Bread & Circuses for All
In our rush to assign blame and villainy for our economic woes to the assorted gray suits on Wall Street and the cabal in Washington, perhaps a little reflection on the real culprits is in order. As we find ourselves in disgust over the actions of our leaders, it is pertinent to ask some questions, namely, who put these people in charge, and why? Well, we did, and for the express purposes of giving us peace abroad and prosperity (read, a growing economy) at home, immediately.
In a consumerist, democratic society based upon, no, demanding, an unbroken supply of ever increasing bread and circuses, the public routinely elects rulers who are in reality nothing more than servants to the public's appetites. It's fashionable to be disgusted with Washington and Wall Street, but we ought to be wise enough to not believe our own propaganda, e.g. "those greedy bankers". Accordingly, in our reflective moments we should remember that it was we the people, freely and openly, who put these people in charge (it's a democracy after all), and they went about doing exactly what we asked, that is, satiating our demands. Note, for instance, that the two current aspirants for the job of chief baker and ring leader are expected to prove above all else that they can cook well and tame lions with the sole purpose of filling the gullets of the salivating mob. And now we protest that things have started to fishtail? Weren't we the ones pushing the accelerator?
Which of us has ever sold a house or car below market value just to avoid "greed," who switched to a mutual fund offering lower returns so as not to take too big of a profit, who pays extra at the corner store to make sure the fellow stays in business, who... who... who...??? The answer: precious few, if any. Indeed, profit is not only the name of the game, it is the game, and we all play it gladly and repeatedly. In addition, we who live in this ocean of consumerism find it hard to imagine another worldview, or even that there could be another worldview. But in fact there is.
Consider for instance that most cultures, most of the time, during most of human history, have not been wildly consumerist in orientation. In fact, history tells us that humanity has generally been spiritually wired in its approach to life, with a higher purpose other than heavy consumption generally serving as the guiding principle of culture. While greed has been with us since time immemorial, the heightened abilities we have now developed through industrialization etal to actually fill and greatly exceed our legitimate creaturely requirements is dangerous, if not potentially catastrophic, when not rightly moderated. This is especially true when fuel is added to the fire by a culture gone ape to have it all, now.
What then? Perhaps the key at a deep level to the economic crisis we now find ourselves in, both individually and corporately, is not specifically economic, but spiritual. Consider for instance the words to the following hymn. Speaking of God it says:
He gives and takes away
He gives and takes away
But my heart has learned to say
Lord blessed be your name.
What is this? Are we actually seeing a satisfied soul expressing in song its own happiness when the luxuries of life have been taken away? Indeed we are! Certainly this is rank heresy in the temple of consumerism, but a solid foundation, and a point of reference, for a culture with full bellies but empty souls. As the great Augustine once said: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until we rest in You." Perhaps the biggest problem with modern humans is that they do not know who they really are, or where to find rest.