30 July 2017

Thoughts on Religious Extremism

Bertrand Russell
“One is often told that it a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world.”

Philip Jenkins, Mystics and Messiahs
“Extreme and bizarre religious ideas are so commonplace in American history that it is difficult to speak of them as fringe at all. To speak of a fringe implies a mainstream, but in terms of numbers, perhaps the largest component of the religious spectrum in contemporary America remains what it has been since colonial times: a fundamentalist evangelicalism with powerful millenarian strands.

The doomsday theme has never been far from the center of American religious thought. The nation has always had believers who responded to this threat by a determination to flee from the wrath to come, to separate themselves from the City of Destruction, even if that meant putting themselves at odds with the law and with their communities or families. We can throughout American history find select and separatist groups who looked to a prophetic individual claiming divine revelation, in a setting that repudiated conventional assumptions about property, family life, and sexuality. They were marginal groups, peculiar people, people set apart from the world, the Shakers and the Ephrata community, the communes of Oneida and Amana, the followers of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.” 

24 July 2017

Elite Corporate Wealth

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
The very rich are now deeply entrenched in the higher corporate world of the twentieth-century American economy. Not great fortunes, but great corporations are the important units of wealth, to which individuals of property are variously attached. The corporation is the source of wealth, and the basis of the continued power and privilege of wealth. All the men and the families of great wealth are now identified with large corporations in which their property is seated. They form the corporate rich of America, whose wealth and power is today comparable with those of any stratum, anywhere or anytime in world history.

Those who have risen into the very rich have been economic politicians and members of important cliques who have been in positions permitting them advantages. Very few of those who have risen to great wealth have spent the major portions of their working lives steadily advancing from one position within and between the corporate hierarchies. It is not the far-seeing inventor or the captain of industry but the general of finance who becomes one of the very rich.

The chief executives and the very rich are not two distinct and clearly segregated groups. There has been an increase in personnel traffic that goes on between the military and the corporate realms.  They are both very much mixed up in the corporate world of property. Within the corporate world there is an elaborate network of interlocking directorships. ‘Interlocking Directorate’ is no mere phrase: it points to a solid feature of the facts of business life, and to a sociological anchor of the community of interest, the unification of outlook and policy, that prevails among the propertied class.

CEO-to-worker compensation gap shrinks in 2016 – but it's still 271-to-1
20 Jul 2017
The CEOs of America’s largest firms made an average of $15.6m in compensation last year, or 271 times the annual average pay of the typical worker. The study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) looked at compensation, including share options and other benefits, for the top bosses of the largest 350 companies in the US in 2016. The 2016 CEO-to-worker compensation ratio of 271-to-1 is down from 299-to-1 in 2014 and 286-to-1 in 2015. But the report points out it is still “light years beyond the 20-to-1 ratio in 1965 and the 59-to-1 ratio in 1989”.

Executive pay '180 times average', report finds
13 Jul 2014
Executive pay has grown from 60 times that of the average worker to almost 180 times since the 1990s, according to a report. The High Pay Centre's report says that, without further action, trust in business will be damaged by the perception that an executive "elite" is reaping all the rewards from economic growth.

02 July 2017

Mammon Portrait

Mammon by George Frederick Watts, 1884: This is one of a series of paintings in which Watts questioned the purpose of modern commerce and its dehumanizing effects on the nation. Mammon, the God of money, is represented as a tyrant on a throne, nursing money bags on his lap. Two naked youths are crushed by the power of this monster. Watts subtitled the picture "Dedicated to his Worshippers".

Various ‘Mammon’ Mentions:

No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon. [Matthew 6:24]

And the devil of Avarice and Riches is called Mammon [Malleus Maleficarum - The Witches Hammer - by Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, 1489]

“I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and the factories; of the men in the mines and on the railroads. I am thinking of the women who for a paltry wage are compelled to work out their barren lives; of the little children who in this system are robbed of their childhood and in their tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the monster machines while they themselves are being starved and stunted, body and soul. I see them dwarfed and diseased and their little lives broken and blasted because in this high noon of Christian civilization money is still so much more important than the flesh and blood of childhood. In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men.” [E.V Debs, 1918, Statement to the Court Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act]

“Let us be frank in acknowledgement of the truth that many amongst us have made obeisance to Mammon, that the profits of speculation, the easy road without toil, have lured us from the old barricades. To return to higher standard of living we must abandon the false prophets and seek new leaders of our own choosing.” [President Franklin Roosevelt, 1943-1945]

Those who set out to serve both God and Mammon soon discover that there is no God. [Logan P. Smith]

Mammon - - god of the world's leading religion. [Ambrose Bierce]

Peasants accused one another of accepting help from various demons, such as Lucifer, Cadaver, Mammon, Exterminator, and many others. The Evil Ones surely picked only those who had already displayed a sufficient supply of inner hatred and maliciousness. [The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, 1965]

And so here we are, the richest of the rich, all sub-species of American Mammon, each one, no doubt, wondering from time to time, how to become great – since we are already rich. [The Devil Tree by Jerzy Kosinski, 1973]

Proving that one could serve God and Mammon at the same time, the church paid his wages in untaxable cash. [The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, 2017]

The Worship of Mammon - Evelyn de Morgan (British, 1850-1919)