Sunday, October 12, 2008

Out with the Old God, in with the New

From today's readings:

Letter of Paul to the Philippians, 4:12-14, 19-20
Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

And from Harvey Cox, from the essay "The Market as God" in Atlantic Monthly, March 1999:

In days of old, seers entered a trance state and then informed anxious seekers what kind of mood the gods were in, and whether this was an auspicious time to begin a journey, get married, or start a war. The prophets of Israel repaired to the desert and then returned to announce whether Yahweh was feeling benevolent or wrathful. Today The Market's fickle will is clarified by daily reports from Wall Street and other sensory organs of finance. Thus we can learn on a day-to-day basis that The Market is "apprehensive," "relieved," "nervous," or even at times "jubilant." On the basis of this revelation awed adepts make critical decisions about whether to buy or sell. Like one of the devouring gods of old, The Market -- aptly embodied in a bull or a bear -- must be fed and kept happy under all circumstances. True, at times its appetite may seem excessive -- a $35 billion bailout here, a $50 billion one there -- but the alternative to assuaging its hunger is too terrible to contemplate.
(Hat tip, Matthew Sitman)

Our new god is very angry, and wants a very large sacrifice. And we will feed it, mostly because we have forgotten the words of old - praising our capacity to live within limits, even with want - and have instead replaced them with the belief that wanting something ought to mean having it. No matter the price - even leaving our children a crushing debt so that we will not have to pay for our irresponsibility.


Erin said...

I remember the Cox article when it came out and thought it was very insightful then - and even more so now.

Anonymous said...

John McMurtry's "Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy" is an excellent exposition of the philosophical value-set that underlies the "market" ideology.

J. David Robison said...

Reminds me of this Kipling Poem