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Sunday, 1.15.06: Center Cannot Hold

Once upon a time I was told that in Balinese stories good never triumphs over evil. The balance between good and evil is simply restored.

In the stories of our monotheistic West, we prefer it when our godly hero smashes the villain into oblivion. Moral ambiguities and shades of gray belong to the eggheads and the latte-drinking indie crowd.

The only problem is that our definition of whose "good" keeps changing.

The problem: when the "good guys" trounce the evildoers, money and corruption aren't far behind. The most obvious case is politics. Whenever one party dominates an institution for a while, checks and balances disappear, rules relax, brewing scandals are covered up. Pay to play. Money amasses to the powerful, and those out of power are systematically weakened.

when the good guys trounce the evildoers, money and corruption aren't far behind

We are becoming smarter and more efficient at this process. It took the Republicans only a decade in charge of Congress to achieve the kind of corruption it took Democrats decades to accomplish.

And don't get me started on the corrupting power of Big Religion...

I woke up this morning to a program called "Justice Talking" on National Public Radio. The topic was labor unions.

It wasn't long ago that I dismissed labor unions as bloated, corrupt and unnecessary -- an outdated pest interfering with the enlightened management of the late twentieth century corporation.

Labor unions have been eviscerated and have fallen to squabbling among themselves.

But now the multi-national corporations look like the corrupt, evil ones in cahoots with governments like China, the so-called People's Republic. An international labor movement is desperately needed, not only for workers in Asian sweatshops but also to even the playing field with regard to wages. Without some balancing of wages jobs will not only continue to drain from the US, but will also hopscotch from Mexico to India to Vietnam to eager nations in Africa, in search of the lowest wage. Slam bam, thank you m'am.

You'd think American labor unions would be busy in developing countries. One little problem: starting labor unions in hostile territory requires a willingness to die. Until a government is protects the right of workers to organize the factory owners (which might even be the government in places like China) will simply destroy anyone in their path to prosperity. The rich get richer.

Whether in Congress or in Chinese workplaces, smashing the powerful and corrupt will only allow a different set of folks to become powerful and corrupt. Is there any way we can follow the Balinese path of simply restoring the balance?

 

Second Coming by WB Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

...

 

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