I like staying informed on things that are going on, but I try not to inundate myself in too much negativity.  I can tell when that’s happening to me as I start to get mad and frustrated and depressed and so on.  It is for these reasons that I have to take news “fasts” every once in awhile.

I could feel my frustration coming on last night….first off, the news in America over the first few weeks of the Trump Presidency has been filled with one thing after another of occurrences that I have labeled as “horrible” and definitely not up to the highest vision of what I believe is possible for our country.  On top of that, I chose to watch a documentary by Greg Palast entitled The Best Democracy that Money Can Buy.  Palast is an investigative reporter for Rolling Stone, The Guardian and the BBC….I have read some of his books and they are eye-opening and present in an entertaining way some of the foul things that are going on around the world.  I highly recommend him for becoming informed on issues not frequently covered by our so-called “mainstream” media.

The gist of the movie based on his team’s investigations—big money (Koch Brothers, etc) fronted something called “Crosscheck”, a system designed to check that voters don’t vote more than once in different states.  States who sign on to the system (and many did after the Supreme Court “gutted” the Voter Rights Act of 1965) get a report of people that are potentially voting multiple times.  The state then sends each person a notice (sometimes a certified letter that needed to be signed for or in other cases one of those vague and wordy postcards we generally throw away). If they don’t respond, they are purged from the voter roles.   Palast and his team got ahold of the lists and located some of the voters.  None had voted in other states, it was simply a case of a common name.  He was unable to track down a single fraudulent voter.

Furthermore, Crosscheck was simply a list of first and last names of individuals that where people by that name voted in multiple states (often with different middle names and other differences).  Think of matching “John Smith” voting from state to state, only the names on the list were predominantly common names among blacks, Hispanics and Asians.

The movie paints a picture of greed among the wealthy who wish to keep a system that favors their maintaining their wealth.  Often it seems the one tool of the  non-wealthy to effectuate change  in our country is through voting and this movie calls into question the sanctity of that process.  Why?  Greed and power among the wealthy to keep the poor and minorities from voting.  It is a compelling argument and one I encourage you to watch.  If you get the DVD version, be sure and watch the extra features on Liberia and the Congo and the “vultures” who buy up loans owed by third world countries for pennies on the dollar and then use the loans to hold the country hostage on the receipt of aid from other countries..laying claim to the money over the needs of the impoverished people.  It is dark and sad and paints a grim picture of human greed.

Of course, when you watch such stuff…..if you have any kind of conscience, then you appalled by the actions of the wealthy.  Their greed pushes them to such appalling behavior and the mistreatment of others for their own gain that it brings up judgment of them in my mind….and I feel angry or worse.

But is there a way to process this experience of the greed of others that may assist me in my personal and spiritual growth?

To be clear, I am still sitting with this question (and would love your thoughts on the question)….but here is what it coming up for me at the moment:

One, it’s ok to get angry and then to take action in the world to correct any injustices.  Being spiritual is not about being a pushover in the world “out there”.  In fact, truly being spiritual is staying in a sense of our connectedness such that it gives rise to a desire to right the world’s wrongs.  If we are all One, then when others are mistreated, we are mistreated.  We must stand with our mistreated brothers and sisters to ensure that they are safe and their rights are protected.

Two, this one is a bit tougher….but if we are all One, then we are connected to the perpetrator of the injustice.  This is not to say that we are “at blame” but it does acknowledge that the forces that gave rise to their expression of excessive greed may be dormant in us.  The individuals we judge may be playing out some shadow aspect of our own nature…..and we need to take a close look at our own lives and consider where we are potentially being “greedy” and maybe “harming others”.

Three, we are called to go deeper into the experience of our anger over the greed.  As my friend Jim Lockard points out in a recent blog, fear is the major driver in our politics today.  Citing the work of Sue Rubin, he writes that we “need to change our viewpoint, our attitude, toward our fears. We need to ‘wake up and stay up’ as spiritually mature people. Our fears are nothing but beliefs, nothing but inner reactions to an interpretation of outer events. We can change our attitudes – our interpretations. It is the key to spiritual growth.”  Very true.  As I experience anger over the greed of others, I must consider what it is that I may be fearful of in this moment.  Am I in fear of being the one who may be called to suffer next?  Am I in fear of the world that my children’s children may be inheriting?  Am I in fear that I am not doing all I can to stand up to greed and bullying? Or is it something else?  If I do not identify what it is that is making me fearful….and thus angry…..then how can I change it?

In spite of what Gordon Gekko said in Wall Street, I do not believe that “greed is good”.  Some small amount of greed may serve to push a person to positive action in the world, to motivate them to good levels of growth,  but unfettered greed as we are currently experiencing in such egregious cases these days have long crossed a threshold into “the love of money” which we have been cautioned as indicative of being “the root of all evil”.

Yet even if these levels of greed are not truly good, that doesn’t mean that we cannot explore our reactions to them and see room for our growth and personal evolution.

Mark Gilbert


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Photo credit: Sergey Shpakovsky via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND