Home arrow Letters from Quebec arrow Letter 74: Fighting the System

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Letter 74: Fighting the System
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Letter 74

FIGHTING THE SYSTEM

1. The First Commandment

"To obey principle is to be a good person." This is not an arbitrary definition. It expresses an ethical metaphysics. It has precedents. Aristotle defined virtuous activity as energeia kata logon (activity guided by logos, which means word, reason, or principle). Kant claimed that nothing was good without qualification except a good will, where "will" was defined as the capacity to act according to principle, which Kant glossed as the capacity to act according to the conception of law. Plato's just soul was governed by its rational part (the logistiche psuche, the part of the soul with the logos). The Bible says to have no other God before God (Exodus 20:3) and one of the Bible's names for God is logos. (John 1:1) Logos is translated into English as "word," "reason" or "principle."

Like the definition of a mammal as a vertebrate which suckles its young from milk-secreting glands, "To obey principle is to be a good person" is a definition which fits the facts. The human species, homo sapiens, is a species which possesses language. Or language possesses it. Its characteristic means of guiding conduct is to guide conduct with words. "...the natural disposition of human beings for impulse control must be counted among the unique properties of humans, one which was a very high survival value." (Norbert Elias and Eric Dunning, The Quest for Excitement, p. 59.)

Rich in precedents though it is, congruent with facts as it is, "To obey principle is to be a good person" is not a definition that I, or anyone, would fully endorse today. I advance it not as a thesis I wholly endorse, but as a thesis I think it worthwhile to discuss. It is not a straw man I will discredit. It is a definition I find to be in important ways persuasive, even though it is inadequate. When all the pros and cons are discussed, and all the necessary qualifications and concessions to critics are added, I will say that it is more right than wrong. The majority view today, if I understand my contemporaries at all, is that it is more wrong than right.

Most important, I will suggest in these jottings that the traditional ethical metaphysics, and the sociology in the tradition of Emile Durkheim, that "To obey principle is to be a good person" reflects, are needed to effect radical social transformation, which, in turn, is needed to achieve peace, justice, and ecological sustainability. The road to transformation is not, as the majority of my contemporaries in radical social theory seems to believe, to reject the logos; it is, rather, to change the logos.


2. Metaphysics

What I wrote just now, "The First Commandment," sketches a metaphysical background for what I want to say. I have made some very general remarks on human nature and on language. I have called upon silences to speak, read subtexts and sketched a context for texts, evoked pre-understandings, assumed responsibilities, taken a stand in traditions. Metaphysics matters.


3. Anger

Mindless activism angers me. This is the century of Auschwitz, of Hiroshima, of Gulag, of Chernobyl; of massacres in Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, to name a few; of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, of the dirty war in Argentina .... such are the signs of the times. It is obvious to me that the situation of the species, and of the planet, requires thought in the traditional sense in which the Greeks "thought" when they searched for archai. Archai is another Greek word, which, like logos, is often translated as "principles," principles of conduct, principles of explanation. Why? How? Instead, my friends, whom I love very much even when I am angry with them, sign petitions, write letters to congress, march in demonstrations, host foreign exchange students, travel to conferences that pass resolutions, flood the world with pamphlets and heartrending videos, rant and rave in cafes ...without any concept of how to end the evil they oppose. No diagnosis. No prescription. They neither have nor seek explanatory principles linking causes to effects. It makes me angry because it is irresponsible. By failing to think about the causes that produce the evils they oppose, they fail to assume responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Thoughtlessness shows disrespect for victims. We are all victims - -the people, the animals, the plants, the earth, the skies, the waters. We are all suffering and we all deserve some serious analysis of our sufferings' causes, and its cures.

Lack of interest in thinking about the relationship of causes to effects makes me angry too, because it is a fashionable way to be radical. Eschewing causal models, the very concepts of explanation, and of cause and effect, is a way of running with the hounds, siding with the powers that be in today's funding institutions and academic establishments. In my anger I am like a wounded animal, raging against its pain. The reasons for my anger are rational, but the emotion of anger --the racing blood, the tense muscles, the heavy breathing, the clenched teeth-- is physical. Anger possesses me physically with the same DNA-coded neural circuitry that possessed my distant ancestors as they stalked among the shadow and sunlight of forest and savanna, for hundreds of thousands of years before this brief blip on the time line called civilization.


4. Heat

The heat of anger is the same as the heat of a hot mug of coffee warming the fingers that hold it. Heat is heat, whether it is generated within the body or outside the body. It is the same as the heat of the sun warming the earth.


5. Accountants

Accountants are guardians of principle. They are committed to writing accounts according to what their professional organizations define as GAAP, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Accountants are to business as scorekeepers are to sports. They are not the players, but they are the people who declare who wins. Honesty is their stock in trade. Nevertheless, scientists who have examined the cadavers of accountants report that their muscles are made of protein molecules, just like street fighters. They have the same hearts, the same livers, the same gonads.


6. Some Notes on my Terminology

I usually say that human life is governed by culture, or by culture and biology, norm and impulse. In using in these jottings the word "principle" so much I think I have been saying the same things I usually say, but perhaps the word "principle" provides an unusually unattractive way to say them. To say that people (when they are good) (*footnote*) obey principle is to suggest that there exists a social compulsory force, that there is an anger somewhere that issues commands and demands obedience.

Unattractive as this suggestion is, I think it is true. There are elements of aggression sublimated in acting from principle. We can speak of "positive aggression" where combative excitement works to do good, where it helps to mobilize resources to meet needs.

Turning from the ethical to the explanatory side of the concept, "principle" can be used as a valuable key to causal explanations. I do not mean to say that it will produce new explanations in the social sciences. I mean rather that existing explanations can helpfully be rewritten in terms of "principles" or similar terms.

The phrase "fighting the system" alludes to the old folk saying "You can't fight the system." This saying expresses an intuitive sense that whoever wins, whoever loses, whatever group or class wins, whatever group or class loses, the system always wins. The system has remarkable endurance; it successfully defies attempts to change it, and it punishes those who try. Nevertheless, I am saying, you can fight the system if you know enough about cause and effect.

The function of the word "fighting" is, in part, to call attention to its own inappropriateness. Combat metaphors are out of place when it is a matter of naming the nonviolent constructive work that goes into replacing the existing norms of society with better ones.

Fighting is more likely to fail than to succeed, and when it succeeds it is more likely to lead to revolution than to transformation. Immanuel Wallerstein has shown (in The Modern World-System III) that the prototype of modern revolutions, the French Revolution, was not a profound cultural transformation. It was not a system change. Rather, the French Revolution was a change of government that ratified the work of transformative processes that had been underway for several centuries. Has Cuba had both revolution and transformation ? Maybe. If so, then the latter is the system change, and the merit of the former is its having facilitated the achievement of the latter.

