Captured: People In Prison Drawing CEOs Who Should Be

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What a great idea! Prison artists doing portraits of CEOs, and listing their crimes against the environment, economy and society. They can be seen in a book published by The Captured Project, whose website states that all “profits go toward holding corporations responsible for their crimes, reforming the criminal justice system, and removing corporate control over government” – the pillars of Bernie Sander’s campaign for president.

The book displays the portraits (which are rendered quite skillfully) and lists the CEO’s offenses below. Is it possible this kind of approach can open previously closed eyes and bring a new awareness of the crimes Big Business commits in order to “produce the products and services that better their customer’s lives”?

For too long these corporate mobsters have been foisted off as champions of democracy and protectors of the common good, when they are nothing more than corrupters of the same. It’s time they were stripped of their pretense to reveal the shameful naked truth.

Click here to see a sampling.

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The Deep State: Digging Down with Trepidation

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“The Deep State” is a term that has been growing incrementally in America’s Political awareness. My own introduction came by way of Bill Moyer’s interview with Mike Lofgren, author of The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government. Since then, as more information has entered my awareness, I’ve felt a painful need to understand more about this mysterious entity. I say painful because if even some of what’s being reported is true, it means having to radically adjust the way I see the world.

After reading an article on OpEdNews by Gareth Porter, I decided to test my understanding of the problem by posting a comment on the article in which the main points of the problem, as I understood them, were listed – along with several questions that came to mind as a result. It got several replies, one of which is included verbatim.

The Comment:
I have some questions to ask, and I do so without facetious intent. I’d just like to know if I have a correct understanding of what this and other writers who have dealt with the same issue are saying:

  1. The Deep state is the entity actually in control of U.S. foreign policy.
  2. All the news coming from mass media outlets really is “fake” in that it’s manipulated by the Deep State for its own purposes.
  3. No one in government can be trusted, because they’re either part of the Deep State or are being duped by it.
  4. The so-called “elected” Presidents of both parties are simply trading places as the titular head of a sham government.
  5. Self-interest for the purpose of self-preservation is the primary driving force within government agencies.
  6. As long as the FBI, CIA and NSA (not to mention whatever other agency we might know about) maintain their ability to covertly direct policy and disseminate propaganda, there is no hope for government “chosen” by an electoral process to have any effect, or serve any purpose.
  7. If this is in fact the case, it puts citizens totally at the mercy of unseen forces.

Personally, this leaves me with several uncomfortable questions:

  1. Is there any way out?
  2. If conspiring forces are so deeply entrenched, what power do ordinary citizens have to uproot them and take back the ability to self-govern (if in fact we ever had it).
  3. Would it even be possible to do so without taking apart the whole machine and starting over?
  4. Who can be trusted?

Please clarify any misunderstanding on my part – it would be greatly appreciated.

Reply by Jack Dresser:

You’ve described the picture very well. A revolutionary transformation uprooting and replacing our hopelessly corrupt and murderous system is clearly necessary for human survival. The recent impassioned rejection of the duopoly by voters suggests the first boil over of a revolutionary teapot Chris Hedges anticipated 3 years ago. But Hedges warned that a viable replacement system needs to be clearly conceptualized and ready for installation to avoid chaos and/or seizure of power by the embattled deep state which still has the guns.

A stepwise process will be necessary with multiple elements to preserve the economy while transforming its structures and outputs. As an established government figure bearing the vision of a not-too-radical democratic socialist model, Sanders demonstrated what could be done as a beginning. His platform, however, was very limited. He failed to face militarism, ecological destruction and climate crises on the near horizon. The Green Party platform was much better, as is the Movement for Black Lives platform, and it’s interesting how closely these platforms match.

But beyond clear-eyed and creative vision, politically savvy candidates with charisma are needed who can dissolve the artificial left-right distinctions and identify key common threads. A critical mass of the citizenry must reach the level of understanding you describe to demand and support integration of legitimate citizen needs united in radical change. Solution to any puzzle first requires clear recognition of the pieces and how they fit together.

There are numerous small-scale models around the world to draw upon – e.g., the autonomous communities of Gaviotas in Columbia and Marinaleda in Andalucia, the autonomous Mondragon economy of Basque Spain, the direct participatory socialist democracy we destroyed in Gaddafi’s Libya, the recent constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador protecting rights of indigenous communities and the earth, the localized eco-agricultural projects surpassing GMO agriculture in crop yields using organic methods, and many discrete, inventive, sensible social and political systems as seen in Michael Moore’s “Who do we invade next?”

