“Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system.”—Dorothy Day
Strong words from a brave woman unknown to most Americans because her bravery and boldness didn’t just concern a minority group but all of humanity. She demanded radical change in a system and not just one or another representative to operate that system in a more beneficial way for her group. And the Catholic Worker, the organization she founded and led, operated on behalf of the poorest of Americans while working to both help them and everyone else by advocating and working for radical social change of a system and not just its board of directors. She called a spade a spade, unlike most political leaders of her time and ours. They give euphemism a really bad name and are more likely to identify a spade as a club, hypocrisy as democracy, war as peace, and humans as a market.
Euphemism in words and phrases can be thoughtful when used to protect feelings, as in “he passed” rather than “he died,” but they can also be employed to hide truths for more malevolent purposes. Even when used in innocence or naïveté, language softening or word substitution can be harmful in covering up material reality with labels as harmful as calling a bottle of arsenic a health drink.
The present near hysterical public mental state brought about by a far worse material situation is a clear and dangerous case in point. Visiting a therapist to confront a psychological problem when one is actually suffering a crippling physical disease could become fatal. Social assaults on physical reality covered by language to make them seem personal problems more suited to therapy, meds or individual criminals can mask the need for social transformation to end the illness before it kills far more than individuals but society itself.
A failing system is one that benefits fewer and fewer people while costing more and more and making the benefits enormous for the few and the costs almost beyond belief for the many. Thus American capitalism that rewards a tiny percentage of the population with incredible wealth while increasing numbers descend into poverty with larger numbers in danger of joining them the moment their credit is cut off. People rightfully concerned and demanding change can be herded into seeking criminals—some very likely—but miss the systemic root of the problem and so kept searching for villains and scapegoats when a social disease is what must be cured before the epidemic kills everyone while they’re kept busy lynching doctors, drug sellers and delivery crews.
Cancer is not a multibillion-dollar industry because of evil oncologists, mendacious pharmaceutical workers or greedy truck drivers. It is subject to the rules of a system dependent on the procurement of private profits at the market and as long as cancer treatment is a bigger profit maker than a cancer cure would be, investors in treatment will prosper, the disease will increase in the population, and the cancer death rate will rise.
We do not comfortably house tens of millions of our pets while hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens live in the street because we are nasty individuals but because the private profits available in sustaining those animals is greater than that of housing those humans.
All of us, whether accepting or hiding behind labels like liberal, conservative, democratic, republican, of color, no color, straight, gay, bent, crooked or transpecies, are part of that system. We play roles at vastly different levels of power but we need to understand that value system which Dorothy Day passionately labeled filthy and rotten. And in a system in which my dog is deemed more profitable than your child, maybe words like filthy and rotten are euphemisms.
While it may seem easier to provoke dislike for a company CEO or a political representative of supposed democracy who really stands for corporate capital, pursuit of such villains is often supported by the richest and most powerful dominators of the economic system who can thus focus attention away from themselves and be rid of some scapegoats while remaining the leading profiteers in the anti-democratic politics of capital.
The number of Americans who sank into poverty went up by 8 million during the term of the last resident of the subsidized housing at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, but simply blaming that on him is as dumb as believing the “success” of the economy—for the rich and their professional servant class—was all his doing. Replacing a smooth talking figurehead parroting the usual lies with an outspoken clod who does the same but in more honest everyday language means nothing different except which minority will be doing well at the expense of a majority who will do worse.
Current obsession with Trump is a strong case in point of a misdirection in which an individual, however much his personality, character, intellect, or coverage by media warrants concern, becomes a relative scapegoat for a system which is far more in need of “resistance” than this rich egomaniac. Trump is probably overqualified to lead a nation nearing ruin due to its wealth, arrogance and global menace. We need to change the focus of the enterprise and not simply concentrate on who or what it employs as chief spokesperson for warfare, pet care and other things deemed more profitable than social justice, democracy and humanity.
Under capitalist market forces of private profit, public loss, individualism and dog eat dog competition, anti-democratic government is a subsidiary of ruling class wealth and acts against the interest of most of the people. This invites the kind of criticism from conservatives and liberals that says, understandably, get the damned government off my back, or, get it to support and work for me and not you.
In a truly democratic system government would be controlled by the people and act for public profit first, and there would be far less, if any, contradiction between it and the people. Whether we think of that as political democracy as opposed to political hypocrisy, or social as opposed to anti-social economics, we have neither now and that is the problem. We need both, which is the only solution.