Wednesday, July 26, 2006 What is communism exactly? Why do I ask such an archaic question ... aren't we past that plague and firmly obsessed with the next one, terrorism? I don't know ... actually, I do know. We are never past any of these because they are creations of our imagination. So let me play with the communism one today, because I was thinking about it as I jumped and sat on a train of thought that ran parallel with the 7 line into Grand Central at around 8:50 this morning.
Communism, communal culture, a sense of connection among people. This is something you don't enforce, it just grows organically. Dictators have tried to make everyone "work together" as they stuff themselves and watch millions starve. We have another perverse form here in the U.S. but it works for the time being. It's called capitalism. Do you think that this notion is the opposite of communism? Well, it's not. Why? Because it's all about manipulating reality so that people work together. In Japan, the populous operates on a set of ideals, to sacrifice for the whole. In the United States, we operate on a set of ideals too, to sacrifice time in order to make money and get paid more if you work together. So money is a kind of glue that binds us all together.
How did I arrive at this thought? Well, this morning, I was walking through the turnstyle at Court Square in Queens, and I thought, "hey, it's nice to know that those people are sitting there in the booth, just to help me if I need directions or assistance." Then I thought "hey, wait, no, they're there because they are getting paid ... and their level of service depends on their attitude, not necessarily on their sense of connection with me, as a fellow human being."
So money, in a capitalistic culture, is a glue that binds people. It's not a sense of blood relation as it is in actual communal cultures. It's money. And it divides us because it's an illusory veil of so much debris that we almost feel resentful if we don't get paid enough to help people. If we don't have the money. But that's not entirely our fault; society reminds us all around that without money, you won't look like the people in the ads--happy, well-travelled, fulfilled. But are they really happy? I was never happier than when I sat with a family and ate lunch in a developing nation ... or when I had tea with locals in a developing nation, where people practice communal culture as a natural response to human needs.
I don't think needs are fulfilled when money glues people together. I think the sense of connection fulfills people more. And while communist dictators have proved that you can not enforce this connection with a greedy head of state practicing capitalism at the same time, people in "primitive" cultures provide a shining example to those seeking true connections with others on a mass scale.
Will it only be a matter of time before everyone buys into the idea of money as the glue that binds us? I don't know. I don't think this is black and white but it sure was worth a meandering thought this morning.