Monday, June 27, 2016

Divestment and Power

One of the odder dynamics in my denomination's recent General Assembly was the focus on divestment.

The argument was made that we should, as a denomination, divest in fossil fuels.  The argument was made that we should take our resources and remove them from corporations that facilitate the oppression of Palestinians.

It's a moral imperative, or so the argument goes, to use capital ethically.  I understand this, and I see the value in it.

There is in this, however, a peculiar dissonance.  I can't quite wrap my soul around it.

The impetus behind these divestment movements came from the boho left, from the earnest suburban Jacobins for Jesus.  And if you were to ask such a soul, "Hey, as a Christian, what do you think of capitalism as a system?"  The answer would be, almost exclusively, "It's the root of all evil."  Or, perhaps, "You cannot serve God and Mammon."

Wealth is, after all, a social proxy for power.  Wealth tastes like the sword, which is the foundation on which it rests.  And capital?  Capital is inherently the use of power to further self-interest.  You invest seeking a return, eh?  Of course, we want to be socially responsible with our wealth, but the entire ethos of the system has a dangerous effect if selflessness is your intent.

Here, progressives who putatively despise every aspect of globalized capitalism find a part of a capitalistic culture...using the instruments of power to further a social goal.

And as laudable as a sustainable energy future and peace in the Middle East might be, I wonder if the implements of socio-cultural control, profit, and coercion are the path.

Sure, the goal is to use power in the service of justice and peace.  But the danger is ethical reflux, the tinging of that moral purpose with the stain of an instrument of coercion.

Of tasting power over others, and desiring it.