There may yet be basis for hope, but we must first decapitate both heads of our Hydra and see citizenship as a daily, not biennial, duty.

Postscript

From this and other replies, it appears that my basic understanding of the Deep State is workable. But it’s evident that there’s much more to learn. I’ve seen writers shoot off in different directions when discussing the Deep State, some of which are a bit too far out for my taste. My plan then, is to identify a few sources who can be deemed credible and follow the thread of their reports.

In truth, I hoped my analysis was off the mark. But since I’ve been assured it is not, it means having to face a choice: either ignore what’s been revealed about the Deep State and carry on as usual – or reconstruct the entire political landscape, and learn to comprehend it from two points of view.

Perhaps the iceberg analogy would be appropriate here. The tip of the berg may be real enough, but the immensity of what controls its direction lies unseen, deep below the surface.

However, the question about a way out was answered – and in the way I’d anticipated. A thorough transformation of government, (whether top-down or bottom-up, I’m not sure) is needed. Furthermore, any transformation that includes eliminating the Deep State would have to be nothing short of revolutionary in nature. What form that revolution would take is the only question.

Conservatives Fiddle While America Burns

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IAmMuslimToo Protest in Times Square. Source: Reuters

A fiercely conservative editor at The Detroit News, had an interesting column in Sunday’s February 19 edition about the effect Trump’s travel ban is having on the local Muslim community. He pointed out that while the executive action has greatly increased the stress level of Muslim-Americans, it has also had the surprising effect of greatly increasing support for the community from outside. Besides Detroit, cities across the country are witnessing large numbers of non-muslims protesting the ban.

At first glance the column seemed to be about a silver lining amidst despair – you know, feel good stuff. Instead, it turned into nothing more than another excuse to lick old wounds from the beating conservatives took – at their own hands it should be noted – during the previous administration.

The writer deftly turned a reprehensible action taken by the current “so-called” President – which turned out to have at least one positive effect – and used it as a false equivalent to note the expansion of the terror watch list during the Obama years.

Here’s the problem:

Obama is no longer President!

All that matters now is what happens next. Columns like the one cited here are nothing more than attempts to divert attention away from larger issues – a tactic that favored by conservatives in Congress, along with their band of merry apologists.

I realize that many Republicans were deeply traumatized by having to endure a President who didn’t fit the WASP standard – just as many of us now are with one who doesn’t fit the mental/emotional/decency standard. It’s amusing when the right tells liberals to “get over it”, and accept the fact that Trump’s the man now, when they themselves can’t get over and let go of their own painful memories.

The Detroit News column seemed to be taking the high road toward a deeper discussion about the ban, perhaps using it as an opportunity to discuss the unforeseen effects of government policies, whether one agrees with them or not. But it didn’t. Instead it lapsed back into partisan politics. (Of course having such a discussion means ignoring the elephant in the room that is Donald Trump’s mental impairment and the resulting dysfunction of his administration.)

But aside from the larger issues, it would’ve be interesting to know the writer’s opinion about the way this ban has resulted in renewed support for immigrants. Does he see it as a sign of hope, or as a threat? What’s being overlooked by people on either side? How do we uphold the democratic principles of personal freedom, life and liberty, while also securing borders? What does national security even mean? How does it relate to personal security? What if the greatest threat to both national and personal security is from within? We can close all the borders, chain the doors and lock down all the windows, but does that really solve the problem?

This is just me tossing out some of the things I’d like to see discussed apart from political ideology. But I guess that begs the question if it’s even possible.

Anyway, we could use more people willing to take on the real issues confronting democracy at present, and less misdirected chasing after phantoms from the past.

Addicted to Guns & Violence: America Needs An Intervention

Addiction isn’t about substance – you aren’t addicted to the substance, you are addicted to the alteration of mood that the substance brings.

-Susan Cheever

Guns, rights and regulations. A toxic threesome. With the possible exception of abortion, nothing in the US of A inflames the passions as much as the debate over guns and whether they ought to be controlled. Personally, it’s always been difficult to understand the level of affection many gun owners display for their weapons. I could never comprehend the manic resistance expressed whenever the subject of gun control would arise – that is, until I viewed it through the eyes of a recovering alcoholic.

