Mormon Liberals Could Loose the Culture War
One might say, and rightly so, that “Latter day Satyagraha” (this website) is a nonviolent practitioner’s contribution to a liberal Mormon spirituality. An acute problem is that the site’s content is probably alienating the very people to whom this message might actually matter. To some Mormon readers of my site, the experience might be rather refreshing. Finally a view that represents their values, as well as their understanding of Mormonism as a progressive form of Christianity. For other readers, this site is just another example of some quasi-educated and out-of-touch-with-reality dissident putting forth “precepts of men mingled with scripture”.
But when the economy is taken out of politics, and religions become void of social criticism against those who have power and money (the latter are actually put on a pedestal of what religionists should aspire to becoming), we are left with a value-based politico-religious debate set between “progressive” and “conservative” values: pro-choice vs. pro-life, equal marriage rights vs. protection of traditional marriage, anti-war vs. support our troops, greater role of the state in limiting big business (market regulation) vs. greater self-determination for small business entrepreneurs (less taxes), evolution theory vs. creationist discourse, consequences of climate change vs. cheaper fuel and bigger cars, vegetarian diets vs. real American food, promoting diversity vs. anti-immigration, etc.
These value-debates have all two things in common:
- The average Joe can quickly form his own opinion on each value-based issue (you are either with us or against us),
- While each single issue is not even close of addressing the widening gap between the rich and the poor, either at a national level or at a global level.
As opinion-makers either in politics or in religion, we tend to self-censor ourselves. One must avoid at all costs to insinuating that there is such a thing as an ongoing Marxist class struggle between a large majority of working proletariats against a small elite of rich capitalists for fear of being labeled exactly that: a Marxist/ socialist/ communist – upon which one is considered outdated and therefore irrelevant. The truth is that there is such a thing as a poor working class (the means of production) stripped of rights in the work place, while the rich elitist “owners of the means of production” with every right in the market place maintain their positions at the top of the power hierarchy./
The leftists, traditionally pro-welfare state activists with a working class background, have – for lack of any well-formulated economic alternatives over the last thirty years – through their new representatives, educated power elites, (think Democrat leader Bill Clinton, New Labor Tony Blair) enforced and implemented the very policies of the political right, traditionally known for its free market principles, that the political left used to oppose. While leftist political leaders have tried to convince poorer segments of society – voters that tend to have a working class background – that they are still in touch with the average jack on the street, George W. Bush & co. has been far more successful at doing exactly that in spite of his well-known privileged political and economic elitist background.
This perceived need to appeal to the average voter through popularity contests proves that the working class has not disappeared neither with their problems nor their voter influence. However, their global worker identity based on principles of equality, solidarity and brotherhood, has been replaced with a patriotic, at times nationalistic, consumer identity where every one fends for him or herself as best he or she can: screw the rest.
Solutions to workers’ problems used to be free access to education and health services (a solid welfare state), as well as tough work laws regulating capitalist ventures (a state that looked out for the interests of its voters). These solutions have now completely disappeared from any politician’s vocabulary. So the working class in the industrialized North has done the only sensible thing, which is to vote for the far right because the left is no longer providing viable alternatives for the working class neither socio-economically nor morally.
A leftist middleclass worldview based on minority rights, such as women’s rights, gay rights and the rights of immigrants, in addition to being concerned for the welfare of the global poor is void of any concern for the economic plight of workers in the North. It is also at odds with the moral values that are indeed to be found among the working class, who tend to look up to those who did well in the marketplace through their own individual hard work (their bosses), and who are concerned with God, money and country. The (normally white) hard-working family man who provides for his kin is not only alienated by leftist intellectuals and liberals who did well in a secular school system, but is also ridiculed by their peers who did well academically and who are now in positions to exert state control through interventionist policies on the very moral issues he is concerned about (God, money and country). And then the leftist elite is wondering where all their traditional voters went and why?
In fact, the situation has become so bad that the whole debate is now posited between the politically enlightened (left democratic – think Barack Obama) and the backward thinking populists (right republican – think Sarah Palin), the highly progressive and tolerant (university educated) and “are you smarter than a fifth grader” (reality-TV watching white trash), liberated feminists (middle-class women active in the public and non-profit sector) and advocates of traditional family values (lower class, oftentimes religious, divorced men working in the private sector).
Educated elites on both sides of the political spectrum and at the forefront of political and religious debates have settled on an almost unequivocal consensus as to the role of politics and the role of religion in society: to protect the interests and the freedoms of the market to secure the cheapest goods for the greatest number of consumers, while at the same time educating the supposed ignorant masses that the State should exert no power over the market and that, with the fall of Communism, Capitalism is now indeed the “only game in town”. There is an acknowledged widespread belief (oftentimes religious) that the market is in and of itself the solution to all our economic woes, while the dominant critical view against what the State does is now that it imposes on the masses high taxes with few benefits, in addition to so-called progressive and anti-discriminatory laws through activist judges.
The billionaires, the money speculators on Wall street, the international bankers have contributed to the failing economy, but have secured their profits and harvested previously-unheard-of benefits, while leaving up to the working class to carry the burden of their fiscal mismanagement. This does not necessarily mean that the leftist elite is likely to do anything about that – quite in the contrary, political leaders on both sides of the spectrum are trying hard to convince workers/consumers that it is for the best of their national economy that one must obey the forces of the market – cut down on national budgets. Meanwhile we avoid holding accountable those at the top, either politically or economically, who might be the cause of the mess.
Instead, the average man continues his “culture wars” with arrogant liberals and so-called intellectuals all the while lured from pointing the finger where it really might make a difference – at the rich capitalists. It is not in the interest of a Mormon Republican-nominee like Mitt Romney, a hard-working family man, to be suddenly held accountable for a state deficit that he and his billionaire friends could have helped avoid had they paid more taxes. He worked hard and made his well-earned money, although it might be true that it was on the backs of other hard-working but low-waged men and women.
The American dream is clearly in favor of those hard-working family men and of their conservative values. But the dream of a free-market society is a far cry from the “American Dream” that Martin Luther King, Jr. and other “so-called intellectuals” advocated in the face of wide-spread injustice, inequality and poverty.
God is after all the ultimate white male capitalist: a self-made man. If he could make it, so could you…