4. PROFIT, POWER, AND PROGRESS
What can be said of profit, power, and progress in the interrelated and interdependent world in which we exist?
- What kind of people are we who allow grotesque disparities to exist between the affluent and the impoverished?
- How is it we allow nearly half of our human family to be doomed to a hopeless and unremitting battle for survival, while others of us are over-clothed, over-housed, and so over-fed that we have to go on special diets to lose weight?
This unequal distribution of opportunity and wealth is not accidental.
Fueled by ignorance and its byproduct, greed, it results from economies organized to benefit the insatiable appetites of the opportunistic.
Most individuals and institutions are reluctant to cede self-interest for the common good.
Most countries are unwilling to think beyond sovereignty and national interests.
Instead, shackled with destructive habits and short on vision, they violate relationships with each other and the environment.
In doing so, they court disaster.
This is done in the name of profit, power, and progress.
Consider profit: Too often it is the sole motivating force for many who sacrifice human decency and environmental protection shamelessly for short-term personal gains.
- We are driven by a surplus of greed and a lack of common sense.
- Profit’s offspring, exploitive commercialism, fans the fires of materialism.
Enormous sums are invested to convince us that we need to acquire and consume products that are often unnecessary and harmful to ourselves and our environment.
- Wealth and status are glorified.
- Image supersedes substance.
- We plunder and deplete our resources, torture our ailing environment, decimate other species, and pollute our already confused minds.
- To what end do we invest ourselves in this fatal frivolity?
Profiteers will always clamor for more and more.
Many achieve enormous wealth.
For each who has much, there are countless others who have precious
- Rage and fear grow among those who experience economic insecurity.
- They are filled with anxiety and despair instead of a sense of community.
Wealth and power, intoxicating and irresistible, blind us to these disparities and their eventual consequences.
Those who exploit innocent others and destroy eco-systems can boast arrogantly of their “achievements,” ignorant or in denial of their violations and the eventual consequences of their actions.
- It is foolish and irresponsible to maximize profits regardless of human and environmental costs.
- Natural resources are not endlessly renewable and self-generating.
- People will tolerate only so much exploitation and repression.
Eventually these violations will lead to famine, economic collapse, and political revolution.
Responsible profit taking is honorable.
Those who are legitimate producers deserve to be rewarded for their considerable risks and efforts.
It is when profit taking replaces concern for others or for ecosystems that a perversity occurs whereby everyone and everything suffers.
At that point, we are not evolving but devolving.
- Those who achieve wealth and power and allow the gap to widen between the rich and the poor promote only inequity, desperation, conflict, ecological ruin, and systemic distress.
- Of what value are profit, power, and progress when they violate people, other species, and destroy the conditions that sustain life?
As Aldo Leopold has written, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
- The word progress means moving toward a goal.
- However, we want to move forward on the right road.
While free enterprise requires profit as an incentive to stimulate individual productivity, civilization requires that the welfare of the common good be acknowledged and sustained.
- For this, we look to our public sector for the protection of our common interests.
- Here too, we find the influence of private interests and the power of money and profits to be pervasive.
- Its effect on our democratic form of government is tragic and ominous.
To be continued……