Billion, for What?
difficult to know what to think of the financial crisis that
our economy is facing right now. The situation is complex; the explanations
confusing. We are told that action is needed right away, or our
whole economic system will collapse. We are told that we need to
commit hundreds of billions of dollars to repair the damage cause
by money-making strategies of millionaire CEOs, less than honorable
financiers, Wall Street traders, speculators (whatever they are),
and paper pushers who produce nothing yet still take in huge profits
For honest, hard-working people who live in a
world where one plus one equals two, and responsible living is its
own reward, this is hard to swallow. This is especially true when
we hear dire warnings (from people who scarcely identify with our
problems) who are unwilling to bailout a more egalitarian financial
trust like Social Security. That politicians instill us with fear
on yet another topic, and equally untrustworthy news-people revel
in the possibility of news-driven panic, we find ourselves instinctively
asking who should be trust? Weve heard these bad
little boys call wolf before, and cover up by saying
its not time to cast blame, usually by the guiltiest
parties. (When is the time to cast blame?) The culture of greed
that we are being asked to rescue casts a shadow on them all. We
are left with our innate desire to save the world. But how is that
accomplished by preserving the attitude that up to now has more
harm as good.
We have to trust someone, I suppose, and no doubt
we will pay an astronomical price to those bent on safeguarding
their own greedy actions. They will take our money, and life goes
on between the haves and the have-nots, except that the have-nots
will now have even less. Such is life.
I, for one, can neither condone nor condemn whatever
plan Congress adopts. I admit not only my own ignorance but even
distaste of the vast money-making processes of Wall Street. To my
mind, such greed is inhumane. If I thought about money all the time,
perhaps I would understand it better, but mammon is not a god I
worship, nor care to live for.
The crisis does, however, reveal just how widespread,
insidious and formidable greed can be.
I sometimes hear people downplay chivalric warnings
about the vice of greed. More often, I detect that such words fail
to connect with people who have bought into our strange mix of conflicting
values. This is not surprising in a world where greed is so rampant,
so controlling of everything we see, that we are anesthetized to
it. We see religion that long stood as a bulwark against greed,
now twisted into embracing it. We see politics so openly corrupted
by it that our democratic system has been effectively subjugated
to its whim.
But then a massive crisis happens, one that was
predicted and seen coming by our brightest but for some reason immobilized
minds, that shakes up our house of cards security. Greed
oversteps its bounds, as it always does, and we come to realize
(again) that greed is not a good thing. It creates a perspective
that poisons everything of value. It is an addiction that corrupts
conscience, fairness, and honesty. It carries a price that each
of us must bear some through poverty, some through hard works,
some through having their flow of wealth temporarily threatened.
I cannot advise our politicians on what to do
to fix things, other than to be cautious. It would be
nice if they modified the system to limit the ravages of greed,
but surely that is more than anyone can hope for.
is happening does help illustrate a pertinent truth for us all:
greed has no place in the spirit of a true knight. Indeed, that
is the distinguishing feature of knighthood, a feature that provides
the knight with a sense of honesty, integrity and concern for others.
The lack of greed makes it possible for a knight to see things and
people for what they are, rather than exploitable commodities. I
/ Thou, rather than I / It, to use Martin Bubers
words. Think about it. It preserves the knightly virtues. It purifies
love, unifies loyalty, and elevates human nature.
I say that the lack of greed is a distinguishing feature of knighthood,
I say this as someone who has seen it as such again and again in
those who participate in our fellowship. They may not post comments
about greed very often on our open forum. They dont have to.
Read their words, listen to the song of their hearts, feel the essence
of what they are saying no matter how simple or imperfectly.
They care about others and the world they live in. They respect
truth and fair play. They desire to right wrongs, not exploit them
for profit. They reflect a quality of human development that should
be recognized and honored.
those who might inject meaning into my words that was not intended,
am I condemning capitalism for what happened? No. There can be no
freedom without the right to own property. But we must all challenge
capitalism, and every economic system, to be more humane and compassionate.
We must challenge our leaders and neighbors to place higher ideals
and moral principles ahead of economic systems, so that greed, and
its many forms of evil, can be controlled.