The following is a post that I made on another website (rayharvey.org) in response to a commenter on a post that would have had something to do with education or health care and economics. The site belongs to a friend who is a libertarian [I have all kinds of friends :-)]. I can no longer quickly find the original web page, so I am reposting this because it is about a different part of my childhood/formative years & does explain some of the other figures, who were influential on developing my life philosophy [besides Babylon 5 :-)]
Note: BC stands for Bedazzled Crone - a name that I sometimes use on the net (& linked to this website address); POG is who knows??
BC: I will address some of the issues that you have brought up in your post over a number of comments. Don’t want to make them too long. This is the first response to something that was a little ad hominem, n’est-ce pas? So to clarify:
POG: The problem is that you continue to view “capitalism” and “competition” through your lens of Marxist critique, I am guessing it was ingrained in you in the 60’s by some professors who were apologists for Stalinism and you haven’t been able to shake it since.
BC: My intro PoliSci prof. in 1968/69 was Polish and hardly a Marxist. He taught at Conrad Grebel College (attached to the U of Waterloo where I was a computer science/math major). If I were anything, I was first and foremost an existentialist in my late teens (when I read Sartre, Nietzsche & others) and my 20s. I was an ardent supporter of human rights, and already, seriously critical of “systems”. The main influences on my philosophical thinking were Erich Fromm (Escape From Freedom, Beyond the Chains of Illusion, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness), A. S. Neill (Summerhill), John Holt (Escape From Childhood) but probably, one of the most important was Ivan Illich (Medical Nemesis, and Deschooling Society). These writers do not a “Marxist” make! If I have "socialist roots", they are derived from two basic areas.
The first is the reality of being the daughter of a steel mill ladleliner. The owner of the "means of production" always needs to be forced to do right by the very people that allow the owner to make his/its profits & he/it sure as hell didn't/doesn’t want to share it around. My father led sit-down strikes, my Dad was laid off. I doubt very much that he gave a damn about socialism, Marxism or anything else along that line. What he did care about were his and his fellow steel workers human rights; - the right to work in a safe environment and the right to a fair wage for a day's work. The labour movement wasn’t about "socialism/Marxism" as far as I can see - it was about individual human rights. And, sometimes, you needed/need to come together collectively to assert those rights. It is those "capitalists" and their government cronies that labelled the labour movement as "socialist" as it became a corrupted "big business" itself, particularly in the United States. This eventually led to the McCarthy hearings in the US – talk about moral panic creators). What is wrong with people wanting to collectively better themselves? Why is it there a need to "break the unions" within government agenda? Shouldn't the goal be to bring everyone up to the economic levels achieved by some of the unions so that people get "fair wage for a fair day's work"? Instead what we see is the attempts to break the unions through government legislation; the branding of unions as "socialist" or "marxist". Break the unions so that everyone can slowly find their economic status devolving to that of the level of the people who work at Walmart or McDonald's. Breaking the unions abrogates my individual right to act collectively should I want to.
The second comes clearly from my social gospel United Church of Canada Christian roots. Jesus as the Dude! The worldview that I inherited there and still maintain to a large extent would argue that human beings are interdependent. We are indeed our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers. We always need to care about those who have less than we do. We need to care about those who are injured, who are treated unjustly. Empathy is the thing that differentiates us from most other animals. The ability to care about other human beings should matter as much as “systems”. Sometimes, I think that that is the core of the problem with most “systems” – no matter what they are: the tendency to forget that we are talking about individual human beings who get hurt by these systems. Altruism may have its roots in TheSelfish Gene, but it is a fact that humans seem to be as willing to support one another as they are to kill one another - in the evolutionary context. No matter what is in our genetic inheritance, we are thinking beings; we can envision a future different from the one we live in. Historically speaking, human beings are constantly finding ways to overcome their genetic inheritance through creating alternative scenarios, different religions, different societies, different childrearing methods, and different hierarchical or non-hierarchical forms of governance – all for the sole purpose of finding out how we can live interdependently. I doubt very much that that is “socialism” or “Marxism”.
FYI: If you got this far, here is a link to a few more of my thoughts (more philosophical and political) at one of Ray's blog posts Political Theory of Government.