Saturday, September 1, 2012
America Is a Tribe - Not a Business
This is not part of my Wisdom's Daughters book but I feel Lady Wisdom is calling me to write about something I feel passionate about.
I’ve been following to our political dialogue for many decades now, and through the years there are always new fallacies in our common belief system about America that bother me. Probably the longest-standing complaint I have is the belief that America somehow means the Economy and therefore it should be run like a business. That seemed to be the theme of the Republican National Convention.
That’s so wrong-headed it makes me want to send everyone to their bedrooms without supper! Or put coal in their stockings…
America is not a business! If I had to pick a metaphor for the United States of America, I would say that America is an organization of Tribes, a people who share a HOME together. When we share a home, we are either family or friends or a tribe. If nothing else, the thing we have in common is that we share a space together.
If America is our Homeland, than perhaps we’d better figure out what we believe: is our home a business or is it the place we live in, thrive in, share in?
This idea that America is somehow a business is the endgame of the capitalist system. We are the most corporate state in the world, founded by the East India Trading Company during the start of the Industrial Revolution. So let’s look at the needs of a business and see if this is really what our collective desire for our home is.
1. In business, the bottom line is profit. And the more money you have, the more power and prestige. If this was a family home, there would be a never-ending competition with other homes to have more and more things to prove your worth. Unfortunately, this has become the standard American goal. (Time to watch The Story of Stuff again.)
2. The business is of central importance, so anything not related to work and profits is secondary. If our home were run like this, there’d be no time to raise a family, indulge in pleasure, have a conscience or exercise our creativity or our individuality.
3. The environment is also captive to business’ needs. So if the business needs to poison the air and water of our house to be profitable, then tough luck, kids! Just cover your mouth when you cough.
4. In a business, not everyone can be boss! There’s a hierarchy involved and a system of merits and demerits. Although if you work hard, maybe someday you too can help run the show.
5. A business often demands competition and ruthlessness. So we have to train up our people to be ruthless and domineering.
6. And sometimes a business just fires everyone and moves overseas. Sorry kids, you have until midnight to move out! And leave all your stuff – we bought it for you and it’s ours.
Is this beginning to sound like patriarchy at its worst? The image I got as I was writing this was of Viking warriors raising their sons to compete and kill for the throne. The paradox is that business is just as savage, and yet it seems so much more objective. Our capitalistic business model demands the annihilation of all feeling values and common interests. Except of course, profits.
I, for one, have never wanted to live in an economy. I want to live in a culture. I want to live in a tribe. So perhaps I’d better define what a tribe means to me. The group of friends I have refer to themselves as a tribe, people with common interests. They are independent and individual and yet are available to work for the good of the whole. Of the ancient tribes, the Celts are the ones I know best. The Celts were an independent and yet fiercely loyal people. Yes, I know they were so independent that they couldn’t unite to fight the Romans, etc. etc. That’s only looking at them from the outside. We need to look within ourselves before we turn our attention out to the rest of the world. We need to know who we are, what we believe and what we are willing to do to live up to our own myth.
What I see in Celtic tribes is the responsibility of the queen or chief to keep the people secure and prosperous while taking into account all members of the tribe. The Celts felt the tribe was the family. What happened to one happens to all. It might seem idealistic, but I am a mythologist and I believe these ancient archetypes still live within us. Another image I use to denote the equality and group consciousness of the Aquarian Age is also a good description of a modern tribe – The Round Table. It symbolizes the totality of talents, values and people which form the foundation of the tribe. It is the table where equal individuals sit to solve their common problems. Only a tribe will care to look at all the aspects of our common life and work to enhance them. A business isn’t in the business of caring.
So what would America look like if we thought of ourselves as a Tribe? We would be a group of people with common interests and common goals. We would work to make sure all our people were fed and clothed and working for themselves and for the advancement of our common goals. Like a family, we would care for the sick among us, share in the joys and pains of life, and yes, do work that is satisfying and necessary.
If we thought of our country as a Tribe and America as our home, would we poison the air we breathe, the water we need for life or the dirt we grow our food in? Would we rip up the house for the profit of the few and let the many go without shelter? Wouldn’t we try to make peace with our neighboring tribes so our children would have friends in the neighborhood instead of enemies all around? If we were a tribe instead of a business, would we see that each person has worth in themselves instead of basing our idea of their worth on something external like money?
If we thought of ourselves as a tribe, we would honor all our people, men and women alike. I love the Celtic women, for they were as free and independent as the men. There would be no trying to control them, legislate what they could do with their bodies or leave them so destitute that they would turn to prostitution to feed themselves. Celtic women could take any lover they wanted, even if they were married. In this tribal America, women would have total equality with men and complete self-ownership.
Our children are our future. In a tribe, we would make sure that they were educated so they can grow up to be responsible men and women. We would teach them to use their imaginations and to use their critical thinking to solve problems. We would also teach them how to work. When they reached adolescence, with all the bodily changes that occur, we would free them from the classrooms and let them learn how to be in their new body in a new way. If all our communities grew their own food, our children would learn how to sow the seeds and reap the food. Then everyone would know how to sustain themselves. We would make them part of our community instead of trying to keep them ignorant and childish. During their high school years, we would teach our children the skills that they are best at, rather than making them fit into a rigid system that doesn’t teach them about how to survive and thrive. We would send them off to ‘college’ without fear that they couldn’t afford it or would be in debt for the rest of their lives.
If we saw ourselves are one people, we would take time to balance work and play, contemplation and striving, creativity and experimentation. We would honor the Earth as the source of our life and honor each other for sharing our gifts.
I want to see America run like a tribe and not like a business!
So after watching the Republican National Convention and news commentaries, Jon Stewart and Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom segment on Republican machinations, I’d be even more horrified by what’s going on if I didn’t feel so saddened by all those people being manipulated by a wrong-headed belief.
I stopped being angry when I saw Samantha B’s interviews on Jon Stewart’s August 29th The Daily Show. Samantha interviewed ‘the party’s base’ during the convention; she asked what they thought of Romney being against the party plank of no abortion for any reason. All their answers mentioned his right to make his own choice, and for all of us to have the right to make our own choices without government interference. The people interviewed said it with a straight face and really meant it. They couldn’t see the obvious contradiction. They couldn’t get past their blind belief system that makes them think they are saving little babies’ lives and yet allowing all other ‘government-sanctioned’ killing.
I feel sorry for them but that’s no excuse. They’re all asleep at the wheel! Their shadow is showing – their fears, their unconsciousness, and at the bottom line, their hypocrisy. They babble on about being ‘real Americans’ and yet they don’t realize that what they’re really being is the American Taliban.
And so, I will fight their stupidity in a peaceful and graceful way. I will stand up for the Truth. That’s all any of us can do.