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A Follow-up to Trump

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Message Hal O'Leary
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A cautionary note to begin: I write this in the after-throes of a presidential election that brings us to a crossroads--two roads converging in a frustrating state of ambiguity. One could lead us to the ignominy of third-world status, and the other to a more complete promise of what is referred to with the hackneyed phrase, "The American Dream."

With the election of Donald Trump as President of these United States, it is difficult to assess what I hope and believe will be an extremely serious but temporary devastation to the promise of my America. In one sense, it could be a blessing in disguise. It could help us realize that while this election has to be viewed as a revolution--a people's coup d'etat, if you will--a more thorough revolution is needed if we are to rid ourselves of the ravages brought about by the unregulated capitalistic system run amok that Bernie Sanders exposed. Unfortunately, after his demise Sanders chose to endorse Hillary Clinton for no reason than simply to save the world from Trump. I would hope that his legion of followers have not vanished from the scene. Evidence of their disaffection is already apparent in the country-wide protests that have taken place even before the commission of any horrendous act that Trump may be contemplating.

Both Sanders and Trump realized the truth of a fed-up populace that knew we were headed for disaster, but didn't know why. The term "movement" can be ascribed to what both Sanders and Trump initiated--one good, and the other to be determined. Trump may well be a disaster, but the hope now lies in the probability that he will overplay his hand, particularly with "deregulation," and bring a disillusioned public back to the only true and honest solution to our plight--that which was articulated by Sanders.

The evil we face is an unregulated capitalistic system run amok. What is important to understand is that the voter's defiance of the established oligarchy is a revolutionary positive. The malevolent Bush and Clinton dynasties are no more. Since the perhaps unwitting, motivating force behind the movements of both Trump and Sanders was to undo that establishment, Clinton's defeat of Sanders left people seeking change with no choice but Trump. Another positive is that both the Bush and Clinton dynasties, ironically representing an identical, indistinguishable evil, have been vanquished in one fell swoop.

Support for capitalism is based on the erroneous supposition that man is competitive by nature, when in fact, in all of nature there are more examples of symbiosis than of competition. While it is true that there is a prevailing acceptance of competition as the basic nature of man, more recent biological and psychological studies counter it sharply with the contention that cooperation rather than competition may reflect the true nature not only of humanity but all forms of life. It wasn't until the English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) erroneously interpreted the work of Charles Darwin to suggest that "The animal world is about on a level of a gladiator's show" whereby the strongest, the swiftest, and the cunningest (sic) live to fight another day." Another Victorian scientist, Herbert Spencer, coined the term "survival of the fittest," applying it to human society, claiming that competition is our fundamental nature. This revelation was exactly what a pro-capitalist mentality sought: a justification for its greed and exploitation. Known as Social Darwinism, it shaped public opinion and policy in Great Britain and the United States for more than a century. Instead of the seven heavenly virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude), which had tended to restrain our less-than-noble behavior, the seven deadly sins (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride) were now not only justified but sanctified in the name of capitalism. "Love your neighbor" became "Dog eat dog." "Do unto others" became "Every man for himself."

If current human behavior does indeed seem to suggest that man is competitive by nature, might it apply only to his current nature, one quite different from his innate and true nature? More advanced biological and psychological knowledge suggests that, as the result of cultural conditioning, man's nature can be altered, and indeed I contend that it has. As stated, with the adoption of capitalism, virtue gave way to sin, and in general, competition was adopted as man's true nature.

The cause of our conduct then becomes a question of nature or nurture. This is not an either/or issue. It can be both. We are born with certain instincts and tendencies, but through education, upbringing and our own conscious choices, we can transform our nature, conduct and personality. There is considerable evidence to show that empathy, the ability to share emotion, is present at birth. This means that we feel with others. Should they suffer, we will likewise, and there follow attempts on our part to ease the suffering we both share. We are our brother's keeper. Evidence of this concern for others can be seen in every act from the giving up a seat to the elderly to the falling of a soldier on a grenade to save his comrades. New research shows that the existence of "selfless-genes" in the genetic code favors cooperation. In his classic work, No Contest: The Case Against Competition, Alfie Kohn concluded that "The ideal amount of competition... in any environment, the classroom, the workplace, the family, the playing field, is none."

I raise this issue only to suggest that if we continue erroneously to believe that man's true nature is one of competition and that capitalism is the only way, such a belief must lead ultimately to a complete collapse of capitalism into chaos and/or alienation among nations, ethnicities, religions and individuals. Pure logic and common sense should inform us that to allow for continued growth of an unregulated capitalistic system in a finite environment is to plant the sinful seeds of our inevitable destruction.

Before our problems can be dealt with, they must be acknowledged. To complete the oft used but misquoted boastful phrase "My country, right or wrong," it should read:

My country, right or wrong. If right, to be kept right. If wrong, to be set right.


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Hal O'Leary is an 88 year old veteran of WWII who, having spent his life in theatre, and as a Secular Humanist, believes that it is only through the arts that we are afforded an occasional glimpse into the otherwise incomprehensible. As an 'atheist (more...)
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