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Nietzsche said revaluation of values is the supreme task of the philosopher. Nietzsche called philosophers lawgivers. And yet the world continues to operate as though values were not something we are called to revise, develop, enunciate. The position of these recent reflections is allied with Nietzsche. The values suggested are vastly different from the usual, traditional pantheon.

politics, theology

The Benevolence Conundrum

To sink into this issue read the followiing from 3 Quarks: THE FOLLOWING

It starts:

Don’t give me anything, one sign says. Gifts are unacceptable and will be disposed of, asserts another. Pay no attention! The signs are held by a homeless woman on the subway, a heavily bundled figure who appears as interested in warding off charity as she is the cold, and the severity of her warnings are such that every vowel snarls at the nearest onlooker.

During my years at the UN in the late 90s and early 00s I was inundated by the issues of benevolence. By the end of my time there, I was tolerably convinced that the world needed to move beyond conventional philanthropy, benevolence and charity to value system based on nonidolatry, helpfulness, democracy and tolerance. Within such a system one would want to look very carefully at current modes of charity and benevolence, and even philanthropy in the widest sense, to see if they in fact serve the very elements of a system of widespread injustice.

I ended up linking capitalism and philanthropy as the twin engines of a system which I called benign genocide. This simply refers to the obvious fact that the current system inexorably does in millions annually, as the likes of Bill Gates painfully realizes.

What would replace benign genocide?

Not a wholesale rejection of capitalism nor of philanthropy, but a withdrawal of the idolatries that turn these ventures into objects of veneration. We need a widespread, indeed universal, skepticism regarding the utility of our systems. We need, in short, an Obama type of “what works” mentality. And an end to fatuous “binary” silliness.

The 3 Quarks piece referenced above is a vignette of a person who is intentionally flaunting the most elementary situation that raises our consciousness about having and not having, the very origins of benign genocide. The answer to the question it poses lies in such notions as linking radical individualism to the articulation of values (or as Nietzsche might suggest re-values) that have universal validity.

Benevolence these days is a conundrum inviting us to the most creative task that human beings can take up. Revaluing values.

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benign genocide, economy, pattern language

Our Crisis is Not Economic

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The best way to understand the current economic crisis is to see that it is not economic. It is political, but even that designation is inadequate. It is a seismic evolutionary fissure that has yet to be fully identified. This post, and links to a few other exploratory posts on this blog, will seek to outline what I believe to be the prominent features of our situation and the likely avenues for a move into the future.

The reason the current crisis is not economic is that our economy is by any measure unsustainable.

We cannot survive by hallowing indebtedness ad infinitum, both as a government panacea and an individual or family lifestyle or as a prominent feature of much business. A culture of indebtedness is not sustainable.

We cannot survive by palliative tweaks to our current structures under the label of “green”. Current advertisements for companies that claim to be going green may lull us into believing that we can survive by moving this way and that among existing options such as various fuels.

Even if we could prop up the current system, it would not accomplish the best purpose of an economic system which is to make it possible for all within it to achieve a measure of relief from poverty, illness and ignorance. At its best our global system can be described as an amalgamation of capitalism (widely understood) and philanthropy, defined not in the amazingly narrow manner of a recent New York Times Magazine, but as the sum total of activities we engage in under the label not-for-profit. Including educational and medical institutions as well as the plethora of associations and NGOs and governmentl agencies that are non-profit (sic).

Our current system is a faltering machine whose product is benign genocide — which I define as the sum total of global deaths that result from the way the system is set up. Any honest redoing of our global economy must at least recognize why the current mechanisms fail. Or else we shall be condemned to self-delusion. believing than incremental tweaks are a real solution and celebrating achievements whose celebration is in itself a cause for tears.

The answer to the conundrum created by acknowledging that our present economic system is unsustainable, is an integral politics which is providentially the potential of an Obama candidacy.

Such a politics can communicate that the solution to our problems is not merely a matter of moving beyond religious, racial, gender and cultural barriers, but by creating a culture of integral communication of the elements needed to conquer problems and of integral projects which exemplify such behavior in action.

If Barack Obama is elected, he will be a leader fit for these times. He will, I believe, propose not that we compete to bring our economy back but that we move to a post-oil, post capitalist-philanthropic, post-debt-enslaved, post-consumer culture based on a reclamation of key values that have been sliced and diced in our Balkanized intellectual environment.

