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Tragedies of the Capitalistic System

Tragedies of the Capitalistic System Because the capitalistic system was filled with the spirit of materialism, morality was removed from the picture. It was nowhere to be found in the system. Put more correctly, its notions and criteria underwent a change. The individual interest was declared as the highest objective, and all kinds of freedom as means for fulfilling that kind of interest. This resulted in most of the severe trials, catastrophes, tragedies and misfortunes that the modern world has experienced. Supporters of capitalistic democracy may defend this system’s perspective on the individual and his personal interests by saying that the individual’s aim is in itself a fulfillment of the social interest, and the results that morality achieves by its spiritual principles are achieved in a capitalistic democratic society, yet not by way of morality, but by way of having and serving individual motives.

The Position of Ethics in Relation to Capitalism

Because the capitalistic system was filled with the spirit of materialism,
morality was removed from the picture. It was nowhere to be found in the system.
Put more correctly, its notions and criteria underwent a change. The individual
interest was declared as the highest objective, and all kinds of freedom as
means for fulfilling that kind of interest. This resulted in most of the severe
trials, catastrophes, tragedies and misfortunes that the modern world has
experienced.

Supporters of capitalistic democracy may defend this system’s perspective on the
individual and his personal interests by saying that the individual’s aim is in
itself a fulfilment of the social interest, and the results that morality
achieves by its spiritual principles are achieved in a capitalistic democratic
society, yet not by way of morality, but by way of having and serving individual
motives. For when a human being performs asocial service (p. 21), he also
fulfils a personal interest, since he is a part of the society for whose sake he
works. Moreover, when he rescues the life of an individual in danger, he, too,
derives a benefit from chat, since the [redeemed] living individual will perform
a service for the social organization. Thus, the rescuer regains a portion of
this service. Hence, the personal motive and beneficial sense are sufficient for
providing and securing the social interests since, in the last analysis, these
interests are reduced to personal interests and individual benefits.

This defence is closer to vivid imagination than to evidence. Imagine for
yourself if the practical criterion in life for every individual in the nation
ware the fulfilment, on the largest scale and for the longest term, of his
benefits and personal interests, and if the state provided the individual with
freedom, glorified him without reservation or limit, how would these individuals
define social action? Further, how could the linkage of social welfare to the
individual suffice for directing an individual to the anions called for by
ethical values when many of these actions do not benefit the individual? If, on
the other hand, it happens that such actions involve some benefit (to the
individual) since he is a member of society, that slight benefit, which is not
grasped by a human being except by means of analytical scrutiny, is often
rivalled by the absence of immediate benefits or personal interests that find
their assured attainment in freedom. Thus, the individual abolishes any ethical
scheme or spiritual consideration for their sake.

The Tragedies of the Capitalistic System

If we wished to present the links in the chain of social tragedies that resulted
from this system, which is neither well studied, nor philosophically based,
there would be no room for doing so in the space designated for the present
discussion. Because of this, we will [only] make a brief allusion to this point.

The first of these links is the following. The majority governed the minority,
their vital interests and affairs. Political freedom meant that the majority had
the prerogative to lay down the system and its laws (p. 22), as well as their
management. Let us imagine that the group which represents the nation’s majority
seizes the reins of power and legislation, and adopts the capitalistic
democratic mentality which is purely materialistic in its orientation,
inclinations, purposes and desires. What then would be the fate of the other
group? Or what life would you expect for the minority under laws legislated with
the majority and the preservation of its interests in mind? Would it be strange
for the majority to legislate laws, particularly in light of its own welfare, to
neglect the welfare of the minority, and to turn toward fulfilling its desires
in a manner unjust to others? Then who would preserve the minority’s vital
structure, and defend it against injustice, if personal interest is the [sole] concern of every individual, and if the majority’s social mentality lacks the
notion of spiritual and moral values? It is natural that under (this) system,
the despotic rule continues as before, and that the phenomena of manipulation
and neglect of the rights and interests of others persist in the social
atmosphere of this system as they did in the old social atmosphere. Put briefly,
the difference [between the present and the old systems] is that neglect of
human dignity arose [in the older systems] because of individuals in the nation;
while in the present system, it arises because of groups that represent
majorities in relation to minorities. [But] the totality [of these minorities] constitutes a large number of people.