But the "fighting" in "fighting the system" is not just irony. The human aggressive instincts are intrinsic to the hormones that course through our arteries and veins. In some sublimated, shaped, molded, transformed form, the fear and the rage that served our remote ancestors in their struggles to eat and avoid being eaten are still functioning today, as homo sapiens sapiens labors with patience and with emotional fire, with statistics and with philosophical concepts, to correct the defects of complex social institutions.

[*footnote*. Aristotle pointed out, and many have agreed, that people can also be bad on principle. Please allow me to omit this topic. The scope of these notes is broad enough already.]


7. My Son, the Accountant, My Successful Daughter

For those who own neither lands nor large capitals, the path to success is training for some profitable profession. What better choice than accountancy? It is cleaner than dentistry, safer than war, surer than pursuing fame as an athlete or entertainer, less stressful than medicine or law; it pays better than engineering or psychology. The dentists, the military officers, the sports idols, the screen stars, the doctors, the lawyers, the engineers, the psychologists, and even the landowners and the capitalists, all need the accountants to tell them how they are doing in the game of life, whether they are winning or losing. Accountants memorize the Internal Revenue Code. They attend seminars at posh resort hotels, where they bring themselves up to date on how to carry back net operating losses and how to shelter capital gains. They also bring their spouses and children. They and their happy families relax in swimming pools and in hot tubs, on equestrian trails and on golf courses. At night they dance to Reggae music. Back home, accountants often serve pro bono on the Boards of Directors of nonprofit charitable corporations. Licensed as they are to write the bottom lines, the accountants are authorized to shout, "We won !"


8. The Principles of the Money Game

No matter what they say to me
I'm gonna make my money
And anyone who don't believe
Best stay away from me
Been on the mash for currency since 1993

And warn me for the drama loc
There ain't no way you're stoppin' me
I'm determined as I can be
And if my funds get low again
One thing I guarantee
You can catch me by the corner store
Sellin' fat ass bags of weed
Not because I think it's cute
Not because I think it's neat
It boils down to one simple fact
Me and mine have got to eat

Always into something that's my name
Only out for money hey 'cause that's the game
People always ask me why I'm out for scratch
He who has the most is he who won the match

(rap lyrics by Nate Dogg, Warren G. and Harold Johnson)


9. Youth Violence

The causes of youth violence in modern urban society are not unknown. A substantial body of sociological research shows that cultures of violence are characterized, on the whole and with some famous exceptions, by the following constellation of factors: (a) Poverty, (b) High susceptibility to unemployment, (c) Mother- centered families, (d) Separation of men from women, (e) Male dominance, (f) Little adult supervision of children, (g) Low ability to control impulse and defer gratification, (h) Low formal education, (i) Norms encouraging a low threshold of repugnance to physical violence, or glorifying it, (j) Formation of gangs led by the best fighters, and frequent fighting between gangs, (k) Intense feelings of attachment to a narrowly-defined "we" group, and intense hostility to "they" groups. Some of these factors identified by sociologists (summarized by Norbert Elias , The Quest for Excitement, p. 243) coincide with and confirm the psychological research summarized by Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence.


10. Transformation

Anthony Swift's book Children for Social Change: education for citizenship of street and working children in Brazil is mostly about the Republic of Street Vendors facilitated and catalyzed by an Italian priest, Padre Bruno Sechi, in the city of Belem, in the state of Para, near the delta of the Amazon River in the northeast of Brazil. The word "principles" occurs three times on page one of the book:

1. After the Brazilian military coup of 1964, "Dictatorship was to have the next 20 years to hammer the old principles of colonial and post-colonial oppression into a new mold of capitalist industrial development."

2. Nevertheless, the existence of a wellspring of motivation for social change, "...was evidenced by a history of people's resistance to their oppression and by the operation in poor communities of besieged social principles deriving from black and Indian cultures."

3. "These were the humanitarian principles of co-operation, solidarity, sharing of resources and individual interest identified with that of the community --the antithesis of the prevailing combat culture, in which people pursue personal well-being at the expense and exclusion of others."

Taken together, these uses of the word "principles" show the meaning of the word "transformation." The "transformation" is in the contrast of the "principles" named by sentence (1) with the "principles" named by sentences (2) and (3), and in the proposed movement away from the former and toward the latter. To change (Latin: trans) from one set of operating social principles to another is to change the form of a society.


11. Fighting the System

"...but now let me go on to a second reason for using the word `structure.' I use it to say that the problem is in the culture, not in individuals. I do not blame my mother for my problems; I do not blame my father; I do not blame either of my grandmothers or grandfathers; I do not blame the rich; I do not blame the politicians; I do not blame the money-dealers on Wall Street; I do not blame the chiefs of the Pentagon or the CIA agents; I do not blame the network news anchor people; I do not blame the publishers of comic books; I do not blame the executive officers of multinational agribusiness corporations; I do not blame the officer corps; I do not blame all white males except myself; I do not blame myself; I do not blame the Pope; I do not blame Elvis or Elvis's ghost. I blame the system. The concept of structure implies that over and above the personal failings of each of us there is a system which needs improvement. Consequently, a structural view implies that whenever Lappe and Collins [authors of Food First] criticize `the power of a few' or something of the sort, we should read such statements as shorthand for something like, `cultural structures which unduly privilege a few and make it hard to satisfy the needs of the many.'" (from Howard Richards, Letters from Quebec, Letter 8, p. 88)


12. Archai

In socially constructed realities, explanatory principles and ethical principles are the same. For example, ownership.


13. Ownership as Violence

Padre Bruno Sechi, the founder of the Republic of Street Vendors, wrote: "The first and greatest violence is the systematic exclusion of people --a great number of people-- by society. From this violence other violence directly and indirectly flows. Where you exclude, you must establish instruments to control those who are excluded so that they don't invade the peace of those who have access to opportunities and wealth." (Children for Social Change, page 1.)


14. The Betrayal of the Poor by the Intellectuals

Activists who work with the poor have an educational task because those who have been excluded by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles do not see the structure of the system. For the street children of Belem the enemy is the rapa, the municipal police force which hauls them in as unlicensed vendors and confiscates their merchandise. For the farm workers I represented as a volunteer attorney for Cesar Chavez's union, the enemy was the contratista, the labor contractor. For the undocumented workers and the refugees from Latin America whom many church groups are working with in the U.S.A. at the present time, the enemy is the migra, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. For many of the mentally ill homeless on the streets of America's cities the enemy is the welfare bureaucracy. For ghetto dwellers, the enemy may be the bank officer who redlines their neighborhood and refuses to grant a real estate loan.

