I’m not sure we’ve agreed on the social contract that currently exists in our societies; the American dream alongside Neoliberal philosophy has given us a kind of idolisation around money, that puts billionaires at the top of the tree.
An inspiration; people to look up to, admire, seek to replicate — someone to influence all of us.
The problem with this is that billionaires don’t seem to want this limelight.
They hole up behind gated communities; scared of the impending anarchy that might threaten their wealth, or perhaps they don’t believe in their leadership? They haven’t been taught how to lead philanthropically through their rising in the new industrial rich.
Maybe they don’t believe they’re truly worthy of the riches they have, which keeps them striving to create more wealth. Most people think of wealth in terms of lifestyle, so even if they’re super rich, they’re still looking up at the next wrung on the ladder.
Is this why they buy yachts they can’t sail or don’t have the presence to dedicate time to that craft? Is this why they pay exorbitant mooring costs and grow resentful of even this most privileged possession?
Do they need our help?
Maybe the problem is that we’re left guessing what their lives are like, and how they feel.
The flow of a healthy society mimics nature; it’s reciprocal.
The dominance that money can provide has changed the balance of power in society, there’s a large amount of power in corporations, and we’ve seen governance trying to pander to them, or even actively working alongside them.
A problem presents itself here because business is so rational; emotions are actively discouraged, and time is always tight.
Are we going to steer our society mindlessly — or even too minded, towards a crisis point?
Where are the ethical conversations around this situation?
The way I see it, billionaires have the collective awe of the commons. Therefore they have a power akin to ancient divine kings, where people accepted that the king’s life was inspirational; and they sought to replicate it as much as was possible, for the lowly commoner.
Here’s where a particular version of the Monomyth comes into relevance. This particular one is a Greek tale of the great Minos.
“Whether we listen with aloof amusement to the dreamlike mumbo jumbo of some red-eyed witch doctor of the Congo, or read cultivated rapture thin translations from the sonnets of the mystic Lao-Tse; now and again crack the hard shell of an argument of Aquinas, or catch suddenly the shining meaning of a bizarre Eskimo fairy tale: it will always be the one, shape-shifting, yet marvellously constant story that we find, together with a challengingly persistent suggestion of more remaining to be experienced than will ever be known or told.”
~ Joseph Campbell ~
This myth of Minos, king of the island empire of Crete in the period of its commercial supremacy, considers the hoarding of the collective good.
When Minos was challenged to the throne by Poseidon, he asserted rite to rule; divine right, and had prayed the God to send up a bull out of the sea, as a sign. He had sealed the prayer with a vow to sacrifice the animal immediately, as an offering and symbol of service.
I want to side note here and recognise that there has been no seal from the billionaires of our society, to help towards the collective good.
The bull arrived for Minos. He took the throne, however, when he beheld the majesty of the beast that been sent, he thought to himself what an advantage it would be to possess such a specimen. He determined to risk a merchant’s substitution — he swapped out the bull for another.
He added the sacred bull to his own herd, and he offered a fine white bull on the altar of Poseidon, thinking that the God would not notice.
The Cretan empire had grown prosperous under Minos’ famous judicial character; he was a model of public virtue. Knossos, the capital of Crete, was luxurious, elegant, and a leading commercial centre.
The myth goes that Poseidon had inspired the queen to obsession over the bull, and by having a cow’s suit constructed, she had impregnated by the divine bull, and born a son, which is the famed minotaur of that story.
According to the legend, the primary fault was the king’s; he knew what he had done. He could not blame his wife.
He had converted a public event to personal gain, going against the whole sense of his investiture as king; to no longer be a private person.
The return of the bull should have symbolised his absolutely selfless submission to the functions of his role. The retaining of it represented, on the other hand, an impulse to egocentric self-aggrandisement. And so the king “by the grace of God” became the dangerous tyrant Holdfast — out for himself.
The old rites of passage used to teach individuals to die to the past, and be reborn to the future, as well as the grand ceremonies that divested you of private character, and clothed you in the mantle of vocation.
There were many of these rites in existence, I remember seeing one old video of immigrants ceremonially stepping into a big pot shaped structure, getting changed from their traditional dress into American dress, and emerging triumphantly. Can you think of any of these traditions that we’ve held?
Is the challenge that we’re facing the confusion of who has the right to the investiture? Who is responsible for leading the society selflessly?
We are living in a time where no seems to want to take that responsibility or accountability.
The leaders of this world are evasive and flippant.
The Neoliberal world is not concerned with the collective good; they’re only concerned with hoarding; growing wealth for wealth’s sake. When asked about wealth distribution they could only offer a worn out ‘trickle-down’ argument. The market has become God in their dogma; they’re unable to see outside of it, to what the collective good needs.
It’s conveniently misunderstood that the first Neoliberal government was forced onto Chile after a popular socialist movement scared the elites of the country into a military coup. This coup was backed by the CIA, after interests of the British-American mining companies were threatened, unofficially.
I’d urge anyone to read Isobel Allende’s beautiful and harrowing book ‘The House Of The Spirits’. Let me know if you can read it without crying.
Neoliberalism isn’t a panacea that we all benefit from, we’ve been sold a dream that doesn’t ever come true, a dream of getting rich, and having our moment in the sun.
“Inequality has been on the rise across the globe for several decades. Some countries have reduced the numbers of people living in extreme poverty. But economic gaps have continued to grow as the very richest amass unprecedented levels of wealth.” ~ Inequality.org ~
By the sacrilege of the refusal of the rite, however, the individual cut himself as a unit off from the larger unit of the whole community: and so the One was broken into the many, and these then battled each other — each out for himself — and could only be governed by force.
The figure of the tyrant-monster is known to mythologies, folk-traditions, legends, and even nightmares of the world; and his characteristics are everywhere essentially the same. He is the hoarder of the general benefit.
Can we say that our societies don’t fit this model?
When our actions are causing soil erosion, destruction of the biosphere, rising levels of CO2, cutting down of indigenous forest, and generally traumatising most people on the Earth, not least, the indigenous cultures who have lived with the land for millions of years.
We are hoarding the public benefit, and our leaders are the tyrants who are grasping at control.
Edith Eger book ‘The Gift’, has a passage that reads:
The best way to let go of the need for control is to become powerful. Power has nothing to do with brawn or domination. It means you have strength to respond instead of react, to take charge of your life, to have total ownership of your choices. You are powerful because you’re not giving your power away. If you take back your power and still want to be right, then choose to be kind, because kindness is always right.
Let’s stop saying that our leaders are powerful, and start saying that they are the ones who dominate well.
Too many of us are searching for power, by grasping at control (agenda), or contempt (judgement). They seem to lead down the right path, yet, they never reach the finish line.
The finish line being fulfilment, cooperation, kindness, and working together to rejuvenate the parts of the Earth that we have destroyed. That is truth and reconciliation. That will ensure our survival as a species.
Previously Published on Medium