Money is not “The Big Solution” to our problems.
Let’s be real, okay?
We’re living in a society in which morality has been made the servant of money for far too long. This is, in part, due to the rule of economic expedience in the planning practices of corporations and politicians. These are the folks whose lip-service to moral restraint and and the public’s welfare is as common as athlete’s foot in a gym locker room — and about as beneficial. Terms like “political morality” have become non sequiturs, and the general population has become cynical when it comes to corporate and political comments concerning social responsibility and moral restraint.
The almost sociopathic decision-making that seems to pervade the corporate sector and all levels of government doesn’t exactly speak well of the decision-makers’ good faith.
The failure of whatever passes for “public morality” is also due to the partisan rhetoric spouted by those who feel entitled to force their moral biases on the rest of us, just because they can’t separate their beliefs from their group egos.
And it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking politics, religion, spirituality, economics, education, health care or anything else. Those who want to “force” a morality based on their own bent understanding of a specific institutional faith do more harm than good to their cause.
After all, when you try to force people to accept your views, you polarize them. You drive them in the opposite direction, and you make them cynical and suspicious of both your position, and the truths you claim should prevail in their daily lives.
Instead of creating unity, you breed more conflict.
Way to go. If you’re one of these characters, here’s the definition of morality you’d like everyone to swallow: “This is what I believe is right — so YOU do it!”
Be clear: in the west, we’ll never agree on an all-encompassing moral perspective we can all accept. The very nature of democracy ensures that. This is what we’ve opted for, and it’s okay, despite what the self-proclaimed moral authorities tell you. Democracy itself is predicated on the assumption that we won’t agree, and that we’re entitled to our respective viewpoints.
If we were all willing to agree (or renew our agreement) on a few very basic political rules and moral constraints, maybe we could get back to that place at which differences of opinion and belief were not barriers to unity of purpose and action. But that’s not going to happen any time soon, unfortunately — and money is NOT a solution in the meantime.
There may have been a time when money served morality on a broad, communal scale, but we doubt it. If there was such a time in western societies, it’s long past, despite the current charitable efforts of various major corporations who seek to do good works and provide some positive and socially responsible examples in the corporate sector. They’ve figured out the lay of the land, metaphorically speaking, and they know it’s in their interest to get busy looking like they’re committed to the public welfare in some way.
Some of them may actually be committing to an altruistic path, as opposed to just engaging in clever marketing. We hope so. In fact, we learned in this week’s news of a divestiture, worth about fifty billion dollars, by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and other investors. They’re getting out of investments in hydrocarbon fuels, and they seem interested in pressuring other companies who may be contributing to climate change.
This is a big deal. We hope it’s as altruistic a move as it appears, rather than a long-term marketing plan with a huge push to get the public on-side from the start. Guess we’ll all find out soon enough.
There are some basic conflicts we must resolve.
The conflicts are between corporate economic interests on one hand, and issues of social responsibility, assumed public morality and the public’s welfare on the other.
The cynical among us will say, with some justification, that these conflicts arise in the very areas in which we publicly shame ourselves by talking about our responsibilities while actively looking for ways around them. The issues themselves include the basic personal and domestic policy debates all communities face. They also include geopolitical issues, international economic problems, global health concerns, and violent international conflicts and flash-points.
The cynicism most of us feel about the process and outcomes of these conflicts is born from sad experience, and from the public conduct of the major players.
Leaders in all sectors have figured out that it’s become more important to be seen trying to do the right thing, than it is actually to do the right thing. When serious issues arise and there’s public negativity about them, there’s a standard and near-automatic corporate or political response: let’s throw some money at the problems and agree to revisit them in future. That way, we don’t actually have to do anything meaningful about them now, and the public will have seen us trying to do the right thing.
If, as usual, this strategy doesn’t work worth a damn, that’s okay — our asses are covered. Just look at all the money we threw at the issues.
And when the problems come back again, guess what? We’ll do the same thing all over again. As long as we keep dumping more cash on the fire, we can keep saying we tried. Forever.
You don’t really have to stretch to find examples.
