In my last post, I took a long view of the process through which we as a nation have struggled against the forces of Mammon – the tendency to reduce all human relations to currency.
There are two positive paths forward from the crisis we are now in. The first is to trust in historical trends and human steadfastness. The second is to mature in our relationship with God.
History is on the Side of Justice
Hope is found in this simple historical fact: this pattern of oppression has been experienced again and again through human history. When wealth and production become decoupled (as we see with outsourcing from America since 1970), financiers eventually control politics because debtors must continue to pay interest on their obligations in order to maintain access to additional financing.
This is a fun game for the financiers until tangible goods begin to decay. This was first evident in the Rust Belt, but is now visible in America’s degraded infrastructure. Initially the cost of living rises as the population attempts to preserve its lifestyle, but in Detroit and Flint we see the end point: a dramatic decrease in the standard of living that drives down the value of property.
When there isn’t anything worth buying any more, what’s the value of money?
Ultimately this leads to the collapse of currency and the dissolution of nation states (such as during the American Revolution, driven primarily by taxation issues, and in current events as California and New York actively rebel against federal myopia on climate change, trade, human rights and taxation). In that liquidation, regulations are established to prevent recurrence.
Those regulations must cover the reach of the financial system, and so we see that government always expands in the aftermath of collapse. This happened not long after the Revolution of 1776 when the original Confederation of States was reorganized as a Federal system under the US Constitution. It occurred again after the Great Depression, when the bureaucracy was expanded to regulate interstate corporations. After World War II, the shell of global financial regulatory systems was set up in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union.
We should be encourage now that we are faced with the final stage of harmonization of financial regulation. Commerce is now global, and English is established as the language of business. All we have to do is organize the political will to establish that framework.
And, despite resistance, the financiers have always been unable to prevent that step – largely because they eventually discover that there’s nothing left to cheat out of the impoverished masses, and turn on each other. The financial game is no longer worth playing, and those that want to make money return to the problem of trying to create value.
Maturation in God
When asked about the age that we are in now, Jesus made vague remarks about “wars, and rumors of wars,” foul weather and disease. When I first read that material, I thought “Well, when has this ever NOT been true.”
But there was a reason, for Jesus had already told them the answer. The age ends when we learn to love God and our neighbor.
When I make this point to people, I follow it up with the observation that “there’s a conspicuous omission there.” Most of them recognize that it’s “myself.”
Loving unconditionally, as God loves us, has the problem that the beloved can abuse our trust. We see this arising again and again in the Old Testament. The Fall, the Flood, the silence in Egypt, the punishments for the Golden Calf, the rules regarding access to the Holy of Holies, and the Fall of Jerusalem are all motivated by the pain suffered by the Most High due to the infidelity of the Chosen People.
So love is metered out to us in the measure that we are trusted to use it. If we don’t respect God, we lose his love.
That shouldn’t surprise us.
In recasting faith as a process for regulating the flow of power from the Most High to our neighbors, Jesus was offering this wisdom: we are the instruments that God has placed on this earth to regulate the flow of power to others. God seeks to empower us, and when we empower others, their witness is a testament to our worthiness to receive power.
On the road to Jerusalem, the Apostles argued over the rights of each in the realm to come. Jesus rebuked them with the parable of the talents. Two beneficial paths are identified: if you have skills that will allow you to help others, God will give you power when you exercise them. If you do not have skills but invest your strength in support of those that do, God will give you power to facilitate that work.
But if you hide your power because you fear to lose it, you will be lost, because to enter the kingdom of heaven requires far more power than you can hold in your self. You can only enter in relationship with others that hold you in loving regard, preserving your spirit from the enormous forces that swirl around the Most High as he seeks to fulfill his compact with us.
How does this work against criminality in business? Because when we hold someone in our loving regard, we know when they are endangered. We can feel it even from a distance, and that knowledge forms a cyst around those that would do ill to us and others.
Of course, in that knowledge, we have two choices: we can choose to do unto the criminal as they did to us, or we can ignore them and focus on constructing functional relationships. When we get wrapped around the axle by management wrangling at work, this is what I tell my peers: “Forget them. We are here for each other, and every day that I am here I will do my best to help you succeed.”
This is what Jesus meant we he said “pick up your cross and carry it.” When we devote ourselves to that task, there is no weakness to exploit in the bonds of good will.
Conversely, we do create a culture that justifies financial fraud in that passive investments are merely an attempt to profit from the labor of others. If we are seeking to get more than we deserve, why shouldn’t our financial advisers do the same?
So this is the bottom line: stop worrying about yourself, and focus on caring for others. And as you do, remember this: there is a billion times as much energy leaving the sun than warms the earth. That’s enough energy for every eight people to have a planet of their own. There is nothing that we can’t do once we have earned the right to it, and nothing that we need fear from those that have.
Because we will rest secure in the knowledge that, as God, they exist only to love us.