There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
--William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (1599)
In February 1998, the leadership of Scottish Militant Labour (the forerunner of the ISM) published a short document, Initial Proposals for a New Scottish Socialist Party. That document made the following observation:
“There is immense potential for the building of a socialist party in Scotland capable of expressing the ideals of socialism in the language of the 21st Century. At this stage there is an extraordinary and unprecedented contradiction in Scottish politics, reflecting a similar disparity in politics across Britain. On the one side there is a widespread and deep-rooted abhorrence of the inequalities and injustices that lie at the heart of the free market capitalist system. Yet due to lack of confidence that there is any viable alternative to the free market, the combined forces of socialism are weaker than perhaps any time this century.”
I find in this a grave error. It lies within the very hearts of the men who wrote it. It is this, that though a perfect political system has yet to be discovered, they seek to blame the systems themselves, looking outwardly instead of inwardly. Evident in the statement “... a deep-rooted abhorrence of the inequalities and injustices that lie at the heart of the free market capitalist system,” is the sentimental voice of a charitable love, a wish for all men to be equal, yes, but also the fatal mistake of thinking that a political system would make them so.
It is quite obvious in nature that some things are greater than others. Whether in size, strength or intelligence. No amount of politics will change this.
However, it is a great fallacy to associate equality of nature with importance of self. I don’t suppose an elephant more important than myself because it is bigger, nor myself more important than an imbecile. Inequality is a fact of nature, Importance is something assigned by men.
Now, granted, capitalism may expose heretofore unseen failures, problems and evils. However they are not the failures, problems and evils of capitalism but of men. Capitalism not only exposes the inequalities of men, it is built on it. Injustice is something of another matter. It is unjust, I quite agree, to the lower when the higher takes advantage of his position, but crossing the barriers of those selfsame inequalities is also the only way one may show Mercy, one of the chief virtues; it is outright evil to all when the inequalities are ignored completely.
The greatness of the phrase “All men are created equal” lies in the ability of the great men to pull the rest of society up to their level. The dark side is the lower pulling the higher down. “You are as good as I,” from a great man is one of the most wonderful and merciful things that a person can hear. “I’m just as good as you,” on the other hand is childish arrogance. Humility is the great check point of any man, society or era. Knowing one’s place denotes wisdom beyond the natural human. As Jesus pointed out so well, ‘don’t sit yourself in a place of honor lest you are asked to move and become embarrassed. Sit in the back and be honored when you are asked to move up.’ As C.S. Lewis notes, the Humble don’t think low of themselves. They aren’t thinking of themselves at all.
I write all of this so that we can get this foolishness out in the open. It is not the inequalities and injustices of capitalism that are in question. There are none. It is the unjust abuse of the inequalities and evil pride of man that need stand trial. Until we look inward, fix our own hearts, lives and families -which, as a Christian, I believe is impossible for man save God’s divine help- we are merely casting blame and are doomed to repeat the mistakes of history under new names.