Prosperity Kills

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Is your prosperity killing people? All the glorious benefits of making it in the free enterprise system, where there are no limits on what you can make nor what you spend it on, has become a blood sport. Making and spending are the crux of climate change, which is killing people by the thousands. 

Too strong a statement for you? Grapple with this simple fact, if you will. Heat kills more people than hurricanes, cyclones, and floods combined. Excessive heat very demonstrably is a product of climate change, in which the extremes of weather become more pronounced. (HERE)

While you crank up the air conditioner to chill your 10,000 square foot abode, or perhaps wing your way to cooler climes, all that energy you expend contributes to the problem. So, too, of course does the distance you keep from those who can’t keep up with the competition, those who fail the game.

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Homeless people are being cooked to death on the sidewalks of our cities during the summer heat. That is another fact. If all those tents, cardboard huts, and sleeping bags strewn across the sidewalks aren’t bad enough, now a number of their occupants are dying in place. Talk about litter! (HERE) and (HERE)

Homelessness in America has increased perhaps by an order of magnitude in the past 20 years. There may be ten times as many people on the streets today as there were when this century began, although measuring such a transient population is difficult. (HERE) Not coincidentally, there are 10 times as many billionaires, too. (HERE) That statistic is easily measured, since money is such a source of interest and fascination.

It’s called Late Stage Capitalism, the lemon squeezed of nearly all its juice and the rind left to decay on the sidewalk. Or cook, as the season may have it. Think about that for just a minute. The extremes to which our society is being stretched is increasing geometrically. One wonders how much farther it can be pulled before the system snaps. It seems to be just a matter of time. (HERE)

Our economy is a game in which some must lose so others may win. So we are told. The great mass of people in the middle drift in one direction or the other, some prospering to a degree while others teeter at the abyss. The losers haven’t changed that much over time except that their numbers have increased so dramatically. They are poor, homeless, without income, often addicted, often ill, often traumatized, without the slightest prospect of turning things around, just continuing to scrape by at the razor edge of survival, the flotsam and jetsam of our social contract.

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The rich on the other hand are ever more wealthy and present further from the rest of us by any financial measure than was the typical king from his subjects in pre-industrial Europe. Is the goal of capitalism to reach these extremes? Is the system intended to see how much wealth can be generated and quickly siphoned into the hands of the smartest, or at least the greediest, few?

I don’t have the answers. But I do know the question has to be asked, over and over again, until a solution is found. Are these people our fellow human beings, troubled and off-putting, perhaps, and offensive to our sense of order, but nonetheless worthy of common decency and care? Or are they expendable? Are they just collateral damage in the free enterprise system?

There always is talk about the disparity of income among people, some of it sincerely concerned and some simply paying lip service. If some people’s prosperity, the mere ability to cool themselves in the oppressive heat of the day, condemns others of us to death, is it not a glaring and final enough example of inequity that deserves serious attention? What does it take to move us?

Certainly a nation that can generate wealth that is the envy of the entire world can find a solution to caring for the least of its citizens. We no longer can turn a blind eye toward the catastrophe without literally stumbling over the casualties of a financial system, and perhaps even worse a belief system, that lifts most of us barely above such a fate and a very few of us so far above the fray that they can hardly be bothered.

credit: nccj.org

  

 

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