Organized labor’s catastrophic decline has paralleled – and, to a disputed but indisputably substantial degree, precipitated – an equally dramatic rise in economic inequality. In 1980, the best-off tenth of American families collected about a third of the nation’s income. Now they’re getting close to a half. The top one per cent is getting a full fifth, double what it got in 1980. The super-rich – the top one-tenth of the top one per cent, which is to say the top one-thousandth – have been the biggest winners of all. What is always called their “compensation” (wage workers lucky enough to have a job simply get paid) has quadrupled.” Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, March 7, 2011
While on vacation last year I read a book entitled “The Spirit Level”. The book painstakingly assesses data from around the world and what was found was that in all cultures the greatest marker for misery for all people was the level of economic disparity found in the culture. Violence levels, health issues, quality of life, and general well-being was compromised when the gap between the haves and the have-nots widened. Even those supposedly protected from angst by gated communities feel the pain.
The conclusion was clear and biblical. Whatever is done to the least (or not done) is done to the soul of the whole.
Political commentators and each of us have been roiled by the unfolding of civic engagement in Wisconsin. There is much at stake in this.
It seems there has been a willing sort of going-along with whomever it was who pushed the most effective fear buttons come election time.
But we are waking, each of us. We are waking to an awareness that class skirmishes are real and chasms between haves and do not haves are becoming wider and we are whistling in the dark if we are not willing to acknowledge that we cannot go on this way.
As the gap noted by Hertzberg above widens, we are all of us made more fragile.
Collective advocacy – through voting, unions, churches, and all who are willing to voice conviction that the dignity and want of one is the dignity and want of all – cannot be quashed.
Jesus preached plenty about caring for all, insisting that the Hebrew Bible teachings were meant to be lived in community; teachings about living justice and kindness and mercy and humility and while we are playing at legislative smoke-and-mirrors tricks to triumph over “those people” whoever they might be, we are shredding the soul of our faith mandates.
“Whatever you do to the least of them you do to me”.
The number of the economic “least” is growing.
How will the movement of Jesus respond?