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It Does Seem That This World Is Broken

I don’t think it is a secret that this world is broken. Actually, not broken. If history is any judge of what happened in the past, the world really hasn’t ever worked, at least since humans arrived. So what hasn’t worked, technically wouldn’t be broken. But it’s not right.

Look around, there is an uncountable number of ways that this world is not right. Where to start? Wars, poverty, crime.  There’s more, for sure, but those are three big ones. To study the causes of wars, poverty and crime would take a great effort, each are very complex. But, I think you might agree, if you boil them all down, if you boil down all things not working with the world, the world of humans, you should be able to identify a lowest common denominator. I think most, if not pretty much all of the problems we face in society, can be traced back to greed. Somebody has a desire for more.  Maybe you can break greed down into atomic elements like self-esteem issues or something, but the idea of somebody feeling they need more than someone else seems like a good foundation for understanding what can go wrong in life.

Pick a war, any war. Any war whatsoever. Think about it and tell me if there isn’t some greed angle to it. WWII, Civil War, Revolutionary, Rome, Crimean, Attila the Hun, 6 Days, 100 years, and don’t get me started on sugar or oil. Somebody wanted more of something than the next guy. Instead of working for it, or sharing, it was thought “Why not blow people up, chop off their heads? That way I can have it all!”

Poverty, same thing. Sure, poverty is a complex issue. But by definition, complexity can be broken down into smaller units.  So, maybe someone is poor because they aren’t working, they aren’t working, because they don’t have a marketable skill, they don’t have a skill cause they didn’t get an education, they didn’t have an education because their parents couldn’t afford to keep them in school. Their parents couldn’t afford it because they were working 12 hours a day for 75 cents because some railroad tycoon or something felt the need to make millions of dollars in the 19th century. Or something. Millions of reasons, pretty sure somewhere along the way someone was greedy about something. Oh sure, some people are just plain lazy. Some. Not all. Not even most. Not an excuse to not help erase poverty.

Sure the railroad tycoon, or whatever, earned his millions because he had an idea and built it. But it wasn’t really him out there pounding spikes into rails, he just had money. Somehow the money pounded spikes into rails and smelted iron ore in to engines. And somehow money was out there in the hot sun planting and harvesting, and money was out there laying asphalt, picking up the garbage, digging wells, driving buses… Yeah, that money, it could do anything, right? You have money, you have control. You have money and control, you want more. You want more, someone has to have less.

Let’s think about this. You are a billionaire, financial wizard, tycoon with billions of dollars. You can seriously walk into any restaurant anywhere in the world and order ANYTHING on the menu. You can actually buy any car with the whitewalls, GPS system, leather seats AND power windows. You can go to any sporting event just to be seen there, heck, maybe the coach will even listen to your suggestions. But you didn’t earn those billions. You didn’t make them. You didn’t pull up your bootstraps, do it yourself. You benefitted. You benefitted from the millions of people before you that built society into what it was before you were even born. You benefitted from the first guy, or woman, who found iron ore in a rock, the person who figured out how to get it out of the rock. Whoever figured out how to shape it. The person who wanted to go faster, the one who drew a picture of this horse made out of this rock that rolls on these rails. The people who pounded those spikes. Throw a dollar out there and it couldn’t lift a hammer. All your life you’ve been eating. Did you figure out what plants are poisonous? Did you have a different perspective on what a cow could be? I know that you did not invent toilet paper.

So why should you have a billion dollars? Oh you might have had an idea about some fancy phone that takes pictures and plays music, but that was after the person before you thought of a camera, someone over there that thought of a speaker, that guy with his telephone idea. You benefitted from all those ideas before yours. You benefitted from the highway system, airlines.  You have this fancy warehouse? Did you build it? How many gadgets does your warehouse make? None, not until there were people in there connecting widgets and gears. Why should you have the billions? You’re just standing there managing. You couldn’t even do that if there wasn’t anyone to manage.

So, you don’t deserve your billions. Who does? Who is doing the work that makes the billions happen?  Everyone.  Everyone who is creating, everyone who is consuming. A warehouse full of gadgets is worthless if there aren’t people out there who will buy them.  There is the power that builds billions, the power is in the people. Not the insecure, self-centered billionaire.  By definition, a billionaire is an impediment to progress in society. By hoarding that billion dollars, you are preventing that money from making something possible. No, wealth is not in property. Wealth is in action, doing, being, in life.

Spare me your shrieks of “communism”, Comrade Crybaby. Humans are naturally social. Take your capitalism out to some deserted island and send me a postcard when you’ve built your megalopolis all by yourself.

What is the goal? Is Nirvana when everyone is a billionaire? Or should it be when everyone has what they need and humanity is reaching out for that ever elusive frontier? If the human creature is going to compete in the longevity game with the dinosaurs, or even the dodo, we are going to have to find a better game than Greedopoly.

How do we do that? How do we change the game?  I think … education.

Public domain photo by NASA Goddard Space Center.

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