Thursday, December 28, 2006


Western Civilization, from the rise of the Roman Catholic church onward, has been defined by set of ascending hierarchies.

We are taught that all must start at the top, then work their way up. Rung by rung, we ascend to our highest level of competence, or incompetence, depending on the circumstances.

We here in America pride ourselves on having worked our way to the top. We pat ourselves on the back for living in a country where social mobility is fact, rather than fiction. We start to spin personal mythologies of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.

The problem is that once we've started making $100,000 a year or more, there's a natural tendency in human nature for us to forget that we too, once were at the bottom of the totem pole.

The Japanese do it a tad differently. In a corporate environment, they place their highest esteem and regard upon those at the bottom of the pyramid. However, Japanese society is quite conformist. Individuality is tolerated within reason, but the idea of the collective mindset is valued far above any sort of individual liberty.

There's a fine line between fear and trust in people. Many small businesses start based on ideas of trust. The employees know and trust each other. Those in charge of setting up this great-leap-forward---this grassroots endeavor---see the problems caused by corporate heirarchies. They seek to avoid them whenever possible. They don't treat their employees as though they are prisoners. They do not run their management like the Gestapo.

Then a larger company extends a check forward. They've discovered that the good idea advanced by this small company could help them, the large corporation, make even more money.

So the eternal quandry presents itself, thusly: Sell out and perpetuate unequality? Sell out and live a life of wealth? Spread fear, rather than trust? Sell out and ensure that an unfair system continues forward?

Or: Stay poor, pure, and happy?

Decisions, decisions.


Anonymous said...

Not sure that being poor ever made anyone happy. Neither did being wealthy--though sitting on a yacht does not suck. Neither do new guitar strings every day. Smile.

If you've not had enough to eat, you may have a different view of money than most people in this country. I've been there and it's not a good place.

Then again, I've also had more than enough money...and have also been just about every where else in between on the earnings scale.

So from my experience, being fed and comfortable is essential. Meeting my family's needs and my needs is essential. Planning for a future is essential--even if that future never arrives. Because if it does, it's going to be a bitch. Getting old is not for whimps. Or poor people.

Wealth can be put to good use. Money can be so much more-- if you know who you are deep down and resist the urge to be greedy.

The rich are not necessarily the enemy, though the vast majority of them have lost touch with reality.

Look at Bill Gates and his wife and their struggle to improve education. They could be doing a lot of other things with the cash (guilded French chairs come to mind)but he chooses to spend his resources in pursuit of improving a corner of the world. Lovely.

Look at the couple in Colorado who just made a ton of money in the market and will be giving all of it away in college scholarships to kids in their community who otherwise would not go to college.

Just think of the UU programs one could fund with excess wealth...

Yes, all societies have classes (even ours!) Money is not the enemy, nor is it the savior. It's our attitudes about money and what we choose to do with it that makes the difference.

End of sermon. xoxoxoxo Reverend me

Robin Edgar said...

Just think of the UU programs one could fund with laundered money from UUA charitable trusts. . .

Anonymous said...

It's easy to say that money is the root of all evil, especially when you are poor and feeling disenfranchised. Then sour grapes is an easy position to take--especially when given so much material in our society from which to draw.

I've lived among the rich and a lot of them are assholes. But not all of them are. Not all money is laundered or stolen or ill gotten. Some people do work hard for it. Then again, some people inherit it or come into it quite unexpectedly.

What if the Beatles said, "Hey, we'd like to sign with a record label and get a manager, but then we would be selling out."