David Hamilton

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America… The Bad News Bears. On homogeneity, and heterogeneity, capitalism… and socialism.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with films like “The Bad News Bears”, you might be lucky enough to be familiar with a more international story “The Seven Samurai”, or it’s western remake “The Magnificent Seven”. What these films have in common, is that they are about a band of poor people, who are essentially… misfits, but they band together to do something incredible.

I would like to suggest, that while this story is universal, and human, it has been redone, over, and over, and over, again in America, for a very specific reason. It is the romantic way to discuss the founding of our country, more specifically, the founding of Providence Rhode Island. There is of course, a more dark, and sinister tale of the founding of America, but for one moment allow me to give it a romantic once over.

We are a nation founded by crazy, poor people, involved in religious cults. The Puritans, the Quakers, the Baptists… a bunch of wacky, incredibly prude, but perfectly nice people, who everyone in Europe hated, fled discrimination, and said “we’re going to do it better on our own”… Everyone laughed.

In 1652, the Quakers, and Baptists of the Providence colonies, had abolished slavery, and instituted religious freedom… while having a relatively healthy, peaceful, and booming economy for the time. Suddenly, people weren’t laughing at the crazy group of misfits anymore. What does this have to do with homogeneity, heterogeneity, capitalism, and socialism? Everything.

I would like to suggest, that capitalism, a lack of central authority, and religious freedom, are fantastic, for a group of misfits. For a group of religious zealots, and European outcasts, freedom… is not just good sense, it’s a necessity. A group of people from every race, culture, and religious background, can’t make rules about social issues and culture. A group of people from one culture, can do exactly that. Capitalism works well for diverse groups. Socialism for similar groups. Thoughts?

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    Sep 16 2012: In a moment of calm repose read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. Then ask yourself if spewing your sophomoric contempt on the writers of such documents is proper.After a serious reading of these two brief documents produced by these wacky , prudish, cultist misfits I wonder if you wil still insist the writings are no longer right for America and need to be replaced by some Socialist Manifesto. It will be twenty minutes well-spent David. America is of far greater value than your words indicate. Thank you!
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      Sep 16 2012: Edward... I think my literary flair may have failed me, because you obviously didn't understand what I wrote at all. In fact, what I wrote is that America will never be socialist, because it is too diverse. Because we are a band of misfits, individualists, and creative thinkers, socialism will never work for us.

      "The Seven Samurai", is my favorite film of all time, and it is about a band of misfit individuals, who, without the aid of government, or community, are brought together to work towards a noble cause, of their own free will.

      I believe that capitalism is the only thing that can save this country, simply because we do not get along with one another naturally. We are not a group of people with shared goals, religions, and aspirations. We are a society, created by people who did not fit in to society, so we can not become democratically socialist, we cannot have a forced contribution to social legislation.

      We are not representative however, of the world population. Many populations of the world are quite homogenous... 90% of the citizens believe in the same god, and culture, and speak the same language. Maybe socialism works in places like that... I wouldn't know, I live in America... it won't work here.

      That was the main point I was trying to make. Also, in this day and age, I see "crazy" as the highest form of compliment you can give someone... because I think the problem we have in America is that were are heterogenous, diverse... but we've become socialist, and it's driving all the smart people nuts. I think society drove smart people "crazy" in the past as well.
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        Sep 17 2012: We obviously need to synchronize our vocabularies David. I understood you to be denigrating the USA. I understood you to be proposing socialism as the panacea for America. Now I understand we are like-minded regarding the virtues of Capitalism and the intrinsic value of the USA in global politics. Perhaps it was a combination of my limited capacity for grasping literary flair and your youthful exuberance in expressing yourself that sent me off on the wrong tangent. I apologize for calling your comments sophomoric. Let's agree together under spacious skies and amid amber waves of grain. I love America and I hope she continues to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.--Edward
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          Sep 17 2012: It is mostly my fault, I actually got the order wrong on the title, heterogeneity, and capitalism, should be paired, and homogeneity, and socialism should be paired.

          Also, I'm just a bit off beat. I feel like politicians often repurpose words for the wrong reason... So I like to play around with repurposing them for the right one. Crazy, psychopath, traitor recently... I think I can make a decent argument for my word choices at times... but they are still eccentric, to say the least.

          In short, my worry is that while capitalism works fantastic for the United States, and we should return to it as quickly as possible. It may not be our place to tell anyone else it will work for them. It may not even work well in a society where everyone is happy with a national religion for example. I didn't mean to suggest however that such a thing would ever work here, nor does/would socialism.

