I had a completely different post in mind for this week, one that would build on Values setting and defining whether you are someone that focuses on what you have vs what you don’t, but I wanted to address the storming of the US Capitol on Wednesday. This is an exceptionally long post but please stick with me as I work through what I believe to be the Values that put us in this position.
This actually links in with my original topic a little, in that those that stormed the capitol, the insurgents, their rhetoric is all based on the focus of what they don’t have vs what they do. The vast majority of those in attendance were white, and predominately male – the pinnacle of privilege, not just in North America but worldwide. All claiming their freedoms were being grossly neglected or infringed upon. The fact that they were quite literally destroying government property as they rioted, and let’s be real, they were clearly rioters, not protestors, without more injury or death shows the amount of privilege the group held.
To add insult to injury, the following day the Electoral College count went ahead and some still objected. This objection is a clear signal to those that took steps to storm, or were present, or that even perhaps thought about it, that they were right in doing so. As much as Ted Cruz wants to say that he chose to object because so many Americans also questioned the validity of the election is , pardon my french, bullshit.
What Mr. Cruz is doing is setting himself up for re-election in 2 years, because he understands that he needs their votes to keep his job. Ted Cruz is showing he values Status and Power above all else.
Below is a list from NPR with all the electors that objected to the count.
It should seem inconceivable that anyone that was elected would not choose to uphold the results of an election, especially after such a long and drawn out process, recount, etc. I want to be clear I am not American, and I do not live in the United States but in nearby Canada. In a province, Alberta, that politically tends to run close to the US. So my outside view, is that outside, I only know the US through the news, visits there and friends or family that have lived there.
Before we start I want to introduce a concept known as ‘ethical relativism’ – those in the generation that became adults during the period of 1960-90 are part of a greater generation labelled the me-generation. Although the concept can be applied to any generation, the greatest numbers are seen in this timeframe. The idea of ‘ethical relativism’ is that if it’s good for me, then it’s good. The whole ethical decision making process starts with me vs we, and is self centric vs greater good. That ethics are relative to every situation and there aren’t any guiding values or principles for a community as a whole.
Now obviously not all people subscribe to this idea of ethics because we wouldn’t be able to have any kind of functioning society, however enough have adopted that we have seen a great many crimes (think white collar) and behaviour driven by this concept. It’s something I would like to explore more in depth later but please keep this in mind whenever you are exploring your own values and decisions or find yourself empathizing with others. Are you falling into this pit of relativism? Are you empathizing because you too would make a similar decision if put in the same spot.
When people question how the storming of the capital could have happened. Or say that it could never happen in Canada, it makes me shake my head. There are so many values and things to unpack here, Superority, Equality, Freedom, Education, Community, Transparency, the list is massive but I want to focus on how we got here and that is having overriding values of Wealth, Status and Power.
I will try and dig into to why I believe these are the three values are what led to the group believing what they were doing was righteous, and why politicians maintain their objection of their electoral college count even after the violence and what other potential issues stem from having these as guiding values.
Journalist Jessica Yellin did an great instagram post titled, We Need to Reform Us. In it she talks about how interns said they were just accustomed to this kind of political environment. How sad that is and how did we get to this state. She brings up the concept of needing to reform the United States from the Values up. That social media could have done better but it might have hurt their bottom line. I watched it and it just resonated with everything I’ve been hoping to get to and definitely speaks to the concept of Ethical Relativism. I highly recommend checking out Jessica, supporting her work and group, News not Noise, which the focuses on delivering the news via straight facts vs dramatization. Her insta handle is @jessicayellin and she can be supported via Patreon at the link below.
Ok, so let’s unpack this a little bit and start with Wealth – I overheard a former colleague last year speaking with someone and they said ‘Donald Trump is not all bad. You made money last year (meaning 2019) and I made money’. I couldn’t hear the response from whom they were speaking with but I remember thinking to myself, no, Trump, Donald Trump is all bad.
The thing about the statement is that it showed exactly where the person’s individual priority and values laid, making money, and accumulating Wealth. It was acceptable to them to allow a documented Tax Evader, Racist, Narcissist to be in power because they personally benefited.
I had another conversation with a dear friend of mine, where they too argued that Trump wasn’t all bad. That he did what he said he was going to do. That for all his bad, he made people more money. This friend has wealth, so their priority is the stock market, and the wealth generated there. They are willing to forgive all his bad traits for their own gain, even though the average person can not invest in the stock market because the cost of living is so high they don’t have savings to invest in the first place. That the top 1.8% (the amount of people making over $400k/year, that the new tax proposal would affect) was more important than the bottom 98.2%. I don’t think it’s obvious to them because it’s not their world, their bubble doesn’t require that they think of those that don’t have the same resources as them, and their privilege has never put them in a position where they would need see it any other way.
Once someone is wealthy, truly wealthy, it is hard to spend all that money. There also appears to be a mental block that once you reach a certain level that you don’t ever want to fall below that, meaning, if you reached one million dollars in savings, you just want to see it keep growing. So the priority becomes to maintain that above all else. Wealth gets hoarded.