The panic that can be seen in those who fear the loss of their weapon is like that of an addict who fears being deprived of his drug. Addicts will kick and scream, and do whatever it takes to protect their addiction. We will sacrifice all if need be, including our jobs, our families, our freedom, our sanity, and even our lives. We will lie to our wives, our children, and even our mothers. Woe be unto anyone or anything that comes between us and the object of our dependency.

I came across a recent online forum comment to be revealing:

“Face it, you like or love guns and accessories and make it your hobby and passion by choice. You travel the web and purchase books about firearms and ammunition and take frequent trips to the gun shop, gun smith and shooting range. You open your safe to clean your collection, check humidity, or to just plain show them off to your buds. Then there is the spending. You spend the unused part of your check each week, save up or sometimes dip into your savings for a new gun, accessories, ammo, or gear.”

The behavior depicted here could easily describe any number of addictions. Consider some of the common characteristics:

  • Obsession with an object, activity or substance.
  • A compulsion to engage in an activity, and finding it difficult, even impossible not to do so.
  • Engaging in a behavior even though it causes harm to self and/or others.
  • Denial that the behavior is a problem.
  • Ritualistic behavior involving the object or activity (like the trips to the gun shop and gun cleaning in the forum post).
  • Enabling oneself and others by associating with only those who share and even encourage the behavior.

And of course there’s the desire for the gratification (high) the behavior provides, which becomes an uncontrollable need.

Aside from genetics, two powerful contributors to addiction are the 2-headed dragon of power and control. Typically, we addicts display low self-esteem and suffer great anxiety about not feeling in control of our immediate environment. Guns enable some to feel more powerful; they feed a fantasy where guns are seen to provide an almost magical solution to any problem. In a multitude of ways, popular culture identifies the guy with the gun as the guy with the power.

Then there is the gratification derived from the act of firing a gun. Gun owners often talk about the pleasure and enjoyment they experience when holding and shooting a weapon. Another forum participant describes the activity with a feeling that borders on erotic poetry:

“My Super Blackhawk is not at all unpleasant to shoot. It rolls back in my hand, sort of tries to leave my supporting hand, and climbs near vertical with muzzle uppermost. And the target reacts in the nicest way. And this gun is indeed a pleasure to shoot.”

Like other drugs, possessing a gun provides the addict with an escape from reality and an easing of emotional pain. It may begin with the need for a momentary release from anxiety and fear, but it soon evolves into a dependency on the changes in consciousness and ritualistic behaviors that create a vicious cycle from which it is very difficult to escape.

The truth is, the intensity with which some gun owners protest any change in laws affecting weapons and ammunition, speaks to the depth of their suffering. Indeed, they are suffering in bondage to a need which has taken over their lives. That’s what addiction is. However, as with other addictions, there is a way out. But first, the country as a whole has to recognize that there is a problem and decide to end the denial. Then we have to stop enabling the addiction.

We need an intervention for our country. We need to confront the truth about the culture of fear and violence which allows those addicted to guns to control both the narrative and the legislatures. We need to be honest about profit motives driving the resistance. The gun industry and their affiliated industries spend tens of millions on lobbyists who work to convince members of Congress that effecting policies contrary to the well being of their constituents is a good thing. We need to acknowledge the silent willingness on our part that allows communities to endure domestic terror. We need to face the fact that we’ve created a popular culture in which “the gun” has become an icon, a golden calf, an object of worship.

We all share responsibility for the problem. Even if we don’t exhibit the addictive behavior, or even own a gun, we are all complicit in the culture of violence that perpetuates it. If we watch violent TV shows, we’re complicit. If we see movies depicting violent behavior, we’re complicit. If we read material which glorifies gun violence, we’re complicit. In short, we’re complicit just by being consumers.

Recovering addicts know that healing begins with a shift in consciousness. That shift is what enables the ability to see the truth about their dependency and what needs to change. This is what we need as a country. While changes in the present laws are needed, we know only too well that such actions alone will not prevent addiction. What we need is a new mind with a new awareness, allowing us to see the truth about our collective dependency, and how much it controls our cultural values. Those values, and the behavior they condone, are a constant threat to the physical and psychological well being of everyone. If we refuse to face this fact, it can only become worse.

Such a shift doesn’t come quickly, but history proves how it’s possible. Shifts in consciousness brought about the democratic form of government, the end of slavery, and the Equal Rights Amendment.

