Greed, Denial and Hope


Greed, Denial and Hope

A reflection after seeing Selma, shared at ICUJP, Jan. 30

Stephen Longfellow Fiske

The capitalist corporatocracy
combined with rampant addictive militarism,
leading to suicidal empire building
under the leadership of polarized partisanship
reeks of the demise of democracy…

An infection plagues the land
a pandemic permeating the pores
of the human condition
a poison seeping into the heart
hardening the arteries of vision –
A blindness
unable to see outside itself
in a famine of foresight
a blight of beneficence
a calamity of clarity
a cancer of consciousness
metastasizing through repeated histories
encoded in generational identities
ignoring the pleas for generosity
destroying the vestiges of dignity
corrupting the tenets of equality
it feeds the already satiated
gratifies the already ingratiated
bleeds the already bleeding
steals from the desperately needing
serves the already self-serving
denies the despaired and deserving
hardens the crust of the callous
prostitutes the principles of the pious
padding the pockets of power
seizing the profit of the hour
climbing on the backs of the oppressed
enslaved to this disease of the obsessed
a barbiturate of false identity
it seeds the saddest of travesties
leads to the greatest of poverties
The poverty of the soul…


Capitalism breeds greed and greed breeds denial, the refusal to admit, recognize or face that something has occurred, something deleterious, something devastating, something that is an obvious truth to any real objective observer. Denial breeds aggressive protection of a dysfunctional status quo.

The dysfunctional status quo gets worse because trying to sustain dysfunction only exacerbates and perpetuates dysfunction.  The dysfunction festers and becomes a sickness, where mistrust, hate, bigotry, abuse and violence can thrive.  In order to heal, there needs to be a functional stability where a healing remedy and supportive environment can be provided.  But in our denial we are caught in a cycle of continual dysfunction that blinds us from facing the painful truth.  We suppress what we don’t want to see, and spiral off into an addicted acceptance of a “norm” where any part of healing is forgotten.

Isn’t it obvious that the path of war-making in the name of ‘the War on Terror” that this country has followed since 9/11 has destabilized the world while catalyzing and growing terrorism into a global horror reality?

Isn’t it obvious that corporate CEOs earning 300-400 times as much as the average employee, and that the 1% owning 50% of the world wealth, comprise a gaping inequity that wrenches the guts out of the true democracy articulated in the founding documents of this nation?  Hasn’t it been obvious throughout history that such inequity brings extreme societal suffering, turbulence and upheaval?

Isn’t it obvious that in the world’s richest country, where one out of three children live in poverty, where the homeless occupy the corners begging for handouts, where the middle class dwindles, where college students graduate in overwhelming debt, where infrastructure crumbles and racism shows its ugly face as young blacks are murdered by white cops in our streets and people of difference are stigmatized and marginalized, while global warming and fossil fuel addiction continue to devastate our life support system – our earth – isn’t it obvious that the way of greed, denial, and the reckless addiction to military spending  and war making is the wrong road for building a healthy, thriving nation and a global economy that works for everyone?  Not to mention a peaceful world?

But we Americans walk through our days in a kind of hypnotic haze, still holding on to the fantasy that the American Dream is alive and well while we slip deeper into the maze of denial.  We become cynical and lose interest in the most sacred element of democracy, the vote, as the bickering ineptitude of congress undermines the faith and trust of the electorate.  The recklessness and costliness of U.S. foreign policy and militarism continues to bleed the needs of the people and has brought American prestige in the international community to plummet.  More importantly, we seem to have lost interest in the one area that has always made a difference in history; the mass rising-up of the people in populist movements to resist injustice, oppression, and political misdirection.

With the stunning Academy disregard for Selma, one is again reminded, that much as Martin Luther King was an upstart underdog against a goliath entrenched system, Selma is a rarity amongst the onslaught of sensationalist and violent entertainment we see in movies, television and video games. The movie stands tall in reminding us of the transcendental impact of art on society, that bigotry can be uprooted, that people of vision and courage can act together to create positive change, that a minority voice speaking truth to power can instill a people’s movement and shift the power structure, and that America is still capable of self-examination and revolutionary transformation.  Selma may be only a reminder, not a slayer of a system of greed, denial and bigotry, but a breath of hope in a seemingly dismal forecast.  And the movie has given non-violence a dignified presence in the midst of the gratuitous violence that pervades the movie landscape.

Selma touches us again with the impact of history, the lessons still to be learned, and invokes us to take a good look at where we still fester in racism, bigotry, greed, denial and dysfunction.

The movie re-affirms that the vision Dr. King articulated so eloquently for America,  uprooting bigotry, injustice and oppression through the strategy of non-violence,  reaches deep into the heart of democracy,   to the foundation  of all humanity’s quest for a just and peaceful world.

In this we can find hope, take strength in each other,  to be with those that Martin Luther King called ”the veterans of Creative suffering,”  acting in “the fierce urgency of now.”