[This post is based on a comment I made to a Facebook friend, where he'd asked, "Is there anything good and/or hopeful in the current economy?" My reply was shorter than this, but basically makes the same point]
Since the Baby Boomers hit adulthood (see: Yuppies, Reagan, “The Secret of My Success”), there has been (mostly from the Right, but also from the technocratic left) a growing belief that the chief purpose of being an American is to contribute economically. Perhaps it is even the sole purpose. Success as a human is a measurement of wealth, and vice versa.
The kids of the Boomers are now becoming young adults, and have grown up seeing how this attitude affects their parents; divorce, depression, disillusionment. I’ve read a couple articles about how Boomer parents, having raised their kids to be super-achievers, are surprised to learn that their children want to do things related to community, education, non-profits, service, etc.
Example: I think that the Web is, at its heart, a wonderfully enabling technology across many levels of participation. Yes, it helps giants like Amazon be more efficient. But it also lets me, personally, do all kinds of things that have nothing to do with making myself (or, really, anybody else) rich.
I’ve made new friends on these here tubes . I’ve written more poetry in the last 10 years than in the previous 20 before that, chiefly because I have found people to share it with. I used Lulu/Amazon to layout and print my father’s book of meditations before he died, which was a great happiness to him and our family.
None of these things has anything to do with being wealthier. A couple of them cost me a few bucks, but I never did any of them with the idea of making more money.
Wall Street, Washington and Hollywood are scared of us figuring that out; hence all the DRM, “three strikes,” SOPA nonsense. If we find more and more ways to be content, productive, accountable, flexible, transparent, engaged, creative, vocal and — dare I say, happy — that do not involve spending money, they lose a hold on us. They lose power and the ability to monetize our self worth.
Part of the current reaction to our growing income inequality isn’t just “it’s not fair that you have so much and I/we/they don’t,” but another, more visceral objection: “It’s not doing you any damned good to be that rich. It’s toxic. It’s stupid. It’s not making you happy, and the systems you’ve set up to defend your inexplicably unhealthy attitude are robbing others of some really important stuff like education, health, human rights and basic economic security.”
It’s one thing to make the argument that my riches are more important than yours. It’s another to defend the idea that maintaining my psychoses takes precedence over your basic welfare.
I will take just a moment for a quick shout-out to my fellow Christians to ask the following:
Do you really believe this? Do you believe that God loves the rich more? Are you less of a worthwhile person if you have a job that you really enjoy, but that makes less money? Did you have children chiefly so that they would take care of you, monetarily, in your old age? Did you marry your spouse because he/she was a capable breadwinner and apt to provide good cost-benefit balance to the relationship? How often do you smile, laugh or feel warm about “money stuff?” Does spending it really make you happy? Does earning more of it give you particular pride? If, as Christians, we are meant to emulate Christ, can you point to one verse in the Bible that suggests he owned *anything* let alone was wealthy? Were His friends the well-off types? Did he ever say, “Blessed are the dough-makers, for they shall inherit major stock options?” I challenge anyone who calls themselves a Christian to back up the idea that money matters AT ALL to God, except in how we use it to help others.
We all know the end of this scripture, but here’s all of 1 Timothy 6:7-10: For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
That’s what we’re seeing on our national and global stages: ruin and destruction, brought about by the temptations and traps of money-centric morality, philosophy and politics.