The primacy of the individual. This is not conservative or liberal, it is simply the truth.

The primacy of public space as a measure of cultural attainment.

The creation of new human settlements based on a wedding of high technology and values implicit in Christopher Alexander’s pattern language. These I envision as experimental nodes where groups live independent of the need to drive cars.

The understanding that being green involves doing so on a scale that requires what the New Testament calls new wine skins. In other words, it makes sense to build something green and integral from bottom to top that can be home and workplace and cultural space for from 5-10.000.

There is clearly more to all this. But, for the moment, this is enough to get the ball rolling.

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Obama Blog

benign genocide

Title Insurance Companies — The Land Title Insurance Scam

As the housing crisis descends on us, New York Times investigative reporter Davit Kay Johnston explains how real estate agents, lawyers and mortgage brokers get kickbacks when you buy insurance. Just one of the ways the wealthy benefit from the failure of ordinary people to read the small print. Institutionalized corruption that puts the money of the many into the hands of the politically connected few.

How the Wealthiest Americans Make Money off the Poor – Part One

How the Wealthiest Americans Make Money off the Poor – Part Two

Why is debt pervasive? Why is poverty increasing? Why are average incomes declining?

Why have lobbyists proliferated?

A BuzzFlash interview with David Cay Johnston

Essentially these videos are about pervasive political and intellectual hypocrisy.

For more see Benign or Casual Genocide.

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benign genocide, genocide, politics

Benign or Casual Genocide

Ported and revised.

Benign or casual genocide is a way of describing the largely unprotested (accepted) death of largely-invisible millions in our world.

This is the term I believe Dr. Sachs and others at the forefront of efforts against deep poverty in the world should use. We have thus far failed to shock the “benign billions” into an acceptance even of the one percent GNP solution, which is a minimal response but vastly beyond what we are now doing.


Benign or casual genocide is an honest name for the capitalist-philanthropic system that, in a macabre dance of mutuality, allows these terrible deaths to take place year after year.

Let the definitions be plain and simple.

By capitalist I mean to embrace the entire realm of business conducted for economic gain. The entire culture of consumer desire. The entire tendency of the world to accept this on its face as the “way things are” economically. The issue I wish to press is not guilt but truth. A true description.

Linked to this is the civilization-destroying growth of gaps between rich and middle class and down (economically) in the rich or privileged parts of the world, creating a culture of acquisition based on an acceptance of predatory principles.

By philanthropic I mean the entire complex of “not for profit” enterprises, ranging from movements and non-governmental organizations to institutions of learning to explicit “charities”, to many government agencies whose purposes are (presented as) eleemosynary. Education, health, so forth.

My contention is that we can call this partnership the engine of Benign or Casual Genocide.

Globally, it represents a failure of mammoth proportions. It need not be. At its heart lies a spiritual failure of nerve and apparent ignorance, even among our most sophisticated media, of this failure.

I am not ignoring the cries of those in media who do understand. I am lamenting the naive belief that anything less than a sea-change of global consciousness will have a remedial effect.

We casually read myriad death statistics and projections. Each year UNICEF and other agencies — ambivalent partners in this promenade — inundate us with these figures.

Even Presidents quote UNICEF.

It is a dance of hypocrisy and idiocy, given the resistance of peoples to a revaluation of the values by which we live. Proper development requires such a revaluation and it is profoundly in eddor to believe anything less.

Essentially, the world system we now have, largely uncontested, accepts Capitalism as the big engine to fuel an unequal wealth/power machine and Philanthropy as the little engine that will toot along and clean up the uglier evidences of a world where wealth, power and place continue to rule under the umbrella of hypocrisies that have been transmuted into simple “realism”.

We need to openly identify the partnership and observe that it does not work. We need to say what the solution is: The very leaders who most understand the problem need to admit that we are engaged in benign and casual genocide. We need to remove the emperor’s clothes. Until this occurs, the the great poverty experts are simply rubbing salt into the world’s gaping wounds.


The truth of the wholesale destruction of millions (dare we add the words women and children?) is currently left to marginalized observers who are never taken seriously by media, governments or the philanthropic-educational community.

Or, even worse, the truth is the province of house prophets in these institutions who deliver ritual Jeremiads to salve conscience as nothing continues to get done.


