All together now
If you’re my Facebook friend, you know something about my political stripes.
I’ve been surprised, over the last while, at the voices I’ve heard in support of a system where each person has to earn what they have in life, or they’re “lazy.”
What surprises me is that such words are often coming from young people – young adults who, until recently (when they moved out to go to college, or such), have been living off the resources of their parents (and, in many cases, they continue to rely on their parents).
It seems to me that the work of civilization over the past several hundred years (since, say, oh, the Middle Ages) was to give all people opportunity and to reduce the amount of disparity between classes of people. And yet, that seems to be where we’re heading again. More and more there is a chasm between those who have much, and those who have little – and if you’re born into wealth, you can look forward to more wealth in life, and vice versa.
Since the early-1990s, or so, we’ve heard about “globalization” and a “global village,” either in negative or positive references. It usually has to do with products being shipped around the world for consumers all over the world; it can also refer to the fact that we’re able to get to more places faster. It’s true: with technology, modes of transportation, and trade agreements the way they are today, we’re all closer to each other than ever before. Plus, with the population at an all-time high, and people living longer, we’re having to find new ways of ‘sharing the land.’
So if I’m cared for by my parents, and then they’re living well into their retirement years – to the point where they can’t live independently anymore, but still have reasonable health – then their well-being is, more or less, in my hands. How could I ever say that I have only what I’ve earned, and that all that is in my possession is mine and mine alone? And if I extend the framework to include neighbour – how could I say that I can live without them?
If we’re not to depend on anyone else, then we all need to make sure we spend enough time (and money!) learning about how to build our own houses, sew our own clothes, defend our own court cases, engineer our own roads, educate our own children, lead rituals to mark significant events, and so on and so forth.
So, to say that a system where each and every individual – alone – is responsible for his or her well-being seems like a ridiculous statement to me. I can’t live without someone who can advise me on legal matters, or financial matters, or someone to help me heal when I’m wounded or sick, or someone to repair the pot-holes in the road, or someone to pick the apples which I like to have access to when I’m hungry, or someone to design and build the techie gadgets I like to have. And not each of those folks are paid equally for the services they offer; not each of them have gone to school and had the exact same opportunities (be it that they were on full scholarship, or had family pay tuition, or had to work their way through school over an extended period of time).
We all need one another! And, if we believe that, then we must also recognize that we need a system where all are accounted for when it comes to basic needs – like health, housing, education, infrastructure, food, clothing, and such. And those who seek help from the system can not be considered drains on the system or lazy because you and I also use it – and we know that we have value and that we work hard to make a contribution! Right?!
In some ways, all of the ways in which we have come to relate in our current form of ‘ideal civilization’ – which aspires to have a free market, minimal government interference, and an unlimited resource-base – the ways in which we relate, today, have been tarnished by money and an economy set by financial people and institutions. It creates a competitive nature that loses sight of the fact that all have value and the ability to contribute, and it names a price for each person and their gifts which they bring to the broader whole – and the price is not always fair. It begins to say that the cost of something or someone is what matters over that thing or person. It, then, can lead to a sense of entitlement for those who already have, and a sense of despair for those who have little or nothing.
So we, as members of the civilization, ought to hold those in positions of power and influence responsible, and we need to make sure that we or they do not forget those who are not born into privilege, or perhaps have not had opportunities dropped in their laps.
If we have much, we are entrusted with much to share.