(c) Michael Tacy, Music Director to the Gathering at Northern Hills, All Rights Reserve
Good morning everyone. Thanks for having me speak to you this morning. This is a topic that I feel very strongly about. Its something that I’ve wanted to discuss with all if you for a long time, but have been a little scared. One, because you may think my ideas are a bit radical but also because i have so much to say I feel I may just ramble endlessly as you all glaze over In fact,
there is a running joke among my close friends that I am able to somehow blame every problem, no matter what it’s regarding, on capitalism. And yeah that’s pretty much true. Maybe I’m not always justified but I enjoy trying to relate a problem back to its source and I believe the root of many problems in society, health, personal life and internal struggle is greed. I think it’s easy to forget amongst our comforts and daily goings-ons that we were indoctrinated into a society that glorifies and normalizes the hoarding of personal wealth to a point that it is nothing short of outrageous.
I learned a few days ago that Bill Gates just joined Jeff Bezos in a very exclusive club with only 2 members. The $100 billion dollar club. The article I was reading absolutely disgusted me. It was celebrating Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos commending them for a job well done. Let’s all applaud the men who are hoarding enough money to pay for the college education of more that 2 million people. As a member of a generation that is poorer than any previous American generation this infuriates me. The median net worth of adults under 35 in the US is around $11,000. That means that collectively, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates (only 2 people) have hoarded
more wealth between them than is owned by over 18 million young adults in America. For the sake of perspective I decided to compile a list of things that $100 billion could pay for:
100 billion could:
- Send 2.77 million people to college for 4 years
- Pay for health insurance for 8 million people for a year
- Easily and healthily feed all of America’s 54.5 million hungry people for a year
- House all of Americas 554,000 homeless for over 300 years
- Fund NASA 5 times over
- Fund the EPA 12 times over
- Pay for 7.7 million homes to go solar
- Nearly double the amount of nuclear power on the grid
What it couldn’t do:
- Pay the USA military budget of nearly 600 billion
- Pay the national debt of 22 trillion
- Pay the 1.9 trillion dollar tax cut to the rich passed last year
No…no… we paid for those. But I digress. Am I the only person who is disgusted by this level of selfishness? When will we stop celebrating the unnecessary and grossly disproportionate spread of wealth in this country?
I had a discussion with a friend about this recently and he pointed out a fairly valid counter argument to me. He said Bill Gates is a person who has contributed a lot to society with the formation of charity foundations , work for the environment, activism etc. And he wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of those things without the vast wealth he accrued. He was able to reach
more people and do better things because of his wealth. To that I say yes he was able to do good things. He still has far too much personal wealth and I see no justification for the sheer amount of wealth , but wouldn’t it be better if everyone had the facilities and comfort to contribute something to society. Not just one guy, Bill Gates. Imposing what he feels is important on the rest of us. Sure if we spread the wealth we wouldn’t be able to do the huge things that Bill Gates did, but wouldn’t it be great if those people who right now are focused on working 60 hours while raising a kid and still barely scraping by could instead take a couple days off a week and spend it cleaning their local park? Helping their elderly neighbor trim their
weeds? What if we all had just a bit more freedom and a little more time to do the things that matter to us? What if the people that currently inhabit our (suspiciously crowded) prisons weren’t forced to resort to crime as their only recourse because they had the resources they needed already?
This brings me to another important point and one that I feel is crucial especially for people like us to understand. You are not self-made. I am not self-made. No one in the whole damn world is
self-made. It’s an illusion. It’s a lie that you tell yourself to make you feel better. As a human, from the moment you are born you are kept alive because of the work that other people do for you. You would never have made it past infancy unless someone cared to feed you, shelter you, and tend to you for literally years. And beyond that, the specific conditions into which you were born have a tremendous impact on your quality of life. That wasn’t because if your personal accomplishments. You didn’t earn that. It just happened to you. It was a random draw out of a hat and you just happened to be lucky. Take me for example. I was born into a family that had all the resources I needed to be successful. My parents were around to help me with school. I always had a healthy amount of food so I never was malnourished. They had enough money to help me pay for a higher education because I didn’t have to work while doing school I could focus on my work and be successful relatively easily. Thus, I was able to land a good job, buy a house, and have the knowledge that I need to be healthy. There are some that would look at me and think I made my own success, and perhaps I did contribute partly to it after all, but the bulk of my success was contingent on having a strong foundation to stand on. People that are born into poverty, born with disabilities, with different color skin, or without
parents to raise them face inherit challenges that many of us can’t imagine, but it wasn’t their fault. So why are they held responsible for it? Worse, in light of the information we recently received about mega wealthy parents bribing universities to admit their students regardless of their poor performance. Not only are they held responsible, but they are punished for things that are entirely beyond their control. Not to mention those that are wrongfully imprisoned or forced to commit crimes for reasons beyond their control as well. And then the rich have the audacity to continue to profit off their slave labor in For-Profit Prisons.
