The Equanimist

Part II. Worth

“You say it is the good cause that hallows even war. I say unto you: It is the good war that hallows any cause.” – Nietzsche

Here, I would like (desperately) to write something else; that a man or woman is worth some moral equivalent in dollars; or, at least, that human dignity is valuable and productivity still more so. Peace costs. Loyalty costs. High living standards cost.

But this is not the place to argue that everybody is created equal – for better or worse – equally incapable of self-control; that freewill is an unsupportable postulate accepted by ignorants and promoted by spin doctors; that “you” are not the “you” you think yourself to be.

I will write these things – elsewhere – in some other ‘Part’.

The trouble is that these arguments against unmitigated avarice and megalomania break down when opponents deny reason (when no rational moral argument can stand up, and, we are debased). (Religious doctrine accomplished what reason seems inadequate to do. The fear of God served a purpose after all!)

When push comes to shove, a person is worth what s/he can and will take and defend. And, nothing can be taken that is not sacrificed (except in death).

Capitalism has so debased us. It is a “survival of the fittest” – a constant contest, which does not generally mean a triumph of the “best” but, specifically, some fruitful advantage (whether it be defined as child-bearing or wealth-consolidation – or betterment, but let us save that discussion for some other place).

In a freemarket, I am worth what I can and will take [from you] by force (intellectual or, now more rarely, physical) and am then willing and able to protect. [It’s extraordinarily counterproductive! How much work, for example, is just contest? And how much productivity is sapped by same? And how do our lives suffer as a result?]

We (people) are not (intrinsically) adversaries at a zero-sum game, but Capitalism makes us so. Ergo, it behooves me to be confident; to deny you; and to take some prize. I should think myself better and belittle you; I should value my assets and disparage yours; demand everything and leave nothing; have everything because having is triumph, and, triumph is controlling influence, and, controlling influence rules – not the best – but triumph.

To wit, capital is squandered.

When credit (not synonymous with but equivalent to effective triumph) is controlling influence – credit is everything! So, we contest for credit. “Good” and “bad” notwithstanding, when opposing forces meet, a slim “edge” wins, and, the “loser” is overcome – effectively negated in a binary capitalist system. But, how else can it be when triumph is everything (and everything else, perforce, is nothing)?

Worse, however, opposing forces are susceptible to “other” forces. Some of these other forces will favor one or another of two dueling bodies; some will come at odd angles. – An arch is “strong” not because it fights itself but because it supports itself and so distributes forces so as to maintain the integrity of its shape.

Society that fights at itself is inherently vulnerable. Locked in mortal combat, one with another, US citizens make themselves prey – needlessly, because US resources are suited to the task of cooperation.

This, however, is the reality. We have come down to agree that you are only worth what you can wrest from somebody else. Why? Because we are not a country – not a community – but three hundred million individuals loosely associated into real physical and ideological fractions. The enemy is your own spouse – or maybe not your spouse but the opposite “sex”; your neighbor – or maybe not your neighbor but somebody down the street – in the next state – half way across the continent – on the other side of the world. We’re “male” and “female” and “transgendered” – “straight”, “homosexual” and “bisexual” – “pants-wearers” and “pansies” and “housewives” (oh, my!) – “socialists”, “liberals”, “moderates”, “conservatives”, “fascists”, whathaveyou – “Christians”, “Muslims”, “Jewish”, and etcetera – “African Americans”, “Mexican Americans”, “Italian Americans”, “Europeans” and so forth – “Pennsylvanians” and “New Jerseyans”, for example – “Philadelphians”, “Princetonians”, “Trentonians” – “Smiths”, “Jonses”, and “Rodriguezes” – “fathers” and “mothers” – “sons” and “daughters” – “black sheep” and “good children”.

What are you worth but what you can wrest from another? Nothing.

The “American Dream” has gone up in a puff of Capitalism – not socialism, or republicanism or democracy, but capitalism.

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