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Is Conscience Making a Comeback?
By Martin LeFevre:
Feb 2, 2019, 5:33pm

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"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

How do you view that quip by Jesus? As a trite truism or a meaningless cliché? Or as one of the most ignored truths in human history, the very antithesis of capitalistic dogma?

It's been convenient for the powers that be to relegate "the kingdom of God" to the afterlife, but clearly that isn't what Jesus meant. Like all true teachers, Jesus was referring to inward realization. For as he said, "the kingdom of God is within you." (Tolstoy wrote a book by the same name, which was, not surprisingly, banned in Russia.)

Lately in the so-called real world, the egregious immorality and amorality of the richest 26 people in the world owning as much wealth as half the world's poorest population became an issue at Davos.

Rutger Bregman, a 30 year-old Dutch historian and author who studies poverty and global inequality, struck a chord, or hit a nerve at Davos, depending on whether you get by, or own one of "1,500 private jets flown in to Davos to hear Sir David Attenborough speak about how we're wrecking the planet."

An inner prompting---simple human conscience---moved Bregman to speak out at Davos. "How could I really talk about my book [about global inequality] and basic income but not address the elephant in the room?"

"The rich are just not paying their fair share," Bregman said, driving his point home by adding, "It feels like I'm at a firefighters conference and no one is allowed to speak about water."

Contrast this worldview with Fareed Zakaria's smug and smarmy view: "On one side, President Trump and Fox News hosts slam the out-of-touch establishment that, according to them, has run things into the ground. On the other side, left-wingers decry the millionaires and billionaires who 'broke the modern world.'"

What this bloke doesn't realize from his professorial perch at CNN is that blaming both sides equally denies the right wing reality, and reveals his own moral and intellectual emptiness. In his attempt to defend power and profit, Zakaria, like so many hackneyed mouthpieces for the status quo, remains willfully blind.

Fareed's risible argument for the "deep and lasting human progress that we should celebrate" comes down to specious historical comparison: "What group of elites - kings, commissars, mandarins - ran the world better than our current hodgepodge of politicians and business executives?"

Western 'progress' is decimating the Earth, and future generations, if we leave a viable planet for them at all, will not forgive us for driving so many of our fellow creatures to extinction. Though rising seas raise tiny boats as well as huge yachts, they also inundate the land and denude the oceans.

It's true that "there have been monumental improvements in access and opportunity for large segments of the world's population that were locked out and pushed down." But the wealth of 2,200 billionaires increased by $900 billion last year, while the wealth declined for the bottom half of the world's population.

Even without factoring in the Earth, a reduction in extreme poverty and starvation is ethically and spiritually offset by growing income inequality in a Hobbesian world where it's every man, woman and his for themselves.

Former Yahoo chief financial officer Ken Goldman summed up the point of view of the rich American sunbathing in the eye of the intensifying hurricane: "Everything I got was earned. Nothing was given to me. No hand-me-downs. I earned it. How did I earn it? I went to school; I earned my way up... driving an Uber is better than no job."

This 'let them eat cake' attitude is mirrored by Zakaria's oleaginous apologia for the global destructiveness of the American model: "Even in the West, it is easy to take for granted the astounding progress. We live longer, the air and water are cleaner, crime has plunged, and information and communication are virtually free."

This incredibly obtuse worldview, promulgated by people like Steven Pinker, Nicholas Kristof, and Zakaria, completely ignores tangible, much less intangible measures of the miseries of materialism--skyrocketing suicide rates, opioid addiction, and the pandemic of depression and bipolar disorders.

Besides, telling people that they should feel good about all the outward progress that has been made is a surefire way to make them feel worse about the inward regress so evident in America and the West.

What would happen if even a minority of Americans actually started living the truth that "the kingdom of God is within you?"

"As we always say [in Europe]: When someone in America sneezes, we catch a cold as well," said Bregman. Can Jesus' saying be internalized, and both quips work the other way?


Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue.

Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.

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