Once again, I digress. America is built on this wonderful idea of equality. Equal opportunity. We like to pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves that we believe in this idea of equality as Americans, but clearly there’s some crucial piece missing. Inequality is everywhere and despite being “The Land of Opportunity” America is plagued with a huge amount of poverty and imbalance of wealth. That is because of a fundamental fallacy in the idea of equality what we should instead be focused on is equity not equality. Equity is the idea of lifting up those people who can’t reach as high so we can all have the opportunity to reach high enough to find success, happiness and fulfillment. We have a commitment as Unitarians to helping everyone achieve equity. It’s even in our seven principles. The Second of our seven core principles states: “Justice, Equity, and Compassion in
Human Relations.” Equality only further amplifies existing dividing lines and class distinctions. Making no distinction between how poor and rich people are treated seems like a good idea, but in a capitalist society where the hoarding of wealth is glorified, the wealthy can accrue more wealth. Utilizing and preying on the poor with their vast resources, they amass riches beyond comprehension while simultaneously using their resources to cultivate a culture in which this barbaric behavior is accepted.
We must reject this idea. It our obligation to create a society where equity is valued over equality. But how? Well, that’s a really difficult question to answer. The society we’ve created is so normal to us as US citizens that it seems insane to imagine anything different. But, let’s all together try to identify some of our own internalizations of capitalism. See if any of these things apply to you. Try and be honest with yourself. Some signs you’ve internalized capitalism:
-You determine your worth based on your productivity
-You feel guilty when resting or “wasting time”
-You are always seeking ways to make yourself profitable
-You neglect your health
-You think that “hard work” will bring you happiness
I read those posted by a socialist friend on social media and I went “oh no…” How many people, be honest, felt that one or more of those things could apply to you? If you did it’s nothing to be ashamed of but it is something you need to be aware of. There can be no real progress in our country until we accept that the very principle that our economic system was founded on is unjust. We are being distracted by the ultra wealthy they want you to believe that there is a fight going on between right and left. North and South. USA and Russia. Good and Evil. But it’s a lie. The same fight has been happening for years and years since the dawn of civilization. It has always been the fight between the weak and the strong AKA the rich and the poor.
The great thing is, that we as the everyday consumer have all the power. These uber-rich people rely on us to maintain their wealth and their power. The problem is it requires a huge sacrifice by us. Watch where you spend your money. I’m going to say it again. Watch where you spend your money. One more time in case you didn’t get it those first two times. Watch. Where. You. Spend. Your. Money. The best way we can fight the injustice is by ceasing support of unjust companies, corporations and entities that are designed only to keep the poor in their place. What that means for you though is a lot of inconvenience. The places you shop at on a regular
basis are more than likely part of the problem. Kroger? Yeah. Part of the problem. It also means sacrificing a lot of your money. If you bought anything that was made in China. You’re contributing to the problem. I know, you’re thinking it’s impossible to not buy something that was made in China. No, it’s not impossible but it is expensive. If you buy your produce at the farmer’s market you may have noticed that it’s more expensive than going to kroger. That’s not because those terrible farmers are greedy and stealing your money it’s because they aren’t profiting off factory farming, unethical business practices and utilizing underpaid workers. Your
money is going towards something worthwhile, the lives and well-being of a local farmer and his/her employees, rather than mostly into the pocket of an executive. I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir here. Most of you know that it is good to shop local and I’m by no means implying that I am perfect or that you should expect to be a 100% ethical consumer at all times, but I want to impart to you how important this issue is.
The money… that goes to funding those For-Profit-Prisons which benefit from nothing short of slave-labor. The Money… that bought out countless University admission officers and stole the spots of deserving students. The Money…that is being used to oppress and stunt the growth of an entire civilization. It didn’t come from nowhere. It didn’t come from some sinister, mysterious, calculating beneficiary. That Money, remember, on some level it came from us.