Monday, April 7, 2014

Getting and Spending

     The world is too much with us; late and soon,
     Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
     Little we see in Nature that is ours;
     We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
     This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
     The winds that will be howling at all hours,
     And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
     For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
     It moves us not. --Great God! I'd rather be
     A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
     So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
     Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
     Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
     Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

                                 William Wordsworth (1807)

I have been thinking a lot lately about this poem, and about how Wordsworth's observations about what rapid industrialization was doing to England and the English people seem equally to apply to what is happening with global capitalism today. "Getting and spending" seem to be the only right and proper roles of citizens (or rather, consumers), at least as far as culture-makers are concerned.

We see this single-minded emphasis on commerce everywhere - from the rampant growth of the financial sector relative to other parts of the economy (you know the parts that actually produce goods and provide essential services); in the fact that Business Administration is the most popular college major in America; in the commonly-held belief that the purpose of college is job-training, rather than intellectual and spiritual development; and in the constant refrain that work, work, and ever-more work makes one free - never mind that many jobs involve mind-numbing drudgery.

The value of the natural world is barely even considered when it comes in conflict (whether real or imagined) with "economic growth" or "job creation". The ever-popular "family values" are given lip service, but heaven forbid we enact policies that might actually help people have happier family lives, if some corporation might lose a dime's worth of profit because of them.

I really don't think any of the major problems we face today, from climate change on down, are going to get solved without looking at the underlying sickness binding them all: The love of money (and the greedy hoarding of it by the rich and powerful) is the root of all evil.

No comments:

Post a Comment