The shift that ends our cultural dependency on guns will be monumental. It will mean having a willingness to release fear and the never ending need for self-protection. The common belief is that fear is caused by crime and violence, and not living in fear is the result of eliminating the cause. Bu,t in fact, it is fear that causes the crime and violence. Fear is a choice. Few would accept that truth. As long as we believe fear is the natural reaction to a fear-filled world, we can’t be free. When we become able to understood that fear is nothing more that a hold-over from our primitive brain and its instinctive fear response, we are free to chose another way to respond.

How can such a shift happen? In 12-step programs, the second step is key. It involves turning our lives over to a higher power. That higher power is never narrowly defined. It can be God, Allah, Spirit, Higher Self, the universe, or whatever force greater than oneself can be drawn on for help to make it through, one day at a time.

But how can the 12-step concept be applied to a culture or an entire country?

In addition to the higher power options already mentioned, there’s yet one more. Addicts who can’t relate to amorphous forms are told they can consider the group of which they are a member to be their higher power. In order to apply that to America’s addiction to guns, we would first have to admit that we’re all addicted.

Even if we don’t exhibit addictive behavior, or even own a gun, we are all complicit in the culture of violence that perpetuates it. If we watch violent TV shows, we’re complicit. If we see movies depicting violent behavior, we’re complicit. If we read material which glorifies gun violence, we’re complicit.

Here’s the inconvenient truth: we’re complicit just by being consumers of popular entertainment. My drug of choice is TV’s Law & Order, what’s yours?

The Christian Church In America is Dead – Donald Trump’s Election Proves It!

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Christianity is, I believe, about expanded life, heightened consciousness and achieving a new humanity. –John Shelby Spong

Christian churches in America are social clubs. We do a nice job of providing excuses for people to exercise their instincts as a social animals. There are bowling teams, softball teams, basketball teams, ladies auxiliaries, youth groups and various boards on which to serve. We put on nice pot-luck dinners and serve coffee after worship services where members gather to discuss everything, except the content of the holy ritual they just attended. We discuss the sermon by noting it wasn’t too boring, but the delivery could still use some work. We do a good job administering the rites of passage. Baptisms, confirmations, marriages and funerals legitimize our existence as religious institutions.

Indeed, the church should be a comfortable place where the soul can find rest and a sense of belonging. But it should also be a place where our human foibles are constantly challenged, where spiritual growth is actively encouraged, where comfort does not become complacency, where the status quo is continually examined and questioned. Are we transformed by our church experience to deal with these issues as the “New Beings” we’re supposed to be? Does the Gospel message really speak to the human soul? Or, is it just platitude – without any real practical application.

The Christian church in America is not what it confesses to be. It’s like a shell washed up on the shore. It displays a solid exterior, but internally it is devoid of the material needed to sustain viability. In other words, it’s dead.

Missing The Mark
The ultimate proof of this moribund condition is the election of a President who fervently embodies anti-Christian beliefs and attitudes. His “Two Corinthians” comment aside, as president-elect, he didn’t even bother to feign a religious life or knowledge of Christian principles. His expressed values and attitudes embody the concept of missing the mark, which is the original meaning of the word, sin. We won’t attempt to enumerate his transgressions here, since nearly every word and action bears witness. His contempt for Christian values is palpable.

If churches were truly alive with the Holy Spirit, they’d have mounted a response so loud and vehement, the candidate would have been quickly dismissed. If Pastors took seriously their prophetic responsibility to speak for truth, their voices would have shaken churches from Spokane to Cape Cod. If individuals and congregations were actually infused with Christ consciousness, they would have reached out to enlightened the better angels of all Americans.

So where then was The Conference of Catholic Bishops – the same Bishops who otherwise never hesitate to declare positions on doctrine? Pope Francis was clear about his misgivings concerning the candidate, but aside from criticizing Trump’s comments on immigration, the Conference was shamefully silent.

And where were the family values-centric Evangelicals? Why were they silent about the President elect’s adultery and his amenability to sexual assault? Is the fear of changing cultural norms so great these Christian leaders would subvert their basic principles to the point of enabling one they would normally dismiss without a second thought? Does bondage to their doctrine, which prohibits abortion and denounces homosexuality, override reacting a greater danger? If so, it is a shameless betrayal of the one whose example they profess to follow.

