The Emperor (still) Has No Clothes

(Q) Would you agree that greed has reached epidemic proportions? What can we do about it?


(A) I agree that greed is rampant. I cannot say if it is worse now than it has been in the past. Our human history continues to yield amazing and detailed stories of heroism, as well as a disproportionate recounting of misdeeds and horrors. It is rare to find one without the other.


Our current micro-age is uneasy and unstable. It lacks creativity and imagination. We are One Being, but we don’t know it or believe it. We believe we are many individuals, each vying for a life whose image has been embedded in our subconscious. We were taught that less is a form of inadequacy, and more is only the beginning. We have followed the lead of those who associate lack with fear, and whose solution is to crave copious amounts of everything. But when we try to emulate that, we find that we lose our integrity, our creativity, and our power.


In the current era greed rose from capitalism and other expressions of governmental, economic, and personal wealth. In previous eras greed arose in other ways. What we call greed today, was previously known as avarice. Some consider avarice a worse form of greed. Greed is an excessive attachment to things, money, and desires. Avarice is insatiable; it is an uncontrolled longing for increase and acquisition. It corrupts and consumes. Corruption impairs integrity; it reduces steadfast principles and values to minor obstacles.


We are a young race of beings. But we can still do better. All of us. We may not need thirty-six rolls of toilet paper when other don’t have any. We probably don’t need most of the things we own but we think we do. We believe that we are entitled to them, which makes us feel a little more in control of our world. And we believe that our infractions are minor compared to corporations and governments. This obvious truth empowers us to point fingers at those who are blatant culprits and to shout, “Off with their heads!”


How do I know? Because I am just like you. And you are just like my neighbor. And my neighbor is just like my friend. And my friend is just like my cousin who is like his boss. We are all one. The Have's and the Have-Not’s. The examples we see around us might not reflect this, but that’s because we are looking through our own personally biased lens. If we step way back, we will see it as surely as those from previous eras did.


Please don’t think that I agree with what I see taking place. I don’t! I see the good, the bad, and the ugly in our situation. Our conditions are flawed and so are our expectations. And we cannot change our situation until it is laid out before all – corporations exist for the purpose of making money for their investors. Capitalism invites greed. The emperor has no clothes, but it is easier to look away.


The term for looking away is moral muteness. It occurs when people witness unethical behavior and choose not to say anything. It can also occur when people communicate in ways that obscure their moral beliefs and commitments. Like avatars and social media. When we see others acting unethically, the easiest thing to do is look away or hope someone else does something about it.


This micro-era is not about moral character. We know what virtues like integrity, courage, and honesty look like. We know that a person is ethical when they act in a manner that is consistent with these principles. Something else is missing. We are only at the beginning of a new, long count cycle. And it falls on us to clean up our messes before we can see much further ahead. We can only see as far as our mind-horizon, our ability to imagine a future we can live in.


It won’t help to imagine a future that looks like our present. It won’t help to raise and lower the bar a little at a time as we have been doing. We need a better way to imagine human life on planet earth. We could call it moral imagination. Moral imagining is a way to envision a full range of possibilities in order to solve ethical challenges. Moral imagination is aware, empathic, and enlivening; it is active rather than passive.


Moral imagination is the key to our future. Moral creativity is what it will unlock. Moral creativity envisions alternatives that did not exist before. This kind of creativity involves the conscious transformation of moral values into systems, ideas, products, and even governments.


So, this is where we are going. But we are not there yet. We are still here. We look like we are stuck here but we are not. We are actually moving very quickly toward what I have described. The tide is rising, and the water is filled with sharks who prefer the old ways to the new. So, it is up to us to calm and support each other and to remind ourselves that WE ARE ONE.

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