Latest wealth figures: greed is winning & humanity is losing
The one thing upon which the world’s major religions and most schools of philosophy are agreed is the perils and evil of human greed.
Unfortunately, there are some people who didn’t get the memo on greed. Take the Waltons, for example, the family behind the Walmart retail empire. According to the financial and money website, Bloomberg, they get richer by $4 million every hour – yes, you read that right, not every week or month, every hour – while at the same time paying their workers (or as they prefer to refer to them, ‘associates’) a paltry 11 bucks an hour.
There is no human being on this Earth who can justify getting (not making, mind, getting) $4 million an hour, and there is no justification for paying any worker a wage as low as $11 an hour. Only the most psychologically dysfunctional or morally empty could conceivably consider such a scenario and wealth gap compatible with progress.
And yes, yes, yes, we’ve heard it all before about human enterprise and dynamism and hard work and entrepreneurship. But these are merely words used to legitimize greed and avarice. Words thrown into the faces of the masses like so much dust to blind them as to the reality of the world and their true place in it. That place is as human drones, consigned to a life spent working their fingers to the bone for a pittance while being programmed to believe that they’re actually free.
If they are free it’s free to be poor, to be homeless, to go hungry, and to suffer.
The Walton family, whose fortune now sits at an outrageous $191 billion, aren’t the only reprobates at the apex of this world grown sick with greed. Hark the Mars family, the confectionery giants, with a fortune of $127 billion. That’s a lot of Mars Bars. Or how about the Kochs, notorious for bankrolling numerous politicians in Washington? They’re currently sitting on a mountain of assets to the tune of $125 billion.
It takes neither a PhD in economics nor any grounding in Marxist theory to grasp the fact that a world that allows for such obscene amounts of wealth to be so concentrated in the coffers of so few, is also a world that allows for obscene levels of poverty to be endured by so many. One cannot exist without the other.
In America today, the number of victims of poverty is legion. Some 40 million to be precise. And victims they are, to be sure. Because let us have none of this silly talk about poverty being self-inflicted. This is just the propaganda endlessly churned out by the superrich and their flunkeys in positions of influence in the media and politics.
Now I’m not here suggesting that we put the superrich in jail (well not for too long anyway. Just long enough for them to get their heads straight and back in touch with their humanity with a spell of hard labor and re-education). What I’m suggesting is that we tax them in a manner befitting civilization, and redistribute their wealth in the interests of the common good.
Karl Marx (remember that guy?) happens to agree. “History,” the great bearded one once proclaimed, “calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy.”
Jesus also understood this to be the case. That’s why he chased the money changers out of the Temple. And Jesus, like Marx, was a revolutionary. You disagree? In that case, consider his words:
“Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.
“But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
“Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
Staying with Jesus, and getting funky for a minute, there’s an argument to be made that early Christianity was the communism of its time and that communism is the early Christianity of ours. Because in its earliest incarnation, Christianity like communism was a revolutionary creed, emerging in response to the crippling oppression and poverty being suffered by the many in the name of a Roman Empire that was less a monument to human progress and more its impediment.
Today, it’s the American empire that is an impediment to progress; sick with greed for money, for power and for hegemony.
Not that all of the superrich are American. Of course not. As the Bloomberg article reveals, they are of many different nationalities and live all over the world. But who can argue that the cultural values that predominate in that world are American cultural values – and that those values are specifically the values of the superrich?
For those of you who may blanche at the mere mention of the word communism, by the way, my apologies but it does remain a specter that hasn’t gone away. And the idea of communism, as opposed to the reality, will never die while misery and poverty and human need exists alongside decadence and avarice and human greed.
The philosopher Erich Fromm is someone who can always be relied on to drill down into the heart of the matter. “Greed,” he writes, “is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
The next time you find yourself in Walmart, spare a thought for the Waltons. Four million bucks an hour doesn’t go as far as it used to.