music to chill to…
I know that the title makes it look like I’m going to go back on my Lenten promise to not complain anymore, but I am going to attempt to share a frustration without sounding like a whiner.
First, one of the things that bothers me is that the word “crisis” has been so freely used to describe our country’s current financial situation. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that companies are going belly up by the truck load, which means that there are lots of people out of a job right now, and that both those with jobs and those without are facing leaner times financially. But I don’t think having to tighten the belt some is necessarily a bad thing. In my opinion, we (and I certainly include myself in “we”) have been long overdue for sorting out what indulgences are versus needs. Two Starbucks beverages per day is not a need. Eating out for lunch everyday, also not a need. Diet Coke… well, you get the idea. And certainly, seven (or so) jackets to meet every possible fashion and weather need is not only not a need, it’s a sickness. And so, if the perception of our economy being in “crisis” helps people to curb frivolous spending, I see that as a good thing.
I think what is more disturbing is our government’s response to this situation. I’m not one of those conspiracy theory guys or anything, but as news headlines pour in about so-and-so bank receiving 60 BILLION(!!!) dollars one begins to wonder. When news of the AIG debacle came through, I wish I could say that I was surprised. “What? People who are filthy rich took advantage of government aid to benefit themselves? Shocking! I thought only foreign oppressive government regimes did things like that. Not our good friends who control the vast majority of wealth in America, and therefore the world!” Needless to say, I am somewhat cynical about where all this is heading. I shared in my inaugural post that I fully expected “the man” to continue to be “the man” and stick it to the sheep-like American public. Here’s to “change!”
But in the end, I don’t blame bank execs for being greedy or government officials for pandering to special interests. Of course, we’re ultimately the ones to blame. It is our thirst for bigger and better and more. It is our inability to distinguish between wants and needs mentioned above. It is our sense of entitlement, our thinking this is what I/we deserve. I don’t pretend to know a whole lot about how the bank system works, but I think it is a relatively simple concept. Banks are businesses. The way they make money is by lending money to people who will in turn pay them rather large sums to borrow that money. The more money banks lend, the more they stand to make. Of course, that’s until they have lent so much money to people that there is no way that those people can pay it back. When banks don’t get paid back, they don’t make money, they lose money. I don’t think any of this is rocket science. So it isn’t as much the fault of the greedy bank lending out too much money. We are only getting our just desserts.
And yet, there is that thing called grace that so many of us find absolutely essential to living life. And grace would seem to fly in the face of the “just desserts” idea. When it comes to seeing grace in financial terms, the Bible a word for that. It is called Jubilee. It is this idea spelled out in Leviticus, but the idea is simply every fifty years (about a lifetime), debts are simply forgiven. No one would be able to subject another person to financial oppression (or their descendants) forever. It would have the added benefit of safeguarding from lending too much. If it was all going to be forgiven anyway then one would probably still lend, but not foolishly or over-zealously. Wouldn’t it be something if economic wrongs were made right every so often. If there was a massive redistribution that took place every so often? It might just turn our world upside down.
Of course, it might also mean that I would have to give up one or two of my jackets. And that would take real change.