Jonathan Swift, author of "Gulliver's Travels" once sardonically suggested in an essay entitled "A Modest Proposal" that the best solution to the proliferation of poor people in Britain was to give them a useful role in the British economy as a food source; that is, to eat them. Since in America, we are in the middle of the most severe economic recession since the 1930s, with our "deficit hawk" politicians in Washington refusing to extend the unemployment benefits that have been a lifeline to millions of unemployed workers, we need to think seriously, as Swift did, about how we want to deal with the reality that there are an increasing number of very poor people in our society. The simplest solution is just to kill them. This approach has the great virtue of being in tune with the American value of pure rugged individualism and the lofty Social Darwinian notion of survival of the fittest. If these people are unable to find jobs and take care of their own financial futures, if they have failed in the great America free market of competition, why should they be allowed to go on living? They are just taking up space that could be better used to provide luxury housing and retail outlets for those Americans who ARE good people and have proven this by becoming fabulously wealthy.
Furthermore, the extermination of the poor could be televised as a--naturally--"Pay Per View" program, to raise money for some worthy cause like medical research into the health problems caused by excessive wealth, in which super-wealthy Wall Street executives, oil company CEOs, multi-millionaire baseball and basketball players, pop music stars, and other examples of God-given success, are allowed to execute poor people in a manner of their choosing. Market survey research has proven that this kind of programming would be far more popular with the majority of Americans, including those who are sliding into poverty but prefer to think of themselves as "middle class," than programming that explores the actual circumstances of poor people.
Who needs the poor? Let them die. This would be somewhat embarrassing for our nation, it is true, but certainly far less shameful than forcing our government to go into debt to provide financial assistance to these worthless individuals. Given the choice between adding to the national debt by helping the jobless and simply exterminating them in a cost-effective manner, the choice is clear. It is the duty of every red-blooded, patriotic American to either become rich, or kill the poor.
The above is my attempt at satirical humor. My more serious thoughts on this subject are that we should absolutely take care of those who are losing jobs and falling into poverty in our society. I disagree with the way that this issue is being framed by most politicians and media pundits. According to them, the only way we can provide aid to the jobless and poor is by the government going deep into debt and driving up the deficit. There is another way to go. When a government budget faces a shortfall, the crucial choice is between cutting services and raising revenues. We have heard plenty of voices saying we must tighten our belts, we must cut back government programs, and so forth. I think we should consider the other possibility, of increasing revenues by raising taxes.
I know that the very phrase "raise taxes" is enough to mobilize a hundred million conservative Americans into an angry, frothing frenzy, but I persist in calling for this, because I think it is the only way forward without decimating services that are widely needed across this country. Let me add as an aside that not only are unemployment benefits on the chopping block, but many other government services from education to fire departments to you-name-it. Check out your local news to see how this is unfolding in your state or local community, as it is becoming nearly universal across the USA, with very few exceptions. I would also like to point out that there is a huge amount of research showing that from about 1980 onwards, with the Reagan tax cuts, the decline of labor unions, and other factors, the wealthiest 5% of Americans have seen an exponential growth in their income and assets, while the vast majority of Americans have seen their level of income and assets dwindle and diminish, while their level of debt has been rising dramatically and continuously. That is to say, there has been growing income inequality for decades. Since we now face a crisis that is hitting the most vulnerable members of our human community with brutal force, isn't it time for those wealthy Americans to give something back, to sacrifice a small amount of their vast wealth, to help those who are on the edge of despair and homelessness? It is time for the greedy to face the needy. We should move quickly to institute income tax increases on the top 5%. THEY CAN AFFORD IT. If we are unable to face this issue, then my joking proposal in the first half of this entry will prove to not be a silly joke, but a grimly accurate prophecy. Have we really become a "winner-take-all" country where the lucky few get to live lives of immense luxury, while millions scrape and struggle? That is pretty much the same as letting the rich kill the poor. It just not as direct and dramatic as what I mention above.
Though this blog entry is primarily one about American politics, it does also connect to one of my main concerns about American Paganism. I have detected--and please correct me if I am wrong--that among American Asatru believers, there is a general right-wing, conservative, or libertarian political orientation, that is totally opposed to the kind of tax policy I mention above. These are people who largely, in my experience, like to fancy themselves modern-day, Viking heroes, tough, independent, and not needing no help from nobody, least of all Big Government. Here is why I think their viewpoint is wrong, and here I must ask forgiveness of my readers for repeating a point I have made repeatedly in the early days of this blog. If we look to the homeland of the Vikings, to Scandinavia, we find that these societies have continued to evolve from medieval times onwards to embrace large, effective government, generous social programs including substantial jobless benefits, and progressive tax policies that require the well-to-do to pay high levels of tax to take care of the rest of society. The results have been spectacular: a healthy, well-educated population, much less of a gap between rich and poor, much less crime, and still, a very successful, thriving business sector, from Nokia to Ikea and beyond. It can be done, and the modern-day Vikings show how.
I believe that the most important thing in religion is to waken in ourselves our "higher mind," our greatest potential. I believe that the gods of any and all traditions represent the human attempt to symbolize and personify many different peoples' glimpses of that higher mind that speaks to us to beckon us to a higher level of awareness. In the Norse tradition, I see that higher mind symbolized and personified by Odin. I think modern-day Scandinavia is, in a certain sense, still listening to Odin and tapping into that higher awareness, and using that to create some of the most pleasant and equitable societies in the world. I wish America could do the same.
I regret deeply that my Asatru brothers and sisters in the USA seem to be only devoted to looking backwards, to trying to create some kind of fossilized version of tenth-century Viking heroism, combined with a particular brand of modern-day American "rugged individualism" wrapped up with love of the military and dislike of government. I think Odin has moved on, and they should too!
PS. We could also take money out of the military budget to pay for human needs in the USA, but I guess that is simply impossible. The military is sacred.