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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Is Trump's 'America First' Just Another 'Am I My Brother's Keeper'?

Genesis 4:1-16 (click here for the text) tells the story of Cain killing Abel. After Cain had murdered his brother, God confronts Cain by asking where his brother is. Cain responds with a rhetorical question of his own. 'Am I my brother's keeper?' he asks  (Genesis 4:9). Of course, Cain's question was hoping that the answer would be 'no.' But it didn't work out that way.

One of President Trump's campaign promises was that he was going to enter into trade agreements with an 'America First' agenda. Such assumes that our trading partners would be responsible for putting themselves first in any negotiations. Thus, American negotiators would be responsible only for how any agreement would affect any Americans while negotiators from other nations would be the only ones responsible for how any agreement would affect their own nation. Thus, America would not be responsible for how any agreement would affect the people of other nations even if they were being exploited because each participating nation in any agreement would be responsible for itself only.

This notion that one party is responsible only for itself is the basis for today's Neoliberal Capitalism. Its idealistic believers are convinced that under a perfectly crafted Capitalist system, each participant could work for its own interests only without worrying about exploiting others because the system itself would prevent exploitation. But in short, what such idealists are really saying is that they don't want to be their brother's keeper; they only wish to be concerned for themselves. Of course, there are non idealists who also promote Neoliberal Capitalism and who say the same thing only they do so without any delusions of righteousness dancing in their heads.

We should note that nation first pursuits, like today's maximize profits ethic, is a reductionary one. All other guidelines, principles, and morals become sacrificed to gain the best one can for oneself. Even if doing so violates the law and hurts others, all must be sacrificed for the sake of what one wants. And because these approaches are reductionary, psychologically speaking, an all-or-nothing form of thinking starts to hold sway in evaluating one's actions or the agreements one makes with others.

But even more important is the denial that modern life makes us more and more interdependent. The more interdependent we are, the greater the moral responsibility we have for each other. That is because our interdependencies result in increasing the effects our actions have on others. And thus any attempt to deny the interdependencies that exist in our world must be motivated by other reasons than facing reality. Historically speaking, denying the interdependencies that exist in our world is motivated by ambition or greed.





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