I wish the matter ended there. (Had it not gone beyond that) the tragedy would
have been less and the stage would have witnessed more laughter than tears.
However, the matter became more grave and intense after that, when the economic
issue arose in this system. Thus, it determined the economic freedom along the
lines discussed earlier. It allowed various methods and kinds of [acquiring] wealth, regardless of how exorbitant the wealth is, and regardless of how
deviant it is in its methods and reasons. It also secured the realization of
what it had advocated at the same time as the world witnessed a great industrial
revolution, and when science became the product of the birth of the machine that
changed the face of industry and swept away manual labor and the like. Thus,
bountiful wealth came to (p. 23) a minority of the nation’s individuals who were
given the opportunity to utilize the modern means of production, and who were
supplied by unlimited capitalistic freedom that provided sufficient assurances
for exploiting these means of production and benefiting from them to a great
extent, as well as for destroying many groups in the nation whose industry was
swept away and whose lives were shaken by the steam engine, and who found no way
to stand steadfast in the face of this storm, as long as the lords of modern
industries were armed by economic freedom and the rights to the glorified
freedom of these industries. The scene became the sole province of an elite of
the lords of industry and production. The middle class became smaller and grew
closer to the general lower class. This left the destroyed majority at the mercy
of that elite whose thoughts and considerations were consistent with the
capitalistic democratic method only. It was natural for this wealthy elite to
withhold compassion and charity from this large group of people, in order to
keep them in the abyss and deny them a share in the elite’s own exorbitant
profits. Why should the elite not do so, as long as the ethical criteria are
benefit and pleasure; as long as the state secures for them absolute freedom of
action; and as long as the capitalistic democratic system has no room for a
moral philosophy of life and its specific concepts?

The issue must, therefore, be studied in a manner inspired by this system. These
powerful persons exploit the majority’s need for them, and their life supports.
Thus, those who were capable were required to work in the elite’s fields and
factories for an extremely long time; and for salaries sufficient only for the
necessities of life.

This is the pure reasoning of benefit. It was natural for the elite to adopt it,
thus dividing the nation into a group of immense wealth and a majority in the
deep abyss.

Here, the political right of the nation is crystallized once again in a
different form. Even though equality of political rights among individual
citizens, for example, was not erased from the records of the system,
nevertheless, after such tremors, it was nothing other than a figment of the
imagination or a mere thought. For when economic freedom records the results
that we have presented, it leads to the abominable division (p. 24), Mentioned
above. Further, it would itself be in control of the situation and of the reins
of power, and would overcome the political freedom confronting it. Thus, by
virtue of its economic position regarding society, its capacity for utilizing
every means of propaganda, and its ability to buy defenders and aids, the
capitalistic group has the upper hand over key positions in the nation. It
assumes power in order to exploit it for its own welfare and for the pursuit of
its aims. Legislation and the social system come under the control of capitalism
when, according to democratic notions, they are the right of the nation as a
whole. Thus, in the last analysis, capitalistic democracy is reduced to rule by
a privileged minority, and to power used by a number of individuals to protect
their existence at the expense of others. This they do by means of the benefit
mentality which they derive from capitalistic democratic thought.

We arrive now at the most abominable link in the tragedy played by this system.
Those gentlemen in whose hands the capitalistic democratic system places full
power and to whom it supplies every force and capacity, will extend their vision
– inspired by the mentality of this system – to wider horizons. Also, inspired
by their welfare and aims, they will feel in need of new areas of power. Two
reasons account for this. First, the availability of production depends on the
extent of the availability and abundance of raw materials. Thus, he who has a
large share of such materials also has productive capacities chat are large and
strong. Such materials are spread all over the vast, God-given earth. If it is
necessary to obtain them, it is necessary to control the land that has them, in
order to absorb and exploit them.

Second, the intensity and strength of the movement of production motivated, on
the one hand, by the protection of profit and, on the other hand, by the fall in
the standard of living of many citizens due to the materialistic ambitions of
the capitalistic group and its domination over the rights of the general public
through their self-interested methods which make the citizens incapable of (p.
25) purchasing and consuming products create big producers who are greatly in
need of new markets to sell the surplus products existing in the markets.
Finding such new markets means chinking of a new country. Thus, the issue is
studied with a purely materialistic mentality. It is natural for such a
mentality whose system is not based on spiritual and moral values, and whose
social doctrines admit no ends except those that bring pleasure to this limited
life in various delights and objects of desire, to see in these two reasons a
justification or a logical formula for assaulting and dishonoring peaceful
countries, in order to control their fate and their large natural resources, and
to exploit their wealth to promote surplus products. All of this is reasonable
and permissible, according to the notion of individual interests on which the
capitalistic system and the free economy are based. From there, gigantic
materialism proceeds to raid and fight, to restrict and shackle, to colonize and
exploit in order to please the appetites and to satisfy the desires.

Reflect on how much the human race has suffered from the calamities of this
system due to its materialistic spirit, form, tactics and purposes. This is so,
even though it does not center on a well-defined philosophy which is in
agreement with that spirit and form, and concordant with such tactics and
purposes, as we have pointed out.

Estimate for yourself the lot of a society established on the basis of this
system and its conceptions of happiness and stability. In this society, mutual
love and confidence, real merry and compassion, as well as all good, spiritual
tendencies art totally absent. Thus, in it the individual lives feeling that he
is responsible for himself alone, and that he is endangered by any interests of
others that may clash with his. It is as if he is engaged in a constant struggle
and a continuous fight, equipped with no weapons other than his personal powers,
and provided with no purposes other than his personal interests. (p. 26)

Source: Taken from Our Philosophy
by Shaheed Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr

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