The name for the hegemony of Capitalism and Philanthropy is benign or casual genocide. We all contribute to this. We are all players on the stage of this sordid and terminally dehumanizing reality. The sooner we acknowledge what we are doing to the point that it convicts governments and media and mobilizes international leadership for a round of hopefully efficacious response, the better.

This is not about yelling louder. It is about saying the present system does not work.

benign genocide, philanthropy

Evaluating Philanthropy

I am virtually certain that the theory I have been developing — perhaps it is a thesis — will evolve as discourse on the Web.

That theory is that the global reality we have today is essentially and foundationally the product of the interaction between capitalism and philanthropy and that the major moral lapses of this accepted interaction can be termed casual or benign genocide.

A huge piece of this line of thinking involves the need to demonstrate that philanthropy in itself needs vastly more critical attention than now exists.

Another piece is the need to evaluate capitalism more as a cultural than a purely economic entity.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with creating abundance. It is the uses of abundance — and in particular the unexamined and widespread acclamation of these uses that is built into what might be called the media-education complex — that needs an updated Veblenian analysis.

I cite Veblen with the serene intent of recalling many strands of Thorstein Veblen’s thinking and applying some of its vicious strictures to the low estate of culture today. Even dissenting streams are all coagulated with the broad flow of uncritical acceptance of a tasteless hierarchy of values.

It does no good to complain about economic differentials when the mass of social engines out there are in lockstep to applaud the low estate of virtually every step on the ladder.

If you Google “evaluate philanthropy” you come onto the essentually uncritical ethos I am referring to. The philanthropic structure is as accepted as the capitalist structure is, and as the casual genocidal structure is. It all proceeds under the banners of educational-media benignity.

We fail in criticiam if we try to squeeze the reality I am describing into the old wineskins of Marxism and whatever other isms may have been pertinent.

We need a critique which answers these questions:

What is the function of philanthropy and what does its dominant status leave undone and unattended?

What is the function of governments and to what extent is their task limited or compromised by the priorities of philanthropy?

Well, one could go on and on. Just as one could go on about the limits of criticism of design, of transportation, and so forth.

It is doubtful that much will take place until he spark that accompanies these questions strikes the flinty minds of the dominant forces that might be called the mainstream of Web thinking.

I have faith that it is in the questions themselves that the prospects of significant change and growth exist.

benign genocide, capitalism, philanthropy

Capitalism and Philanthropy

Capitalism and philanthropy are not at odds in a world where benign genocide proceeds apace.

Capitalism and philanthropy need some definition, along with privilege, power and hypocrisy.

None are words that find much play in today’s media, but that may change. The text for this page might well be an aphorism of Karl Kraus: “Father forgive them, for they know what they do!”

Thanks to our media, benign genocide is never unconscious. It is the object of gravely cheerful commiseration.

Yes, let’s define some terms.


The cumulative power and decisions of those in charge of vehicles dedicated to producing a profit for stockholders.

These vehicles or corporations are comparable to major nation states. They have the capacity to obtain favorable laws and to control key policies.

Most important of all: In the face they present to the world, these entities validate a culture which is itself tiered in terms of acceptable levels of privilege. There is the top heavy top where the bulk of control resides, the insecure middle and the devil take the bottom.

Capitalism provides enough perks and narcotics to the top to enable it to write off the lives of the bottom with impunity. And where capitalism fails, philanthropy often fills in the gaps.


Philanthropy is not merely the congress of institutions that passes as philanthropic. Philanthropy is the sum total of all eleemosynary efforts. Including governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 501(c)3 not-for-profit institutions, churches, synagogues, mosques, voluntary associations — even clearly ambiguous arms of governance such as prison guards and police and armies.

Philanthropy is the sum total of educational, medical, environmental, and all other institutions and communities established to accomplish those things which capitalist enterprise professes to be, or is actually, unable to do.

Philanthropy’s most conspicuous feature is that is is incapable of doing enough to correct the injustices that capitalism creates.

Capitalism and philanthropy operate in partnership, and their survival is ensured by a combination of simple power, the privileges it assumes by custom and right, and the semi-conscious or otherwise-rationalized hypocrisy by which it escapes serious confrontation with the truth.

To understand this, an example is in order: Let’s look at how this plays out in terms of the culture of the New York Times, which must be dubbed the dominant informational medium of the ASCENDENT CAPITALIST PHILANTHROPIC CULTURE. The dominant message of the Times, in both its printed paper and its TV commercials, is one of upward mobility. The ways and possessions of the well-to-do are made palatable by a substantial suspension of critical faculties.

