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The Ethics of Affluence

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Goals

  1. To play fair with my fellow humans in earning a living.
  2. To stop worrying about money.
  3. To avoid unethical or boring activities.

Introduction

I have lived my life earning just enough to get by. I have skillfully avoided making money. I find gambling or speculatively buying and selling to earn a living odious. I dislike enslaving myself periodically performing pointless tasks to get enough money to pay the rent and groceries. In past, I would tell myself that suicide was the only option if I could not raise next month’s rent. I try to avoid thinking about money or how to earn it. I take a very dim view of wealthy people. At the same time I have a fear there won’t be enough to get through the next month. This essay looks for better attitudes.

Christianity

Whereas principle is a great and noble protection against showy and degrading vanities and vices, poverty is worth six of it.
~ Mark Twain (born:1835-11-30 died:1910-04-21 at age:74), The $30,000 Bequest

In Mark 10:25 and again in Matthew 19:24 it says rich people are very unlikely to make it into heaven. Yet in Matthew 6:33 it says that if you first seek the kingdom of heaven, all manner of riches will be added unto to you. Surely they don’t mean to imply if you seek the kingdom of heaven, you will become wealthy, but then you have to go to hell.

I Timothy 6:10 says that the love of money is the root of evil. Presumably money itself can’t hurt you if you don’t love it.

Luke 12:34 warns that accumulating a treasure will cause you to love that treasure, like the Golem in Lord of The Rings. If you simply let that treasure flow through you on the way to helping others, perhaps you won’t necessarily become attached to it.

Luke 12:33 says to give away all that you have. This provides you with a treasure that cannot be stolen, but that cannot be cashed in until after death. That is all very well, but I need money for the rent next month and a solid reassurance it will be there.

Deuteronomy 23:19 and many other places forbid usury — accepting interest on a loan. This is an unusual commandment to follow in the modern age, though it was strictly adhered to in the middle ages. Only non-Christians could offer interest-bearing loans. You can meet this restriction today with a no-interest chequing account, or a no-interest ethical savings account. You might consider putting some money in the Grameen Bank which makes microcredit loans ($50 US) to the poor. They start small businesses and pull themselves out of abject poverty.

Fear of poverty is one of the most destructive fears and can result in worry, doubt, indifference, indecision, overcautiousness and procrastination. It paralyse the faculty of reason, destroys the imagination, kills off self-reliance and leads to uncertainty and lethargy. Think wealth and abundance.
~ Aquarian Practitioners of Light

Equality

No one seems to notice the injustice that some people in the world are paid pennies a day where others are paid millions, for equally onerous work. There is massive inequity.
May no one eat a second bowl of rice until everyone has had a first.
~ Mahatma Gandhi (born:1869-10-02 died:1948-01-30 at age:78), possibly someone else.

Usury creates an instability. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Usury is not right. I still hold this old-fashioned belief. I would thus not feel right about making money by investments.

I don’t feel right pigging out living high off the hog knowing so many others have little. I want to share my wealth.

Ecology

Planetary citizens avoid driving. They avoid owning SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles) they only need a few weeks a year. They choose cars that do minimal damage to the environment, e.g. are small, fuel efficient and light weight.

It bothers me to see people discarding mountains of trash and dumping all manner of chemicals into the drains. It bothers me to see people heating huge unoccupied homes, belching out fountains of CO₂ to do it. It bothers me to see people using a vehicle of several tons to transport a single human. It is inefficient.

Conspicuous consumption means the more money humans make, the more they trash the environment.

I want to live a lifestyle that is even gentler on the environment that I am now.

A Spending Plan

In chronological order of intended manifestation:
  1. Donations to planetary charities.
  2. A wrist mounted GPS (Global Positioning System) partly for the metaphysical reassurance of knowing You are here
  3. Vision corrected.
  4. World travel.
  5. Compact state-of-the-art energy-efficient house that blends with the environment.
  6. Procedures to improve appearance.
  7. Compact yellow state-of-the-art energy-efficient single-passenger largely human-powered vehicle, suited for year round use.
  8. Compact yellow state-of-the-art energy-efficient multi-passenger vehicle.

Fears

The big fears of becoming wealthy are:
  1. The temptation to keep giving a lover material goods. I would not be loved for myself, but for my money.
  2. Groupies, not necessarily in Beatle-sized hordes, both intellectual and sexual. On the other paw, this is the big carrot. The main way an older gay man can attract a younger lover is through wealth and prestige.
  3. Money is like the Ring of Power that Frodo carried. Even nostalgic Frodo was not immune to its corrupting power.

Two Scenarios

The actual choices are not quite so dichotomous. There is a middle path between monk-like poverty and Gatesian excess. The middle ground may not be an uncomfortable as the two extremes. Another direction is to find ways to get things and acquire things cheaply or without money. As an example, Wiley offered me $200.00 USD worth of books on the condition I review one of them.

Though I personally might be better off with (1), the planet is better of with (2). I feel embarrassed to discover I am still taking the selfish path. In reality, path (2) is probably like the Monty Python torture device — the comfy chair, not nearly so awful as I imagine it will be. I might have assistants to partially shelter me from the things I dread — petitioners, telephones, spam, money and schedules.

How

Presuming I do manage to change my attitudes, I still have the practical problem of actually generating the income. I would imagine it might come from several possible sources:

Summary

I think the key is understanding a distinction between:
  1. money grubbing
  2. conspicuous consumption
  3. conspicuous waste
  4. accumulating wealth
  5. Allowing myself to have money to spend primarily for the benefit of the planet.
Affluence is so often associated with (1), (2), (3) and (4), that it is hard to imagine it without them. I have cold feet. I think "Who am I kidding. I became more wealthy, I would fall prey to its corruption just like everyone else." On the other hand, I need to get some money soon to live on. I have to get on with this. There has to be practical plan as well as a metaphysical one.

This whole essay sounds a bit nuts, especially if you saw how low my current bank balance is. It is an externalisation of internal dialog, in Living Love terms, a conflict process.

Throughout most of human history, a guy who took more than his fair share was considered an asshole. With the invention of civilisation, all changed. The guy who took more than his fair share, especially one who conspicuously wasted it, became a hero. The more he took, the more heroic.
~ Roedy (born:1948-02-04 age:68)

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