Somewhat similarly, for environmentalists the enemy is often the logger, the developer, the oil company, Union Carbide, or Monsanto. Or the politicians who renege on enforcing compliance with the standards defined by commitments made at the Earth Summit. For the environmentalist the enemy may be precisely the social justice activist, who puts the immediate interests of workers ahead of the long term interests of the biosphere. Activists, in order to do their educational work, turn to intellectuals for analyses of the cultural structures of the global economic system. Without such analyses, it is impossible to tell the difference between a solution to an immediate problem which is a step toward structural transformation, and a solution to an immediate problem which is not a step toward structural transformation, or a solution to an immediate problem which cements violent structures even more solidly in place than they are now --a step backward.

But when it comes to understanding the principles that govern the larger framework in which humanity is imprisoned and the earth held hostage most intellectuals today are of no help. They are not interested in principles. They are interested in power.


15. Come up to my Place and I Will Show You my Worldview

"Power" is not a stand-alone concept. It is a piece --for many people it is the centerpiece-- of a lifestyle. If you tell me how a person uses the word "power," if you spell out the implications of that way of talking for the person's actions, then you will be revealing to me the structure of a mind.

Borrowing techniques from the methodology of Michel Foucault, Walter Wink wrote a genealogy of the uses of "power" words in the Bible. (Naming the Powers, Unmasking the Powers, Engaging the Powers). Riane Eisler studied the origins of patriarchy. They came to the same conclusion: We live in a dominator society. The task of social change activists is to transform our dominator society into a partnership society. The "power over" system should become a "power with" system.

The achievement of "power with" is also called "empowerment." Using Hannah Arendt's concept that power is the capacity to act in concert, we can say that "empowerment" is learning how to act in concert. Organizing. Bonding. Becoming reliable partners of one another. The empowerment process honors, builds on, and extends the constructive ideas that are already present in a group. It strengthens the principles that give the group unity.


16. The Power of Principle

The ownership of property is the ethical principle that excludes the propertyless from the space of the earth and from the enjoyment of its fruits. Those without money, wrote Frances Moore Lappe, are voiceless at the dinner table. The ownership of property is also one of Immanuel Kant's chief examples of a strict ethical principle, one which allows no exceptions, of the kind he called a categorical imperative.

For Kant it was difficult to explain what motive might lead a person to obey principle --any principle. By defining property ownership as one of the commands of pure reason, he separated it from emotion. All of the usual human motives --fear, love, hate, gain, pride .... -- belonged to the world of experience, the impure world. The impure world of experience is what pure reason rose above.

It was not as a mere physical, flesh and blood, human being, that a person was commanded to obey the laws of property, but rather as a pure intelligence. But could such an intelligence -- divorced from the body and its emotions-- be motivated to do anything at all ? Could it be motivated to obey an ethical principle?

Kant solved his problem (a problem he himself created by radically separating pure reason from the impure world of the senses) with the concept of "respect." (Achtung in German) For Kant, "respect" is a motive that is not an emotion. It is sheer awareness of duty. It requires only rational acknowledgment of the freedom and dignity of another person, and of that other person's rights. If the other person happens to be an absentee landlord then property rights are to the highest degree "rational," because they are not mixed with the merely empirical sweat and breath that come with the presence of the physical body of the owner on the land.

Kant's attempt to raise ethics to a dignity higher than facts has charmed many but convinced few. Anthropologists are quick to see in the idea of "pure" or "clean" (Kant's German word is reine) a pattern common to many cultures, in which what is prescribed is pure, and what is proscribed is dirty. Psychologists are quick to see a severe Prussian father figure behind Kant's unconditional demands for obedience to reason.

Others have stepped in and given more plausible answers to the question why ethical principles are obeyed. Sigmund Freud tells a story about the splitting of the id. The id is the instinctual source of all human passion and energy. A portion of the id splits off, and its energy becomes the power of the superego. In the superego, the aggressive instincts are turned against the self. Pangs of guilt, manifested physically as fear and depression, afflict the conscience of the person who violates internalized social norms.

Jacques Lacan provides a neo-Freudian explanation of the migration of aggressive energy into the form of obedience to principle. The infant, according to Lacan, is initiated into what he calls the symbolic order by what he calls "le non du pere." The parent's "no" that sets boundaries forms the infant's self as a user of language, who internalizes the power that forbids.

H. L. A. Hart, in The Concept of Law, analyzes what it means for a human group to have a "rule." A "rule" (which I take to be in the relevant respects similar to a "principle" or a "norm") exists when:

1. It describes, more or less, observed regularities in patterns of behavior.

2. People consciously take it as a guide in governing their own conduct.

3. Violating it is taken to authorize others to criticize the violator.

The UCLA sociologist Harold Garfinkel has developed research methods for finding out what ethical principles operate in a given human group. One of the research techniques affectionately known as "Garfinkeling" consists of deliberately violating what you hypothesize to be the norm. If people criticize you for being out of line --and even more if they attack you-- then you have confirmed your hypothesis.

"Moralistic aggression," the tendency to become angry when someone violates the norms of the group, has been observed in chimpanzees, baboons, and other close relatives of the human species. The biologist-turned-psychologist Jean Piaget has charted the growth of rule-following in young children, and has found consistent developmental stages which strongly suggest that there is a biological basis for the human propensity to invent norms and follow them. Like Kant, but without Kant's distinction between pure reason and experience, Piaget uses the word "respect." He finds that as children go through the normal conflicts, disputes, and heated discussions of moral issues that are part and parcel of growing up, and as children learn to cooperate (including cooperating by adopting common rules in order to compete) there is a natural progression from unilateral respect to mutual respect.

Again echoing Kant while amending him, and, for that matter, also echoing Aristotle and many other great traditional philosophers, Piaget finds that acquiring the ability to act from principle goes hand in hand with the development of reason. For example, the mental achievement of being able to put oneself in another person's shoes, and to see the world from that other person's point of view, goes hand in hand with the ethical achievement of participating in a relationship where there is mutual respect. The Funktionslust of ethical reason is strong. (Funktionslust is pleasure in functioning --a term Piaget adopts from Karl Groos, a German student of animal behavior who coined it to describe the play of animals). Children enjoy using growing mental capacities to guide conduct and regulate relationships, as can be observed, for example, in the elaborate rules they devise to govern their games and gangs.

An ancient explanation of the power of principle is that people obey from fear of punishment. "Justice is the interest of the stronger," said the character Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic. The strong make the rules; they make rules that favor themselves; the weak obey only because they fear the strong. (Nietzsche, by the way, held the opposite view --the weak make the rules, in order to gang up on the strong.) Plato refutes Thrasymachus several times in the course of his writings. But the very multiplicity of Plato's arguments against Thrasymachus suggests that Plato was not convinced of the validity of his own arguments. It is as if Plato had to return to the fray over and over to slay the dead once more, to defeat over and over again the already defeated crass opinion that the principles that govern society are imposed by force.