Disparities within the metropole are dealt with by a feature at Christmas called Neediest Cases. The paper is rife with features and articles which essentially commend or accept the payment of high salaries, the purchase of high-ticket items and the living of a Good Life.

This life is defined as one that only the upwardly-mobile can even contemplate.

The vaunted Times news product is a philanthropic element within a sea of blatent underlining of the dominant and ascendent culture built upon BENIGN GENOCIDE.

(All institutions associated with philanthropy have internal tensions, engendered by the obvious idiocy involved in giving assent to the sort of affluence that is the cultural Emperor’s clothing worn by the privileged group. But these merely serve to create a deflecting sort of drama within the institutions, manifested in endless speculation about various hierarchical postings and positioning, down to analysis of that people said and what body lingo they put out.)

BACK TO THE TIMES: Issues are defined within the envelop of an accepted state of affairs in which the millions who will receive NO EDUCATION or NO HEALTH CARE or NO FOOD or NO PROTECTION AGAINST HIV AIDS have no standing at all — either because the problem is too horrible to contemplate, even intellectually, or because it is rarely front page news or because it is, at a certain point, inimical to the maintenance of the dominant culture.

The Times’ defense against this sort of “simplistic” analysis is that it is seen as a bastion of anti-Christian liberalism by the Genet-like puppets of the right. This is merely the manifestation of the internal tension dynamic on a somewhat wider stage. Ultimately the powers within both seemingly polar opposites work to support the same hypocritical status quo.

HYPOCRISY is a hiding or suppression of the truth. Jesus made hypocrisy, particularly religious hypocrisy, the key sin because he recognized, in all probability, that human beings have always had the theoretical power to act wisely and decently. When they do not, it is because it is more pleasurable at some point to hide the truth and grasp the comfort and privilege, elaborating a garment in the form of the CULTURE to hide our nakedness.

It is not as if, in the Times, or anywhere else, we do not have ample indication of what the problem is. It is the way in which a grasp of the truth is overwhelmed by the flood of daily material that is more appealing to the mind that is comfortable within the great system of CAPITALISM AND PHILANTHROPY.

We can spend millions and millions generating stories about abductions of cute blond children and have no care whatsoever for millions and millions of brown and black children who are already under a death sentence because no powerful global sentiment exists to resolve their problem or the problems that future generations will have as the result of doing nothing.

We can support, via philanthropy, which has many guises and aspects, academic inquiry into every sort of horrendous past practice or event, in order to create theories to explain everything from violence to forms of worship, but under the seal of BENIGN GENOCIDE these enquiries become part of the background music of lemminglike play in the fields of the Lord.


Thorstein Veblen, in The Higher Learning, illuminates an aspect of what makes for genign genocide:

As bearing on the case of the American universities, it should be called to mind that the businessmen of this country, as a class, are of a notably conservative habit of mind. In a degree scarcely equalled in any community that can lay claim to a modicum of intelligence and enterprise, the spirit of American business is a spirit of quietism, caution, compromise, collusion, and chicane.

It is not that the spirit of enterprise or of unrest is wanting in this community, but only that, by selective effect of the conditioning circumstances, persons affected with that spirit are excluded from the management of business, and so do not come into the class of successful businessmen from which the governing boards are drawn.

American inventors are bold and resourceful, perhaps beyond the common run of their class elsewhere, but it has become a commonplace that American inventors habitually die poor; and one does not find them represented on the boards in question.

American engineers and technologists are as good and efficient as their kind in other countries. but they do not as a class accumulate wealth enough to entitle them to sit on the directive board of any self-respecting university, nor can they claim even a moderate rank as “safe and sane” men of business.

American explorers, prospectors and pioneers can not be said to fall short of the common measure in hardihood, insight, temerity or tenacity; but wealth does not accumulate in their hands, and it is a common saying, of them as of the inventors, that they are not fit to conduct their own (pecuniary) affairs; and the reminder is scarcely needed that neither they nor their qualities are drawn into the counsels of these governing boards.

The wealth and the serviceable results that come of the endeavours of these enterprising and temerarious Americans habitually inure to the benefit of such of their compatriots as are endowed with a “safe and sane” spirit of “watchful waiting,” — of caution, collusion and chicane. There is a homely but well-accepted American colloquialism which says that “The silent hog eats the swill.”