Wednesday, September 21, 2005


We have to take the culture back from big business. Now, that’s as stupid a statement as you are ever likely to see. Can any one of you imagine the mechanism by which we take the culture back from big business? It is absurd to think it could happen. Yet, it must happen. The culture is the culture of business and industry. If it is good for business, it is good for America, it is good for the culture, it is good for us. Our place is to be quiet and serve the culture by supporting the economy. The American Way of Life is the way of life of business and industry. The culture is the economy, which is to say, business and industry. The culture exists to support the economy. Economic development has nothing to do with jobs for the poor. It has everything to do with profits for business and industry. Business and industry look for cheap labor markets to “develop.” To hell with anything standing between business and industry and a profit. Business and industry plies us with trinkets and we dance to their tune and worship at their altar. But no one thinks we can do better.
We look around. We see what life is like in countries without business and industry. Poverty and subsistence. We aren’t interested. Rampant commercialism or abject poverty seem to be the alternatives. How do we put a break on higher yields and greater profits without incurring a downward spiral that crashes the market and introduces us to a Great Depression? We had better shut up and leave the CEO’s with their multi-million dollar salaries and be glad we have running water. Besides, no one has a plan for reclaiming the culture, and what kind of culture would it be, anyway? What kind of life would there be in a culture not run by business and industry? It’s too far fetched even to imagine. We are stuck with complaining about living to serve the economy while hoping that our jobs don’t play out.
So, here’s one for you. Do a Google search for “Hazel Henderson.” Be amazed. Take heart. Get to work.
We don’t do anything about crime by building more prisons. We don’t do anything about hunger by opening more soup kitchens. We don’t do anything about homelessness by building more shelters. And, we don’t do anything about poverty by providing more minimum wage jobs. But, it provides us with the comfortable illusion of doing something if we do these things, so we do them for lack of anything better to do. We cannot imagine what it would take to “do something” about any of these problems.
Poverty has been around forever, and it doesn’t seem to have much to do with money. It is an attitude as much as it is anything, an orientation, a state of being. Poor people think, act, and live like poor people. They have the mind-set of the poor. Poverty is a caste system. This generation is never going to be anything but poor. To do something about poverty, we have to work with the next generation of the poor. We have to work with the children of the poor. The very young children of the poor.
And, we have to think of poverty as a system, and address the forces, and the factors, keeping the system in place. Those forces, those factors, don’t just reside outside the system. There is an idea within the system that people shouldn’t try to “better themselves.” If everybody can’t leave the system, nobody should leave the system. It is difficult for the children in the system to be more educated than the adults, to be smarter than the adults. It is not encouraged. And it is easy to think that nothing can be done.
Peace Corps to the Poor, that could be done. We could send teams of a dozen or so people into the ghettos and the projects to live “as one of them” for two year assignments. That could work. Or, we could pull out a dozen or so families and house them in “transition communities,” like a Habitat village, and train them intentionally to stop “thinking poor” and start thinking about a life of their own. It will take deliberate, personal, on-going involvement with the poor to transform poverty. We cannot walk around the edges and offer money and minimum wage jobs and make a dent. The same thing can be said about all the other social ills on the list. They can all be transformed, but not without dedication to the task over time.
The fundamental life-skill is the ability to sacrifice “this” for the sake of “that.” It is roughly the difference between “getting married” and “being married.” At some point, we have to decide to “be married,” or not. To “be a parent” or not. To give up “this” for “that.” It has to be done, and it is like death; it is like dying. Some people can’t do it. Those people die a different kind of death. We die one way or another, at the place of deciding whether to give up “this” for “that.” Either way, we die.
Of course, the choice keeps coming around, but the first couple of times are the hardest, after that, a trend sets in, and we don’t think much about it. We just give up “this” for “that,” or we don’t. The pattern is fixed. It’s hard to change a pattern.
Spiritual growth is about having the right patterns in place. Basically, spirituality is the pattern of “no patterns.” We cannot predict the behavior of a truly spiritual person. Maybe she will sacrifice “this” for “that” this time, but not the next three times. And, maybe not. Spirituality is about being attuned to the moment, about seeing into the heart of things—all things; about knowing what needs to happen and assisting its happening; about aligning ourselves with what needs to be.
Maybe “this,” maybe “that.” Which makes spirituality seem to be arbitrary and inconsistent. If you have to be consistent, you can’t be spiritual. Which is one of the major differences between being spiritual and being religious. Religious people are sickeningly consistent, to the point of being carbon copies of each other—believing the same things, going to the same movies, voting for the same candidates, etc. No religious person ever had a mind of his, of her, own. Every religious person always did exactly what she, what he, was supposed to do all her, all his, life long. Spiritual people are not like that. John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, Jesus came eating and drinking. There you are. You never know with a spiritual person. They never know, themselves.

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