realities can sometimes break through.
[above image by Rosa Naparstek, copyright the artist, all rights reserved]