Plato's star pupil, Aristotle, evidently believed that Thrasymachus was not entirely mistaken. In his Politics he observed that the principles of justice varied from city to city depending on who had military power. Athens was run on democratic principles because it relied in war on its navy, which required many oarsmen. One man, one vote, one oar. In contrast, cities that relied on cavalry in war had aristocratic constitutions, because military power was in the hands of men rich enough to keep horses.

In 17th century England, where capitalism was already well underway, Thomas Hobbes applied Thrasymachus' theory that might makes right even to contracts. The sanctity of contracts and the sanctity of property together are the ethical foundations of a market economy. Without them production of goods for a market is pointless, and long term investment with the rational expectation of future profits at a distant date is out of the question. But why do people do what they have contracted to do ? Only, says Hobbes, because the strong arm of the prince compels obedience to the law. Like many of his contemporaries on the continent, Hobbes supported an enlightened despotism. The overwhelming power of the monarch would bring peace, and would compel obedience to the laws of property and contract; and thus enhance the security of commerce.

One of Hobbes' underlying ideas, that law and order bring material progress, introduces another dimension of the answer to the question, "Why do people obey principles?" Hobbes says people obey the laws from fear of punishment. But as for himself, Hobbes, there is a jolly good reason for obeying principle, or compelling others to obey principle, or praising those who compel others to obey principle. Ethical principles bring order, and order brings prosperity. They work.

If I may shift gears now a moment to ask the question "Why do people obey principles?" from the point of view contemporary research in the psychology of moral development, I would say the answer is similar: they work. As an individual matures through stages like those studied by Lawrence Kohlberg, Lois Erickson, and others, it proves to the be case that in the normal give and take of social life, people encounter tough problems that their mental and emotional structures are inadequate to solve. It is these tough problems that nudge them toward restructuring their moral judgment.

Societies, like individuals, tend to do what works, or what appears to work, or what works well enough that there seems to be no compelling reason to change.

Hence one of the most compelling answers to the question, "Why do people obey the ethical principle of exclusive property ownership, otherwise known as the principle of exclusion, otherwise known (in the words of Padre Bruno) as the principle of `the first and greatest violence'?" is: Because it works.

Or, if it does not work completely all the time, if it has certain defects, such as leaving 85% of the world's population (Immanuel Wallerstein's estimate) in poverty, then at least it works better than any available alternative.

And among the most compelling reasons for rejecting a system based on alternative ethical principles are: It has been tried, and it did not work. And: it is contrary to human nature and if it were tried it would not work.

Padre Bruno is quite aware that to transform the system it is necessary to demonstrate that principles of solidarity work. Thus, for example, one of the transformative educational principles of the Republic of Street Vendors is:

"The experience of a different social relationship creates the possibility that such relationships might obtain in society at large." (page 58) But how is this transformation assessed ? Maria dos Reis, a volunteer working with Padre Bruno, replies:

"It is easy to see the reproduction of the prevailing value system in the behavior of children on the streets. For instance, they act in a very competitive and opportunistic way. Even when they begin to meet in a group, discuss things, and take action together, at certain testing moments they will cheat each other. They will push in front of a friend to snap up a sale, failing to recognize that the friend also needs to take money home. If one of them finds a cheaper source of items to sell --bags, for instance-- he might fail to tell the others. Of course we reflect constantly on such behavior in the groups. It's difficult to measure the strengthening and maturing of solidarity, but it is easy to perceive it when you are facilitating the process of reflection. A group whose members were mainly looking to their own self- interest becomes a nucleus, and begins to look at the world and their own behavior in a critical way. The strengthening of the bonds between the children produces a critical consciousness of the world beyond their group." (page 60)

In fact, an effort has been made to multiply the groups practicing the principles of the Republic of Street Vendors in other cities in Brazil and in other countries. At one point in this process one of the major funders of this multiplication, UNICEF, withdrew. One of the principal advisers, Bill Myers from the USA, explained the withdrawal by saying that any real effort to help street children would have to be done on a much larger scale, and that Padre Bruno's approach had reached its quantitative limits because "we have run out of saints."

My opinion is that not saints, but only a conventional level of moral development characterized by what Carol Gilligan calls an ethic of care, and what Lawrence Kohlberg categorizes as Stage 3 conventional development, is needed for social transformation. Studies find that the majority of adults are conventional, who are at either Stage 3 ("nice boy/nice girl" where the person wants to be a good person) or Stage 4 ("law and order" where in addition to wanting to be a nice person, the person supports the rules of society). Social transformation, as I have defined it, changes the archai, the logoi, which guide society from one set of principles to another. When there is an environment, a culture or a subculture, where the new principles are conventions of everyday life, the energy to fuel obedience to them can be that which already motivates the conventional majority of the citizenry.

I once spoke with a psychologist in Bogota, Colombia, who told me that her data showed that the majority of adults in Colombia had not yet attained Kohlberg's Stage 3 of moral development. If she is right, then Myers would be right, at least with respect to Colombia. I had an opportunity to discuss this problem with Kohlberg when I took his summer school course at Harvard. He suggested that inability to reach Stage 3 is associated with emotional deprivation in early infancy, failure to establish what Erik Erikson calls "basic trust." If Kohlberg's suggestion is valid, and I think it is, then work to improve parenting and child care goes hand in hand with work to transform social structures.


17. The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

On September 11, 1973, the Chilean armed forces, led by General Augusto Pinochet, destroyed the civilian institutions that had brought the socialist Salvador Allende to the presidency in the 1970 elections, and set out to deconstruct not only the achievements of three years of Popular Unity government, but also the elements of social democracy in Chilean life which had been under construction since the beginning of the 20th century, which had gained momentum in the Popular Front governments of the thirties and forties, and had been strengthened under the Christian Democratic government of 1964-70. At the time of the coup d'etat, I worked at a Chilean educational research and development institute, where we employed methods inspired partly by Paulo Freire, partly by Antonio Gramsci, and partly by Anglo-American social science. In October of 1973 all of the educational researchers in Chile were ordered to assemble and to give an account of themselves in the auditorium of the Centro de Perfeccionamiento, the Chilean national center for in-service teacher training. The new Minister of Education presided over the meeting. He was an admiral of the Chilean navy, a large man sitting on the stage in the front of the room, resplendent in a gleaming white uniform. A representative of each research team was given a few minutes to state succinctly what the team was studying. Toward the end, a gray-haired bespectacled gentleman, who was a member of the research unit of the Junta Nacional de Auxilio Escolar y Becas (National Center for School Aid and Scholarships) stood to pose the question what general conclusions could be drawn from the findings of social research in Chile. The admiral interrupted him. Each scholar was to confine himself to a particular task. Intellectuals were to write no global theories, seeking to interpret the meaning of the whole. The meaning of the whole, he said, would be determined by the armed forces.

