Thursday, June 20, 2013

the troubles of abundance

The northern end of my default bicycle ride in Fayetteville is Starbucks.  Like nearly everyone else there,  I sit and sip my coffee--and unlike many of the others,  mine is plain coffee--while touring the world on an electronic miracle device. I can look out the window and see blocks of stores selling items that didn't exist fifty or even fifteen years ago. A century ago most of the area around this shopping complex didn't have electricity. Although a random and unscientific survey I've been taking of the people here reveals that most of us consider ourselves part of the 99%, we are wealthy beyond the dreams of the 1% before the quite recent past.

And the good news is that although northwest Arkansas is a particularly wealthy area, where the prosperity has grown at a remarkably rapid rate, we are not alone. Although much of the attention of the news is often on poverty and catastrophes, the whole world is getting richer. The United Nations Mellinium Project is ahead of schedule in most areas.  It is expected that as early as 2030 no one will be left so poor as to go hungry.  One thing I find really amazing about this expectation is that critics abound to say it's not enough. Now, the United Nations and the World Bank certainly do not see this as a final goal,  but at no previous time in history has even this level of abundance been attainable.

Why do I call this a problem?  Because we still think politically and morally as if we live in the times of the famine in the land of Canaan, when the Egyptians have all the food. People who have gracious plenty are jealous of those who have even more. We still think we need to rob Peter to feed Paul.

I am not blind to the real possibility that some of the problems we face,  particularly global warming and religious chauvinism, will dash my rosey expectations.  But I nevertheless hope we will be willing to let go of our fears and look around at what's really happening here, and be thankful.