Monday, September 04, 2006

Christian Reflection on Misplaced Honor

Continuing with Walter Wink's Christian trilogy on engaging systems of domination, he has this to say in his third volume about our misplaced values:
People in every age have coveted wealth, but few societies have lionized the entrepreneur as ours does. Aristocratic societies ... have tended to look down on acquisitiveness and to despise merchants. Modern capitalism, by contrast, has made wealth the highest value. Our entire social system has become the "economy"; no earlier society would have characterized itself thus. Profit it the highest social good. Consumerism has become the only universally available mode of participation in modern society .... (How rare it is for rich people to say, "I have enough.") But Mammon is wiser in its way than the dictator, for money enslaves not by force but by love.
And what was President George W. Bush's main point in his Labor Day speech today? The dignity of labor? No. The intrinsic value of hard work? No. The continuing struggle to match honest work with livable wages for families? No. President Bush's main point merely confirmed Wink's criticism:
Today, on Labor Day, we honor those who work, and we honor those who work because, in so doing, we recognize that one of the reasons why we're the economic leader in the world is because of our work force. And the fundamental question facing the country is, how do we continue to be the economic leader in the world? What do we do to make sure that, when people look around the world next year, and 10 years from now, they say, the United States is still the most powerful economy in the world?
I can think of another question more important than economic power and more relevant to Labor Day: "How fair and just is this society?" It seems to me we should focus on fairness and justice first, and let economics take care of itself (taking care of itself is what our economic system does best). But then again, I think labor is more than merely "one" tool among many that exist in order to grease someone else's money machines.

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