Money is the root of all evil.
Sure, we all know this platitude. Why doesn’t it ever sink in?
The debasement of language is part of it. What was once an insight is fossilized and words no longer convey meaning.
It’s also what happens when a statement is too broad. Its indicators too vague.
A while back I came upon a parallel declaration:
Has a bit more bite. Not as worn down. Even a bit surprising.
We might ask, what does stupid mean?
To me stupid has always had connotations of brutality. Never thought of it as simply the opposite of clever. Never saw it as a lack of innate intelligence so much as a willful disregard for whatever intelligence one could muster. Stupidity defined as a persistent belief that power will get you what you want. A lack of wisdom. A lack taken so far that what’s missing isn’t even missed. The whole notion of wisdom – of wisdom having any value – discounted, ignored – even despised.
There are times and places where ignorance is the result of a lack of opportunity. A lack of the where-with-all with which to confront what we fail to consider. This is much more rare than we think. What we take for ignorance of this kind is a consequence of poverty. Impoverishment: lacking resources to cope as a result of spending what strengths we have left on efforts mired in futility. This kind of ignorance can be overcome. But its most common form; the kind connected to wealth; is willful. It is choosing not to see. Choosing to value brutality over anything that might make anyone’s lot better – including our own.
This comes back to that cruel tyrant Ego. Its demands have nothing to do with achieving well-being. Its only concern is the perpetuation of its power over us. The most striking effect of its dictates is that doing what it demands of us degrades our lives along with the lives of all those others we seek to push down at its insistence that, “We can only feel better by holding someone else down!”
Insistence that we can only maintain the fiction of Ego’s existence as the fount of our own being by destroying everything – including our own prospects for any sort of existence at all. This is the foundation of all our predicaments. “On this rock….”
Dealing with double, triple, multitudinously leveled, binds and paradox we need to hold in mind as many aspects of our predicament as we can. And, at the same time, not remain fixated on any one. Tired as we are – even those of us not yet trapped in the depths of poverty with its constant insults against our capacities to cope – we need to maintain an open scan. As soon as we settle on one aspect and loose sight of the whole we are flooded by pseudo-problem solving dichotomies. False-choices that seem inevitable, “If this thing is wrong we must do the opposite!”
Holding multiple views goes against everything we have been conditioned to value.
This brings us to one of the few advantages we have now over those who came before us. An awareness of the Enormity of the failures of every institution and habit we have been conditioned to accept – including any sort of nihilistic or ironic or detached surrender in the face of uncertainty. This awareness lessens our fear of uncertainty’s hold on us.
If stupidity is a willful disregard for wisdom,
The illusion of wealth hides its brutality beneath a veneer of assumed Quality. We are told wealth is a precondition for the flowering and expression of anything of Quality. “Without wealth we would all be poor.”
Once we are able to read the clues the language of Ego and its projections is ridiculously transparent. What such a self-serving definition of wealth does not hide is the truth that a dichotomy resulting from a fear left un-confronted brings about the very conditions we are afraid of. Here is the root of how and why power is bankrupt and never results in what we intend.
Wealth is not what keeps poverty at bay. The pursuit of wealth is itself the inventor and perpetrator of impoverishment. What the wealth-pump actually does is destroy bounty and create scarcity. It increasingly cripples the interconnected web of life that makes any Quality possible. Its brutally pushes externalities onto others to be suffered somewhere else. This is the truth behind the illusion of well-being we call wealth.
It worked, more or less, for a time…. So long as externalities could be shoved aside, hidden from view. So long as the keepers of wealth could defend islands of lesser impoverishment amidst the general destruction. We could pretend wealth was real. Pretend that power gives us what we want. Pretend that, lacking any access to wisdom, we could have any meaningful notion of what we want. What is suitable. As we run out of places and somebody-elses to impoverish without having the consequences blow-back on us it is harder and harder to maintain this illusion.
This brings us back to the vicious cycle: Wealth makes us stupid.
The insulating effects of a belief in wealth, in any form of divisive categorization, any illusion of superiority, perpetuates a brutal form of self-imposed ignorance. Believing in the lie of power: that we can defend a citadel of our choosing from the consequences of our brutality; we allow ourselves to turn our backs on what-is and in so doing the only thing we can successfully increase is our own ignorance. Our efforts only further escalate the brutality our ignorance both fosters and feeds.
We see this all around us. The most useful heuristic we can turn to to help us discover its presence is to look at what is and what is not considered a crime. Not just what our criminal codes define as crimes; but what our actual Judicial Systems do based on our society’s conceptions of crime.
This is an education. Take the time. Allow the space of contradiction and the Enormity of all the accumulated injustices to sink in. Work at suspending reaction and stay with your grief, your fear, the rage this inevitably incites. This is how we may do more than just react. Fall back into the same cycles again and again.
Here is where courage becomes possible. Where we can discover and develop strength.
So long as we turn away from these questions to chase after power for ourselves – even when it is always intended to bring about a greater good?
Falling for this we have not learned a thing. The path of ignorance looms ahead.
Even among those of us most desperately caught in poverty we have internalized the twisted beliefs of those who have enslaved us. Just as the air itself is now polluted even when it appears clear enough; so are our minds when we fail to see beyond the brutality of ignorance that tempts us to keep chasing power.
Anger, grief, and despair confronted when we are accustomed to denying their existence does effect us deeply. At such a point it is cruel and just another form of subjugation to force standards of civility upon those who cannot take any more. Each of us has to find how the depths of our predicament have landed us in this place. Each in our own way. In our own time. What surfaces at such a moment cannot be suppressed. Demanding suppression is an expression of the brutality of willful ignorance. Enforcing suppression damages us all much more than allowing whatever chaos we fear it will unleash. The only thing such enforcement can do is ensure the worst result.
Another profound insight buried in a platitude.
We need not turn to some condescending show of tolerance. Neither of these dualistic poles does us any justice. What we can do is recognize the sorrows of others as our own. Empathy arises from the opening of our attention to the plight of others, feeling their pain as our own.
Not solutions. None are available at this point. Not just in dealing with this aspect of our Enormity but with any of the tragedies befalling us. Chasing solutions we need to recognize is just a way to further the madness brought about by our contorted rationalizations of the delusion of chasing after power.
Misery is a given. Pain cannot be eliminated. Suffering, how we compound our misery and that of others by our lack of proprioception and our continuing the cycles of victimization, is something we can touch. How do we find ways to share misery and disarm suffering?
In a time when we are forced to endure – and let’s be clear, all of us are forced by the results of this mania for power and wealth to endure its consequences – we may find that the same Qualities that this system has so long ignored are just the Qualities we can turn to – and find fulfillment in – in the light of our predicament.
It’s a crime….
It’s a crime that even this path is blocked by the twisted dementia of power. To abide is seen as an acceptance of power’s dominance. Abiding conflated with an acceptance of evil. Acceptance itself conflated with concordance with all the horrors we are forced to comply with.
What does it mean to abide?
If we see it clearly we might recognize abiding as the only way to deny power its place.
Still, acting out as a result of our grief and despair is not a crime.
Acting out of willful ignorance to brutally suppress people as they awaken to our predicament and reach the point of declaring, “No More!” is.
There is so much to tease out of this next step. The subject of part II.
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