          I shouldn't have used the word "cults" either... but it was to emphasize how outside the norm they were at the time. I think people often forget that, especially in regards to the Providence colony, which I mentioned this was the best metaphor for.
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      Sep 16 2012: Actually I shouldn't say it's my favorite film of all time. It's not even my favorite Kurosawa film, it's just the most universal, and you can watch it with children. It's probably my 5th or so favorite film. "Record of a Living Being", and "Ikiru" probably top the list. If you don't hate subtitles, they are all fantastic, and I think you'd really enjoy them.
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        Sep 17 2012: btw, I tried looking for Ikiru on netflix, but I didn't find it :(

        I've also seen Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven, both pretty good movies
  • Sep 15 2012: David, I agree with your analysis to a large extent.

    I think there are two other factors needed for a successful socialistic culture. One is a small population. The other is the attitude or cultural idea that 'we are all in this together' as opposed to the value I grew up with, in the USA, of self reliance. You can certainly argue that these attitudes are a direct result of diversity or its lack.

    The word 'freedom' is a very powerful word, and is often used in an absolute sense, you have it or you don't, on/off. Any objective observer of how freedom is actually exercised and managed quickly realizes that it is relative. Every one of the rights specified in the Constitution of the USA has limits. One of the arguments that communists used for years is that freedom from hunger should be a basic human right. Capitalists counter that if you do not have the right to starve, you are effectively a slave to the person or institution feeding you.

    I see the choice of capitalist vs socialist as the choice of which freedoms does a society value more than other freedoms. As the USA has matured and grown our choice of freedoms has changed. The USA is no longer a group of misfits. We are still very diverse.
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      Sep 15 2012: I agree with you all the way up to the second to last sentence "The USA is no longer a group of misfits".

      You couldn't be more wrong. America is the worlds pressure release valve... It's where the crazy people from all over the world come, to get away from the cultures that they think are insane... That's why we don't take kindly to social programs. We came here to get away from them.

      If another nation adopted principles of actual individualism, and freedom... all the smart people would leave in a heartbeat... Just like they always do... Did I say smart... I meant crazy... Ya... Crazy.
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    Sep 15 2012: The 6 pertinent points are the 6 killer apps.
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    Sep 15 2012: The New World gave opportunity to anyone who wanted to live in a society free from the old, established system, because the old system/society was too restrictive and too bound by old rules. Kind of like when a student leaves home for college, the student's free to do some things that he/she would have never done before, the student makes his/her own rules.

    I bet the same thing would happen if we were to colonize Mars, it'd be because some people wanted to create a world that Earth couldn't/didn't do.

    Sometimes the easiest way to do something you want to do is not to change what's already done, but to start something totally new.
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      Sep 15 2012: I would only add however... Those people wanted that... Lots of people loved living in Europe. Lots of people would die for the country of France, or Spain, or Germany at the time when colonists left. Maybe the people that didn't want to leave, are better off with their current system of rules... is really what i'm wondering.
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        Sep 15 2012: Indeed, why risk losing what you already have to start something new and incredibly uncertain?

        Only those who believe there is good potential for a huge jackpot to gain, or there's not much to lose from the repercussions, would make the decision to do it. It's pretty business-like in terms of opportunity cost and benefits.
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          Sep 15 2012: PS... If I go to mars... It will definately be to get away from all the crazy people here... just like the colonists of old : p

          Also though, in a weird way, I would suggest that simply having a country that will take the crazy people, is actually a bit of a pressure release valve for the rest of the world. The people that would incite revolution... come to America, and start a cult... I mean church.
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        Sep 16 2012: Well how do you know it's not the crazy ones who are willing to go to Mars? lol
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    Sep 15 2012: You are right. I believe that each nation has its own historical, social, religious, and cultural peculiarities. And this is responsible for the national character.

    That is why I marvel when I see a nation trying to enforce its ''superior'' ideas on other nations. It will never work.
    • Sep 16 2012: Yeah, remind me of the history of Korea. When Japan colonized Korea, they tried to "enforce its ''superior'' ideas on" us. Koreans bled a lot because of their willingness to resist the Japanese at that time.
      And throughout the history including the colonial era, we've created our own social, religious and cultural peculiarities. The damages from the memory of being exploited by the Japanese have also become a part of us. Not to mention the part of forgiveness—still unresolved as for the Japanese army´s comfort women issue, though.
      Incredible economic growth and cultural influx from other countries have made us quite flexible enough to adapt this fast changing society in Korea regardless of the fact that we might all have the possibility of being social misfits. While recognizing we’ve become civilized-nomadic people, we don’t stop identifying ourselves and creating our own peculiarities.
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    Oct 15 2012: I think that explains;
    (1) Pursuing VALID happiness makes solutions.
    (2) Pursuing INVALID happiness makes problems

