The one thing upon which the world’s major religions and most schools of philosophy are agreed is the perils and evil of human greed.
Unfortunately, there are some people who didn’t get the memo on greed. Take the Waltons, for example, the family behind the Walmart retail empire. According to the financial and money website, Bloomberg, they get richer by $4 million every hour – yes, you read that right, not every week or month, every hour – while at the same time paying their workers (or as they prefer to refer to them, ‘associates’) a paltry 11 bucks an hour.
And yes, yes, yes, we’ve heard it all before about human enterprise and dynamism and hard work and entrepreneurship. But these are merely words used to legitimize greed and avarice. Words thrown into the faces of the masses like so much dust to blind them as to the reality of the world and their true place in it. That place is as human drones, consigned to a life spent working their fingers to the bone for a pittance while being programmed to believe that they’re actually free.
The Walton family, whose fortune now sits at an outrageous $191 billion, aren’t the only reprobates at the apex of this world grown sick with greed. Hark the Mars family, the confectionery giants, with a fortune of $127 billion. That’s a lot of Mars Bars. Or how about the Kochs, notorious for bankrolling numerous politicians in Washington? They’re currently sitting on a mountain of assets to the tune of $125 billion.
In America today, the number of victims of poverty is legion. Some 40 million to be precise. And victims they are, to be sure. Because let us have none of this silly talk about poverty being self-inflicted. This is just the propaganda endlessly churned out by the superrich and their flunkeys in positions of influence in the media and politics.
Jesus also understood this to be the case. That’s why he chased the money changers out of the Temple. And Jesus, like Marx, was a revolutionary. You disagree? In that case, consider his words:
“Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.
“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
“Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
Staying with Jesus, and getting funky for a minute, there’s an argument to be made that early Christianity was the communism of its time and that communism is the early Christianity of ours. Because in its earliest incarnation, Christianity like communism was a revolutionary creed, emerging in response to the crippling oppression and poverty being suffered by the many in the name of a Roman Empire that was less a monument to human progress and more its impediment.
Today, it’s the American empire that is an impediment to progress; sick with greed for money, for power and for hegemony.
Not that all of the superrich are American. Of course not. As the Bloomberg article reveals, they are of many different nationalities and live all over the world. But who can argue that the cultural values that predominate in that world are American cultural values – and that those values are specifically the values of the superrich?
The philosopher Erich Fromm is someone who can always be relied on to drill down into the heart of the matter. “Greed,” he writes, “is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
The next time you find yourself in Walmart, spare a thought for the Waltons. Four million bucks an hour doesn’t go as far as it used to.