A little over two years after our meeting with the admiral, on January 7, 1976 at Paris, a man whom many regard as the First World's greatest twentieth century intellectual gave a lecture to the College de France reporting on his research. His words echoed, at a much more sophisticated level, those of the Chilean admiral. " But together with this sense of instability and this amazing efficacy of discontinuous, particular, and local criticism, one in fact discovers something that perhaps was not initially foreseen, something one might describe as precisely the inhibiting effect of global totalitarian theories. It is not that these global theories have not provided nor continue to provide in a fairly consistent fashion useful tools for local research: Marxism and psychoanalysis are proofs of this. But I believe these tools have been provided only on the condition that the theoretical unity of these discourses was in some sense put in abeyance, or at least curtailed, divided, overthrown, caricatured, theatricalized, or what you will. In each case, the attempt to think in terms of a totality has in fact proved a hindrance to research." (Michel Foucault in Dirks, Eley and Ortner (eds.) Culture/Power/History p. 202.)


18. Why the World Is the Way It Is

David Harvey's The Condition of Postmodernity explains why the economy is increasingly globalized, why the power of labor unions has declined, why more people now have temp work instead of regular jobs, why the welfare state has been rolled back even in Western Europe, why police and military repression is used against labor organizers in many countries, why increasing numbers of people are embracing Christian or Islamic or Hindu fundamentalism, and a host of other facts about the world we live in today.

Harvey's central explanatory principle is a concept of "regime of accumulation" derived from Marx. Given that in a capitalist world, everyone depends for their daily bread on keeping capitalism going, and given that capitalism functions by accumulating capital (more commonly known as "seeking profits"), it follows that whatever else a society in such a world does, it must create conditions that facilitate accumulation. A "regime of accumulation" is a set of conditions (cultural, political, economic, technical...) that makes it possible to accumulate capital, i.e. to make profits.

For much of the twentieth century the prevailing type of regime of accumulation in the world's largest economies was one that Harvey, following Antonio Gramsci, calls "Fordist." Named after Henry Ford, who mass produced Model T's for a mass market and paid his workers the then generous wage of five dollars a day, Fordism makes it possible to accumulate capital through a consumer culture which produces mass desire for the products of mass production, and a redistributive politics which provides the masses with the purchasing power needed to buy the products. John Maynard Keynes' economics, which endorsed deficit spending in order to increase aggregate demand, goes hand in hand with Fordism.

By 1973 or thereabouts, it became clear for several reasons that Fordism was in crisis and could not be sustained. The clearest and simplest reason was mounting debt. In theory, deficit spending was supposed to prop up purchasing power during downswings in the business cycle, and then increased revenues were supposed to pay back the resulting debt during upswings. The theory proved to be an illusion, and the fact was that governments at all levels, as well as private institutions, were awash in seas of red ink, in which they sank under the burden of interest payments on debt. For this and other reasons, another way to make it possible to accumulate profits had to be found.

The new regime Harvey calls "flexible accumulation." It encourages business directly by breaking down "rigidities" which impair profit-making. Neo-liberal economics is its ideology. Among the obstacles to accumulation that are now flexed, weakened, and bent to make accumulation easier are national boundaries, tariff barriers, labor unions, safety regulations that stand in the way of building nuclear power plants, and restrictions on currency exchange. Social programs receive less funding as investors get tax breaks. Temporary employment, which does not lead to seniority or benefits, is preferred. Capital moves freely around the world, seeking to produce where costs are low, and to sell where prices are high. A "global casino" transfers huge sums electronically in quick response to rapidly changing perceptions of profit opportunities. Many features of culture reflect the shrinking of the world ("compression of space"), the speeding up of life ("compression of time") and the instability of everything. Conversely, many people, craving certainty more because there is so little of it, turn to fundamentalist faiths.

When the workers grumbled about low pay, irregular hours, arbitrary schedule changes that put them sometimes on night shift and sometimes on day shift, and unsafe working conditions, the manager of a hamburger factory (a factory that makes setups for fast food chains) in Indiana put a sign on his office door for the workers to read: "NORMAL IS NEVER COMING BACK." Harvey helps us to understand the force behind the manager's words. The shift to flexible accumulation is caused by deep structural features rooted in the principles that govern capitalist society. To the extent that Harvey's analysis is accurate, people who think flexible accumulation can be reversed by voting, by protesting, and by organizing unions, are dreamers who walk in their sleep.

In the Public Broadcasting System's video "Globalization and Human Rights," starring Charlayne Hunter-Gault, there is a sound byte featuring a British labor leader, who asserts that to deal with such problems as the arrest and torture of activists and organizers by third world military governments (who court and are courted by multinational corporations) no social transformation is needed. All that is needed, according to this sound byte, is full compliance with rules already on the books, such as labor standards promoted by the International Labor Organization and solemnly declared in numerous United Nations documents. Harvey's analysis helps us to see why this PBS sound byte is mistaken. There is not a ghost of a chance of full compliance with international human rights (or ecology) standards, as long as there is money to be made by violating them, and as long as the international system is desperately struggling to create more, not fewer, opportunities for money-making, just to keep itself going and avoid collapse.

Harvey's critics charge that he has created an intellectual monster which tries to explain everything with a single premise. They find his claims to be depressing and disempowering, and too sweeping in their immense generality to stand up to empirical tests.

In my opinion, Harvey goes some considerable distance toward explaining why the world is the way it is. But I will not try here to sort out the issues that divide Harvey and his critics. The point I want to make is that his explanatory mechanism --the regime of accumulation-- is composed of ethical principles. Property, freedom, and contract are the stuff it is made of. Social rules are the levers and gears that grind out the explanations that enlighten Harvey's admirers and exasperate his critics.

Social rules can be changed. As Michel de Certeau and others have shown, they are constantly being renegotiated in daily life. Hence for those of us for whom cultural action is the method and social transformation the goal, Harvey's analysis is not depressing. It is, instead, a valuable piece of scholarship, which hopefully will help people who are hung up on old-fashioned politics to see the point of the kind of transformational work that people like Padre Bruno are doing.


19. The Juices of the Flesh are Versatile Fuels

The excitement of combat is rooted in the juices of the flesh. Culture can mold it and shape it; it cannot ignore it. The daily newspaper is a mirror that reflects how the excitement of combat has been molded and shaped by capitalism. Politics. Business. Sports. A culture of peace will mold and shape the excitement of combat differently. Forgiveness. Gratitude. Commitment.

The human body is a crossroads where biology and culture meet. There is a way to transform the system: stop acting according to the principles of the old system, and replace them in practice with the principles of a different system. In practice. Body and soul.


