Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wealth Without Work, Pleasure Without Conscience, Rights Without Responsibility

It was Gandhi that first uttered these things to his grandson, Arun. Originally he had listed seven attitudes or beliefs that would destroy civilization. Arun added an eighth, rights without responsibility.

Now Gandhi lead a pretty bizarre life. His politics are irrelevant here. The relevant part of Gandhi's life is that he was a "truth seeker." That he identified those seven things some 60 years ago, gives us an opportunity to reflect back to that time. To ask ourselves, "have things panned out that way?" So it is, I chose those first two items because I think they are inextricably linked and applicable here. I chose the last item because that is the frustration we feel. It is the reason I write here. So are those things Gandhi uttered, true?

Ask yourself this. Are people generally trying to "make the greatest amount of money with the least amount of work?" Have you ever heard anyone say, "Today I am going to go to work, work as hard as I am physically able, and hopefully make next to nothing for my efforts." Have you ever heard people say they are overpaid? Of course not. Rather, what we see are people busily exploiting every opportunity to make money with the least amount of work. Nothing exemplifies this better than the fractional banking industry. Charging people interest and fees for borrowing money that banks don't even possess in the first place and even if they did, it is the property of depositors. Not their money. I could go on about stock brokers and fund managers, accountants, government workers, but you get the point.

The only time Jesus got angry was at the moneychangers in the temple who were exploiting people. Is there any difference now? No, in fact I could make a pretty good case that it has gotten far worse. So what motivates people to exploit others? Perhaps it could be...

Pleasure without conscience. We have a serious moral problem with this. Runaway greed. We want what we want and we really don't care how we get it. We covet Harvard. We want McMansions and imported cars. We want designer clothes, expensive jewelry, exotic travel, and we even want to make people jealous. We want these things because somehow we think we are entitled to them. Or that they will make us feel better about ourselves. It is a sickness. Given a legal conduit, we think nothing of exploiting a depersonalized society. Look at Gates, at Buffett, at Angelo Mozilo. Look at the CEOs of major companies making 500 to 1000 times the average salary of a worker putting in the same amount of time. What did Gates do? Steal a computer language and then manage to monopolize computer users for eons? Or Buffett? What does he create? Look at Mozilo and the fraudulent practices he engaged in at Countrywide- practices that other mortgagers were compelled to participate in or go out of business. Practices that have literally plunged the world into depression.

Where is our moral compass, our conscience? Just how bad does this have to get? Do you want every last penny we all have? Will that make you "Captains of Industry" feel better, superior?

I think intuitively, as I gaze over the past 60 years, that Gandhi was right. That the only way to prevent the destruction of society and ultimately violence and bloodshed, was to reset our moral compasses in line with what he was thinking. That we adamantly resist and refuse that "truth" will in fact- destroy us. Which leads me to Arun's addition. Rights without responsibility.

Some of us know that just because we were born here, that does not entitle us to evade responsibility. That somehow, all of the problems we face as a society are someone elses responsibility. I refuse to sign on to the apathy and attitude of those cowards that reside here. I align myself with those people that understand that we have a very precious thing which requires constant vigilance and care. I understand that there are no rights without responsibility. That the rights I enjoy were paid for by the blood of my forefathers and the determination to identify and acquire those rights. That I have a responsibility in maintaining those rights. And I'll be damned if I will let any coward deter me.

My sincere, albeit late, Veteran's day wish for all of the armed services, protective services, and patriots. Thank you for taking a stand, thank you for your service to this country.

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