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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ominous Blasts From The Past

Israel's bombing of Gaza's power plant is a stark reminder of the past. That past involved the American bombing of Iraq's civilian infrastructure during the first Persian Gulf War which was a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions (click here and see article 52, 54, and 61). The conjunction of our destroying Iraq's infrastructure and the following crippling sanctions resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. 

So one question we must ask is how many Palestinian children will die from the destruction of Gaza's only power plant? Also, how will Gazans get the basic necessities to life without the power plant? And perhaps when we see the wanton destruction of Gaza, we should ask if Israel's Netanyahu, who blamed Hamas without offering any proof and was contradicted by a high ranking Israeli police official (click here), played the role of Koba in the movie, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

On this side of the globe we have corporate inversion. It consists of moving the official location of a corporation in order to avoid paying taxes. So who says that there's no such thing as a free lunch? The argument against this practice is that it is seen as a shirking of a corporation's responsibilities to support the same public system that supports it with a decent society, employees, customers, infrastructure, and government services and business.

Those who defend inversion say that corporations have an obligation and duty to maximize the return on investment to their investors. This is often said with the implication that the duty to maximize the return on investment is the only responsibility of a corporation. 

Both those who defend Israel's disproportionate and gratuitous attacks on the Palestinians and those who reduce the corporations' responsibilities to just their shareholders have something in common. What they have in common is a belief that one must prefer the real world to an ideal world with morals. Such a view shows a separation between the two that implies morality, at best, is a luxury not a necessity. It is a blast from the past because it draws on the ends justifies the means philosophy of Machiavelli. Machiavelli believed that to survive in the real world of politics, one must follow this approach. We are also practicing what he taught in today's financial scene too.  And the reason for practicing the ends justifies the means is that the world is a rotten place and so to survive, one must go along (click here). 

We should note here, as Howard Zinn did, that Machiavelli's first concern when writing the above about politics was the preservation of the authority of those who ruled in contrast to caring about the people (click here). And though it is Machiavelli's approach that is seen by many with wealth and power as a rational response to the world, which was also an observation once made by Isaiah (click here), Isaiah warns us to notice how God judges those who take such an approach (click here). 

In short, nobody can survive if everybody continues to take Machiavelli's approach. Thus for those who would reign in today's political and corporate world, they must either enforce their will strongly enough so as to suppress others from doing the same or eventually be devoured by peers. And since nobody lives on top forever, everybody who chooses to live in Machiavelli's world is eventually destroyed by their own means.

A little history here is all we need to prove the point. In 1953, we, along with the Brits, overthrew Mosaddegeh, who was the democratically elected leader of Iran, because he wanted to nationalize his own country's oil. This meant that the British would no longer be able to have cheap access to and profit from this natural resource of Iran. So they talked us into joining the effort to replace Mosaddegeh with a dictator of our government's liking, Reza Shah Pahlavi. The Shah suppressed dissent while becoming a good customer of American military weapons. He also worked to westernize the country. This ouster of Mosaddegeh was presented as a necessary act to prevent Mosaddegeh from leading Iran to becoming close to the USSR. 

That worked until 1979 when the Iranian Revolution took place and the Ayatollah Khomeini became the dictator of the country. Fearful of what Khomeini's Iran could do, the US supported Iraq and Saddam Hussein out of necessity during the 1980s. Note that we supported Hussein through many of his worst atrocities until he invaded a rich friend, Kuwait. That began around a 13 to 14 year process of destroying Iraq which eventually led to invasion and removing Hussein from office. The suffering caused by American led policies during this time as well as the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia to control Hussein played a partial role in motivating Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda to attack us on 9-11. We should note that we once supported Bin Laden in attacking the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s. In fact, the placement of Islamic radicals in Afghanistan was done in order to bait the Soviet Union into their own Vietnam War in order to weaken them. 

After removing Hussein and removing our troops, the Shiite  government of Iraq was persecuting Sunni Muslims. This lead to Sunni support for our new enemy in Iraq, ISIS. Now as we work to adjust to this new reality, our support of Israel's brutal occupation of the Occupied Territories and their murderous assaults on those territories during designated operations are creating enemies in the Muslim world. And when you add the problems we have had with our own invasion of Afghanistan, our growing national debt from military expenditures and ventures, our growing wealth disparity and crumbling infrastructure as those with the most money, such as corporations that practice inversion, take from the government without giving back, our problems on our Southern border, and the emergence of copycat enemies, like Russia, which has the military capacity of destroying us, it is not difficult to see how following Machiavelli's realistic approach is eventually self-destructive for at least one reason, it is not sustainable.

Machiavelli's ends justifies the means is a viable option only when not everybody follows it. But if one does not have the power to stop others from following his approach, then one will eventually become a victim of what Machiavelli taught. On the other hand, we need to consider what soulish sacrifice we make when we are successful in using the ends justify the means in suppressing others from doing the same. And for those of us who are Christians, we need to ask if the suffering brought on by not practicing the ends justify the means philosophy is a cross we are called to bear because what Machiavelli taught here is simply antithetical to what Jesus taught.

What is opposite of what Machiavelli taught it is to submit to the self-restraint of being moral. We should note that morals do not teach us to control our actions on others based on how we would benefit from such self-control. Rather, morals teach us to treat others with respect because we owe it to them. And perhaps, just as the ends justify the means mentality can propagate in creating a mutually destructive, real life dystopia, so acting morally can create a life sustaining world. This is not to say that we could ever hope to eradicate the evils seen by Machiavelli. But at least we give ourselves a chance to survive in a world worth surviving in.

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