20. Cultures of Peace

Some characteristics of a culture of peace can be deduced by inverse extrapolation from sociological and psychological studies of cultures of violence: (a) Economic security for everyone, (b) Healthy activity, things to do, (c) Participation of men in caring for children, (d) Unity of women and men, (e) Gender equality, (f) Adult supervision of children, (g) High ability to control impulse, cultivation of emotional intelligence, (h) Lifelong education for all, (i) Norms encouraging nonviolence, glorifying peace, (j) Formation of friendship groups based on positive bonding, (k) Intense feelings of attachment to the entire human family and to nature, species-identity.


21. Cultures of Prosperity

For a species endowed as homo sapiens sapiens is, with an enormous fund of scientific knowledge of the natural world, which has been accumulating for several centuries, and is still accumulating, economic security for everyone is doable. R. Buckminster Fuller and others have shown how to devote scientific expertise to doing more with less, efficiently using resources to meet needs. It is quite possible for a human family of six or even nine billion to succeed in caring for each other and the planet. (Whether it is possible for numbers above nine billion I do not know, but I do know that there are peaceful ways to make our numbers smaller.) What stands in the way of our collective economic security is not the limits of the earth's resources. It is the limits of homo sapiens sapiens capacity to cooperate with living systems. The principle of cooperation is simple: When you see a need, act to meet it. Conceive of life as Gandhi did, as a series of opportunities for service. That is what Bucky Fuller did. That is what Mother Teresa did.


22. Reinterpreting the Causal Nexus

Friedrich Engels' described Marx as a Newton of the social sciences, who had revealed the economic laws of motion of society. A better way to read Capital is to read it as a description of the rules of a certain game, capitalism, and of the consequences of playing it. Marx demonstrated that if the ethical principles of a market economy (property, freedom, and promise-keeping) are consistently followed, if it is assumed that actors act from self- interest, and if a number of simplifying assumptions (such that there are only two classes in society, the non-owners and the owners) are made, then certain effects will follow from those causes. (Etienne Balibar and Louis Althusser discuss at length in Reading Capital the simplifying assumptions Marx makes.) On Marx's assumptions, there is only one way a game played by such rules can end: fewer and fewer will own more and more, until the non-owners, who will be increasingly desperate, increasingly numerous, and increasingly organized, successfully revolt.

But there is another way that such a game might end: People might stop playing it.


23. Why the Bomb Fell on Hiroshima

Charles Blitzer, one of President Harry Truman's biographers, said that the reason why Truman did what he did was, invariably, because he believed it was the right thing to do. Blitzer was one of my professors at Yale, and I remember him inveighing against the "causal models" of many of his colleagues in the political science profession. They measured variables, analyzed variances, and tested for significance, as if politics were a branch of mechanics. But Blitzer had a causal model of his own, and a very good one. If one asks the question, "What was the cause of the atomic bomb falling on Hiroshima?" the correct answer is, "The bomb fell because the President of the United States believed that dropping it was the right thing to do."

I believe that that the principle Harry Truman was obeying, when he thought he was being a good person by ordering nuclear bombing, was the principle of acting to save lives. Truman believed that dropping the bomb was the best way to bring a quick end to the war. A quick end to the war would save both American lives and Japanese lives. Consequently, the right thing to do was to drop the bomb.

Truman was acting within the constraints of a situation he did not create, and which he did not want, and which grieved him terribly. He called his decision to drop the bomb "a decision in hell." (Frank K. Kelly, Harry Truman and the Human Family) As so often happens, the ordinary everyday working of a world operating according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles had built up tensions that produced a social crisis. The crisis, World War II, began as a surprise attack. But the conditions that produced it had been building up for years, as plaque building up in the arteries gradually produces a heart attack, or as years of hypoglycemia gradually produce diabetes. Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. But why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor? Because, generally, it was in conflict with the United States, and, more specifically, one of its major petroleum supplies had been cut off by the United States. But why were the U. S. and Japan in conflict, and why was United States petroleum policy anti-Japanese? Because the Japanese were building a Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere that threatened American interests. And why was Japan doing that? Because it had been excluded from prosperity and economically left behind. Japan had been left behind not so much because of any special plan to injure Japan and injure Asia, but mainly because of the normal operations of the competitive economic system in which you and I, even now, participate every day.


24. Causes of Evil

It is one thing to say Stalin read Marx and killed peasants. It is quite another to say Stalin killed peasants because he read Marx. In fact, the immediate cause of the forced collectivization of Soviet agriculture, ordered by Stalin and implying the deaths of millions who resisted being moved off their lands onto collective farms, was not Stalin's belief in a totalizing ideology. Stalin believed forced collectivization was the right thing to do because without collective farms insufficient food would be delivered to the cities, and without more food for the cities the Soviet Union would be unable to defend itself against an expected German invasion. (Maurice Dobb, Economic History of the Soviet Union) In general, Stalin's atrocities were caused at least as much by his perception of the requirements of the principle of patriotism ("Do what you must do to save your country") as by his overconfidence in the scientific validity of his version of Marxism.

The hypothesis that totalitarian ideology is a major cause of evil is even less plausible in the case of Hitler. Hitler's favorite philosopher was Friedrich Nietzsche, an advocate of freedom if ever there was one. Neitzsche is the very darling of Jacques Derrida and other leading anti-totalizers.


25. The "We" Group and the "They" Group

The shortcomings of anti-totalizing as an explanatory principle would be minor issues were it not for two practical implications.

One practical implication is that anti-totalizing makes the social teachings of the churches suspect, because doctrines of love and unity are suspect. Hindus, the Dalai Lama, the Sufi mystics, the compassionate Buddha, all who say "we are all one," and all who celebrate the moral unity of humanity as a single extended family, qualify as totalizers because they see humanity, and beyond humanity nature and the cosmos, as united in an ideal moral harmony. The pro-capitalist and anti-socialist novelist Thomas Mann plays this card in The Magic Mountain where he has his villain, Nafta, advocate a communitarian ideology which mixes traditional Catholic theology with modern socialism. Mann's hero, the secular Settembrini, is a liberal philosopher and an economist, who displays admirable self-discipline and good manners. Mann's anti-totalizing avant la lettre allows him to sully the image of social democracy with the mud of superstition and oppressive collectivism. Social democracy, superstition, and oppressive collectivism are combined and identified in "the vicious Nafta."

A second and more important practical implication of anti- totalizing is that it makes it all too easy for the citizens of western free market democracies to perceive political evil as caused by totalitarian tyrants "over there," and to excuse the good ordinary decent "we" who are "over here" from blame.

"We" respect individuals. "We" believe in human rights. "We" live in countries where our experts practice empirical social science. Ours are "open societies" where fact-finding precedes policy formation, and where there are orderly pragmatic procedures for solving social problems. "We" constitute legitimate political power by elections and other forms of consent.

