A rather self-righteous friend called me into question because of my government job, saying that I was part of the System and not really against it. In some liberal and progressive minds and nonconformist minds there actually exists a chasm passed which the true at heart have not crossed. The line of this chasm is arbitrary, depending upon where one's leftistism is, but it holds certain occupations up to strict scrutiny and places others on the Right Side.
I schooled my self-righteous friend that while it was important to have personal tastes as to what profession you are suited to, and to be aware of the consequences of one's moral actions, the idea that certain jobs lay outside scrutiny while others are reproachable is not of the real world we live in: and I mean the state capitalist world of wage-slavery - where we are all wage-slaves.
Every enterprise that involves the exchange of the official currency - from drug dealing, online porn, and prostituting to public school teacher, faux counselor at the "community" nonprofit to police officer on the beat to the soldier in the foreign field - is part of the same universe that is our moral conundrum. It is part of the same moral conundrum for the simple reason it involves the exchanging of the official currency.
Don't be misled by the ragings of the left and right on the Congressional floor or your local pulpit that certain things in our universe are beyond the pale. Look closer.
The problem is that many on the left or right look at the official currency only as an economic tool, much like a means of bartering, without any moral weight to it. It might me. The official currency is viewed simply a means to pay rent, buy underwear, pay your utilities.
But the official currency of the state is also a political tool to shape public choices and form a public consciousness. This is the point missing from a lot of analyses and my friend's unexamined moralizing.
The official currency is not only a means to purchase things. Currency is much more than that. An official currency is also a means to construct choices, to narrow those choices, to limit our liberty. It is a system of reward for falling in line as it is a punishment for those who do not.
To illustrate with two examples: how the West created Strategic Hamlets in its imperial conquests.
The British classically took over territory in Africa during what is ominously called in our modern textbooks as "The Age of Exploration" by creating these strategic hamlets to get the natives to work.
Because the native African population wouldn't willingly work for their aspiring conquerors, Britain used its military might and expropriated the best lands. They told the natives they were welcome to stay on expropriated lands if they paid rent. Rent had to be paid in the official currency of Britain. The only way to get this currency would be to earn it by working for Britain. That work was strictly defined not to benefit the local communities but rather for the British Crown: the Empire. We know the history: mines, fields, etc., all commodities for export. Naturally and intentionally, this altered these African societies, the fallout of which we still see today.
The US acted no better in its attempt to stop dominoes from falling in Southeast Asia.
When rural workers in Vietnam tended to support the nationalist, insurgent Viet Cong, the US response was for the Kennedy administration - to the silence of the US population [unimaginable today] - to launch a bombing, napalming, and crop eradicating campaign on the peasantry. This had the desired effect of not only slaughtering many men, women, and children civilians but also driving the survivors into the cities, into strategic hamlets, where they became dependent on the US puppet regime for their every need.
We all live in strategic hamlets where through an employment system and a propaganda model we are strictly tamed into certain behaviors. Better if our views fall in line, but this is not important: sit home and admonish the government all you like as long as you display obedience to the System.
The strategic hamlet of our urban centers are tools of an equally onerous class war, and our choices may seem broad but they are actually very narrow.
Who has access to greater amounts of currency and who has access to none is a political decision. Our urban centers - even the great ones, like New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco - liberal they may seem, are not immune. They are highly designed, highly disciplined machines, and we are no more than factory workers.
In fact, these urban metropolises are more critically disciplined than the rural Wyoming prarie, which might be why one sees a different kind of insurgence from outside the urban centers than from within.
So my self-righteous friend who labors at an urban nonprofit, to put it coarsely, may be doing good work. But he is not working for the Taliban or Weather Underground or the Black Panthers or the Revolutionary Communist Party, and this is not an error. Whether my friend knows it or not, that nonprofit is proscribed from certain behaviors and encouraged in others. It's part of the same moral conundrum.
Other recent articles: Radical communities * The nation-state a plague on our houses * Obama's spin on Don't Ask Don't Tell *