Saturday, August 19, 2017

Business Is Business

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- The end justifies the means argument can be answered in a number of ways: we don't know that the desired end will come after we've used our destructive means, we don't know that it will in fact be good, or how long it will stay good, we don't know if our use of the destructive means may make us incapable of grasping or holding to the desired end if it should come within our reach after applying the destructive means.
- Then what do we do?
- Simply do what here and now makes for greater kindness.
- Huxley's argument. Love. Truth. Beauty. That's not our world.
- What is our world?
- We have a president who was elected by people who apply the means to the end argument: they are willing to make money at any cost. They think he will help them to make more money. They know he is a liar, cheat, bully, a brute, and they don't care. Billionaire CEOs have joined advisory councils set up by the president. Business is business. All that matters is profit.
- Yet most of them have quit in the last few days.
- Because the president has expressed his brutality so openly that it is likely to hurt their businesses, disturb their employees and customers.
- And what did you want to tell me?
- About the book I'm reading, the Russian writer Victor Serge's Memoirs Of A Revolutionary. He stayed in the government of the Soviet Union during the times of revolutionary terror, explaining himself thus: it would have been better to have democracy, free markets, decentralized government. But history says revolutions require violence. And history has put on offer, to committed revolutionaries like himself, only one party capable of achieving revolution, that party which murders by the millions, terrorizes, and controls all power.
- How does he think he knows this?
- He says that Russians are psychological victims of autocracy. When they get a chance for power they can't help themselves from becoming autocratic, dictatorial, cruel in their turn. So history has stuck them with this kind of mass murdering, terrorizing revolution, take it or leave it. He took it. As we Americans are willing, in order to make money, to impoverish the majority, risk nuclear war and environmental catastrophe.
- But how does he know this? That the revolution is good, or will remain good, or the people remain good enough to benefit from it? Does he say?
- Indirectly. He speaks about a Russian love of sacrifice of self for the good of the revolution.
- In ritual, sacrifice is rewarded by feeling part of a group. It is not a prediction about history, not: 'If I suffer now, later I'll be rewarded.'  Rather, it is: 'Give myself to the revolution now and immediately I'll feel strong as a member of a group of people sacrificing themselves. Whether or not the revolution is an historic good, it is good here and now for me and others who've thrown themselves into it.'
- He doesn't write anything like that, but yes, I think that is correct. He doesn't try to answer the arguments against using bad means to the good end because he must have revolution by any means.
- Because it is, as a product of ritual sacrifice, a good in itself.
- Yes. What then about our American money making by any means: isn't there a similar ritual sacrifice behind it, making it a good in itself to be had by any means? Sacrificing nature with pollution, risking the sacrifice of civilization in nuclear war, sacrificing our own natural human wish to cooperate with each other in an every man for himself pursuit of money? Aren't the billionaire CEOs associating themselves with our brute of a president doing what Victor Serge did, getting around the failure of the means to the end argument in the same way: as revolution is revolution, business is business?

Further Reading:
Lesser Evil Voting
The President's People
Believe It Or Not
The Technology Of Good
Mass Murder, Anyone?