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  • Monday, April 17, 2006


    American Spiritual Crisis

    Congratulations to Rabbi Michael Lerner for, on the April 16, 2006 Meet the Press television broadcast, so eloquently describing what he identifies as the true spritual crisis in the lives of most Americans today:

    There is a real spiritual crisis in the lives of most Americans, and in the book
    “The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country From the Religious Right,” I
    interviewed 10,000 middle-income working families and learned in detail about
    the way in which spending day after day in a world of work in which the bottom
    line is to maximize money and power, and in which people learned that the common
    sense of the world of work, of our economy, is to look out for number one,
    nobody else is there to protect you, and hence to see other people from the
    standpoint of what they can do for you, how they can be of use, this
    utilitarian, instrumental way of looking at the world comes home into personal
    life where it undermines loving relationships and families.

    unfortunately, the political right has—and particularly the religious right—has
    often blamed the selfishness and materialism that, in fact, surrounds people and
    undermines loving connection, undermines families, makes—undermines friendships,
    they’ve blamed that very often on the demeaned others of the society. In Europe,
    the, the political right used to blame that on the Jews. In the United States,
    it’s now not only Native Americans and African-Americans that get blamed, but
    gays and lesbians, feminists and most recently, all secular people and all
    liberals are blamed as though we had introduced the selfishness and materialism
    into the society when, in fact, the—that selfishness is deeply rooted in the
    ethos of capitalism.
    And in the—and see, what I, I think is critical is to
    understand that there is a religion that dominates the public sphere today, and
    it’s the religion that validates that which can be measured, and that which can
    be validated through sense datum. And everything else is seen as irrelevant or,
    literally, nonsense. And that dominant religion has—plays into an ethos of
    selfishness, because what can be counted is money, but what can’t be measured is
    love and kindness and generosity.

    [T]here needs to be a new bottom line
    in this society, and that means taking religion—all the religions of human, of
    human experience, not just Christianity. My grandparents certainly wouldn’t have
    come here if they’d thought this was a Christian country. They came here because
    they thought they were going to be protected from being—having a religion
    imposed on them. But all, but all the religious and spiritual traditions of the
    human race have a common wisdom that can be applied as a counter to this
    selfishness and materialism that dominates in the old bottom line. We need a new
    bottom line of love and caring and kindness and generosity.

    Arguably, western society has long "worshipped" the acquisition of material possessions and wealth at the expense of less tangible goods such as sharing, helping, loving, and ways of celebrating and appreciating each other for our unique, inherent qualities, abilities, and talents, as opposed to reducing and judging each person based on his or her possession of certain valued utilitarian 'skill sets" or contributions to a desired financial "bottom line."

    From my perspective as someone who was born in the early 1960's, it seems to me that what we have witnessed in the United States in the past twenty-five (25) years is that the ethos of selfishness and materialism has become pervasive at all levels of our government and legal system. It seems that politicians at all levels of government, both Republicans and Democrats, have become subservient to and are beholden only to the power wielded by the large, and in most cases multi-national, corporate and business interests that have become dominant in American society.

    Corporations are legal and artificial, not human, entities, and the only goal of their existence is to increase and maximize their profits or shareholder equity. Corporations have a legitimate and salutary purpose and function in society. In the past twenty-five years, led by a propagandistic glorification of wealth, material possessions, and outright greed in the names of laissez-faire capitalism, economic development, deregulation, supply-side economics, the legal boundaries and controls that must exist in order to regulate the large-scale economic activities of the corporate interests in the United States and the world have been subject to a systematic attack and purposeful erosion. As a result, Americans are leading the world in becoming enslaved by our own creations.

    A lot of Americans are looking at where this has taken us as a country and a society, and they do not like what they are seeing. I think America needs to strike a better balance between individual and corporate power.

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