Friday, June 11, 2010

The God of Enron, BP, and AIG

We live now in the post-Reagan Era when the deregulation of the multi-national corporation has become, as it were, the Supreme Being of our created order. In the traumatic age in which we live, our God has become Greed and the Almighty Dollar, Euro, and Yen etc. are the symbols of humanity's bottom line.
We have come to believe that the best governed is the least governed. We feed our own greed with he notion that all taxation is bad and we disparage the democratic process itself with a dismissive wave of the hand. "Politics!" we say with disgust. When we have the temerity to speak of a social program that might benefit the more vulnerable in the social order all that needs to be said is "Tax and Spend, Tax and Spend" and debate is deadened with a reflexive knee jerk twinge. There is silence. And the vulnerable in our midst continue to fall through what we once called a "safety net". The holes through which they fall are becoming significantly larger.
On September 11, 2001, not a single fighter jet scrambled to intercept a single pirated commercial airliner. The President of the United States sat reading to a kindergarten class with his eyes glazed over like a deer in the headlamps, while the nation was under attack. To his credit, he led the nation in mourning and for one brief shining moment united us as we have seldom been united before. He led us then into battle in Afghanistan...although I would have preferred a more covert operation to single out the culprits like bin Laden and his minions. He went after Hussien and declared war in Iraq...a blunder we'll be paying for years to come.
The collapse of Enron was another one of those corporate Terrorist attacks. Fortune Magazine named it the most innovative company in America for six consecutive years. It employed 22,000 people and claimed revenues of $101 billion in 2000. But the whole thing was a fraud. The entire Corporation collapsed, as Marx predicted Capitalism would, in another century. Jobs, pensions, and life savings were lost to tens of thousands, and that was a mere harbinger to what was afoot throughout Corporate life amongst the multi-nationals. Child's play compared to what was to come.
Then in the summer of 2005 we sat idly by watching people broil to death in the flood waters of New Orleans as the levies burst. We waited and accused them of looting and shooting at helicopters. And we let them die. Thousands of them died. And we tipped the wing of Air Force One and said; "Ain't that a shame!" We did nothing.
In the years since, college kids, Habitat for Humanity, and a host of churches did their part. But the money we spent there via the exquisite competence of FEMA went missing. "Helluva job Brownie!". At every level of government we proved ourselves inept and incompetent.
Then the real estate bubble popped and under capitalized financial institutions who had bundled mortgages and other financial instruments into credit default swaps, began to falter one by one. We saved the skins of the the giant investment bankers and AIG etc. and we rewarded corporate irresponsibility with our hard earned tax dollars, and allowed the victims of this pure and simple greed to loose their homes to foreclosure. We gave billions upon billions to corporate criminals, and let millions loose their homes, college kids build up debt that will take a lifetime to pay, and credit card balances to go out of sight...and gave them little to nothing. The one great opportunity we had to build up our financial institutions from the bottom up has been lost. We gave it to them instead from the top down and they kept the money and fleeced their pockets with bonuses that would make a decent human being blush. It begs the question as to how much decency their is in our corporate board rooms and corporate executives.
And now the Gulf of Mexico is rapidly filling up with oil and for more than 50 days the President of the United States again sits like a deer in the headlamps deferring to BP, Haliburton and the corporate blame game, incompetence, greed and criminal behavior and cover up continues unabated. Meanwhile our government again proves itself inept, incompetent and ineffectual. Where is our nerve? Why can't we just tell them to cease and desist from all business in the United States until they stop the leak and clean up the mess. Then we'll see whether we'll let them do business in this country. Our coastlines along the Gulf are fouled and Pelicans and other and sea life suffer and die a long and torturous death. How perfectly cruel!
Cruelty is not the sole province of multi-nationals; now we too as a nation and as a people turn a cold shoulder to those millions who seek refuge on these shores. Forgetting that we Irish fled famine in another century and faced "Irish Need Not Apply" signs in urban areas and found politics to be the vehicle for finding a place in the sun, now we turn our faces away from the suffering of those from Mexico, The Dominican Republic and Haiti. Rather we insist that their immigration is "illegal". Our talk show hosts collect our cultural amnesia and point our collective ire and resentment toward those who, like us, merely fled misery for hope.
Italian-Americans easily forget that it took a while to learn English. They huddled themselves into "Little Italy"'s across the country and if they could not find legitimate business, they might organize themselves into syndicates that horrified the nation with terrorist activities of their own.
It is hard to find any legal documentation for the immigration of slaves onto these shores unless you rely on the laws of property which is what we brought here in chains in fetid conditions aboard ship in an unholy triangle of trade in the Atlantic.
And of course, how can you call what the Anglos brought legal unless you rest your justification on the law of "The Divine Right of Kings"?
So now the Statue of Liberty stands noble and true in New York Harbor and still she says to the multitudes;
"The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883

The question is not so much do we mean that any more, but more to the point; do we deserve any more? Are we worthy of The Statue or should we consider returning to France until another nation comes onto the stage of history that will take up the torch of Liberty?

So many questions...so much venting of the spleen...sigh...like so many others in the times we live in, we tear away at the fabric that binds us together and we are merely further rent asunder. A sign of the times? A house divided? A harbinger of the fall of a civilization? Only time will tell.

For now we vent the spleen and I merely add to the darkness. My soul laments the dying of the Spirit that once made the nation great.

Of all the ills that infect the nation's health, the evil and wickedness of idolatry must stand head and shoulders above all else. It is our rapacious greed, that testifies against us, and our faith in the God of the Multi-National Corporation that has become the Graven Image that will in certainty be our undoing.

The Prophets of ages past called for repentance. They called the nation back to the God of Justice and Compassion. Typically their voices were ignored, and the nation fell to the enemy and they were carried off into exile.

Perhaps we face a similar time. What passes for Theology these days finds no happy home in my heart. It is a theology that finds safe harbor for bigotry and for greed; for anger and judgment. Gays, Liberals, Intellectuals are marginalized often with a dismissive wave of the hand, and we merely sit in silence unsure of what to say.

I believe it is a time to call for repentance.



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