Jeff Bezos is a relatively easy target just to run an example of hoarding. His current net worth is estimated at 186 Billion dollars. If he decided to keep 1 billion and then split the remaining 185 between all his employees (est. 575,700) they would each receive approximately $321,000, and he would still have that one billion dollars left. If Jeff Bezos lives to 100 (another 46 years), than he would need to spend over 11 million dollars a day to be at zero at time of death. Now someone might hear these stats and think that’s impressive or maybe they aspire to that kind of Wealth but to what end, what would it get you.
The last argument I have experienced in favour of Trump, in regards to Wealth, is that he is more lenient on Climate Change and Environmental issues, as if this is a good thing. That because Alberta counts heavily on Oil and Gas, that we should support a candidate that will potentially help our hurting industry, regardless of how much damage he could do to his own country.
They advocated for Trump because he is Republican and Christian values are important. What behaviour does Trump demonstrate that is at all Christian? What values? What service? And those Values of goodness are prioritized below that of Wealth.
What it really came down to was that they believed he could save our (meaning Alberta) economy. That their job relied heavily on people being able to purchase new homes but they didn’t think that we have possibly lived in an unsustainable economy for a long time. That for some reason if they as an individual were profiting from Trump being elected than everything else was ok. They would use any line of reasoning to ensure their own wealth. When I brought up the potential of a civil war and that Trump was baiting people into dangerous behaviour and perpetuating lies, the response was still to go back to the need for money.
Wealth as a value can be tied to many others such as materialism, hard work, security, which can be explored at a later post.
Following a line of thought and reasoning all the way to other possible outcomes and not just stopping at what is convenient to you is so important. Putting up blinders because something is good for you is how we, as humans, in general, get ourselves in trouble. It’s how nothing gets better; we need to try and all see the whole picture.
Why bring in Status as one of the overarching values that needs consideration, well the blatant Racism and hate shown by participants (everyone has seen the photo of the noose?) as well as the gentle treatment of the insurgents is one reason but I’ll expand.
Status and where you fit in the world, or your perceived value within society, plays a big part in how one is treated, how one treats others and the amount of privilege they hold.
Status as a value is the desire to be superior to another, it’s all relative in the social structure of our societies. The whole notion of holding status as a value is so detrimental to our overall society. How I picture it is an analogy, one that is easy for me to picture due to my training as a lifeguard. Picture two people drowning and one holding onto the other in order to get their own head above water.
You can see that image and think that the one person is just trying to keep their head up by any means necessary or you can look at it and realize that they are willing to drown someone in order to hold themselves up.
The idea of status is all perception, it is not born from fact at all and it is a very precarious thing. It’s why inequality of all kinds still run rampant, because we as humans are so willing to put others down in order to hold ourselves higher. The thing about it, is that when status is all anyone cares about the only thing that can come about is hurt and pain.
When we look at the protests that took place to support Black Lives Matter, there was instant reaction to squash these mostly peaceful demonstrations. There was defence that Police couldn’t be expected to tell the difference between a protestor and a rioter, someone there to out of peace and to spread a message vs someone just out to destroy. Don’t get me wrong I am sure there were some protestors that did damage property. They were emotional, hurt, angry and rightfully so given the reason for protesting. The cause (Black Lives Matter) is rooted in the desire to protect their own lives and the lives of their young. During the protests there was more care around the businesses that were injured (which should have property and business insurance, by the way) than there was for the Black lives needlessly lost.
Yet, for the Riot, again when seeing the images, the videos and hearing the words – you can’t rationalize it as anything else. A Riot, an attempted coup, an insurrection – trying to overthrow an election result. There has been suspicious quiet.
Since this recent election, I have been highly encouraging everyone I meet to look up voter suppression. I went down the rabbit hole one day and was horrified at what I learned. In Canada, we are so privileged that if we want to vote we only need to have a piece of I.D. and a piece of mail or voter card. We don’t have to ensure we are registered, we can and should complete our census (those lovely people that come door to door every now and then) but it’s not a requirement in order to vote. There is also the Canada Elections Act that ensures every voter has a right to a minimum of 3 consecutive hours off during voting hours in order to vote, and no employer can make a deduction in pay due to the requirement.
The need to register is the first potential barrier to voting. My understand is the second is the amount of support and funding provided to every polling station. These are notorious for not being evenly distributed and having wait times ranging from 10 min to 90 min plus, mostly due solely to economic status. Think about this… if you are someone making minimum wage, or perhaps working two jobs in order to manage paying bills – how much time would you have time vote? Could you afford to take time off to ensure your voice was heard? The whole idea of voter suppression is to try and ensure the maintenance of the status of a certain voter group. To hopefully influence the outcome of the election by sheer access.
So let’s get back to those at the Capitol, they broke in windows, terrorized the guards and stole government property, among other things. There has been a lot of coverage on the fact that so few arrests have been made and that those arrested are facing much less jail time than would be expected or that of someone arrested in support of Black Lives Matter. The reason behind this I believe, is the desire of the individuals (law enforcement, politicians) involved want maintain their status and this means maintaining the white vote.
