I reckon something good is coming out of the Wall Street occupation: it’s getting people talking about one of the seven deadly sins. We really should be talking about greed. We should be talking about how violent a sin greed is. It is violent because the greedy person will invariably do some sort of violence against another person in order to advance his avarice.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes something I have been thinking about myself.
From my point of view there are some other odd competing messages in the Occupy Wall street Movement. My purpose is not to sneer at this protest or pick out loony signs or philosophies of specific protesters. Do corporate CEOs and Wall street bankers need reform? Surely since we all need reform. Greed like all the seven deadly sins hurts not only the person with such a vice, but the community also. Unfortunately the direction of the criticism seems to have no concern for the effects of sin on the persons they criticize, but on what they can get out of it. Last I checked envy was also one of the seven deadly sins and class warfare rhetoric that concentrates on what they feel is owed to them. There is covetousness involved in the underlying attitudes. The whole “We are the 99%” invokes a less than charitable view of the so-called 1%. Besides it is rather odd to have such a small demographic of protesters say they are speaking for the 99%. I am also reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s “The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.”
Besides I find it interesting that they want to force their values on Wall street bankers. Rather ironic in such a relativistic culture that stresses individualism over moral virtues. Being that we are fallen creatures I would certainly suspect that greed exist among the targeted person, though it oversteps to assume greed is the driver among every individual that has amassed a fortune. So what is their plan to help those suffering from the effects of greed? There is really no call for conversion, but instead a call to extract money from them and transfer it somewhere else. Taking money from the actual greedy won’t reduce their greed. Even more regulation won’t affect greed. Transferring their wealth to the government is a great idea since we know politicians don’t suffer from greed or the love of power themselves – oh wait. The fact that so many in Washington are supported by the same “greedy” people seems to be lost on the protesters. The President who they are so sympathetic with has taken more money from the so-called 1% than anybody else in history. Again the driving force seems to be transfer of wealth to the government to be dispensed into some program that is seen as boon for the protesting individuals. The cost of a college education and the resulting student load debt seems to be one focus, yet they don’t talk about greed educational administrations and the gigantic increase in the cost of an education. I guess occupying Harvard, etc, just doesn’t sound as good. The effects of government on the economy is another area that seems to be totally ignored. The collusion of bankers and government and the resulting bailouts is certainly something I object to whether it is President Bush or President Obama at the helm. The economy is a complex thing and there is plenty of blame to go around.
Alexis de Tocqueville statement “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” has much to recommend it. We have become more and more a less virtuous nation with an underlying luke-warm Christianity. Moral relativism and individualism has undermined this nation. The common good now means “what’s in it for me.” Forced charity is no charity at all and what we really need is a call to conversion rooted in our own lives. We need to occupy the confessional and the adoration chapel. To intercede for those suffering from greed, envy, and the other deadly sins.