December 1, 2009

getting rich?


I'm intrigued by the themes in Douglas Rushkoff's new book, Life Inc. Initially, what caught my attention was his use of the term "radical abundance." It's a term I've heard/read (and used) to describe the intent of Jubilee and Sabbath principles in Scripture. But there's a term used in Douglas' material that grates me a bit: getting rich. Getting rich tends to imply scarcity: you take all you can of said resource???at the expense of another???because it is a limited resource. Check. Rushkoff explains scarcity well. But by ending the video clip (above) with those who get on this cluetrain will get rich, it appeals to something that doesn't seem to place as high a value on the commons. As my friend Lee put it, "Private wealth will always move into a paradigm of scarcity." Certainly, there are those that think this an appropriate view of biblical economics (see The Atlantic's recent cover article). But I'm not one of them. In the perspective from which I read Scripture, "abundance" doesn't imply excess for the few but enough for all. This is how I put it in my recent article on

In the book of Exodus we read the story of manna falling from heaven, providing the sustenance that everyone needed to survive in the wilderness. There was one problem: no preservatives. It didn't keep. You couldn't save it for tomorrow or the next day. God provided just enough for everyone, every day. In the New Testament, when Jesus teaches his friends to pray he draws upon this story when he tells them to ask God to give them their daily bread. The concept is that God provides enough for everyone. Not enough for some to hoard, or have more than others, but enough for all of us to have what we need... not necessarily what we want, but what we need. This concept runs all the way through Scripture.

Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of what Rushkoff says. And I bend towards the kind of theologically-framed economic ideals framed by people such as Ched Myers. But I am increasingly aware of how difficult this is in our culture. How do we get there? The one common thread that I see hope within is going local. Bill McKibben speaks well to this in his book Deep Economy. Without a local community trying to develop a new kind of economy together, it's going to be virtually impossible. Yet, even with that it is difficult.

All this to say, the motives to get rich don't seem to be helpful if we care about more than ourselves. But the future isn't here yet and in the meantime some of these ideals are just plain hard to live into. It's gonna require a kind of shrewdness and wisdom to balance both survival in the existing economy while attempting to live in to the emerging one. My ideals don't like hearing that, but I fear that those of us trying to establish models that function on a different set of values often teeter on too much utopianism.

... and all of that from one closing statement.


rick zemlin said...

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