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This Month's Scripture Verse:

Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Status Quo Of Self-Destruction

Perhaps the following best describes what we see today:
[it] has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self- interest, than callous “cash payment”

With more and more of life following the business model, the desire to be profitable is moving more of us to be either cold and unforgiving or too lax in holding to necessary standards. Let's use education as an example.

In my teaching career,  I've seen for myself or heard from teachers of other schools acknowledging that unqualified students are admitted to schools in order to reach a certain student population. Some of these unqualified students will eventually dropout because of grades while others will find majors especially designed for them and their tuition dollars. I heard of one teacher who, while teaching basic freshman class, was told by one of her senior students  that that basic class was the toughest class she ever took. 

I and my colleagues from numerous institutions remember the notes received from university presidents which all but said that we were responsible for students who were failing our classes because all students who were admitted to our institutions were qualified to study there. Of course what provided dissonance to these notes for me were the students who couldn't perform basic arithmetic functions because of their dependence on calculators or could not read a textbook because of their dependence on the internet.

What I've seen schools do is to stop marketing a college education and to start selling the "college experience." And a growing part of that experience is found in entertainment and fun. Education, according to the actions and attitudes displayed by some of my past students, was becoming an inconvenience and the admission price to be paid for enjoying life in college. 

So what we see is less money being used to support academics and more money being spent on administration and nonacademic student services. Why? Because in today's businessfied colleges, it isn't reaching of academic milestones by the average student that is the goal, it is keeping enough customers happy so that college's ever increasing overhead can be financed. Students are being less and less looked at as people who need to learn and surpass fixed standards from the past and are more and more seen as objects of revenue.

Of course, our economic system can provide other examples where connections are reduced to the 'what's in it for me' mindset. The business world's mindset of what's legal is what's moral without mentioning that what's legal is for sale disingenuously shows the self-interest mentioned at the beginning of this post. Thus, those companies that can pay lobbyists to write legislation or direct policies that either reduce a company's social responsibilities, such as in paying less or no taxes, and/or garners business from the government, such as is done by those in the military-industrial complex, can, in "good conscience," profit from exploiting the public. Here we should consider those companies that supplement their payroll with government assistance programs as providing examples of acting in 'naked self-interest.'  This is exemplified when legislation aimed at raising the federal minimum wage is constantly defeated. Here, low-wage employees are treated as disposable objects of profit who can be easily replaced.

This 'naked self-interest' has also hit our beloved sports world where players are there to make as much money as possible off of their team's owners so that their first loyalty is to the paycheck. This  leaves fans to root for the uniforms rather than players.

The current battle in Detroit over access to water, underfunded public education, the resistance to increasing access to healthcare, the growing damage to the environment, and our crumbling infrastructure provide examples of the 'naked self-interest' of those who are working hard to avoid meeting their social responsibilities. Meanwhile the housing bubble, the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, and the way we fund our healthcare show that all others are exploitable in the search for profits.

But perhaps one of the greatest reminders of the truth of the quote at the beginning of this post is the growing replacement of the shareholder for the stakeholder which is taking place in the business world. A friend of mine told me of a business class he took where they were asked what should be done with a product that was found to be deficient in one's home country. The answer that was booed and rejected was the one that said to not sell the product elsewhere. The answer that was cheered was the one that said to put shareholder interests first by marketing the failed product in other countries.

Some workers tell me of how their interactions with workers from other companies reinforce the idea that shareholder returns is the predominant concern of those other companies. This concern is shown in the number and pay of the employees in those other companies and even in the stock available to order. Outsourcing work to other countries and utilizing sweatshop and trafficked labor, as does lack of concern for damage done to the environment, also reinforces the contention that shareholder returns is the highest and sometimes the only concern of many companies. 

Such would suggest that the '[it]' in the quote at the beginning of this post could be replaced with the word 'shareholder' and in many cases, that would be correct. But legislation supporting the police's ability to profit from seized personal assets, the revolving door between all sorts of government officials and private industry, the buying of our elections, and the corruptibility of many of our public officials shows that the shareholders is not the only group that can be substituted in the opening quote.

As we are both divided and isolated from others while being told that we are solely responsible for obtaining our own 'pot of gold,' we are becoming more, both as individuals and in terms of groups we belong to, vulnerable to being able to replace the '[it]' in the opening quote.

Where does the opening quote come from? It comes from the Communist Manifesto. And though the source might intimidate some of us out of agreeing with the quote, our daily experiences do not. And we should note that one does not have to agree with Marx's solutions to see how legitimate were his concerns. Thus, the '[it]' from the quote could be replaced with today's Capitalism. Sure, those who say that greed is part of the human condition are right. But what we should note is that some systems feed our greed more than others, especially those systems that celebrate greed because they see it as a source of energy.

Such leads us to one more quote. That quote comes from I Timothy 6:10 that tells us of the evil into which the love of money can lead us. This post has been just a small scratching of the surface of the truth of this verse.


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