There appears to be not a shred of guilt on Wall Street. Money controls Congress in ways that are painfully obvious but also more subtle, like the need of members to spend their evenings and weekends fund-raising so they no longer have the social interaction of Republican and Democratic families getting together for dinner in the evenings, and picnics on weekend afternoons, learning to know that there are human beings on the other side of the aisle. And more recently they have been kept apart not only by the need to raise money, but by the Republicans’ fear of angering the Tea Partiers.
What had been an assertion of group rights became a self-righteous assertion of group privileges without regard to the interest of others. Nothing illustrates that better than the senior citizens who screamed obscenities at those who supported health care for everyone even as they indignantly demanded the government not mess with their Medicare. The sickness is everywhere.
Behind the pursuit of money is a selfish indifference or—as it often appears to be in the case of Wall Street—contempt for the interests of others. Even those who are not motivated by greed are guilty of selfishness, as is the case with those teachers who are more concerned with protecting tenure than with educating children. “Let those hillbillies go get shot” was the title of a Monthly article about the prevailing attitude toward military service. And of course, just last December, Democrats and Republicans joined in the not-so-noble cause of tax cuts even for our wealthiest citizens. Remember the phrase “share any burden” from Kennedy’s inaugural? What deaf ears it would fall on today!
Can we change? I know we can, because I’ve seen it, lived it. The values that came to the fore in the ’30s and ’40s were a reaction to the selfish obsession with wealth that peaked in the late ’20s in a mad rush to get rich fast.
I hope my book will help inspire a similar reaction today. And I would be grateful to readers who might have ideas they could share.
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