All you have to do is think of the diverse areas of our lives in which disputes arise and one side points to ethical and moral arguments.
For instance, think about the ongoing environmental debate in all its forms, from local environmental issues to the whole climate change canard. We can see endless instances of the conflict between social responsibility and the moral right to environmental protection for the good of all, and the agendas of big government and corporate economic growth.
How many times has corporate activity been challenged on the basis of allegedly rapacious, unethical plans and intent? How often are the challengers’ concerns based not just on NIMBY (“not in my back yard”), but on moral arguments that environmental stewardship ought to take priority over economic development? Political responses have focused on creating entire regulatory frameworks designed to reassure the public as to safety issues and environmental analyses. They’re also designed to demonstrate how those in control are meeting their moral and ethical obligations to the general public through compliance with a legal framework.
And if it later turns out the responsible parties were wrong and people suffer as a result, they can say they tried their best and met all the legal requirements at the time. It wasn’t their fault; it just happened — too bad, so sad.
Internationally and geopolitically, the situation is even worse. Just look at the modern bugaboo of Islamic terrorism, and think back to the acts of terror and murder at the 1972 Munich Olympics. It’s been more than forty years, and billions have been spent on different phases of the “the war on terrorism.”
And nothing much has improved in that arena.
In fact, things have gotten considerably worse, while western governments talk endlessly about the progress they’ve made, the money they’ve spent, the hopeful negotiations they’ve held, the ill-conceived and stupidly limited military actions they’ve taken. The outcomes they’ve sought are suspect at best; their methods and associated “public sell” campaigns are far worse than questionable. All they’ve done is pour money on the flames so that they can claim to have worked on the problem.
And all the while, they refuse to this day to recognize that money, tired ideology, the law, and claims to the moral high ground simply don’t make a workable strategy in dealing with people whose morality comes before all else.
You don’t have to like their morality or their faith to see that this is so. Question: when you’ve tried dealing with an international problem (like Islamic terrorism) with the same strategies and from within the same political, social, spiritual or economic frameworks for more than forty years, and nothing you’ve done has worked to make things better, when do you clue in that maybe a radical change in thinking and approach might be required?
If we’re to judge by the conduct of western governments and the United Nations itself, the answer is simple: we have no idea when the interested parties will actually get it.
You might also want to take a moment now to consider how many other less serious but important problems closer to home have been handled with exactly the same moral and economic blindness.
Makes you feel a bit sick, doesn’t it?
Our leaders are willing to spend, and even to act, but only so that they can be seen doing the politically correct things. They’re even willing to fight, but only to the point at which others will, for their own reasons, stop approving the steps necessary to address a problem with finality.
They’re willing to stand on founding principles, but only to the point at which the economics of business — or of international relations, international power or domestic security — drive them to abandon those principles in favor of expediency, money, trade and cynical political pragmatism.
No wonder we just keep throwing money at our problems in the hope that it will provide “the big solution.”
It’s easier than seeing solutions through — and we don’t have to define and reaffirm our principles or stand firm on them (which is just as well, as we no longer seem able to agree on them). If you operate from within the distorted world of “us and them,” and your public and private morality rests on underlying imperatives of money and power balance, you are — in a word — hooped.
Do we really need to get into the ways in which these flawed paradigms are reflected in our personal, daily lives?
Let’s just say that money — and the “solutions” it can buy us — solve nothing when it comes to finding peace of mind and harmony of spirit. You can buy yourself lots of stuff. You can pay for self-improvement courses. You can buy books and CDs on spiritual growth. You can join groups in which you get to feel all warm and fuzzy with like-minded people.
But whatever your problems are, none of that stuff will help for long. It just buffers you from your problems and discomfort.
And that will continue to be the case until you’re able to redefine your inner dialogue and rethink your personal ethics and personal morality from a state of intentional clarity.
Then, when you’ve learned to act and speak and think in a manner that’s always consistent with your true self, you get ongoing peace as an immediate by-product, regardless of the chaos around you.
Our best to you, always.
David & Kathryn