This pastor is tired of the rich elite in Silicon Valley

This article was originally published by Eva Schram on Knack. Some of the article has been copy/pasted below – there was a longer introduction that can be found on their website. 

Knack spoke with Stevens about how he sees Silicon Valley as a hypocritical symptom of a corrupt, capitalist system.

Do you feel that the events that led up to your resignation are indicative of the pseudo-liberalism of Palo Alto that you object to?

GREGORY STEVENS: I think you are right on with this question. Yes, this entire viral-debacle has been rooted in the very elitist liberalism I was so dissatisfied with in my three years of working in Palo Alto. Rather than address the social justice issues I raised, they chose to attack me through an elitist morality claim about language. Rather than feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the houseless (Matthew 25), these exuberantly wealthy neighbors attempted to ruin my reputation by taking my Tweets out of their larger critical context and without actual engagement with my activism in the community.

What were your goals at the church in Palo Alto?

STEVENS: I hoped to create a small glimpse of the Queerdom of God in the neighborhood, but it was systematically impossibly as a majority of middle and lower class people were gentrified to oblivion. Jesus teaches us to move amongst the impoverished, marginalized, and oppressed people of society in solidarity with the goal of collective liberation. This is a difficult task when Palo Alto is chalk full of billionaires and millionaires – those who could solve the world’s fiscal problems with their own checkbook but require big tax breaks and philanthropic pats on the back for that money to every leave their white-knuckled grip. When we started asking why people were impoverished, rather than simply how can we share a meal with the poor, is when the capitalist tech-class freaked out.

How could Silicon Valley be able to better pursue its progressive ideals?

STEVENS: I think the problem with Silicon Valley is its Liberalism. By that I do not mean the common pop culture definition, “open minded” but rather the socio-historic economic and social logics that developed out of Western Enlightenment. These logics have been projected upon the rest of the world, usually through imperial and colonial force. These are the same logics that promote and defend the ways of capitalism: relations of hierarchy and domination that exploit women, Earth, the impoverished, queer, trans, black and brown bodies, migrants, less-abled, and anyone else deemed “different.”

We do not need better liberalism, what we do need is work-place democracy, direct social democracy, and participatory economies of solidarity. We need to stop reproducing the logics of capitalism because they are destroying the planet, they are also directly opposed to the teachings of Jesus: blessed are the poor, hungry, and weak. In the book of Acts when the Spirit first falls on the early church everyone shares their possessions and food according to each persons’ need.

What are the biggest injustices in Silicon Valley and how can we solve them as a society?

STEVENS: The injustices in this region are directly connected to the injustices around the globe. That is what makes Palo Alto so special, it sits at the very tippy top of the capitalist pyramid, they are the 1%, and they benefit from the many millions of people around the world that produce their capital gains. Through the financialization of the economic system, the rich now also make money off of money. This economic inequality cannot be solved with a kinder or more liberal version of capitalism, it is capitalist hierarchies of domination and the centralization of power and wealth in the hands of very few that must be transformed. The people who produce things deserve the results of their production, it’s as simple as a worker cooperative. Economic inequality destroys democracy. As a society we need to break from the logics of capitalism, from the logics of greed, profit, consumerism, and competition. We must move ourselves into the way of collective and participatory economics, toward direct democracy, and provide free access to health care, housing, food, and clean drinking water for all.

These ideas are actually already easy to create as capitalism is already reproduced through its surplus. With 19.5 million empty homes in the US, and 13.5 million homeless people in the US, we could easily house every person tonight. This isn’t a matter of having enough, but how the already abundant resources are divided amongst the people who produced the surplus but do not own the means of their production. This is the injustice I was calling out, the hoarding of wealth and power and the systematic exclusion of middle class, working class, and impoverished people from this community and the effects such hoarding as on a global scale.

You reject the capitalist system, but in the case of Silicon Valley, has not it done a lot of good, like the smartphone or electric cars?

STEVENS: No. Capitalism does not create cool things. People and their great minds create great things. The capitalist system structures this creativity around endless profit for a select number and not for those who produce the products. It commodifies every resource (water, land, air) and spoils it to the limit. The capitalist system floats on merciless competition and always works at the expense of someone else. The poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer, and the climate is collapsing. That is not a success, it is a possible extinction of humanity.

How should it be?

STEVENS: We need a system that is radically changed so that it produces wealth and abundance for all people. We need a system that values the collective whole in political, personal, and business decisions – put simply: we need real democracy in every aspect of our lives.

Fully Automated Luxury Communism suggests we already have all the resources and tools needed to create incredibly useful technologies. We should let the robots do all the dirty boring work, so the rest of humanity can be free to think creatively in all sorts of unlimited ways. Abundance for all, not for some.

Was Jesus a socialist?

STEVENS: Jesus wasn’t a socialist because socialism wasn’t an idea yet. Rather Jesus tapped into a much more perennial wisdom, a wisdom rooted in egalitarian, equitable, and ecologically resilient relations. If anything, socialism is more Christian than Christianity is socialist. All of God’s people, plants, and non-human animals are to be loved, cared for, and respected, not dominated, exploited, and alienated.

There are a great diversity of socialisms (Trotskyism, Leninism, Communism, Anarchism, Maoism, Municipalism etc.) and I think the version of socialism that fits most closely with the Christian story is Libertarian Socialism. Through a critique of power and domination, these forms of socialism do not seek to reproduce the logics of capitalist domination and hierarchy through a vanguard party or through state governance, rather power is shared in a truly direct democratic manor.

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