This desire to preserve the status above all else is again showing a decision making process that applies ethical relativism, meaning good for me. It does not benefit white people to raise the status of Black, Indigenous or any People of Colour and so they protect their own interests. We are too busy holding others down or being ok with others doing it for us, all in the hopes of maintaining comfort or perhaps gaining a level of status.
The third value is Power, the innate power that comes with being an elected official is tangible, we call them our law makers for a reason. As mentioned at the start, I believe that those that still voted to object to the Electoral College vote did so in order to try and keep their own seats even when they know the election was not stolen. The reality is they need the votes of those rioters, the Trump supporters, the Conspiracy theorists, in order to maintain their own power.
Power being the ability to do something or act in a particular way – that is the power I am referring to, not the Divine power, not Righteous power but just in the ability to do or act in a particular way. Think of the wording of that definition from Oxford Languages. It is exactly what people are trying so hard to hold onto and why they rioted. They want to be able to continue to hate, hurt, and kill as they see fit.
The reality is that recently white people have been claiming they want freedom, which is what they have, what is visibly getting lost is the control of Power. With the pandemic, we have asked people to think of others, to maintain their distance, to wear masks. None of these are infringements of freedoms but they can be argued to be loss of power because they are putting people in similar positions. We are all stuck at home, we are all trying to survive, we are on a more equal plain.
With the very first, Woman, and Person of Colour both of Black and Asian decent stepping into the role of Vice-President of the United States – these people are angry, they will use any rationale possible to try and regain their grip over power.
When Hilary Clinton lost the vote in 2016, I made a comment to some friends that the US is more sexist than racist, as they clearly were so threatened by a woman being in office that they voted a hateful, womanizing bigot over of a female. Even women voted for Trump – my theory on that is that we (women) have been raised to tear eachother down in order to succeed vs supporting each other, and rising together. I mean, how dare Hilary have the audacity to go after a position like that? Doesn’t she know she should stay in her own lane.
I am so grateful and heartened to know that Kamala Harris will be stepping into such an important role and hopeful that we will potentially see her become President one day. But the rhetoric and the amount of people that voted for someone that clearly cares only to hold onto their own power hurt my heart and should scare us.
Donald Trump does not have the best interest of the American people at heart – he only cares about number one, himself. He wanted the ultimate seat in leadership not to serve, but to wield power as he sees fit. The politicians that voted to object the Electoral College vote also do not wish to serve. Maybe it’s that they are attempting to gain favour within the future of the Republican party, or possibly they believe in a potential revolution and are trying to line themselves up for positions of power in a new party. At minimum they are trying to keep their own seats, at any cost. Please do not forget that they voted to discount your votes, all your votes even their supporters.
The reality is that the Republicans knew that Donald Trump is monstrous, and the beast that he was feeding was getting out of control. They could have tried to oppose him being the leader of their party, he could have been a one term president. They could have tried to force him to step down – have someone else step up but when they realized that without the votes of those that hold Trump so high they most likely wouldn’t stand a chance in winning, they sold out. Power over Peace.
Similar to the Progressive Conservatives party in Alberta, they reigned for decades until in a history making election lost their grip and the province went orange to NDP. The reason is that they had spilt up, into the Wild Rose party and the Progressive Conservatives. They couldn’t get enough votes separated because they realized they has split their base. Wild Rose couldn’t win on their own because they were just a touch too judgemental/conservative on the personal issues (ones that should not be up for debate, such as reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, etc.) and the Progressives didn’t have the numbers on their own so they have made their bed with the Wild Rose to become the UCP. All in the name to gain that Power they so desire. It isn’t to serve us as a province, as the last two years has shown. So please don’t think that Canada is so different, we have politicians that are capable of the same values and have done the similar affiliations .
The same criticism can be made to mainstream media and social sites – to Jessica Yellin’s point, it’s not that Twitter and Facebook couldn’t have shut down the misinformation or hate speech. It’s that they couldn’t have made the same returns if they had. The all mighty dollar, all that is holy and important. Money, wealth, status and power within the tech game were at stake and so they let the beast run wild.
They may not have believed it would get this bad. Similar to the person I met in the Summer, they couldn’t imagine a Civil War, they told me I couldn’t actually think it was possible. It is possible, and the thing is our privilege of having no living generation remember what it was like to have a war fought on our land is making us blind. The fact of the matter is this behaviour, these values is who some are, who the nation of the United States has always been.
If we (the collective we, as humans) continue to value Wealth, Status and Power, we will see war on our shores. For with these three Values, there is never enough. And remember war is good for money, war creates jobs, the rich would get richer; Status could be cemented, Power gained.
How is it so impossible to believe this could happen? Has history taught us nothing?
All three of the Values that led to this time, this terror, have values that almost mirror them. Wealth and Security, Status and Popularity, Power and Leadership. But small differences can be remarkable.
Make sure you define your Values, prioritize them, be honest with yourself and others. Integrity is applying your Values at the same level for yourself, as you do others.
It’s not that Wealth, Status and Power are all bad but that when combined and/or put at a level of importance above all else they are ugly, they are ethically relative and will cause divide.