Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bloomberg's God

Mayor Bloomberg of New York, a Wall Street Billionaire, said yesterday about the Occupy Wall Street demonstration, now approaching its third week: "The protesters are protesting against people who make $40,000, $50,000 year and are struggling to make ends meet....Those are the people that work on Wall Street in the finance sector...If the banks don't go out and make loans, we will not come out of our economic problems. We will not have jobs."

What Bloomberg means is that banks do something good. But the protesters are not against the institution of banking. They are against banks and other corporations using money to influence the government to act unfairly.

Bloomberg would of course admit that banks and corporations influence the government to act in their favor. The Supreme Court has decided this is legal.

The banks operate within the law. If you criticize what the law allows you are threatening all of civilization, not just banks. What you complain about is normal.

In one of Plato's early dialogs* a distinction is made between something being good because God loves it, and something being loved by God because it is good. We can debate what is good using reason and reflection. But what God loves is anyone's guess.

We don't know God's mind. That is why he is God and we aren't. Anyone can say something is loved by God. It might be true. And it feels true when we have grown up with it and have learned that believing otherwise is punished.

For Bloomberg, banking is good, the laws are good. The banks and the laws are good because God loves them. He knows this as any loyalist to his group knows his group is right.


A civilized people like ourselves have let ourselves get so primitive, so accustomed to politics determined by party loyalty. How did this happen?

Everyone has his own truth in a democracy. The government is allowed to represent no one view of life at the expense of another. But democracy also encourages the idea that there is no truth, no consistency, within an individual's life. An individual becomes a model of the democracy in which he lives. His inconsistent actions, each adapting to the conditions and requirements of the moment, live together is a harmony of indifference to each other, just like individuals differ from each other in the society at large.

The individual's inconsequence has serious consequence for democracy itself. Totalitarian governments sell the idea that a future utopia is made by taking harsh measures in the present. The leaders of the government cause people pain now for sake of a future society of pleasure, they selectively punish some now for the sake of a future equality between all. Because individuals find fulfillment only in the group, submitting to the group is good even for the individuals now harmed: their higher social selves are being perfected in making a new world.

Those who are only a collection of actions indifferent to each other easily accept that the end justifies the means, good for society is worth paying for with evil to individuals. They have little or no experience in acting as individuals. Sacrificing their individuality is painless. Adopting the utopian argument may be inconsistent with prior democratic practice, but this is just one more unprecedented response to requirements of the moment. And the personal rewards to be found in managing totalitarian government are immense.

Our times teach us something fundamental: by undermining individuality democracy becomes a danger to itself. Each group of people begins to demand the utopia god destined them for. To save itself from itself, democracy needs to know itself better, to learn that safety is to be found only in restoring and protecting individual integrity.


"We demand justice, fairness, equality, and peace, we are smart, strategic, creative, non-violent, and inclusive. We fight injustice, unfairness, inequality, and war, we fight the stupid, incompetent, uncreative, violent, and separate. We desire to change the relation of the people to the politicians they elect. Our strategy, very smart, creative, non-violent, and inclusive, is to shame politicians into doing their jobs, to make them feel their exclusion from the community we are publicly assembling here. We don't want to try to force the politicians to obey us - they'd say they would but wouldn't - we want them to be with us."

* Euthyphro