The Politics of Greed

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In Chapter 5, “The Politics of Greed”, Hooks gets her hook into an idea and gets so much of it backward. She has a real confusion about causality. There are so many things she says that I can see obvious connections. But she connects and plugs them in backward.

She begins by making a good point about greed. Most of us learn about greed from excessive indulgence as kids – getting sick from sweets being the example (I never got sick from sweets, BTW). Even dysfunctional parents don’t want to raise greedy kids. But then she makes a statement that reflects her own upbringing’s shortcoming: “Most children are taught that excessive desire is bad.” Hooks has a problem with desire.  It caused all of the stress of her childhood, desires that could not be met. So she is afraid of excessive desires. But not all desires are symptomatic of greed. Not all desires to the extreme are greedy.

She again in this chapter makes note of the 60s and 70s being so good, developing into a material 80s. Her idea of the 60s is “a widespread sense of bounty that could be shared precisely because excess was frowned upon.” But it was exactly that idea of sharing the bounty – other people’s bounty — that was the source of all the greed. It is easy to share other people’s stuff – but it isn’t generosity, it is robbery. No wonder the people that were so willing to share other people’s stuff through the government’s grab and redistribute schemes in the 60s – an effort to stamp out poverty (The War on Poverty) became the leaders of her 80s selfishness. They were never truly generous before. They never learned to give of their own stuff. Granted, many did give of themselves, Peace Corps, etc., but planted within that was the dangerous idea that government should solve problems.

Hook also declaims the fading of religious influence – but it was the same groups she lauds that led to the decline of its influence.  The government took over the “care” of the poor – and bred more poor (what you subsidize you always get more of), and churches allowed them to do so.

Interestingly, in previous chapters she lauded the poor about being communal and someone we can learn from. But in this chapter she says “Anyone who spends time with people who are underprivileged and poor knows how much of their energies are spent longing for material goods, not just for basic necessities of life, but also for luxuries.” This is an inconsistent image of the poor, spiritual leaders that are so easily tempted and led astray? (And what connotations does “underprivileged have, anyway? The word seems to steal the humanity from them.)

Her vision of the 80s and beyond was of those former idealists joining forces with the conservatives to oppress the poor, but armed with the knowledge of what the poor desired, to be able to manipulate them. Part of that manipulation was allowing token people from oppressed groups into power to prove to everyone that mobility and opportunity for all arose.  She goes on to say:

Along with the revamped myth that everyone who worked hard could rise from the bottom of our nation’s class hierarchy to the top was the insistence that the old notions of oppressor class and oppressed class were no longer meaningful, because when it came to the issue of material longing, the poor, working, and middle classes desired the same things that the rich desired, including the desire to exercise power over others.

hooks, bell (2012-10-02). Where We Stand: Class Matters (p. 66). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

Now here is where I declaim. I don’t think we all desire to exercise power over others. I even know of a group of libertarians (small ‘l’) whose humorous scheme is “plotting to take over the world and leave it ruthlessly alone.”

But in here plot-riddled ideology, Hooks sees this drive to inculcate greed into the poor as a way to control them and infiltrate their previously stable communities. One example of this was the drug culture that was spawned to turn these neighborhoods into war zones. It affects those who sell and become rich, and it affects the addicts, who prey upon family and neighbors without remorse. And, of course, this drug culture is sanctioned by the government – if not the government would rid our streets of it with some of the money used for the military industrial complex.

Two things I see here. She misses the connection with the drug culture and those irresponsible 60s people who wanted to spend other people’s money. She also misses the way all those programs to care for people – the ones started in the caring 60s, not the greedy 80s, destabilized the family by rewarding people to have children outside of a stable family environment. You get more of what you reward.

I have almost started making a game of it – seeing where she will throw her next ad hominem argument – for example smearing a person or group with words like fascist to make a point with shock value rather than logic.  Here is her use of fascism in this chapter:

Drug trafficking is the only economic enterprise that enables a poor person to acquire the means to drive the same cars and wear the same clothes as the rich. Of course, unlike the legitimized beneficiaries of greedy capitalism , these profiteers lack the power to influence government spending or public policy. They function only as a fascist force that brings violence and devastation into what were once stable communities.

hooks, bell (2012-10-02). Where We Stand: Class Matters (p. 67). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

Creating the sort of social chaos that these drug lords are supposed to doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that totalitarians would do. On the other hand, using shock troops to move into communities to get rid of drug lords (what Hooks herself proposed the government to do) sounds more like something a fascist would do. So, at the risk of making a possible ad hominem attack myself, I must wonder who demonstrates the mentality of a fascist more.

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