"Either you must
Confess yourselves wondrous malicious,
Or be accused of folly." - Menenius ("Coriolanus")
"In the 21st century there are few graduates from the school of contentment." - Allistar Begg (Truth for Life)
"But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that." 1 Tim 6:8 (Holy Bible)
When I began reading Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" I never thought I would bump into wise words that should be heard by those in the Occupy Wall Street movement. But then it is a politically charged play and at the heart of the matter is the same old rif between the haves and the have nots.
You may not share my belief in an open universe that includes cause and effect, but also is open enough for the hand of God to manipulate. You may live in a closed universe where God either does not care, or does not exists. You may have trouble accepting that this is a 'fallen' world and that it rains on the just and the unjust, the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong. But know the framework I build upon as I write.
I would argue at the core of many Occupiers is the same thing at the core of many in corporate America: greed. We were told by Gordon Gecko in the 80's that "Greed is good" in the movie "Wall Street". We all know it's not good, but it is real. Greed is a human issue, not a corporate issue. It is an individuals choice to take or to want to take more from others. It's the point where the balance of "enough" or "acceptable" tilts the wrong direction.
The issue of greed is always aligned with the wealthy, the top 1%, when in reality it is just as much a problem with the middle class and the poor.
The Catholic church identified greed as a deadly sin, and rightfully so. The definition of greed makes it clear it is universal, not just a problem of the "haves" Greed is an excessive desire to possess wealth, goods, or abstract things of value with the intention to keep it for one's self.
An "excessive desire". Are not those in the middle class that try and manipulate their way into a higher position or build debt, greedy? Are not the poor that make demands, greedy? Are not the socialists who clamour for reform, greedy? All want to take from someone else and "have it" for themselves.
Is greed not the driving force behind Karl Marx writing? Did he not want for the proletariat what the bourgeoisie had? Was his not a greedy call for contestant revolution?
Was greed not at the root of Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" that eliminated any 'moral' concern if the means brought the appropriate end? Or the French intellictuals "The Coming Insurrection"?
But then if your universe is closed and you are simply a follower of Nietzsche, what do these moral questions matter? The power of the strong and their forcing of their belief is all that should matter to you.
If I refuse to take the fast food job and live off the system, then I have a desire to posses the goods of others for myself. If one charges excessive fees for transactions in order to increase profit margins over the previous year to improve conditions and attitudes about oneself, it's greed. If I borrow $40,000 to buy a car because I want one like the neighbors but I won't pay for my kids college that year - simple greed.
We are all greedy at some point. If you say avarice does not exist in you, you simply look like a fool to the rest of us. I once had someone tell me they were not a liar - laughable. We make justification for what we have and want, but it doesn't change the reality and sinfulness of greed.
How much is too much? Each man must ask this of himself and not others. It is not our duty to control the greedy nature of others, it is our duty to control ourselves. This is taught and accomplished in the home, not congress. The Holy Bible in 1 Timothy chapter 6 calls the rich to not be haughty and to ask them to be generous, but it does not say take away their money, or that they don't deserve it. All my life I have always known many people with more money than me. At no point am I able to demand they give me a fair share or may I be envious of their wealth. Once again, we are not able to answer the question for others of, "How much is too much". Only they may answer the question.
Redistribution, realignment of the financial system, legislation, these do not eliminate greed. Greed finds its way around everything. It existed 6,000 years ago and it will exist 6,000 years from today should the planet continue spinning.
It's not a financial crisis, it is a moral crisis. And it won't be resolved by a greedy congress.
"Haves" are taught to self preserve. "Have nots" are taught to self preserve. We are all taught to be greedy. There is a moral issue in both camps that legislation can not resolve.
So OWS misses the point. Socialism misses the point. Liberalism misses the point and so does today's conservative movement.
