Thursday, January 27, 2011

Learning new words

In our media today, we hear a lot of words that are awfully misrepresented. These terms are used to demonize political opponents by invoking a response based on ignorance and echoic fears. The most common example is Socialism. This is a word that has come to mean oppression, fear, overpowered government, and the opposite of America. It is true that America is about as far from a Socialist system as is possible, but the assumptions and beliefs that have been associated with this word are incredibly misleading.

There are many different kinds of Socialism, and most of them are not bad at all. In fact, they make a lot of sense. Many Socialist theories reject government altogether, advocate self-government, and focuses on group ownership of production and distribution. The overarching premise of Socialism is to have no private ownership, no competition to keep costs down, and little government (if any at all) to keep the system operating. It is mostly run on the backs of those in the community.

Communism is a more classical term that has been demonized by our media. It is very similar to Socialism, but is something of a more purified form, in which there are no classes as well as no private ownership. Communism has gotten a bad rap recently because it has been implemented in a forceful way in many countries. Going back to Stalin and Lenin, Hitler (to some extent), Che Guevara, Castro, and Communist China, it's easy to see why Communism has become the kind of defacto Boogeyman of our political discourse. It has come to represent oppression, suppression of ideas and individual freedoms, and violation of human rights. Unfortunately, this is neither fair nor true, as these problems arise when the country is run by the "Communist Party" in power, a notion that is completely foreign to pure Communism and that has more in common with Fascism.

On that note, let us consider Fascism. This word has become a description that is often associated with the other two previously discussed as the inevitable end result. It is toted as an extremist Left-wing ideology, and is spoken of as if it were quickly becoming rampant in our country. The fact is, Fascism does not adhere to one ideology over another; it is neither Left or Right, but borrows from both. It is intensely militaristic, forcing its citizens to conform to rigid codes of conduct in order to maintain a kind of organic society. Now, consider the beliefs of many conservative Americans who say that the government should be reduced to roughly the size of the military. In my view, that sounds an awful lot like Fascism.

The point of this post is to point out the gross disinformation, distortions, and outright falsehoods that are being projected by our media and elected officials when they use these words without understanding their meaning. When we see or hear something like "Communism vs. Capitalism", it generally doesn't register that this is essentially the same thing as "Apples vs. Oranges." Capitalism is an economic system, not a sociopolitical one like Communism. However, in America, we seem to have progressed to the point where our Neo-Capitalism has taken on aspects of our societal and political structure; whether this is for the best or not is another discussion.We continually hear about Capitalism as the standard by which we should measure the world, that it is the Free Market that is the sole reason for our current place in the world. But hasn't it also poisoned our society, turned us against one another, our fellow man, in order to get ahead by any means necessary?

In my view, Capitalism draws on the worst of the human condition, while Communism draws on the best. Capitalism feeds our animalistic competitiveness and infighting, rewards ruthless attack and personal gain, and frowns on weakness. Communism stresses our innate draw to collective groups, like-minded individuals, and our base needs for community and preservation of the group. These two conflicting viewpoints are often in conflict, and are equally valid in the human psyche. Whichever one is more predominant for the individual will likely determine which form of governance and society they value or agree with.

One should not have to fear the ramifications of espousing their beliefs in our current culture. We are meant to be a culture of free thought and opinion. I believe that Communism is a better choice than Capitalism, and yet to express that openly is to entice backlash, even as an unimportant individual in this society. The facts are that we as a society have turned these words on their heads, are using them to fuel distrust and disquiet, and that few people who use them freely in our media seem to have a working understanding of what they represent. We must do better, must be more open-minded and educated about our system and the other systems that exist in our world. There are dark sides to every dawn, two sides to every coin, and no one right answer that will make everything fall into place. However, we owe it to ourselves to understand fully what our options are, and what we can do to better ourselves and society.

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