Inequality - god, money and power
In the beginning humans were hunter gatherers characterized by a high degree of gender, structural and economic equality. Scientists tell us that there were no designated leaders, genders operated on an equal footing and there were no rich or poor - everyone shared the available food and resources. Then came, with what we term with a surprising lack of irony, civilization.
So called civilization developed from an agrarian base i.e. the cultivation of food crops which supported settled communities of hundreds and then thousands of people living in close proximity. Large numbers of people required some kind of organizing structure resulting in a hierarchy and inherent in a hierarchy is inequality and a differential in power. Those at the top of the hierarchy have more power than those below. Early community hierarchies were dominated by individuals in two primary roles - warriors or priests. Because of the physical differences between males and females men dominated the warrior or soldier class. This probably began the unequal status of women that persists to this day. It is less clear why men came to dominate the religious role although it may have resulted from collusion with the warriors but the result seems to have been similar.
The common characteristic of these two groups was that they required support from the rest of society since they had neither the time not inclination to grow their own food, hunt, etc. This need coupled with the position of power they occupied led to the first requirement of governance be it religious or civil - taxes. Called by many names tribute, plunder, tithes or the current favorite user fees the general population had to fund the livelihood of individuals in positions of authority. Thus began the intersection of god (religion), economics (wealth) and government (political power).
Over time people have been told or coerced to believe in the divine right of kings, in politics that requires leaders and followers, in dictators of the proletariat, in "representative" democracies and the mechanisms of governance. As Voltaire put it "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Now we mostly believe in the economy, not the real economy where people grow or build things, just the money part, we believe in greed. Increasingly people don't go to school to be educated, they go to school so they can make money. They don't work to accomplish something, to create something, they work simply to get money and so they can spend it and spend ever more of it. Today's economy is predicated on the requirement that it always expand, that we always need more. As a result we increasingly use up the world that we live in, we dig it up, pump it up, plow it up. To get more, we poison the land, the water and the air until it no longer sustains us, all to get something that we don't really need that we don't really like and that we don't care about. But it's a marker, a symbol that we exist. I consume therefore I am.
The money is the power and the power is the money. It is the power that arises from the money after all that makes us feel good that gives us that rush. The intersection of economic and political power was recently evidenced by the Supreme Court decision that money is speech. Those with the money are the ones who can be heard in politics as they are in the economy. With that power comes the tyranny of the belief that rich people deserve their wealth and are ordained to wield great power. They have in effect been divinely bequeathed wealth and power and through that wealth and power can function as a god on earth. This is the divine right of capitalists.
Economic inequality begets political inequality and political inequality is the very antithesis of democracy. As Gandhi said about democracy it is "clearly an impossibility so long as the wide gulf between the rich and the hungry masses persists," As we despair of the great political divide in our country it might serve us well to address our growing economic inequality for unless we do a viable democracy and a commonality of purpose are impossible.
One Small Voice
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