Friday, February 19, 2010

The Ballad of Joe Stack

There is most certainly something theatrically ironic in a self-made man of the national vanguard of capitalism quoting the following in his terrorist/homicide/suicide note (Yves Smith's take here):

"The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed."

And there is a clear whiff of the cloying and rude in commentators analysing his kamikaze attack on the IRS, his background, and what it all might mean. Whenever I engage in analyses of this kind, even just in my own thoughts, I feel I am spoiling something precious, but this has resonance beyond the personal, beyond Mr Stack’s interpretation of reality and his decision to attack. There is no such thing as The Truth, there are only shifting views of an ever changing enormity far beyond any individual’s or collective’s grasp, and yet it is not only helpful – in a stumbling and haphazard way – to try to understand, we cannot help but try. We are curious, intelligent, social. Joe Stack (how poetically close his name to Joe Sixpack) has shot out a bright flare, a harsh light in which, before it fades, we are obliged to study ourselves in all our naked glory.

To anyone who will listen: Please don’t use this event to see irreconcilable differences and certain doom, that tea-baggers are idiots (or justified), that some people are born crazy, or some other half-baked, beer-and-chips wisdom, and then stop there. We live in and are shaped by a system which has been built up on various assumptions we figured out hundreds of years ago. No matter how great the economic genius, none escaped the trap of basing his theory atop untested, unscientific plattitudes about human nature, nature itself, competition, scarcity and so on. To a very large extent these assumptions are still with us today. Economics and money-creation are absolutely pivotal to modern society. Recognising how flawed our system of self-governence is, and how shaped by it we are, demands of us humility, patience, sympathy, compassion and caution, but also a fierce determination to correct, peacefully, those elements of our understanding that suffer as a consequence of those earlier errors of judgement.

Violence is always a failure of spirit, of intellect, of wisdom, but, as good things come from bad, and bad from good, so all events, no matter their hue, are opportunities to learn.


Martin said...

It is in fact time to revisit the intent of communism. Every attempt to implement it has been horribly botched. Maybe this time it might be a better run.

Sorry, whenever Joe Sixpack lights a flare we see ourselves in all our naked ugliness, all flabby midriff and garishly flowered underpants. It simply makes for a bad day. Joe Stack was merely a frustrated capitalist. He strove to be one of the monetary elites, in his dreams he was to be an oligarch. Thankfully it just didn't work out that way.

Toby said...

"Joe Stack was merely a frustrated capitalist."

Yes, but perhaps this is representative of a broader realization: capitalism is frustrating itself, eating itself up, and its adherants are slowly noticing inherent/systemic problems which probably doom it to an explosive demise.

I love your description of our ugliness! It's in the eye of the beholder of course, and ugliness/beauty can affect us in a variety of ways.

As for communism, we'll see. My research in to all this suggests to me that pursuing a resource-based economy is our best chance of the famed "better way." Perhaps here Marx's intent, minus the class struggle, finds its most reasoned expression.

Martin said...

Yeah, you're absolutely right, Joe Stack is the perfect posterchild for a failing principle. Conniving, afflicted with attention deficit disorder, greedy. He is the canary in capitalism's putrid coal mine. Puh!