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Religious Tolerance logo

James B. Gray

Why Are We in An Economic Mess?

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We're stupid!

More precisely, because our leaders are stupid. By "leaders" I don't mean our political leaders; I mean our real leaders -- wealthy business leaders who, through their lackeys (lobbyists, intellectual prostitutes who work in "think tanks" and other organizations) control not only what is done in our society, but how people think. In fact, it is the "thought control" that they exercise in our society which helps them rule.

A major part of their thought control is their development and espousal of a "philosohpy" that might be termed "Social Darwinism." This is a philosophy that was not created by Charles Darwin -- although there were strands of that philosophy in his thinking. It is, however, a philosophy that has its basis in a phrase first used by Darwin in the fifth edition of his The Origin of Species (1869), having been borrowed by Darwin from his contemporary, Herbert Spencer. The phrase in question: "survival of the fittest," of course -- a phrase known by virtually everyone, most of whom know virtually nothing else about Darwin. Except, of course, for Darwin's (alleged) claim that humans descended from apes.

What does the phrase "survival of the fittest" suggest for how people think and what people do? It suggests that people are "naturally" selfish, and will use whatever means necessary to gain wealth, status, power, and/or celebrity. It assumes that people have different interests in what they want, but that whatever a person's interests, that pursue will pursue it, doing so without regard for how their actions impact others. Thus, it encourages people so to behave.

Those who espouse this philosophy argue, of course, that it is rooted in "human nature." So that given this, one has no choice but to obey the dictates of one's human nature. However, this claim is built on a lie -- just as our war against Iraq was based on lies concocted in the Pentagon (its Office of Special Plans). Research done in a variety of disciplines over the past few decades has demonstrated decisively that "human nature," rather, is positive, and that the negative behavior that we can observe in our society daily (the grist of our media!) owes much more to the nature of our society than it does to our genes: societal structure, rather than genetic structure, is the chief culprit.

It is not my intention to pursue this matter of "why" further here; rather, it is to point out that if our society were to be governed by the principles enunciated in Matthew 25 (giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, etc.), rather than Social Darwinism, our society would be a very different one -- and among other things, we would not now be faced with an economic crisis.

The argument that we must be guided by the Social Darwinism philosophy is increasingly sounding hollow -- as research findings accumulate that disprove that claim. Which does not mean, however, that shifting over to a philosophy that derives (directly, at least) from the gospel of Matthew will be easily accomplished: there is a great deal of inertia to overcome, and it would appear that only if some of our leaders provide the necessary leadership, this "conversion" will not occur. I hope that I am wrong regarding this matter, but must admit that I am not optimistic.

How can the "conversion" be accomplished? The first point that I would make is that new institutions need to be developed within our society. Second, I would recommend as a starting point the New Word Fellowship (NeWF) advocated in my essay "Worship." The reason I believe this to be such a good place to start, is that NeWF discussions could not only lead to ideas regarding other institutions to create, but have so many other positive consequences -- including the well-being of participants (to say nothing of the positive actions of those participants relative to others with whom they come in contact).

It is rather ironic that I offer this suggestion here, because the ideas I am presenting here are ones that occurred to me while attending church this morning (the pastor's topic for the day was our economic crisis) -- given that the NeWF has no pastor, and uses no Scripture! But so be it!

After church my wife wanted to stop at a store in a small shopping center, so of course we did. (I should have added earlier that women also rule!) I waited in the car, listening to Carole Farley singing some of Edvard Grieg's songs, and I began thinking about what gives us deep contentment. I concluded that three things do especially. One is having good relationships with others, not just family members, but neighbors, co-workers, etc. Second, the fact that some of the songs I was listening to brought tears to my eyes made me realize that I was listening to some great music -- because it was beautiful. As a consequence, I realized that we need beauty in our lives -- in music, in literature, in buildings, in other people (in terms of the kind of people they are), etc. -- and in Nature

Our ancient ancestors were immersed in Nature, and evolved to have a need for receiving the stimuli that come to us from Nature. Unfortunately, the way civilization has developed, we have increasingly been forced to live in artificial environments, and we suffer from it. When I think of the most pleasurable moments that I have had in my life, they include such things as walking in a woods, walking along a beach, just looking over a vista while also hearing birds sing, etc.

I can't believe that God intended for us to be living lives that do not enable our needs as humans to be met. We need to interact with others in a manner that we find enjoyable; we need to experience beauty continuously. We need to have close contact with Nature Were we to develop a way of life that enables these to occur, even fosters them, not only would we as individuals have pleasant lives; our society's problems -- economic and other -- would melt away.

Why can't our leaders have the wisdom to recognize that they too could enjoy a much better life with a different society, and begin building it -- perhaps by beginning with efforts to promote NeWFs? Who knows where this might lead?

Originally posted: 2009-MAR-01
Latest update: 2009-MAR-01
Author: James B. Gray

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