A good heart is better than all the heads in the world.
- Edward Bulwer-Lytton, English novelist, poet, politician (1803-1873)
'Tis the season of giving as I write this, Christmas, or "the holidays," the time when we supposedly think more of giving to others than of taking for ourselves. For the Christian part of the world and those countries and cultures that celebrate the gift-giving season along with their Christian (or nominally Christian) neighbours, Christmas is the season of the heart.
Who benefits from this monetary extravagance? Two general groups. One is comprised of people we know who for the most part don't need what we will give to them. The other would be people we don't know, usually, the unfortunate, the homeless, those who have lost (or perhaps who never had) the comforts most of us enjoy.
The latter group is society's losers. We give to people who don't have the stuff to be financially secure and successful in our world.
Some mammals and birds tend to their sick and injured, but humans are the only species on earth that supports its losers, those who don't have what it takes to survive on their own in this tough world. Like the rest of us do. In other species, the weak die, but in ours we keep them alive, though in poverty.
Is "a good heart" in Bulwer-Lytton's quote our lip service to charities that support those that would not survive in any other species? Yes, if the extreme capitalist doctrine that we are fed constantly can be taken at its full value, that's exactly what charity is. Success, by that standard, is wealth.
Virtually every parent of a young child wants that child to grow up to be happy. They'll tell that to anyone. But more important is that they be rich, or at least have a substantial enough income that they can support themselves in a style equivalent to the one they were raised in.
Rich people, including some of our movie and sports stars, are the epitome of success in western culture. Let's get this straight, no rich people are happy. Not really happy. Fake happy, yes. Do you know a happy rich person? They revel in their money, their ability to spend and to impress others. But underneath, most are more miserable than they would like anyone to know. They have money, which they learned and have come to believe is the most important thing in life. But they aren't truly happy.
They don't fare any better in their marital relationships than the rest of us. They have few or no real friends, people who care about them and not their money. They may not divorce at quite the same rate as the average, but that's because their mini-society says that they can afford to have affairs they can pay to cover up. Their friends can be bought and sold. It's a continuation of the value system of old European nobility.
What about those poor people, the ones the rich consider to be losers? Many of them have more real friends than rich people. The homeless ones live in temporary communities that are far more mutually helpful and supportive than any other in the larger community.
Somehow society missed its opportunity to teach them the knowledge and skills they needed to have to support themselves when they were children. How could that happen? Schools are not designed to teach life skills, they're structured to teach the knowledge and skills that the biggest employers in the country need. Industries control the school curriculum because they provide the employment that generates the income that supports the nation.
Parents used to teach life skills, as did neighbours and other members of the community. In smaller communities, this is still the case. Kids learn life lessons from their hockey coach, their scout leader or the nice lady who bakes cookies for the kids. Some learn them in the religious institutions their family belongs to. But none of these are dependable in larger cities. In cities, winning--the capitalist mantra--is everything.
As of the beginning of 2008, more people will live in urban areas of the world than in rural settings for the first time in history. Most countries are becoming urbanized, citified. As if this is a good thing. It's a good thing for industry because it provides a pool of labour for their work force, but it's not so good for so many communities that have become cultural and social ghettoes. Their primary values are to work and to spend. Just like industry wants.
While industries hold wealth and acquisitiveness as ideals of society, which give us happiness, what most of us miss is that the happiness that industry wants for us is fake. It's all advertising mind-twisting.
The "losers" of many societies of the world know more about real human values, traditional values, values that work to benefit the community as well as individuals, than those with money.
So let's continue to support these less fortunate members of our society. They may not have the knowledge or skills that most of us have, but they are perhaps the sole repository of basic human values that industry is trying to brainwash out of us through its persistent advertising.
Or, for the more adventurous among us, get to know some of these people. If you do, you will find that they know stuff you don't, stuff that could make your life richer. Not your pocketbook, your life. You know, the reason why you're here. (It's not really just to work and to spend, you know.)
Consider this. How much will industry care after you die? How will it remember you? Of course it won't. No one expects that. But so many of us adhere to its preaching about working and spending that we must think industry will offer us its own form of heaven.
But, no. Industry can't do that. Industry is not just heartless and sociopathic, it's atheistic. Industry has to be atheistic because it holds money to be its deity. Even industry knows that money is a false god. It just doesn't bother to tell us because it wants us to believe in that god.
Merry Christmas, dear readers! May the spirit of the man whose birth is celebrated this season fill you with love and charity. May you give of yourself to those who will most appreciate it, not necessarily to those who expect it of you. If you do, your life will be richer for it, especially if you get to know some of the beneficiaries of your giving from the heart.
The head always thinks of itself first. The heart thinks of others. Jesus said.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the lessons they need to live full lives, as real people not as puppets of industry.
Learn more at http://billallin.com