15 March 2010

Compassion, Conservatism and Capitalism

I've said before that I don't believe in "compassionate conservatism", and it's still true. They are diametrically opposed - at least they are in the way that 'conservatism' is used today to mean cutting social funding in any possible way. Now, I suppose I can buy the idea that there are compassionate conservatives, i.e. people who are opposed to government social programs, but believe in the power of charity, and in turn, donate a lot of money to it. My wacky bio-sis is one of these. She's stupid, mind you. She donates scads of money to charities, but is vehemently opposed to mandatory medicare payments. "I should be able to opt out!" (says the wife of a doctor!). Now, opting out of medicare, EI, etc. is a ridiculous idea for a number of reasons. (1) Without everyone, there wouldn't be enough money. (2) Even supposing (1) to be false, guess who is going to try to opt back in as soon as she can't afford the medical care for a sick kid or two? Guess what, honey, ya gotta pay while you're healthy to get the benefits when you're sick! (3) The vast majority of us just aren't evil enough to let you suffer/die if you opt out and then need the system.

Capitalism too, is at odd with compassion. A capitalist exploits resources to create profit for himself. That's practically the very definition. Unfortunately, compassion isn't part of the equation. If people are the resources to be exploited, good. Exploit them. If the earth is the resource to be exploited, great, have at it. Consequences are only relevant if they will negatively affect profit.

It's why I cannot reconcile capitalism with Christianity. Capitalism calls us to use people and love things. Christianity calls us to love people and use things. Unfortunately, not all Christians see it as such. It is horrifying to me the way that they can take the Gospels and twist them for hatred, intolerance, and now greed. Glenn Beck (I know, I know, but he's influential - sadly) urged Christians to leave churches that use the words “social justice.” WTF?! He's claiming it's code for communism. *sigh* No, Glenn, it's simply tolerance and compassion.

The minister at my church recently preached about the Charter for Compassion and I am intensely impressed with that group and its mission. This part in particular speaks to me:
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.
Yes! That is exactly it. Any interpretation of scripture that Glenn Beck or his ilk comes up with is illegitimate.
I love this next part. I am working on it, but it is *damned* hard. (Pun intended)
...to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
Wow, that's a hard one. I mean, there are people out there who seem to deserve no respect whatsoever (certain anti-abortionists, Stephen Fucking Harper, Bush and his Klan of Kronies, for example). What are they calling for us to do with people like that? Certainly, they do not expect us to sit back and let them spew their evil. No, they wish us to counter it with compassion. Wow.

Absolute justice would be something though, wouldn't it?

Speaking of absolute justice, I wonder what it is. An eye for an eye? Seems more like revenge than justice to me. I'm thinking they mean it in terms of fairness. Treat people fairly. If someone is a danger to society, take them out of society (prison). That sort of thing. But I don't think there can be absolute justice in this world. We can try though. But not without compassion.

Compassion is the Golden Rule in Christianity. Treat others as you would be treated, Love Thy Neighbour, whatever you want to call it. Profit is the Golden Rule in capitalism. The two just cannot be reconciled. And it irks the hell out of me that people keep trying.