If you are not a fan of Jordan B. Peterson already, this video should do it….
“[U]nder any movement or set of collective beliefs, a feeling of being on the side of angels can be a dangerous self-indulgence in a heedless willfulness that is sometimes called idealism. This kind of idealism can replace realities with preconceptions, and make the overriding goal the victory of some abstract vision, in defiance of reality or in disregard of the fate of fellow human beings. The symbols of the preconception can become goals in themselves.”
~from Wealth, Poverty and Politics, page 420
In a vision driven group, “buying into the vision” is seen as more virtuous than actually doing something useful. Even those in the group who aren’t doing anything, or who are doing things poorly, will be held in high regard if they “get a hold of” and celebrate the vision. Conversely, those who may be doing productive work which is good for others, but show little enthusiasm for the vision, will be seen as dangerously independent and not “team players.”
Further reading: Shop Class as Soulcraft (Brief Book Review)
“Moral condemnation is not causal explanation, despite how often the two have been combined in a politically attractive package. Despite the tendency of political, and especially ideological, explanations of economic disparities to combine moral and causal factors, the reason so many mountain peoples [for example] around the world have been poor has not been that others went up into those mountains and took away their wealth, but that the mountain peoples seldom produced much wealth in the first place…
“…it is staggering that some people imagine that they can take on the [large] task of righting the wrongs of the past, committed by people long dead, without igniting dangerous new hostilities among the living.”
~from Wealth, Poverty and Politics, page 271-272
“One of the difficulties with trying to create ‘solutions’ is the uncertainty of defining what is a ‘problem.’ When A and B make a transaction between themselves that C does not like, is that a problem to be solved?
“A and B may be employer and employee, landlord and tenant or lender and borrower. No doubt each of the primary parties to any of these transactions would prefer terms more favourable to himself or herself, but the transactions would not have taken place unless at least one, and probably both, were willing to accept something less than they might hope for.
“But many among the intelligentsia press for government to ‘do something’ about transactions terms that the parties themselves have agreed to, this call for government intervention often being based on ideas similar to those expressed by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice. However, the question must be raised as to the basis for arming intellectual coteries with the massive powers of government to forcibly undo economic transactions terms made by millions of people intimately familiar with their own individual circumstances and alternatives, in a way that distant intellectuals or government functionaries cannot possibly be familiar.”
~from Wealth, Poverty and Politics, page 361
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Craig Greenfield, who has lived in the slums of Phnom Penh and the notorious Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, gives us a good example on how to live as the selfless Christian. Many, if not all, of us need to be reminded of this.
I think if Greenfield and I were to sit down and discuss politics and economics, we would disagree on a lot. His great Satan is Empire. Empire, in my opinion, like most things is not evil in and of itself. It becomes evil when corrupted by sin. And, Jesus did not come to save us from the empire, but from sin. But, I agree with Craig, that salvation from sin is not simply going to heaven when you die – salvation is heaven coming to the earth now. And so, we Christians must fight for justice and we must work with the poor now.
Not all of us are called to live as Craig does of course (and he doesn’t say we must either). I too am a Canadian living in Cambodia, and my wife is Cambodian. When we were engaged and looking for a place to live, my wife, who grew up in the slum, suggested buying a house there. There was one for sale for $1200. I considered it and went to look at the place. But, as I stood in the four meter by five meter house, with its tin roof full of holes, concrete floor, and grey brick walls only inches away from the neighbour’s walls allowing for every sound to be heard, I knew there was no way I could live there or raise a family there. We bought land on the outskirts of town and built our own house instead. And, we still worked with the same people we would have if living in the slum anyway. “Find your own Calcutta” as Craig writes in the book.
I met Craig briefly a couple of years ago and have followed his work somewhat, so I know that he truly lives what he teaches and is an authentic authority on working with the poor.
Read the book!