Several things, and first yes what I wrote was based on your comments. I value this discussion very much.
One of the inherent problems of a capitalist system is that Joel Osteen (for whom I have no regard whatsoever) can get away with paying no taxes and build an excrescence of an mansion on his ability to shill. That is my personal opinion only and I feel precisely the same way about all television-evangelists and anyone else who preys on people.
However-and aye, here’s the rub= people LET him. Gullible people are brainwashed and stolen from (okay, can we talk IRS scams out of Mumbai?) every single day. The part of me that believes in personal responsibility — and I am brutal with myself on this one- is that we own what we create in that sense that if I am that big of a PT Barnum fool that I give money to Joel O’Steen in the monumentally stupid- my opinion- belief that by doing so that’s gonna make ME as rich, then I by god deserve what I get.
This goes back to what we were talking about strata and inequality. Some of us are willing to challenge, research, and be as informed as we can. Not everyone. Does a monumentally foolish person who gives his money to a thief deserve to be given a mansion? Um, no, I think not.
I think part of this question-and I don’t know-but it’s coming up- is just exactly what is it that that we need in order to have a good life. A mansion full of unused rooms that have to be heated, cooled and cleaned- to your point about the raping of the land. Who really needs a mansion? I would posit that people with enormous egos-my fifteen yachts are bigger than YOUR fleet (kindly note this last comment was inspired by a very smart TED talk that was given by a Silicon Valley billionaire whose name escapes me but this was his whole point — the arrogance of profligate spending at the expense of workers’ wages and quality of life) are profiting at other’s expenses to an extreme.
You bring up points that I appreciate although I have a hard time offering solutions, I’m not that smart. When people profit from, say, selling Coke to kids worldwide, causing tooth decay, obesity and bone damage all for the sake of shareholder profit? I am of course incensed. It’s no different for me than peddling cocaine, and sugar-shit, Tim, don’t get me started. There is yet again, that question of fairness- an utterly unanswerable one. If you build a mansion with ill-gotten gains, should the Feds take it away? Who gets it then? Do you turn in it into a series of apartments for the homeless? I do not know. I just don’t.
Depending on your religious beliefs (and this is fun territory indeed) we can believe that karma dictates what we get. Or we can believe that it’s God’s hand in all things (my is NOT up on that one). Or we can believe we are all victims of an unpredictable Universe and there’s nothing we can do. There’s too much evidence that we can rise above our circumstances for me to buy into that. Perhaps there is — and here I’ll return to an earlier point you brought up — that the best religions ask of us that we serve. Serve the poor, serve each other, for in that is our highest duty. THAT I buy, heart and soul. Whatever is our gift, let us give it. Buddhism, which I study as a practice but not as a religion, makes it clear that if you profit by death, destruction, pain, suffering of others, this is not Right Work. (I’m using my own terms here but you get the drift). We are uplifted by Right Action, Right Work, Right Words, etc. When I gain by raping the world, killing animals and people (the military, and I was one), then I do harm by definition. We all suffer at some level but when we participate in work that we KNOW does harm, that suffering increases by several orders of magnitude.
That I believe those things doesn’t make me right. It means that these are values I hold, and by which — as you say, I look at a mansion and wonder, was it by hurting, harming etc, the way the billionaire opioid family made their money through lies, and creating vast wastelands of addiction across the country, for one example? It’s a valid question.
I am a great believer in conservation, Carl Safina is someone I count as a friend, for which I am enormously grateful. We have no right to rip out old growth for a new goddamned WalMart. The costs are enormous and permanent. All I can do is vote my heart and sign petitions and do what I can to stem the tide.
We are ultimately responsible individually for what we think, say, do and bring to ourselves. The work we choose. Having once been military, that turned me against guns. I paid for that insight. Doesn’t make me right. Just what I choose to see, what I choose to understand. I once worked for defense contractors whose business was death. I never would again any more than I would take contract work from a Monsanto owned company. Those decisions cost me considerable potential income. I could have built a mansion on what I might have made parlaying my disabled veteran female status into a lifetime of cushy government contracts. Can’t do that. I’d rather live smaller, consume less, care more, pick my clients with great care (they are HARD to find) and do my best to live my values.
Tim I probably wandered off topic again, but bear with me. I wrote someone else a while ago how invigorating this discussion is because I value being made to think. I am dealing with the super flu here in Indonesia and get tired easily. It’s just before 8 am, and I wanted to express my genuine appreciation for your respectful challenges. I love being pushed to consider. To me this is the heart and soul of how we grow. All I can offer is what I have learned, seen, thought about, considered, pondered, paid for, and that is small indeed. By all measures the more I know the more I realize I know very little. Perhaps that’s one of the benefits of getting older. All I have are opinions and they are worth the air they are written on, if you will. Wisps, only. What I do know and have spent way too much time demonstrating in my own life is that when I am willing to die in a ditch to be right I’ve just made PT Barnum right again. I do my best to begin the day with a mostly empty cup, get it refilled, empty it at night and do the same the next day. All I can do is try. And remember that it’s my job to bow down to the Authority of Life, if I can put it, and remember that each day is great way to discover I don’t know much at all. Thanks kindly.