Nice, France . . .
Flying from the U.S. to France I began to read the classic best-selling book, “Mythology,” by Edith Hamilton. Ms. Hamilton, who died in 1963 at age 96, was the U.S.’s foremost promoter of ancient Greece as the most influential component of American democracy and society.
The following is an intriguing quote from her book:
“As the generations pass, they grow worse; sons are always inferior to their fathers. A time will come when they have grown so wicked that they will worship power, might will be right to them, and reverence for good will cease to be. At last, when no man is angry anymore at wrongdoing or feels shame in the presence of the miserable, Zeus (Universal Nature) will destroy them too. And yet even then something might be done, if only the common people would arise and put down rulers that oppress them.”
I make no apology for my belief that America’s and the World’s worst oppressor is the current corporate concept of capitalism. I do not dispute the potential good of capitalism as an economic and social concept.
What I dispute and oppose is the actual evolved capitalism that is corporately supported and promoted as the best world economic and social system. I contend that when the most basic premise of corporate capitalism is unashamedly professed as simple financial profit, corporate capitalism founds itself on a utterly destructive philosophical concept.
I’ve nothing against the concept of profits. Adding a rewarding payoff for having successfully identified a human need or desire and successfully filling that need or desire is fine with me. I spent my entire life making my living doing exactly that.
However, I added a component to my profit goal. I consciously and specifically limited my profit so to hopefully not negatively impact my society and other people. I set an over-all goal to try to keep my personal income close the nationally-averaged income of the total population of America.
My present income is that. Even when in the 1970’s I ran The Exchange, America’s first industrial recycling firm written up by Business Week and many other business publications, I never personally earned more than the national income average.
This self-disciplined limitation of my personal income probably seems naïve and even irresponsible to true lovers of corporate capitalism. By that time in the 70’s, when I was in my 30’s, I had simply seen enough of the world’s misery that I did not want to add to it.
I felt that if I kept my income at the level of the average American I would remain truer to a spirit of existence I could accept. I did not do this our of any religious belief. Indeed as is well known by those who know me, I don’t believe in the existence of any god.
My motivation was and is to remain as close to an ordinary guy as the next fellow on the street. I know that when I worked four years to earn my college degree (the first in my family to ever do so) I would have an advantage over most people.
It just didn’t seem appropriate for me to use that advantage to in any fashion to oppress anyone else. I still like the idea. I have found in life that holding the an average income has cost me nothing in living a full life.
Things have never interested me. The most valuable thing I have ever owned was an ocean cruiser sailboat. It served as both my home and my office for twelve years. It served my primary incentive throughout life: not to obtain things but to obtain experiences.
This average income and incentive have served me well. I have no immense accumulated profits, I own no property. My quite modest back funds are designed and safeguarded to be my cushion against the repeated misfortunes of life created primarily by the capitalist profit-obsessed society I am a reluctant part of.
Ms. Hamilton’s book, “Mythology,” paints a clear picture of the present world by foreseeing in the ancient Greek world the society that world defined as necessary to sustain human life in a reasonable and equitable fashion.
It also, by clarifying the actual beliefs inculcated by ancient Greece, reveals how horribly we humans have violated almost all of its healthy concepts in our development of our economic models – particularly in our obsession of methodically devoting our assets to military defenses against one another’s profit goals.
Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, whatever Ism we define as our guiding light in country after country, we continuously stub our toes in our greed-infused concept of life on the planet. The simple concept of all working to keep all of us alive eludes us.
Our religions don’t correct our behavior. Our educations don’t do it. Our experiences seem to slip by without our learning a bloody thing. Rather, we seem incredibly fated to repeatedly misuse our knowledge.
Ms. Hamilton outdoes me in philosophical insight. Despite the failures of humanity, in the end she always found the courage to be optimistic. That’s why I read her. My pessimistic nature can always put her thoughts to good use.
At the end of “Mythology” she makes several observations gleaned from the ancient Greeks:
“A man knows nothing if he knows not
That wealth oft begets an ape.”
“Brave men can live well anywhere.
A coward dreads all things.”
“Be a friend to your friend.
Give him laughter for laughter.”
It is very clear that I need to work on my Bravery and think less negatively about life. I cannot accept I am a Coward. Let me go look now for some Laughter. I’ll report back to you when I’ve found it.