A Symptom
That being said, the Church’s failure of conscience and responsibility in the recent election, is merely a symptom of deeper dis-ease. The real issue festers below the surface. It is a systemic dysfunction that dooms any effort to positively transform the human heart. With the exception of a few little known protestant denominations, Christian churches remain enmeshed in a world view, theology and religious language that has not changed in five-hundred years.

It is precisely this cultural dislocation that is responsible for the church’s present state of impotence. The election of Donald Trump is symptomatic of that impotence – the inability to confront fear and intolerance with a theology (language & symbols) that effectively expresses the ideals of love and compassion. Even if good intentions were present, the means to effectively act on them is not. It’s like trying to power a modern high-speed train with steam. No matter how much is generated, the train simply will not move.

The Church needs to find a new voice – a new theology – one that speaks to the spiritual and emotional needs of people in their present context. Musty vocabularies and dust-covered symbols can’t meet the need. The hierarchical model, on which churches were structured for centuries, may have provided an effective way to exert control over clergy and congregants, but it is not consistent with Gospel teachings. Monolithic organizational structures are antithetical to the new understanding of the God/human relationship that Jesus brought to the world. Instead of following the corporate concept of bigger is better, churches need to become smaller, with as little bureaucracy and paid staff as possible. Using 12-step groups as a model would be a good start. The minimalist self-supporting structure has worked well to keep groups focused and effective in their mission to aid the spiritual growth of recovering addicts.

Either Or
And so, the Church is left with a choice. It can either upgrade its software (theology) to become more user-friendly (relevant), or stay with a comfortably familiar but no longer effective way of doing ministry. Choosing the later means running the risk of empowering more like Donald Trump – or worse.

The spiritual needs of mankind haven’t changed in two-thousand years, but the way to nurture those needs has to evolve. It’s impossible to say whether or not the Church’s having a voice that speaks to the spirit of the present day would have made a difference in the election. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that a Church which is more fully engaged in its mission to live out the Gospel would have responded in a way that was more attuned to its core principles.

The Gospel message calls for living at a higher level of consciousness, in a state of grace, with unconditional love, forgiveness, charity and peace that passes normal human understanding. We need every bit of that right here and now.

So everyone who proclaims love and forgiveness to the world, is one with the Spirit and holds the peace of eternity in their heart. –Matthew 10:32 (RNV)

From Fox News to Fake News: Propaganda vs.Truth and The Struggle to Save Our Cultural Soul

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Modern Wasteland

People need good lies. There are too many bad ones. -Kurt Vonnegut /

Politics, Money and Culture
Politics, money and culture have become bound together in an immense Gordian knot. Many accept this perverse relationship as normal. However, it is not normal, and the co-mingling has produced an intractable force which exploits society’s willingness to substitute pleasure and power for value and meaning.

Besides having aesthetic value, the arts are legitimately used to raise awareness and help resolve issues that affect society. But they are also used as a means for achieving crass political ends.

Politics (the act of influencing actions and policies for the purpose of gaining and keeping power) has become like something straight out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Current events bear an uncanny resemblance to the writer’s comically addled characters and absurd story lines. The line between reality and satire has become so blurred, it’s sometimes difficult to tell which is which. Add to this the current phenomenon of “fake news”, and another layer of insulation distances the public from the whole truth.

Culture (the self-expression of a society through the humanities and science) has become a debris field, contaminated by an unending stream of success-toting false prophets, and littered with victims of the insatiable appetite for money and power. Culture ought to be a beacon of truth, creating a vital mythology of place and time that speaks from and to the human soul. Politics/government can be used to either empower or hinder society’s engagement with that truth.

The present reality is a Political-PopCulture, a toxic symbiosis, with each using the other as fodder for propaganda to further cynical purposes and selfish ends. What the Political-PopCulture presents as truth is a fraud. It is the arts in service to aggregated power. That same power props up and manipulates a pseudo-culture based on fads, appetites and the lowest common denominator in social craving – all done to sell the latest non-essential or worthless superficiality.

In reality, this is censorship. It represents the suppression and subversion of authentic self-expression.

Media Mania
Having a constitutionally guaranteed free press is supposed to mean having access to media which is not restricted by censorship in political, ideological or cultural matters. At its best, it would empower authentic self-expression by exposing the fraud created by those in power. But the powerful know that suppression of a free press – which includes creating media outlets which blatantly present propaganda as fact (Fox) – is the most effective way to manipulate public opinion.

