How Propagandists for the 1% Are Manipulating Christian Teachings to Rob the Middle Class
Continued from previous page
Utopians at the Gate
In the 2012 US presidential election, the Republican Romney-Ryan ticket represents the triumph of neoliberal utopian faith over the messy realities of experience and history. There has been much discussion about the political calculations of Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, but it seems entirely plausible that he was picked because he is a kindred utopian spirit.
Born to wealth and privilege, Romney's utopian worldview was formed among the high priests in the secretive and cloistered worlds of the Mormon Church and equity capital markets. At every turn in his insular pilgrim's path, Romney's utopian economic and religious beliefs have been reinforced in untroubled environments far removed from the struggles of daily life. He can change positions at will because his overriding utopian faith remains untouched irrespective of the particulars of individual policy prescriptions.
Also born to wealth, Ryan was a youthful devotee of neoliberal founding fathers von Mises and Hayek, supplementing his market faith with the culturally corrosive, ego-centered atheism of Ayn Rand, until the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, representing his professed Catholic faith, publicly objected to the cruelty and inhumanity of his 2011 US budget proposals.
The bishops described Ryan's budget as being antithetical to their call to create "a circle of protection" around the poor and vulnerable. With his tea-vangelical base of support threatened, Ryan quickly discovered St. Thomas Aquinas as a more appropriate religious vehicle for channeling his market utopianism. (18)
The presentation of the Romney-Ryan ticket by the Republican Party tells us that the path to utopia is stony and difficult, as it should be. Reaching the neoliberal Promised Land requires sacrifice. In order to scale the utopian summit, we must cast out the unbelievers (Obama, Democrats, liberals, environmentalists, feminists, et al.) and balance the divine books with the purifying fire of "austerity," the neoliberal equivalent of self-flagellation.
Austerity-mandated cuts in vital public services must be accompanied by ever-increasing tax reductions for the top income brackets - aka, the priestly class of "job creators" - thus intentionally accelerating the insolvency of the iniquitous public sector. Someone has to pay for the extravagant incomes, lifestyles and war profiteering of the oracular speculative class in order to keep the swindle going, and it turns out to be us.
Where does this lead?
Were Romney and Ryan to be elected in November, it is probable that some of their more radical policy pronouncements would be constrained by the realities of Washington. (19) Yet there is something disquieting about the seriousness with which they embrace discredited utopian ideals. Fascism has been described as " a utopian movement in search of a utopia." (20) Today's Republican Party, headed by true believers Romney and Ryan, comes dangerously close to this description.
Polanyi postulated three essential elements of Western consciousness: knowledge of death; knowledge of freedom; and knowledge of society, which is gained experientially and liberates us from our utopian illusions. (21) The Republicans of 2012 are in denial about this third element of consciousness.
The certainty that comes from faith in an immanent utopia leaves them unable to acknowledge and deal with the enormous complexities and uncertainties of a modern multi-cultural, information-age society, except through demonization and the story of an idol defiled. As a result, the commonweal is eclipsed by a divisive utopian vision that defines extreme religious economic individualism as true patriotic freedom. Romney's recent comments dismissing the lives of half the electorate offer a clear illustration of the utopian incapacity to deal with society as it exists. (22)