You’re probably proud of what you’ve accomplished in life. I am too. I worked hard for what I’ve got and still work my ass off every day. I don’t live in entitlement but try my best to add value for the blessings I receive every day. Hopefully you feel the same way. So, let’s continue our discussion from the last post, about the gifts we have been blessed with, and the responsibilities that come with them.
The world is a pretty tough place right now. We need to have a real conversation about the ways we’re failing our fellow humans. We need to acknowledge that there are people society has forgotten. People without homes, the mentally ill, marginalized minorities, and others in such suffocating poverty their daily survival is in question. Globally, the health care, education, economic, welfare and political systems all have structural bias that favors the affluent and powerful. Millions are left vulnerable. Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every day – 25,000 people, 10,000 of them children – die from hunger and related causes. These children aren’t starving from poverty, they’re starving because we’re living in poverty consciousness. We have failed the most basic test of human decency by not creating a safety net and viable education and economic opportunities to escape their suffering.
I’d like to start a discussion on how we can all contribute to creating a more prosperous world. We have to do better both individually and societally.
It’s time to let go of the political parties we’re identifying with and stop demonizing the people who have different policy ideas than we do. I’ll use the labels from here in the U.S. for example here, but you can change the names and it’s pretty much the same toxic, dysfunctional scenario around the world. Here in the U.S., we have two viable political parties, the Democrats and Republicans. There is bitter, partisan rancor with each side framing issues in the most simplistic, black and white terms: (For the sake of this discussion, I’m leaving out the social issues and focusing mainly on the economic philosophies.)
The Democrats will suggest they are the party of the little people, taking care of the poor, minorities, and disenfranchised. They believe they’re protecting their tribe against the Republicans who draft laws only to oppress the disadvantaged further and make the rich richer.
The Republicans will suggest they are the party who favors fiscal responsibility with balanced budgets (or at least they did before Trumpism) and free enterprise. They believe they’re protecting their tribe against the Democrats who want to take all the money away from rich people to provide free giveaways to everyone else, bankrupting the country in the process.
To those who may be wondering, I don’t believe the alternatives, either Communism or Libertarianism are feasible options. Communism is one of those theories that sounds good, looks good, and looks good on paper. It just doesn’t actually, you know…work. The Soviet Union was, and North Korea and Cuba still are, the clarifying case studies. Communism is actually a form of legalized corruption, where political elites exploit and virtually enslave the working class. Libertarians would like to believe (as would I), that their platform while not perfect, would provide a better alternative to the two main parties. That may or may not be true. But in either case, it won’t fix the issues we’re addressing here. The belief that if we stopped overtaxing people, they would take those tax savings and lovingly donate it to create a safety net to take care of the downtrodden is a beautiful dream, but alas, not a very realistic one. In any event, the point is moot. There is not enough support for those ideologies to make governing a realistic possibility. Let’s not waste time debating hypothetical, idealistic fantasies.
Going back to the two main parties, here’s my take:
The Dems believe in a nanny state government that knows what is best for its citizens. They imagine the state can provide healthcare, prescriptions, education, insurance, Netflix, and Disney+ free to everyone – just by increasing the taxes on the super-rich, while lowering everyone else’s. The numbers don’t lie and the numbers prove this is a ridiculous proposition that should offend every thinking person. (Remember we already tried this in North Korea, Cuba, and the Soviet Union.) The only free cheese is in the mousetrap.
The Repubs believe if we simply remove all regulation and oversight, corporations won’t exploit people, plunder the environment, or create monopolies. They imagine if we simply allow the rich to get rich enough, the economic benefits will trickle down enough that we all live happily ever after. In reality, this model is infiltrated with so many tax loopholes and so much political cronyism the results are completely corrupt. (Witness the S&L crisis, the great recession, and current environmental emergency.) I would posit that all things being equal, in a fair and just world – a true trickle-down economic model could produce a prosperous, productive economy – and perhaps even provide for those who need a safety net. The problem with this theory is…
All things are not equal and it’s not a fair and just world.
A child here in America who is a descendant of slaves or the original indigenous people has two centuries of systemic discrimination and bias to overcome, while the child of a wealthy, white family in New Hampshire does not. An aspiring entrepreneur in an African country without broadband simply can’t compete against one in Europe. Someone who makes a million-dollar contribution to a political party has a better chance of getting a lucrative government contract than someone who can’t. (Yes, there are exceptions to all of this, extraordinary people who defy the odds, but these exceptions are miniscule. People should not have to be a one in a million exception to live a prosperous life. We should view it as a sacred human right.)
If you’re Republican or Democrat you can argue that I’m twisting your platform and if you had total control without the opposition party, your party would be perfect. If you think that, you’re not only an idiot, but a dangerous one. The greatest gift the founders of our Republic left for us was the belief that rigid ideologies would lead to collapse and compromise is not a dirty word. Compromise is the only way we save ourselves and the planet.
The Democratic/Socialist/Communist ideology that we can tax the wealthiest enough to provide for everyone else isn’t the answer. Creating a welfare or entitlement state certainly won’t work. If you decimate the producers, we all suffer. The Republican/Libertarian ideology that liberty and free enterprise will solve all ills is equally delusional. There is a place for government and even some regulation. Left unchecked, the pursuit of profit runs over too many people. We have all got to drop the political identities and work together on some better solutions, using the brainpower, passion, and ideas of both sides. (I wrote here about what happens when you assign a label to yourself.)
Some of the questions we need to have serious conversations about include:
There are many others, but we can begin here. Feel free to share any you think should be on the list in the comments below. Let’s start working toward that kind of dialogue.
Most importantly, each of us has a personal responsibility that comes with the blessings we’ve received. Even if you’re not rich or even well off, you are ahead of literally millions of others who would love to be in your position. Picking up a few thoughts from the last post: If you’re in poverty, please don’t give up hope or believe the game is so stacked against you it is hopeless to keep trying. Millions have overcome the odds and you can as well. The single most important element to overcoming poverty is consciousness, and the fact you’re reading this shows you have it.
If you are already living in prosperity, please don’t arrogantly believe you’re entirely responsible for your good fortune. And don’t heartlessly forget about those less fortunate than you. Those of us who have been blessed with prosperity have a sacred responsibility to make sure that everyone has the opportunities we were afforded. The biggest impact you can make is not really charity, but empowerment. It’s not about providing handouts (although there is a time and place for that) but opportunities. We all can be a part of that. Some suggestions:
Volunteer your time to organizations that concentrate on empowering people. Coaching youth sports, or working with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and scouting are just a few examples.
Donate your money. When the need is urgent and immediate, please help in a way to alleviate that. But long-term, we have to do a better job supporting organizations that offer empowerment and education. And programs that reduce the systemic biases. Look for organizations that provide broadband, legal services, education, etc.
Become a mentor. There are likely young, poor, or marginalized people in your field who could desperately use someone to guide their career ascent. Be there for them. (Interesting example from San Diego here.)
Share your advantage. If you do have a professional practice or business, can you invite others in? Sometimes consultants can partner with others or you can include fledgling entrepreneurs into your joint ventures, or startup businesses. Another example: for the last few years I’ve offered scholarships to my public seminars and Boot Camps. Can you do something similar?
Please share any other ideas you have for how we can offer a hand up to those who need one. None of us will be truly prosperous until all of us are prosperous. Or at least have a viable opportunity to become so.
Peace, - RG