"They" are political evil incarnate because they think the wrong thoughts. The Stalins, the Hitlers, the Mussolinis, the Hirohitos, the Idi Amins, the Saddam Husseins, the Omar Qadaffys, the Mao Tse-tungs, the Ayatollah Khoumeinis, the Pinochets, the Pol Pots, the Ho Chi Minhs, the Suhartos... think totalizing thoughts that leave no room for legitimate dissent. Many of them think totalitarian thoughts that merge the public sector and the private sector. "They" suppress human rights. When there is a massacre in Biafra, when Serbs and Kosovars take revenge against each other in Kosovo, when Muslims and Hindus kill each other in the Punjab, while Tamils and Buddhists kill each other in Sri Lanka, then the liberal humanitarians of the West are not at all to blame. The causes of evil are the totalizing ideologies typically espoused by dictators, and these are the traditional superstitions of the unenlightened peoples of the world, as well as more recent pseudo-scientific superstitions such as Fascism and Communism.

This "we" - "they" view of the world, to which I believe anti- totalizing lends itself in practice, in spite of the good intentions of its sophisticated philosophical advocates, leaves no room for an opinion like that of A. T. Ariyaratne, known as "Ari" to his friends, founder of the Sarvodaya Shramadana movement. "Ari" believes that the civil war that has decimated his homeland, Sri Lanka, is the result of the introduction of capitalist economics and the accompanying anti-spiritual western values. He and others find increases in violence in South Asia to be due to modernization. ("Ari" interviewed by Catherine Ingram, in In the Footsteps of Gandhi; cf. Learning from Ladakh by Helena Norberg Hodge.)

Even more importantly, this "we" -"they" view, obscures and makes invisible the causes of evil deeply entrenched in the ethical principles that govern the everyday lives of decent ordinary people in the western world. The daily activities sanctioned by mainstream western capitalist culture, for which receipts and records are kept and duly noted by bookkeepers and tax preparers, lead to conditions that cause tyranny. It is therefore highly misleading to portray the world as divided among bad tyrannies and good democracies. Without a Great Depression, there would have been no Hitler in power. No Hitler, no Auschwitz. No Hitler, no threat of German invasion of Russia. No threat of German invasion, no forced collectivization of agriculture. But there would have been no Great Depression (and consequently no Hitler) if the world had not been running on capitalist principles, and these principles are the very same conventional ethical expectations that govern the everyday lives of ordinary decent people in the western world. Similarly, without the evils of capitalism, Communism would never have arisen. No Communism, not only no forced collectivization, but also no Gulag, and, in general, no Stalin.

That the conventional practices of ordinary people in everyday life are a cause of evil is obvious in the case of ecology. Daily life in the West is an attack on the biosphere.

Although it is less obvious, daily life in the West is also an attack on humanity. Our ethics call for respect for property, but the principle of property cannot be separated from exclusion. Our ethics call for respect for freedom, but we have not yet achieved freedom without irresponsibility. The global system governed by these principles, property and freedom, exclusion and irresponsibility, is now everywhere, and every part of the global system is connected with every other part. Since its effects are produced by the operation of its principles, it is by obeying its principles that we join in causing its effects. Let us therefore not put our consciences to sleep by believing that the evils of the world are caused by totalitarian dictators "over there." They are also caused by the social conventions we follow every day "over here."


26. A Coin Has Two Sides: Heads and Tails

The principle of property and the principle of exclusion are the same principle.


27. Confession of a Practical Pig

Forgive me, lady love, that I am not a knight. I am not an enemy of laws, governments, and established institutions. I am not an artist or a criminal. I am not disgusted by normality. The drama and romance of my life are in bread and water.


28. Be the Change you Want to See

To be radical without being extremist I must resist my tendency to use politics to vent my anger. I will try to explain what I mean by this with the aid of four hypotheses about the causes that produced the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. It may be that my reflections on Chile have some bearing on the causes of the many other massacres of leftists that have occurred throughout the world in the twentieth century.

First Hypothesis: A Culture of Solidarity would have helped.
The hardest task the socialist president elected in 1970 faced was simply to keep Chile going. Private investment in industry fell to zero. Stocks traded on the Santiago stock exchange became worthless. There were long lines everywhere of people waiting to buy fuel, toilet paper, toothpaste, matches, soap, and other scarce items. Agricultural production plummeted, and people lived on fish provided by Soviet trawlers anchored near the Chilean coast, on powdered milk donated by the Dutch, and on bread (for which they had to stand in line) made from wheat donated by the United States. There were not enough berths in the docks at Valparaiso to unload all the ships bringing donated food, and the ships waited in line out at sea or went to alternative ports. The Chilean peso became worthless in international trade. Essential spare parts and pharmaceuticals were unavailable.

The socialist government's enemies, domestic and foreign, made deliberate attempts to destabilize the economy in order to create the necessary pretext for the military coup that later took place. Their efforts included several strikes by owners of small businesses and owners of trucks, which succeeded, among other things, in cutting off gasoline supplies. The United States dumped copper on international markets, which depressed the price of Chile's principal export.

The deliberate destabilization compounded the effects of a massive loss of confidence in the economy. A country which had lived for several centuries under capitalism, where the daily necessities of life were produced through the incentive of the profit motive, suddenly found itself threatened, partly in reality and partly in imagination, by confiscations of profit and capital The culturally created mainsprings of human action, which had been taken for granted, ceased to function. Pedro Vuskovic, the government's Minister of the Economy, tried to cope by drawing up an economic plan that offered capitalists more profit than ever. It didn't work. At that point most capitalists cared more about moral principle and political power than about short term profits.

Phenomena similar to those I observed as a foreign visitor in Chile during the years leading up to the coup of September 11, 1973, are quite familiar to people who have lived all their lives in Latin America and have experienced the comings and goings of its constitutional governments and its military dictatorships. Many, like the facilitators of the Republic of Street Vendors, and like the liberation theologians, have concluded that a peaceful transition to a just social order requires the construction of a culture of solidarity. I agree.

Shortly after the coup, I visited the Santiago office of a reconciliation commission that had been quickly set up by the churches of Chile. There I found stacks of written messages from people who lived in the poor neighborhoods of the city, who were under military attack, and who were appealing to the churches for help. Among them was a note that appeared to be the last words of Padre Juan Alsina, who had come from Spain to offer his services to the revolution as a hospital administrator, and whose body riddled with bullets had recently been found in the Mapocho River. Alsina wrote, "The word was becoming flesh, and we were not ready for it." I think these words express the need to build a culture of solidarity. This idea is radical, because it goes to the root of the problem --the need to reconstruct the mainsprings of human action. But this idea is not extremism --it is the fulfillment of the ancient promises of the best cultural traditions of the West, and the East.

Second Hypothesis: It would have helped to pursue an ethical consensus on property rights.
Salvador Allende, the left candidate, was elected in 1970 with 36% of the vote, just a shade ahead of Jorge Alessandri, the candidate of the right. Allende claimed, nevertheless, that he had a majority mandate to carry out his program because in the 1970 election more than one Chilean in four had voted for the Christian Democratic candidate, Radomiro Tomic, whose platform contained many of the same planks as Allende's platform. Thus Allende was able to say that the majority had voted for his program, even though the majority had not voted for him.

