Thursday, February 5, 2015

Not a Fiscal But a Deficit of Empathy That Spreads Misery Across the Land

The thing about using the economy as the measure of all things is that in doing we institutionalize unbridled greed as the guiding force for our society.  It takes a huge leap of faith, if not a greater dose of magical thinking, to believe that the rational pursuit of self interest leads to the greater good.  Even Adam Smith, the father of economics, realized that self interest needs to be tempered by moral sentiment.  But we no longer have a moral compass, only the rule of law, and it is the power elites who effectively write the laws to gain advantage and see to it that the laws are enforced. 

Those who fall on hard times are simply society's losers, and they deserve what they get because deep down they are lazy and unable to control their base appetites.  So goes the thinking that drives the media controlled by private interests.

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The glorification of great wealth suppresses any potential empathetic response towards society's downtrodden.  We constantly celebrate success. We are always made aware of who is on top, whether it be in film, television, sports, music, business, or finance.  The stories about losers are for losers and you certainly don't want your lot to fall with them, so push them out of your mind and focus on what you really want to be, a winner, one of the beautiful people surrounded by beautiful things.  God, life is good at the top, and I want to be top dog!

What money can't buy, I can't use.  After all, it is what makes the world go round.  Or, does it?

Are there not feelings and emotional responses that transcend the temporary buzz that the possession of material things bring about, feelings that arise from witnessing the birth of a child, first steps, the glory of a sunset, the wonder of a star-filled sky, falling in love?

And are not all of  these experiences potentially available to anyone regardless of the accident of birth?

So, why do we render life miserable for countless millions, so much so that they become numb to the fundamental pleasures that make life worth living?

Well, here in North America, most of us, most of the time simply don't give a shit about those who are down and out, even if we know deep down that we are just a few paychecks from losing it all and joining their ranks.

Got to keep on keeping on, fuck the rest.

It wasn't always this way.  I know.  I had the good fortune to have come of age during the time of shared prosperity, 1946-1979.  Despite coming from a family of very limited means, I received a superior public school education, was able to participate in a host of extracurricular activities, went on to graduate from university, and now enjoy an upper middle-class lifestyle. 

Importantly, I recognize that the education I received was a gift from those in my extended community who thought it was important that access to a good education was a societal good, deserving to be properly funded by taxpayers.  I do not subscribe to the believe that I did it all on my own and that because of my efforts I deserve to keep all that I earn.

Times have changed.  More and more people are turning their backs towards the well being of others.  We still live in an incredibly rich society, but we don't want to share the wealth.

Essentially, our capacity to be empathetic has shrivelled over the last thirty years.  We still take care of our immediate family, but our hearts have grown stone cold to those outside our inner circle.  We can no longer feel what it's like to be in someone else's shoes.  As a result, more and more children grow up in poverty with little hope for a better future.

There will be payback.  It's inescapable, only a question of time.

Notwithstanding, we would do well to remember that no man is an island unto himself, no matter the size of the castle in which he chooses to live.


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