Capitalism – the contemporary religion

By Michael Skywood Clifford.

Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and world views that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.

Capitalism has become a massive global religion in its own right. It is strange that people who are in this religion do not realise they belong to a religion. It is a COVERT religion even for its followers The religion of Capitalism is not about spirituality but about materialism. Ownership and control of material goods and property is power. Abstractions of spirituality are only perceived to have value if the abstraction delivers some material advantage. In these societies the talk is continually about ownership and ‘getting’.

1)    At the top, in the Vatican of the financial City, here are the massive investors, the trillionaires, the owners of global power corporations, the people who own banks and invest in them. This hierarchy owns so much of the world that they rarely hear a 'no' to their requests from anyone.
2)    The investment bankers and hedge funders.
3)    Then come the rating agencies and the governments, who both say ‘yes’ to directives sent down from the top.
4)    Beneath here is the major priesthood of capitalism, the media news industry, together with its entire television, newspaper, magazine participants who get their indulgencies from peddling propaganda and trivia. These are closely followed by public relations and ‘opinion forming’ industries, and then the advertising, style and status industries to make people think they are not good enough and to play on their insecurities to make sales. You aren’t wearing the latest fashion? Shame on you – a sin!
5)    Down on the next rung we find the laity of Capitalism. The candidates and members of national political parties that all peddle the same capitalist dirge and whom lap up the scraps that central office sends them. In the USA, fundamentalist evangelical right-wing Christians strangely do the job of being Capitalist Army soldiers very well.

High priest and doctrine
The economist has become now become society’s high priest creating new doctrine and interpreting the signs and symbols of an arcane and baffling pseudo science. An economist is the quack medicine man who peddles interpretations of the intestines of many different and opposing doctrines. And there is always much contention about which is the right doctrine. Should we believe in Adam Smith or Milton Friedman. Was Alan Gecko coming out with Capitalist’s supreme commandment when he uttered ‘greed is good’? Does the USA save its soul when it invades yet another country under the guise of ‘a humanitarianism war’ and bombs its inhabitants to smitherines. Two economists cancel each other out – like two quarks – and so they are more like astrologists than gurus. An army of economists is there to keep the status quo for the Capitalist church and baffle everyone with conflicting opinions of stock market theology.

Yet we all know – when it comes to doctrine – we will be shunned if we are seen to read Maynard Keynes and excommunicated if we read Frederick Engels, or exponents of the Frankfurt School or Karl Marx, the devil incarnate!

And do we recognise the sacred sacraments of Capitalism? You will not be surprised to hear that the ultimate sacrament is ‘Shopping and buying on credit’; you will go to hell if you have not earned a great amount of debt by the time you die.  Remember the advice of the Capitalist gospel – ‘ALWAYS a borrower or a lender be!’  And which sacrament comes a close second? Passive consumption of media propaganda. Massive drug and alcohol consumption gets a commendation and so does addiction to Premier and world Football. It’s not bread and wine sacraments here but sacraments of bread and circuses.

The hagiography of the Capitalist religion are the saints of bling and excess, the celebrities, the supermodels, the rock and sport stars. These are the saints we pin to our walls and pray that we can be as rich as they are.

Of course a Capitalist religion must have its annual celebrations. We all know the SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP FEST in December. These celebrations are not – you will notice – about meditation, fasting and abstinence but drunkenness, gluttony and excess!  And then all this excess is followed by the hysteria-creating January sales where people queue overnight to obsessively buy, buy, buy and receive absolution (cleaning) of their purses. This is the final stage of women regularly meeting throughout the year to bond together while they go on shopping binge. On this occasion however they don’t actually bond but push each other out of the way to get to the bargains.

Capitalism’s God is money and possession. Capitalism’s ethical structure is complete individual selfishness. Capitalism’s sensibilities are ‘willfull ignorance’ of other people’s needs.

Yet it seems these days things are changing. Dissenters are popping up everywhere, saying and writing they no longer believe. Could we be seeing an end to the Capitalist religion? Many young people have come out into the world and are actively expressing disbelief. And some people are going further to stop this religion of imperialism, colonialism, inequality, material rape and global pollution. In fact, in some countries this religion is barely tolerated. Are we on the verge of a new ‘Enlightenment’?  Let’s hope so!

Political, Religious and philosophical

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