A World Where It Is Easier to be Good – Is That Possible?
On Tuesday I blogged about “Is it possible to create a world where it is easier to be good,” using Psalm 72 as the basis for this post. Because this topic warrants more time, I’m continuing it in this post.
Working for a World Where It Is Easier to be Good
In my twenties I participated in peace protests, demonstrating against the nuclear weapons build-up and the cold war between the U.S. and Russia. I worked at soup kitchens and homeless shelters and was involved with the Catholic Worker community. Joining with like-minded individuals, I believed we were going to change the world. We would be the “Hundredth Monkey” – the tipping point that would create change. (Click for a critical look at The Hundredth Monkey)
We were going to create a world where it was easier to be good, as Peter Maurin said. A world without poverty, without war and violence. A non-violent revolution using the tactics of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus! A world like the one imagined in Star Trek – the Next Generation, where poverty has been eliminated and there is peace on earth. Star ships roam the universe in search of knowledge.
Forty years later, we are no closer to that reality. Some things have changed, but others haven’t.
What Has Changed?
As I look back over the years, the two biggest changes I see are in technology, particularly the prevalence of computers and the creation of the internet, and the change from a predominantly white male country to a more diverse, multi-cultural society. I know we have a ways to go. There are still fewer women and minorities in corporate board rooms or congress than white men. But, when I look around me, when I go online or watch TV, I see a significantly more diverse world than the one I grew up in in the 1960-70s.
What Hasn’t Changed
Much as I am pleased about the growing diversity in the United States, we are miles away from economic equality. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow. And we are far from a society at peace. Not only do we continue to live under a nuclear threat, shootings at schools, churches, synagogues, temples, concerts, night clubs and other public places is becoming an almost weekly event. If anything, the world feels less safe than the world I grew up in.
The internet has brought its own source of threat, with predators that take your identity and prey on young people. And while I welcome more women and minorities in positions of power, this hasn’t resulted in a more equitable world. Women and minorities, when given power, are just as prone to abuse that power as white men. Power corrupts. We are all human, regardless of gender, race or creed. We are all prone to the seven deadly sins, especially greed.
What Can Be Done?
I wrote in my blog on Tuesday that there is no perfect system, political or otherwise. All systems are imperfect because they involve imperfect humans. Kingdoms and dictatorships are subject to the whims of the leader. A just king is good but far too often, even the best leader has blind spots. That’s why our founders envisioned a society where no one person ruled. Where limits were put on how much power a person had and there are three branches of government to keep any one group from having too much power.
It’s a good system, a radical experiment in leadership for the time. But even with checks and balances, greed and abuse of power prevail. We may no longer have kings and queens, but we do have very powerful individuals and corporations that run our country behind the scenes. What can we do?
Put a Cap on Greed
Let’s put a cap on greed. Why is one person’s life so much more valuable than another person’s life? Why are movie star or sports figures worth millions while the people who provide day care or teach our children scrape by? Surely, there are only so many hours in each day. It’s not that they are working that much more or harder than teachers, nurses, truck drivers.
Why are CEOs of corporations worth 361 times more than the rank and file. Certainly, they don’t work 361 times the hours or 361 times harder. Do they deserve to be paid more? Yes. Definitely. But 361 times more? (Some estimates put this at 400 to 500 times more than the median salary of their workers.)
Let’s put a cap on how much CEOs can make. Germany and France both have caps on what CEOs can make. Why can’t we?
We now have a full-time congress that seems incapable of getting anything done. Why do they deserve special retirement and health insurance benefits? This was not what our founders envisioned when they created our democracy. Congress was not to be an elite group removed from the people. Let them have the same benefits as everyone else.
Is It Possible to Create a World Where It Is Easier to be Good?
These are just two examples of what can be done. I’m not in favor of everyone receiving the same pay. That would take away some of the incentive to work hard to get ahead. I’m not in favor of giving something for nothing. There is value in work. People who work hard and create value deserve to receive just compensation. But there is a point at which it is simply illogical. No one is worth that much more than another, no matter who you are.
Is it possible to create a world where it is easier to be good? I don’t know, but I sure would like to see us try. I continue to dream of a world without violence and poverty. Is that unrealistic? Impossible? Maybe so. That’s the world I would like to leave to my grandchildren.
What can we do to create a better world for our children and grandchildren?
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