Gordon Gekko was also a self-made man, but he was the antithesis of the Ponderosa patriarch Ben Cartwright. Gekko routinely used his money and power to destroy companies and lay off workers, and the only person he cared about was himself.
And where old Ben was brave, strait-talking and honest, Gekko was ruthless, manipulative, and corrupt, i.e., a fictional representation of real-life corporate raiders like "Chainsaw Al" Dunlop, "Neutron Jack" Welsh, and of course, the current Republican nominee for president, "Bullshit Mitt" Romney.
And could you imagine Gordon Gekko (or Mitt Romney) doing manual labor alongside the workers at one of the companies he was about to sack and throw into bankruptcy? No, manual labor is for losers. In fact, working for a living or starting a business that actually produces goods and creates jobs and stimulates the economy is for suckers.
"I create nothing," Gekko tells his young protege Bud Fox, "I own!" In other words, he is the ultimate amoral capitalist, the slick, conniving salesman who uses his acumen to make tons of money at the expense of everyone else--including Bud Fox, whom he betrays in the end in order to make more profits for himself.
Thus the difference between a compassionate old-school entrepreneur like Ben Cartwright and a ruthless vulture capitalist like Gordon Gekko could not be more striking.
The problem is, since the 1980s, the Gordon Gekkos of the world are winning the battle of the rich white guys. They're the ones who are dominating our economy and our political process. They're the ones who have taken our jobs overseas, who don't pay taxes, who buy and sell our politicians, who pollute our environment, who destroy our unions, who create financial bubbles, and who want to privatize everything, including Social Security. And they don't take any prisoners-- they destroy whatever is in their path to attain their goal.
But why do the Gordon Gekko types feel the need to be so ruthless and want more and more for themselves at the expense of others? Psychologists tell us that it's a pathology that stems from feelings of insecurity and weakness in their childhood. And as these individuals grow into adults, they become obsessed with "having" things rather than "sharing" things, and greed becomes second nature to them.
As the famed psychoanalyst Erich Fromm explained: "In the having mode, one's happiness lies in one's superiority over others, in one's power, and in the last analysis, in one's capacity to conquer, rob, kill."
Add to this pathological behavior a moral justification for it based on philosophers like Ayn Rand and economists like Milton Friedman and-- voila! Greed is good becomes a fascist religion! And anyone who doesn't go along with the program is a socialist or a bum or a loser. And this is one step away from saying these people should be eliminated, the final solution in the fascist playbook.
Naturally, this begs the question: Is it possible to reason with fascists? Is it possible to force them to change their pathological behavior with peaceful protests and civil disobedience? So far it hasn't worked.
So what's left?
In Bonanza, whenever Ben Cartwright and his boys would be pushed too far by bad seeds or outlaws-- and when they couldn't settle a problem with reason or logic or in a court of law-- they were not averse to pulling out their Colt. .45s and dispensing justice with violence.
Sometimes that's the only way to deal with bad seeds or outlaws--or fascists.
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