    The water-shed between valid and invalid ones is the OPTIMAL POINT in concrete conditions.
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    Sep 17 2012: so what then? take people, and randomly shuffle them all over the place? :)
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      Oct 15 2012: Actually, that would work quite well, I'm all about fluid borders. It was more about how what works for our crazy asses, might not work for anyone else, but what seems to be working for some of y'all... Isn't gonna work for us. We don't want anyone to stop us from being crazy. If some people want to stay homogenous, and work together... Great... Send us the people who hate it there : p
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    Sep 17 2012: Just to add to mix here think about Australia and New Zealand. Australia founded as penal colony by British. Too far away for many people to return to U.K. Then gold and diamonds discovered. Result huge influx of immigrants. Compare own romanticised Hollywood films about 'gold-rush' and 'mining towns. Australia now mature economy and doing very well. Not forgetting about original inhabitants Aboriginal people, to be respected. Lots of information in their culture about how to survive 'outback' in Australian Bush (which is basically desert). Compare and contrast with New Zealand. Founded as colony by British. Locals tricked out of tribal assets by Treaty of Waitangi. Locals i.e. Maori people still a strong voice in society, see Te Papa Museum website. Beautiful, creative, strong, resourceful, enduring people. Pakeha which is what they called white immigrants, short-term. Cultural dislocation, N.Z. economy suffered badly in losing markets when E.U, created. End of welfare state. N.Z. economy second hit when U.S.A. capitalists raided de-nationalised industries like railways. Little people left for Australia. Australia now closed borders. Horrble stories in media about refugees arriving on Australian coast travelling in tiny boats. Just want to put an extra dimension on this. Socialist model collapsed. Capitalist model also ultimately a giant pyramid. Have to look after the little people for it to work for the majority otherwise only wealthy truly live the life they would have chosen. Not sure if helpful but still prefer economic model proposed John Maynard Keynes.
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    Sep 15 2012: So are you saying that groups composed of unconforming people are best organized with the basic rule that they must accept the rights of those in the community to express the diversity among them in safety?

    Moving to economic systems, are you looking at the aspect of economic systems that pertains to whether property is privately or publicly/jointly owned or at the aspect of whether there is central planning of the disposition of resources and processes of production and distribution of economic output? And is your claim that the feasibility and effectiveness of centralized information processing is related to whether there is agreement on social issues and beliefs?
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      Sep 15 2012: 1 I am saying that groups composed of unconforming people, best organize themselves, under the basic rules that they must accept the rights of those in the community to express the diversity among them in safety. Yes, under these circumstances, I think a Republic, or rule of law, with a pure free market will naturally make the greatest number of people participate productively. However, if you live in a society, where 90% of the people agree to almost all of the same cultural norms, a state controlled system, ie democratic socialism, might work bettter.

      I'm all about private property, I I'll never go so far as to say public property would be beneficial to anyone... but again, I think there may be room for disagreement here. If 90% of a country has the same religion, and goals... Why can't they share property as well? Maybe we don't know enough about what that system would look like to really know. I was however talking about central planning via corporations, government sponsored businesses, or collective investment.

      Yes, my claim is that the feasibility and effectiveness of centralized information processing is related to whether there is agreement on social issues and beliefs. In other words, socialism, will never work in America... but it might have nothing to do, with socialism being a fundamentally flawed philosophy.
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    Gail .

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    Sep 15 2012: Well, I'm no longer a capitalist. The kind of phony capitalism that we have today is the cause of almost all human suffering.

    I am not a socialist. I do not support any system that degrades the individual.

    I no longer support the idea of money. I know that it is an unsustainable idea. I also know that religions are being exposed for what they really are. I don't conflate the two in the same way that you do (though I do conflate them).

    I look forward to the day when religions die - as they must unless all scientific knowledge is suddenly erased - setting us back - just as the destruction of the great library at Alexandria threw us into the dark ages.
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      Sep 15 2012: You say you are not a capitalist, because of phony capitalism... That's an odd choice... Capitalism, would be the cure to phony capitalism.

      Socialism, and crony capitalism are the source of all human suffering today in America. Monsanto, Wal-Mart, Mcdonalds, corn syrup, oil... all directly subsidized and supported by the United States government in a state controlled economy.

      My point, is simply that a state controlled economy, might actually work, if all the people in the state share a similar culture and value system. But, in a society like America, a state run economy, makes absolutely no sense.