The Christian Democrats agreed with most of Allende's program, but they did not agree with his philosophy. It proved to be impossible to develop a working majority coalition. Most Chileans belonged to one of three mutually hostile groups, the left, the right, and the Christian Democrats. The three appeared to be separated by unbridgeable philosophical chasms. Their inability to find common conceptual ground for meaningful communication was not conducive to a peaceful outcome.

Even if a peaceful outcome had been possible, it could not have been a transformative outcome. A systemic change, which would have led people to live according to different ethical principles, would have had to be a change of mind, a conversion; it could have been accomplished in individuals and in groups by dialogue, by education, by life-changing experiences that remold the heart and the head. But all of these would have supposed some common conceptual ground for meaningful communication, and such grounds appeared to exist in Chile within each of the three major groups, but not between them.

It would be radical, but not extremist, to say that the core of the unbridgeable philosophical chasms that divided Chileans, and which divide many people around the world, concern property rights. In this violent and miserable world, if intellectuals can do anything to reduce the violence and the misery, they can perhaps name the issue that people are fighting about. To name a problem is already to suggest that the logos might be of some help in solving it. And in fact, when philosophers, theologians, economists, and lawyers have put their minds to analyzing the complex bundles of rights, duties, inclusions, exclusions, permissions, and prohibitions that are summarized as "property rights" they have been able to approach the subject ethically and rationally. It would be radical, but not extremist, to suggest that the quest for excitement which finds emotional satisfaction in combat, in electoral campaigns, in litigation, in strikes, and in debates, could be sublimated to motivate a cooperative search for the right way to include everybody in the enjoyment of the benefits of a complex modern economy.

Third Hypothesis: It would have helped if intellectuals had framed the issues as questions of ethical principle.
I am sure that in Chile in 1973, as in human life generally, people did things they believed in their own minds to be right. I do not doubt that Augusto Pinochet believed that leading a military coup against an elected government was the right thing to do. Nor do I doubt that Richard Nixon, who supported covert operations against socialist Chile from the American White House, thought he was doing the right thing.

I had occasion in the months before the coup to talk with a Chilean army officer, with a Chilean Air Force officer, and with a secretary who worked for the Chilean Navy, who overheard the political conversations of her superiors at work, as well as with a retired army officer who worked at my office and regularly supplied us with news of the gossip at the Officers Club. Although I do not believe in the ethical sincerity of everyone, I think that General Fernando Matthei, the Air Force member of the junta, told the truth about many military officers, when he said on the TV program on the evening of September 11, 1973, through which the junta announced to the nation that it had taken over the government, that the military officers had carefully weighed the pros and cons, and had made the fateful decision to subject their country to military rule only after much hesitation and with much regret. (Others, as Pinochet himself has told us, plotted the overthrow of Allende from Day One, while still others supported the Constitution to the end, and paid with their lives for their loyalty.)

Unfortunately, intellectuals (the Jesuits around Mensaje magazine were an exception) did little to raise the ethical level of debate, or even to recognize that for many there were questions of conscience. Thus the actual effective causes, the archai, the logoi, which moved people to action, were left out of the analysis, in favor of accounts that purported to more scientific. The students at the University of Chile were reading, for example, Marta Harnecker's Chilean synopsis of Louis Althusser's version of Marxism, while the military officers were learning Chilean versions of the National Security Doctrine concepts of Samuel Huntington and others. Both left and right were thus steeped in latter day variations on themes from Thrasymachus. Anyone who denied a cynical interpretation of human action, particularly of the actions of people on the other side, had the burden of proof --or was laughed out of court altogether.

In Chile it was then --and in all the world it still is now-- intellectually fashionable to dismiss ethical principles as facade, and to analyze the world according to models touted as scientific and objective.

It would have helped, it would help, it will help, it will help even now and in the future, to encourage everyone to think seriously about how to be good people, about how to live our lives obedient to principle, and about which principles to be obedient to, and to think too about the limitations of the idea of "principle" --limitations which call us to complement it with other approaches to ethics.

Fourth Hypothesis: Clarity about the historical relativity of constitutional law would have helped.
The principles of constitutional law reflect the ethics of daily life, and vice versa. Both can be read as expressions of what Emile Durkheim called society's collective conscience. Property. Freedom.

A society that aspires to a culture of peace and solidarity would do well to bring into its collective conscience, into its customs and its laws, a concept of property expressed by Saint Ambrose of Milan, Saint Augustine's teacher. Ambrose taught that if you have an extra pair of shoes in your closet that you do not wear, then it does not belong to you. It belongs to a barefoot person who needs shoes. The Republic of Street Vendors applies this principle during what it calls Days of Emmaus, during which useful items are collected from people who do not need them, for the benefit of people who do need them.

There is every reason to believe that Salvador Allende agreed with Saint Ambrose on this point. However, to obtain the Chilean presidency with only a plurality of the vote, he needed to be approved by parliament, and to be approved by the Chilean parliament he needed the votes of the Christian Democrats. He got their votes, but only on the condition that he promise not to alter the constitution. But he must have known that in order to carry out his program he would have needed to change the constitution to bring into it principles like those of Ambrose --needs create rights, property belongs to those who use it.

The right wing accused Allende of hypocrisy. They knew that he knew that he did not really agree with all of the laws protecting private property that were embodied in the constitution he had promised not to change. And it was not long until his government actually committed some violations of the constitution, which added fire to the right wing's anger.

The Christian Democrats could have been accused of hypocrisy also. They must have known that the constitutional changes that they prevented Allende from making would have been necessary to carry out their program as well as his.

But the prize for the most outrageous hypocrisy went in the end to the right wing. After complaining vociferously for several years about President Allende's relatively minor violations of the constitution, they destroyed the government by force, but instead of restoring the constitution whose violation they had protested, they scrapped it completely. They wrote a new constitution, one which gave extraordinary guarantees to investors and which provided for permanent military surveillance of civilian governments. They ratified it with a mock plebiscite, in which the center and the left had no freedom to speak. During the evenings preceding the mock plebiscite Chile's television channels, which were all under the control of the military government, broadcast panel discussions in which groups of right wing politicians gravely compared the merits of different reasons for voting in favor of the new constitution.

The constitutional crisis which precipitated the Pinochet dictatorship was an impasse between Thrasymachus and Plato. For Thrasymachus justice was the interest of the stronger. For Plato a constitution had to be based on eternal rational principles that could never change. It would have been better to adopt the Durkheimian view that a constitution reflects the collective conscience of a society. A collective conscience can evolve. It can enhance the good that already exists while transforming it to create something better.



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