Philosophy: Eye of the Needle, the Rich, & Community

03 Economy, 11 Society, Cultural Intelligence
Tom Atlee

Dear friends,

Below are the final three relatively short articles I mentioned earlier this week in my “Rise and Role of Concentrated Wealth” post.

1.  Twenty-two Statistics That Prove The Middle Class Is
Being Systematically Wiped Out Of Existence In
America – http://t.co/lNFYiK6

2.  A Modest Proposal to Transition to a “Cater to the Rich”
Economy (satire) – http://bit.ly/f7En8D

3.  The Surprising History of Federal Taxes on Wealthy
Americans – http://bit.ly/TopTaxHistory

Many people are aware of the growing gap between rich and poor, and the struggles of the American middle class.  But few people realize the vast extent of this gap.  The monumental wealth held by the top 20% — and even of the top 1% — of Americans beggars description.  The existence of this vast resource side by side with the erosion and collapse of human and natural communities — and the increasing vulnerability of both the Earth and humanity’s future — should give us pause.  Real pause.  Pause for reflection.

Although I do not advocate government solutions to everything, or “throwing money at problems”, the fact remains that money is essential for all manner of solutions to public problems and initiatives that hold tremendous possibilities.  Governments, properly constituted, are humanity’s primary way of concentrating wealth and power for the common good or, as the US Constitution proclaims it, for “the General Welfare”.

Much of the work of the Co-Intelligence Institute (and many other groups and innovators) aims to reinvent our political culture and institutions of governance so that they actually do serve that purpose.

It is encouraging to see that certain extremely wealthy people — like Bill Gates, Sr. — are advocating against tax breaks for the rich.  Wealth can also support the kinds of system changes that will enable citizens to more effectively direct their government in wise directions — or enable communities and whole societies to wisely self-organize themselves with less government direction.

In Matthew 19:23-24, Jesus says to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  The problem here is not so much the wealth, itself, as what it means about us that we hold onto it in spite of the good it could do for others, for the world, for the future.  What is the best use of each dollar we have?

Gandhi offers us similar guidance:  “Supposing I have come by a fair amount of wealth—either by way of legacy, or by means of trade and industry—I must know that all that wealth does not belong to me; what belongs to me is the right to an honourable livelihood, no better than that enjoyed by millions of others. The rest of my wealth belongs to the community and must be used for the welfare of the community.”

Are we wealthy?  Statistics suggest that most the most wealthy Americans have become even wealthier in recent years, while the vast majority of Americans are having a significantly harder time than they’re used to.  Yet even if we are in the bottom half of Americans — those who share only 1% of the nation’s wealth — the vast majority of us Americans have more resources and privileges than at least half the rest of the world’s population.  Historically speaking, even most of us are better off than the majority of ancient kings.

How do we use the money, the time, the privilege that we have?  How might we use them?  How shall we use them?

Every day since I was about twelve I have felt future generations watching us, watching me, hoping, praying, counting on us to make the difference that will make the difference for them, between a livable world and one that is not.  Better yet, they have been calling out to us with real possibilities far beyond what civilizations have ever realized before….

We each have something to do with how this all turns out.

Coheartedly,
Tom


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