MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There was a popular bumper sticker you'd see on luxury cars awhile back, "The person who dies with the most toys wins."
Sometimes, when I saw an automobile with such a message, my first thought was how tacky to put such a cheap plastic boast of wealth on a vehicle that cost tens of thousands of dollars. But then I realized that, to paraphrase Marshall McCluhan, "the medium is the message." This is what this person is all about; "my greed makes me who I am, and I'm better and more valuable than you are in your cheap Ford."
This destructive confusion of one's worth as a human being with one's financial worth arose in my mind again yesterday when writing a commentary, "Five Reasons the 1% Do Not Want Unemployment to Decrease." After discussing a recent news kerfuffle over multi-millionaire Tom Perkins' assertion that the wealthiest are the most deserving -- in essence an Ayn Randian perspective on human value -- I noted:
There's a theory that the wealthy do believe that they are anointed. This speculation about their world view is not that different from the monarchies that democracies revolted against. It presupposes that the people of the world are set in sort of a pre-determined caste system. In this world view, those who inherit wealth (which is a high percentage of the super rich -- just look at the Walton and Koch heirs) are inherently more deserving of their billions. Those persons who ruthlessly claw their way to the top -- with money appearing to be their ultimate criteria for the value of their lives -- have been chosen to acquire fortunes because of their basic worthiness, this theory argues.
The end result of such a wayward and self-serving outlook is that by equating avariciousness with human value, we are ensuring that we continue along a path to self-destruction.
Take the extraction industry, for example. This includes everything from fracking to oil to gold to copper to uranium (as Dahr Jamal writes about in terms of its toxic legacy in today's Truthout) -- and countless more "natural resources" (including reckless deep sea mining as Bob Koehler details on BuzzFlash today). With a world population that is going to reach 8 billion in the bat of an eye and continue to grow exponentially, we are literally digging our own graves by profiteering off of the extraction industries -- decimating the earth and polluting our atmosphere as we continue to accelerate tumultuous climate change.
If being wealthy -- if having the most toys and the most money -- is the ultimate human value, then we are quite simply doomed.
We appear on the precipice of a grand finale of financial gluttony triumphing over the value of human life.
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