On poverty, competition and self-interest

By Th.H.

The news stories come right one after the other. Despite the fact that we live in an era of “crisis”, the profits of the richest individuals on the planet are astronomical: in 2017, the fortune of 500 of them rose by 1 trillion dollars – a figure hard to grasp. The profits of the 100 richest in the same year suffice to solve global poverty 7 times, according to Oxfam. The notorious 1% of the Earth’s moguls possesses 82% of the global wealth, while the eight richest people on the planet have as much money as the poorest 3,6 billion people – a few years ago, the same amount was owned by 60 people.

We live at a time of extraordinary financial inequality, and hence of blatant injustice, since the fact that such huge financial power is concentrated in so few individuals constitutes them above the law and government regulation. Many of them are actually richer than entire countries.

The “trickle-down” narrative, i.e. that economic growth and wealth expansion will be diffused at the lower strata, has clearly been disproved.

The increased poverty of a large part of the global population leads them inadvertently to rage, which is partly expressed through the so many votes of anger which characterize our days (Trump in the USA, Brexit, Bolsonaro in Brazil). The same anger leads a large part of the world to far-right “solutions” and to increased isolation from others, particularly from foreigners.

We don’t think that the global elite is comprised of monsters who gleefully enjoy the gloom that they orchestrate for the poor. Those people live and work within a very specific framework: the dominant financial system, which promotes competition and self-interest as the greatest values.

It is in those two notions that the philosophical roots of capitalism are found, as those were developed in the end of the 18th century by Adam Smith. According to Smith, man is primarily interested for his self-interest. The shoe-maker, Smith proclaimed, is not interested to produce shoes for the benefit of society; he is only interested to make money for himself and his family. Therefore, a mechanism must be found which would turn the pursuit of self-interest to the common good. This mechanism is the market, in which the various “shoe-makers” compete against each other for the production of better and cheaper shoes. In this way, society finally benefits from the individual’s egotistical endeavor.

Since we live for more than two centuries within this system that considers self-evident that humans are egoists, we have internalized the idea that this is the truth: everyone cares only for themselves and their families. For instance, the 2018 World Values Survey indicated, for Greece, that the majority of Greeks consider competition a good thing (p. 170), while the most important thing defining behavior is attachment to family and promotion of self-interest (p. 514).

If this is the way most of us behave, why would the rich differ?

The results of the domination of competition and self-interest are evident around us: increase in poverty, suspicion towards others, isolation in our own microcosm. Moreover, indifference for the commons. Being selfish, how can we manage effectively the common goods, such as water, since we are interested only for our own interest? This is the “tragedy of the commons”, for which the ecologist Garrett Hardin talked about in 1968. So what remains as a viable management solution than to privatize everything?

Is there, however, really no alternative? Is it true that we are exclusively motivated by our self-interest? Is competition really unavoidable?

Here we cannot but disagree, since history is full of examples of simple people sacrificing their lives for the development of the whole.

Regarding the “tragedy of the commons”, political economist Elinor Ostrom provided a wealth of examples of traditional societies that have managed for generations the commons based on cooperation – she is actually the only woman who has been awarded the Nobel Prize in economic sciences based on this research.

Therefore neither competition nor cooperation are unalterable elements of the human nature; they are not natural givens. Both are possibilities that exist potentially within us, and then it is only a matter of choice. Competition leads to separation, cooperation towards union. Competition leads to waste of resources (pondering only on the effects of war suffices in that regard), cooperation in the effective management of problems. The effects of cooperation have been clearly shown in many cases throughout history, and in recent times in the human genome project, a research so hard and time consuming, that it was decided to be conducted collectively and not competitively.

So, in the Work, we are trying to labor for the establishment of cooperation and global unity and brotherhood/sisterhood, inside and outside of us. We follow global affairs closely and intervene through the power of blessing in developments, trying to affect not only the symptoms of problems, but mainly their causes.

We recognize that self-interest and competition currently dominate within the collective human consciousness, not because they comprise the basic content of “human nature”, but because we have been living for centuries within a system that promotes them as values. Observing how those “values” have ended up oppressing people, we deem that they should be transformed to qualities that serve us instead.

We believe that the most profound way to overcome self-interest is found in the revolution that the Work brings: to the change in the very notion of Self, so that when we say “I” we won’t mean our isolated personality, but the One Human, who is found in every person of the planet, in the previous and coming generations. This is a truth we are trying to live experientially in our everyday lives.

For the gradual establishment of this consciousness to the students of this Work, the Logos-Christ provides real experiences of expansion, so that we can truly say “I am the others”. This is the way to overcome “self-interest”, as the individual enters a path of full identification with all of humanity.

The disciple of the Work is being taught by the Word to expand their sense of responsibility to everything that happens on the planet: for global poverty, for the divisions between peoples, for the election results in Brazil and the USA, for the wars in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere, we are all responsible. Me, the One Human who lives on the planet.

This expanded responsibility is accompanied by an equivalent capacity to intervene spiritually for changing the world: we are not powerless observers of affairs, but people who are trying to dynamically shape them through the new ways of active prayer brought forth by Ioannis, through our union with the Logos.

This is the revolution of consciousness that our society needs to confront the challenges that the planet faces – and it has already begun.

As a growing number of people attune themselves with this revolution, the One Self, who was revealed by Ioannis, will work to progressively transform separation and divisions within the collective consciousness. Until a critical mass has been prepared that will attempt to restructure global society, putting a formal end to poverty, injustice and competition.

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