On WAL-MART PHILOSOPHIES AND THE HIDDENNESS OF MAMMON
World empires and colonies in 1898, just before the Spanish-American War, Boxer Rebellion and Boer War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesterday I talked about sex sex sex, and today, I want to talk about money and power.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:10-12 NIV
Many Pacifists really don’t like to talk about power. It’s like they are allergic to it. As persons who desire to be peacemakers, we need to have conversations about who has power (well all of us do really), but who has used their power to set up systems of domination. In high school history classes, we learn that after World War II, the United Nations made a push to “decolonize” all of the populations of People of Color that a few European countries had oppressed for decades. Sometimes this was done by treaty, and in some instances, war, and in the case of places like India (cough cough, and the USA), non-violent protests.
Simultaneously, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were deeply involved in a Cold War, which consisted of espionage, the tactical maneuvering of nuclear weapons, and lots of education-as-propaganda (One Nation, Under God added to the pledge for ex.). Interestingly the move to put “In God We Trust” on the American Dollar (which god? did he endorse racial segregation and lynching?) I say was a move of great significance. Rather than sending missionaries overseas, the U.S. sent businessmen, to spread the good news about America’s free market (which just so happened to be sustained by an oppressive apartheid system). The Almighty Dollar had become the center of USian society, and it’s exportation through the use of exploitation of workers here and abroad that continues today which makes neocolonialism alive and well. Even symbols of resistances, like the Guy Fawkes mask are made in factories in the Two-Thirds world, and Time Warner owns the image, so, here’s your sign. But that’s what is so special about contemporary postcolonial empire, isn’t it? That the multi-national corporations own everything, including their opponents!
Empires after World War Two are defined by economic activity and the political coercion of developing nations to accept oppressive neo-liberal reforms. One embodiment of postcolonial empire is that of the university setting. Education has become learning the minimum amount of knowledge we need so we can get a good job and move up in the world. Colleges and universities in the United States exist to sustain the mainstream status quo by implementing desired virtues one ought to have in the “real” world. For example, issues pertaining to responsibility, networking (sororities and fraternities, for example), as well as tolerance for human diversity are part of the morality behind university life; what is hidden from view is neocolonial corporatism, that is, that these values are necessary to maintain the economic system currently in place. Mammon is hidden; we do not see it. A New Pacifism must confront structural sin, and that includes the hiddenness of mammon.
Christians in general are really good about condemning greedy individuals and “Wal-Mart” philosophies like a certain article about marriage that trended earlier this week. The funny thing about these “Wal-Mart” philosophies is that they never get around to confronting companies like Wal-Mart and their bad histories of gender and racial discrimination, or their horrendous record on workers’ rights. But hey yall, Black Friday is just around the corner! The devastating impact that economic violence has on generations of families must be addressed. In order for cycles of poverty to be broken, the New Pacifism must open up its definition of violence to include the oppression of the impoverished. The DOLLAR must become viewed as the representation of institutionalized greed. Because God has given us power to defeat “The Powers,” New Pacifists must dismantle the lies and false hopes of neoliberalism. Peace theologian John Howard Yoder rightly argued in the Politics of Jesus that once a believer is part of the Kingdom of God, private property rights are no longer absolute as they are in capitalist societies, for we are obligated to give it all up. The New Pacifist must be willing implement non-violent principles into economic practices for the sake of liberating the downtrodden.