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  1. I think it goes back to some of what we were discussing in one of your earlier posts.

    I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb and be a little bit partisan in my answer: It happened when we allowed people to put greed for wealth ahead of respect for others; allowed people to put self-interest ahead of community interest; accepted a (heretical) belief that the Christian God helps those who help themselves; and effectively codified kyriarchy into our society and the way we do ‘business.’ In fact, it has become *impossible* to avoid perpetuating kyriarchy in almost everything that we do.

    It has been said that there is a ‘culture war’ going on — I’m not the one who coined it, and at this point I’m not sure if it was social liberals or social conservatives who coined the term. But this ‘culture war’ is in orbit around the core issues that our society is facing. I think at the very base, it is the question of: What is the purpose of society? (And after ten thousand years of civilization, to ask this question and still have debates about it is troubling.)

    I say that the question is ‘What is the purpose of society?’ because the roles and responsibilities of society, and by extension the members of that society, are at question here. Should society care for its ill, its impoverished, its hungry, its poor? For most people, the answer is ‘yes of course,’ but then comes the debate: Who defines who is a part of society? What should those poor, hungry, impoverished, homeless do to “earn” that charity? (This is something that infuriates me: The redefinition of words as an ideological weapon. I remember when ’empathy,’ ‘compassion,’ ‘charity,’ and ‘justice’ weren’t considered bad words even by authoritarians.) Too many times, the “haves” have demanded that the “have-nots” must all but grovel for crumbs of ‘charity,’ for scraps of food, for a few hours of a roof over one’s head. The powerless aren’t allowed a moment’s respite or any sort of nice things, because then they don’t deserve any sort of ‘charity.’ If they’re not suffering, they don’t need charity.

    Did someone redefine ‘charity’ when I wasn’t looking?

    (Even worse, there are people who will argue that society is artificial, that altruism is false and a lie, that the only truly fair and just system is the one where it is every person for themselves. I won’t call anyone who holds that belief a sociopath… but they’re certainly making a darn convincing impression of one.)

    I blame some of this on our society’s Mammonist embrace of “Greed is good.” (Another thing: When did one of the Seven Deadly Sins become a virtue of our society?) I blame too the Prosperty Gospel heresy that has taken too many of our churches: The belief that if you are faithful enough (faith, not works, gets you into heaven in these circles) God will reward you — a tempting lure to both the impoverished and the wealthy alike!

    And more of it is the simple failure of the American Dream: It is no longer enough to go to school, study hard, go to college, get a career, work hard, provide for your kids, and retire with a pension. The social contract has been broken; corporations see employees as resources only. It amazes me that people still believe that the American Dream is possible except for the lucky minority of people.

    In all things I have attempted to hold fast to one belief: Do not side with the powerful against the powerless. This is adapted from the Code of Hammurabi: “The first role of the government is to protect the powerless from the powerful.” The powerful can — and have, and will — take care of themselves. And if you’re not careful, they will gladly “take care” of you, as well.

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