In touch football back in Cunningham Park, a game in which I was once knocked briefly unconscious on the opening kick-off, the team that had just scored a touchdown would say to the other team “losers walk.” The team that had just been scored on would walk the length of the plotted out field and wait for the kick. It’s as good a metaphor as any for our competitive society, except that losers do not wait for the next chance to score, they are are simply expected to keep walking.
I wonder, as I did when I heard an interview with a remarkable man named Mohamedou Ould Slahi, author of the bestselling Guantanamo Diary, how people viciously fucked by our society manage to retain their full humanity. Mohamedou, mistakenly detained on suspicion of terrorist connections, spent fourteen years in an American hell, underwent every kind of torture, and in 2016 was released to go about his business. “Have a nice day,” said the guards as he was released.
Is brutality simply human nature, as defenders of our most inhuman practices say, or is disregard for basic human needs the perversion of a ruggedly competitive zero sum economic system that reduces everything to its monetary value? I wonder about this in connection to many of the things that plague us. Remove the profit motive and is there any debate about anything on this list?
The climate on the earth is rapidly and drastically changing, as easily seen by the wildly escalating natural disasters. Human activity plays a major role and we need to reduce the pollution that is fueling it before vast swaths of the earth are uninhabitable. The U.S. Defense Department has expressed concerns over the social upheavals these changes will cause.
All humans need medical care from time to time. Preventing disease is better than curing it. Tens of millions of Americans should not suffer from preventable diseases of poverty and despair, like diabetes and other obesity-related fast food diseases. No human being should die because they can’t afford health care.
Every human needs food, clothing and shelter. Nobody should be forced to live on the street because they’ve lost their job and their life savings. No child should starve to death.
There are millions in our own country without meaningful work. Many are in despair. Programs to train them to provide excellent care for the aged, work with troubled youth, provide physical therapy, repair the infrastructure, work in a dozen other fields for the general good, could put all of them to work in meaningful jobs that would allow them to feel productive and positive.
Prisons are for locking up people who pose dangers to the rest of us. Nonviolent people convicted of possessing or selling arbitrarily banned substances do not belong in prison. If anything, they need treatment.
There is one argument against all of these. “Who is going to fucking pay for all of this pie in the sky you fucking Commie son of a fucking bitch?”
A friend recently told me he didn’t think I was actually a Commie. In the strict sense of believing that any of the Communist countries in history have been much better than our freedom loving capitalist countries, true, I am not a Commie. But in the sense of believing that every human being has the same intrinsic value, and that the Winner/Loser dichotomy we live under is the creation of greedy, entitled psychopaths and those who aspire to be like them, color me red, comrade.
I hold this shit to be self-evident: being born wealthy does not make that kid’s life worth more than a child who goes to bed hungry every night. This is true even if our society places a wealth-calibrated monetary value on every human life. A human life is of infinite value, as Immanuel Kant noted. Why is any of this debatable?
The right of somebody to acquire $75,000,000,000 with no reciprocal obligation to anybody is unquestioned in our society. If fucking Mark Zuckerberg, creator of fucking Facebook, had announced, once he made his first $50,000,000,000, that he was giving the rest of any money he made to fund a program assembling the best minds he could find to solve social problems, to provide pathways to meaningful lives to millions, he’d be considered a saint. And a fool. On the other hand, that $25,000,000,000 could already have funded programs that could help solve a lot of despair.
On the other hand, as we say here in America: that’s true freedom, baby, never having to give a shit about anybody but yourself. The American dream, having “fuck you money”. Buy the entire beach on a Hawaiian island, bring lawsuits to make sure no natives trespass. That’s fuck you money.
Some people struggle to understand why there is a vicious, incompetent person with no apparent moral values in the White House. Look around. We live in a society that has two sets of laws, one for the rich, one for everybody else. “One for winners, one for losers, fair is fair,” as our CEO-in-Chief might put it. We operate, I learned without surprise in law school, under the American Rule: in American courts, with very few exceptions, everybody pays their own way.
In many other countries victims of borderline frivolous lawsuits, brought only to harass and harm to the other party, are repaid for the cost of hiring expensive lawyers to defend themselves if the person who sued them loses on the merits. Under the American Rule everybody pays their own legal fees, and, win or lose, losers walk. That’s why somebody like the president can sue whoever he likes, on virtually any grounds his lawyers can pull out of their collective, extremely well-paid asses. The only ones who lose those expensive cases are the losers, even if they “win”.
A loser, for example, like that innocent Canadian we sent off to Syria for a year of extreme interrogation shortly after 9/11 changed the moral universe. When the Canadian government awarded Maher Arar $10,000,000 for their part in his unspeakable ordeal they added $1,000,000 for his legal fees. The money he would have spent if the lawyers who got him the settlement had actually charged him for their hundreds of hours spent getting him legal relief. In the US this loser’s lawsuit was thrown out. It was thrown out for many reasons, take your pick. The American Rule, yo. Losers walk.