Bryan recently mourned the death of a woman who was simply a good human being. While millions mourned the death of Steve Jobs, a flaming asshole who refused to acknowledge his own illegitimate daughter until forced to do so by a court and ran his company more like Captain Bligh than Mother Theresa, this woman was mourned by only a few local people. Because, see, being good is not what gets you rewarded in this neo-liberal capitalist society. Rather, being a flaming asshole is what gets you rewards — money, fame, acclamation.
And that’s pretty much true for all people who’ve been rewarded by this society. A poor person, if you’re down and out, will give you the shirt off his back. Some yuppie mom in an SUV? Not a chance. And stats show this is true society-wide — the poor give a far larger percentage of their income to charity than the well-off do, despite the fact that they can afford it least. But see, the poor haven’t been rewarded (yet?) for being flaming assholes. The well-off? By and large, they’ve been rewarded for being flaming assholes, not for being generous, caring, and giving. People by and large behave in a way that gives them the most rewards, that’s just a fact of biological monkey nature, and if what gets people rewards is being a flaming asshole… is it any wonder that America has become a land of flaming assholes who begrudge teachers their tenure and pensions, who begrudge poor people their food stamps, who say “stick it to them!” to poor kids trying to get a college education, who say we don’t need all those overpaid cops and firefighters and teachers and librarians and libraries with all those heretical books in them, in short, a land of people who act like complete Pharisees rather than like the caring and generous Jesus of the Bible? Hey, they’re just going along with the flow, it wasn’t *their* idea to set up society this way, and they don’t know any other way that a society could be organized ’cause this be the way it ‘spozed to be ’cause, like, it’s always been this way, right?
And don’t say “well, then we should start rewarding being caring and generous”, because being rewarded for being selfish and stingy is inherent in neoliberal capitalism. Unless you change how society is organized, you might as well say “water should start being dry.” It’s simply a violation of the fundamental nature of the beast that is neoliberal capitalism to behave in any other way — selfishness is a core principle of this way of organizing an economy. The evil philosophy of Ayn Rand that “greed is good and selfishness is a virtue” is fundamental to the entire way our economy operates, and most people just go along with what society rewards. This has been papered over from time to time with regulations to reign in the worst of capitalism’s abuses, but capitalism as currently comprised by its very nature rewards those who are most greedy and venal.
The problem… the problem is that this is not long-term sustainable. You can only loot and pillage so far before the whole ball of wax collapses. I don’t know what the solution is to reform a system of evil incentives that most people apparently never question, but the end point of where we’re currently going is hell on Earth, a dystopia that will make George Orwell’s 1984 look optimistic, and I’m tired of being in this handbasket.
– Badtux the Cranky Penguin