Special interests also work hard to prevent transparency in government. We know from history that governments which lack transparency are in for trouble. And our recent history has demonstrated a disturbing aversion to the disclosure of “secret” information (Edward Snowden). Thus the question: just what is “big media” ignoring or being restrained from reporting?

Ironically, a seemingly simple idea like government of, by, and for the people will mean different things to different people. The Tea Party member in Kansas and the Democratic Socialist in New York have very different interpretations. Even as ideologies debate the definition of “person”, Citizens United endows corporations with personhood, which further erodes the ideal of a representative government already under siege by special interests and big money. It’s all good for the Political-PopCulture and its beneficiaries, but it is soul-killing in its effect on society as an organic system.

The appearance of what’s called alternative media (not to be confused with the Alt-right), including citizen journalism and collaborative journalism, is one response to what some believe is the sell-out by big media outlets to the power brokers. Many are militantly iconoclastic with distinct axes to grind. Some have been exposed as fronts for the fake news movement. It’s too soon to know how effective these alternatives will be in the long run. Personally, I have found value in some, but absurdity as well.

Loosening the Knot
“Turn on, tune in, drop out” was a phrase popularized by Timothy Leary in the 1960’s. He spoke about using psychedelic drugs to gain freedom from a sterile, conforming and ultimately fraudulent culture. I’ve been thinking about this phrase in connection with political pop-culture. I see a link, but in a nuanced (and a less drug-induced) way – and it may offer a way out of the conundrum. By flipping the phrase to drop out, tune in, turn on, we just might have a pathway.

First, drop out of the Political-PopCulture. Refuse to be seduced by the lure of an easy, mindless, synthetic, and superficial way of life. Reject group-think. Refuse to blindly follow the lead of the pseudo-culture’s manipulation.

Next, tune in to a more mindful, sustainable and authentic lifestyle. Nurture the nonlinear right side of the brain. Take responsibility for one’s own physical, mental and spiritual health. That includes the community – as in neighborhood, town, state, country and planet.

Doing the first two things gives individuals and communities the freedom to turn on their innate creative core. It inspires and encourages innovation in the search for ways to solve problems which don’t do injury to self, others or the planet. Cultural expression is free to take form organically, without being shaped by the influence of political agencies whose only interest is in perpetuating themselves through their soul-stealing fraud.

Admittedly, this is a streamlined solution to a complex challenge. It’s one of those simple tasks that are difficult to do. It requires nothing less than reprogramming ourselves after a lifetime of relentless cultural conditioning. It requires letting go of long held cherished beliefs. It means realizing that we have been mislead by people and institutions we trusted implicitly. It also means being willing to forgive those people and institutions in order to move on and accomplish all the great things of which we’re capable.

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. -Mahatma Gandhi

A Myth in Pursuit of Happiness

How Pursuing Wealth for Happiness and Security Assures Having Neither

The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle and comes out at the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich!

Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.

Show Me The Money!
Is it true that anyone living in America can get rich? A popular myth* promoted in everything from best-selling books to TV sitcoms says that it is. We are told that America is the land of endless opportunity, and anyone who works hard can come out of the jungle rich. There is even the suggestion by some that refusing the call to passionately pursue wealth is un-American.

The reality, however, is quite different. The promise of untold wealth – and the personal power that supposedly comes with it – is dangled like a carrot on a stick, enticing the aspiring rich to keep focused on reaching for something the already rich know full well is forever beyond their grasp. The myth, therefore, is part of an elaborate deception, a con.

While it’s true that many people do rise above humble beginnings to attain a degree of wealth and social standing, it is not at the same level as the few who inhabit the mountain top. It’s known that even among the rich there is a wealth hierarchy, as evidenced by the disdain “old” money displays for “new” money.

The success and endurance of the myth and its associated con is based on embedding the idea that all one needs to be happy is lots of money. And while people will sometimes pay lip service to this not actually being true, no one actually buys into the transparent denial. And how can they in a culture that lusts after lifestyles of the rich and famous, and values wealth above all else?

Ironically, the Declaration of Independence originally contained the phrase, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of wealth”. Why then was “happiness” substituted instead? Coulld it be the founders had a flash of insight, recognizing that while happiness could include wealth, it didn’t exclude other definitions? It’s unfortunate that for many, the original sentiment remains the only meaning.

