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Distinguishing Myth From Reality

Obama's biggest strength is how to use one to survive in the other

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, January 14, 2009.

Arguing with religious types is non-habit forming for we atheists, because in their world, there is a god and all must be explained around that. They cannot even imagine a world without a god, although such a world would be this one as it is, and all that would be missing is the avocation of the religious clerisy and their detritus.

But there are other religions that are just as wooden-headed and self-serving, in that what they try to inculcate within the masses elevates the presiding authorities by myth and ritual and discourages intelligent discourse of fact. Economics, for example.

Economics is called the dismal science but it isn’t remotely a science. A PhD in Economics – even a Nobel Prize - is about as meaningful and co-joined to reality as a Doctor of Divinity from some Ring Worm evangelical university of noted racists. The attempts to make economics a science as well as coherent and seen to be visibly operative in nature guarantee the adjective. Believers insist on the power of a fiction called a Free Market, a divine state of being never shown or known to have existed historically except in a greatly restricted and localized form and viewed as both a comforter and a punisher depending on your variant religious sect of economic belief.

In this heaven of The Free Market, we’re to believe prices and wages are solely the result of supply and demand, sacred and holy impulses. Through the years, competition to the concept of the Free Market has appeared, but it has been to make the study of exchange more and more anal and precise, as Karl Marx attempted. At no time has anyone – communist or University of Chicago Initiate - called economics a religion, but a science with natural laws. Those that attempted to speak truth to craniums of calcium were subjected to anathema. But let’s be real. Economics, as Yale Mathematician Sergey Lang once applied to the works of Samuel P. Huntington, can be described as “ ... a type of language which gives the illusion of science without any of its substance.”

For a boring example, every national network from the beginning and to this day will go to commercial in the middle of their news shows with a report from the stock market, along with a unsubstantiated explanation for the rise or fall. The unwary might think this explanation was based upon a polling of a significant number of those who sold or bought stocks that day, but in reality it’s an opinion by supposed experts, sometimes only one. It’s an utter guess. But it leaves the impression in the public that everything is mostly understood and under control. Believers have difficulty admitting this. Being a science and all.

It’s of more than passing interest, these days, because our government – and much of the world – is being forced to focus on whether expanded forms of midday bazaar trading markets – Sumer with Blackberries - aren’t things of the past and incapable of trading value according to benefit offered or accomplishment rendered. Communism, capitalists today crow, failed because it didn’t have the dexterity to react to reality, or account for another religion, called Human Nature, which is competitive and drives out the infirm, the incompetent, the loser as Darwin accurately predicted. Ironically, even the most adamant and ignorant American Christian harbors a form of social Darwinism, and says the continuing spread of Christianity is proof of its superiority, and that a Christian is somehow superior as well, all clear evidence to the contrary.

The aforementioned Samuel Huntington famously said “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.” That gives solace to the various Islamic cultures fighting in Gaza and elsewhere today, who like all cultural Babylonians believe a spiritual superiority is bequeathed in defeat. They cannot imagine a life without Israel to devote their energies against, because their leaders and culture can provide none without threatening their status. Huntington and his admirers are simply wrong. It is exactly the superiority of its ideas that gave the West superiority in applying violence more efficiently. Those ideas provided the self-image, our one true religion, of exceeding competence and energy, superiority in all things of moment. Initial defeats in a project didn’t depress but inspired them to greater efforts, because they knew – just knew – that such things were rewarded with success.

That belief is on the table now as Obama’s administration comes to power. The United States, under a supposed Conservative, has shucked many of its national political and economic myths in just the last few months without admitting them for what they were. America is now having to face up to its past of subbing idiotic but comforting falsehoods for actuality. It is not just that he’s thin, accomplished, smart, and black that distinguishes Barack Obama from most of us: it’s that he knows myth when he sees it. How he uses that knowledge will define the presidency that starts next week.