We find the wrong starting points and make the wrong demands. The starting point is within each of us, and the demands should be of the self. If you want this issue to diminish we must teach our children "moral absolutes" to quote my friend David Anderson from the U2" ZOO Tour" video 20 something years ago. http://youtu.be/9xpWBasyoMs
We have seen financial reform, and we will see more. But as the cycle has shown, mankind will relax a little, look away once more, and it will find itself back where it started making a demand for change to a broken system. Christ in the Christian worldview is the only solution to sin, legislation just changes how you sin.
In the tragedy of "Coriolanus" the people are hungry and angry with the egotistical attitude of their great defender, Caius Marcius. They want reform. They are angry because someone has more than them. They, like their leaders are greedy. They say it is hunger that drives them, but that is just a guise. But I think Coriolanus' great defender, Menenius, makes a valid point concerning their plight.
If the belly's of the 1% are not full, then how will the others eat at all?
If I and the people in my neighborhood were not employed who would pay our: yard man, pool boy, maid, painter, mechanic, pest control, tree trimmer, plumber, electrician, dry cleaner and the list goes on?
In the same way, if the owners of our companies were not risk takers who would pay me and you?
There is always someone with more. Someone whose belly is fuller than yours. Someone who is kind enough to share a little of their good fortune with each of use by giving us an opportunity, or simply giving.
Rejoice when the belly's of others are fuller than yours. Don't let your greed make demands of them, or they will undoubted respond in like kind.
Listen to the words of Menenius to the angry crowd.
There was a time when all the body's members
Rebell'd against the belly, thus accused it:
That only like a gulf it did remain
I' the midst o' the body, idle and unactive,
Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing
Like labour with the rest, where the other instruments
Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel,
And, mutually participate, did minister
Unto the appetite and affection common
Of the whole body. The belly answer'd--
Well, sir, what answer made the belly?
Sir, I shall tell you. With a kind of smile,
Which ne'er came from the lungs, but even thus--
For, look you, I may make the belly smile
As well as speak--it tauntingly replied
To the discontented members, the mutinous parts
That envied his receipt; even so most fitly
As you malign our senators for that
They are not such as you.
Your belly's answer? What!
The kingly-crowned head, the vigilant eye,
The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier,
Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter.
With other muniments and petty helps
In this our fabric, if that they--
'Fore me, this fellow speaks! What then? what then?
Should by the cormorant belly be restrain'd,
Who is the sink o' the body,--
Well, what then?
The former agents, if they did complain,
What could the belly answer?
I will tell you
If you'll bestow a small--of what you have little--
Patience awhile, you'll hear the belly's answer.
Ye're long about it.
Note me this, good friend;
Your most grave belly was deliberate,
Not rash like his accusers, and thus answer'd:
'True is it, my incorporate friends,' quoth he,
'That I receive the general food at first,
Which you do live upon; and fit it is,
Because I am the store-house and the shop
Of the whole body: but, if you do remember,
I send it through the rivers of your blood,
Even to the court, the heart, to the seat o' the brain;
And, through the cranks and offices of man,
The strongest nerves and small inferior veins
From me receive that natural competency
Whereby they live: and though that all at once,
You, my good friends,'--this says the belly, mark me,--
Ay, sir; well, well.
'Though all at once cannot
See what I do deliver out to each,
Yet I can make my audit up, that all
From me do back receive the flour of all,
And leave me but the bran.' What say you to't?
It was an answer: how apply you this?
The senators of Rome are this good belly,
And you the mutinous members; for examine
Their counsels and their cares, digest things rightly
Touching the weal o' the common, you shall find
No public benefit which you receive
But it proceeds or comes from them to you
And no way from yourselves. What do you think,
You, the great toe of this assembly?
I the great toe! why the great toe?
For that, being one o' the lowest, basest, poorest,
Of this most wise rebellion, thou go'st foremost:
Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run,
Lead'st first to win some vantage.
But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs:
Rome and her rats are at the point of battle;
The one side must have bale.
Enter CAIUS MARCIUS
Hail, noble Marcius!