Oh, Those Fatal Flaws
But upon even just a cursory inspection, three fundamental flaws underpinning the scheme are exposed. First, the numbers themselves reveal that relatively few can ever actually achieve great wealth (apart from the fact that by global standards the average American is very well off). Most Americans have become aware of the 1/99 ratio of rich to not rich that represents the stark reality.

Second, not everyone is driven to become monetarily rich. As previously pointed out, there are those who have an entirely different definition of wealth and seek riches in other forms, such as art, knowledge, discovery, promoting a cause, the satisfaction of helping others, etc. Some even see earning money to live as a needless distraction from more important pursuits.

The third and most basic flaw in the myth gets to the very heart. There is a quote attributed to Author, David Mitchell: “Whoever dies with the most stuff wins”. Whether it’s stuff or money, this sums up the attitude of many regarding what they understand the purpose of existence to be. But why is that? Where is it written that the meaning of life is to become as rich as possible? On what stone? The Ten Commandments? The Bill of Rights? The Hollywood Walk of Fame?

Fact is, the closest we have to authoritative guidance on this issue comes from the world’s great wisdom traditions (religion and philosophy), and what they have to say directly contradicts the myth’s rationale. These traditions tell us that acquiring wealth is not the goal of human existence. Enlightened teachers from different times and cultures have emphasized this truth over and over. Along with iconic literary works, fine art and music, these wisdom traditions have cast light on the deepest needs and desires of the human soul.

What do they tell us? The quest for material wealth is a misdirected attempt to obtain the most basic of human needs: love and security. The myth suggests that the need for love and security can be satisfied by having lots of money. However, this is based on two mistaken beliefs. First, by itself, being wealthy may induce admiration in some and idol worship in others, but it doesn’t guarantee being genuinely loved by anyone. Second, it assumes that wealth can provide everything needed to live in safety and security.

A Simple Truth
What nullifies these beliefs is their looking to a source outside the self to provide that which only the self can do for itself. Any admiration that’s derived from status is only skin deep – and no amount of money can guarantee complete and total security.

The neurotic need that seeks approval from external sources is the result of not loving and accepting ourselves unconditionally, flaws and all. If we are not at peace with ourselves, no amount of fame or fortune is capable of filling the gaping hole.

Real security is an inner sense of well being which has nothing to do with external circumstances. The fear that lies behind an obsession with security is a subconscious fear, fueled by feelings of insecurity. Those feelings result from a false belief that by ourselves, we are not enough. From this comes the need to order and control the environment as a way to compensate for the feelings of inadequacy, and convince those around us that we have value (importance) as persons. We believe these feelings have to be hidden from view, lest the truth about not being worthy is seen by others. We can use a variety of methods to hide our insecurity, but covering it over with heaps of expensive and extravagant stuff appears to be the one preferred.

If we don’t understand that real security is found only as a by-product of complete and total self-acceptance – and the indomitable confidence in ourselves and the Universe that comes as a result – there isn’t a fortification in the world that can protect us from whatever fear we imagine. We may not be perfect, but we are enough! When this truth at last sinks in, the need to hide parts of ourselves from the world no longer exists, and that’s because we no longer believe anyone else’s opinion of us determines our value.

Author Mark Boyle experimented living for three years without money and reports the surprising effect it had:

More than anything else, I discovered that my security no longer lay in my bank account, but in the strength of my relationships with the people, plants and animals around me. My character replaced sterling as my currency . . .  My moneyless economy was one in which helpfulness, generosity and solidarity were rewarded . . . I realised I was capable of more than I ever imagined.

This eloquently stated example points to another popular but erroneous belief – that money equals freedom. In fact, real freedom is being liberated from limiting beliefs that interfere with the ability to live a full life with love and joy – on one’s own terms. Real freedom is being secure in the ability to serenely meet life’s challenges with confidence and creativity.

In Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman, Willy Loman, the play’s central character, is consumed by the quest to become rich. He accepts the myth, buys into the con, and is ultimately destroyed by his obsession. In the end, the ideal of wealth and social approval upon which he had based his life, eludes him. He then chooses to blame himself for his perceived failure, rather than accept the possibility that the real problem lie with the goal of his quest. If he only knew the real treasure was within himself. He had it all along. And so do we.

*”Myth” as used here is the popular, albeit, incorrect definition: an idea or story that is believed by many but which is not true. It is more correctly understood as a cultural construct which uses analogy and metaphor to express an otherwise inexpressible truth that arises from the supra-consciousness of individuals in a given society, and which is only accessible through intuition.