Ye cannot serve both God and mammon. – (Pick a Bible, King James mostly)
[Warning: I ramble a bit in this one – more than usual.]
I originally was going with “money” until 11 years of Catholic school kicked in and “Mammon” popped into my brain. I’ve always loved that word, mammon. Just sounds impressive, oppressive, and a little bit chilling. Like a cartoon, comic book villain who’s always dripping gold. Like Whoopie Goldberg’s Hyena in the Lion King when hearing “Mufasa” made her shiver – mammon, “whooohooo hoo!”
Money, It’s a Gas – Pink Floyd, Money
You know, I wondered for years why an English band wanted to buy a football team. Sigh, sometimes, I just ain’t smart. Before flipping over to a few thoughts on mammon and religion, a digression about money. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve probably heard the “Greed is good” line from Wall Street and thought “what an awful thing to believe.” But, greed is good – or can be. The speech starts off by talking about the deadwood rampant throughout top-heavy corporations – and I think you can look at the amount of wealth currently being amassed by the top teensy, tiny percent of Americans and draw a direct line from the speech in the movie to that. In short, corporations don’t put money on the line like individuals, like Carnegie and the others (not lionizing them, but they did accomplish great things; great in the sense of making history). Corporations (who aren’t people, I don’t give a damn what the Supreme Court says) become timid and focused on padding the pockets of stockholders and “leadership” not innovation, growth, or progress. That was 1987, 28 years later, those are common complaints about many corporations.
Anyway. The speech:
The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed — for lack of a better word — is good.
Greed is right.
Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Greed, in all of its forms — greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind.
I think there’s something to that. That the desire for and pursuit of “that which we want” – whatever “that” is for each of us – inspires us to greatness. Divorce greed from its connotations of money. Makes some sense to me. That there is a working of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” in the market place when everyone is working in their own self-interest. Now, we’re evolving to a place with such a tilted playing field that we’re steadily slipping (have slipped) into an aristocracy by oligarchy, but, there’s always hope for change.
Back to money. I’ve never liked the saying, “Money can’t buy happiness” because it always seemed to be coming from someone that had money or was trying to keep folks from getting more, like the Church (give me my 10%, at least). I’m not opposed to charity, and should actually do more of it. However, enforced payment to an institution based on religion always felt more like a shakedown. Especially given the history of the Christian Church (lumping altogether for the sake of brevity), in which many of those preaching an eternal reward were reaping great temporal rewards off of the backs of the flocks they were tending.
Money Can’t Buy Happiness, But I’d Like to Try it Out Myself – Me
Look, I don’t think money can buy happiness. But it can buy you space and freedom to breath. I’m sure there are happy people in grinding poverty. I’m also fairly sure that given a choice, they’d take a little more jingle in their pockets.
Happiness does come from within. And sometimes choosing to be happy can be enough to make you happy. I know that I made that choice a number of years ago and, more often than not, I’m at least semi-happy nearly all the time. Like anyone, I’ve got stresses and fractures in my life that tug and pull at the equilibrium daily. I also know that having money in the bank and earning a good living and not having to worry about food or rent or any of the really essential things in life makes dealing with those stresses a LOT easier. If my kids get sick, I KNOW I can take care of them. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if that weren’t the case. Could I be happier with less money and less stuff? Absolutely. Do I prefer where I’m currently situated – and have a bit of greed, I hope in a good way, for more? Fuck yeah.
Heavenly Reward; Earthly Pleasures
I’ve alluded to one of the main reasons I’m not a huge fan of organized religion. Organized religion preaches rewards in heaven but rewards itself on Earth. How much wealth does the Catholic Church possess? How many priceless treasures are squirreled away and locked from site in the The Vatican? Does the church really believes that the incense in Church will grab the attention of God? And WTF is up with all of the gold? The Grail must be, I’ve always thought and, I guess, believed wooden. If worship in church is about God, why the show and trappings?
As I got older and read too much, the dog and pony nature of public worship just became too much. For those who believe, good on you. Sometimes I do envy that faith. But back to money, and televangelists.
I actually cut this short because I was getting so pissed off. I’ve never read directly about this (beyond some Weber in college), and I would bet there are theories on it, but the Protestant strain of religion in America is one of the reasons socialism never took root here and why so many poor people vote on values and against their self-interest. Beginning with the early colonists who believed that external wealth and its trappings were signs of God’s blessings; it’s easy to flip that to the poor are those NOT blessed by God. Look at some of the legislation passing recently on use of welfare and you’ll hear the echo of the Puritan work ethic of toil for toil’s sake — and of the “poor” as something less worthy and “other than us.” To my mind, not a very Christian attitude.
The so called “prosperity gospel” fucks like Joel Osteen, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jesse Duplantis, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart (I have sinned – who wouldn’t with a wife who wore more makeup than a circus full of clowns) – all make or made me absolutely sick with their bilking of believers “in the name of the Lord.” It disgusts me to watch people cherry pick the parts of religion to use to essentially rob people who really do believe into forking over their money – sometimes to the point of penury. I hope mammon is real and he’s got a great golden dildo that he uses frequently on these fucks. It makes me sick to think about real people of faith, who just want to believe in something or someone, being taken advantage of these people. His ministry is in a converted basketball arena and can seat 56,000. This is his home:
Jesse Duplantis has a nice, large home, excuse me, $3 million mansion. http://www.heraldguide.com/details.php?id=7355 Tax-exempt because it’s owned by his ministry. He also has a very nice plane that he uses to take on vacation. http://www.lsureveille.com/opinion/columnists/prosperity-preacher-buys-jet-mansion-with-church-dollars/article_7480b36c-2302-11e2-98a1-0019bb30f31a.html
I was looking up net worths and homes for some of the others, but started to get really, really pissed off. In the Old West, these guys would be the ones selling the Snake Oil.
Money, Mammon, and Me
Anyway. I like money because it allows freedom. I also like money because it’s how we keep score in business – and I like to win. Rightly or wrongly, doing well financially is a sign that your work is respected. And I’m finally getting around to owning up that I’d like a little of that respect – even if it came without the coin. I know I’ve limited my earning power in the past through a variety of decisions that I made (and, to be honest, a bit of laziness). By and large, I have few regrets. I’d have more stuff, but I think in some ways my life would be poorer.
In looking for this quote to end with because I remember the first time I saw it thinking that I’d never do that (and I haven’t, I buy stuff I like to impress myself):
Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like. –Will Rogers
I found a couple others I really liked.
Because it’s funny: I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too. –Steve Martin
Amen, and why I took the position I’m in today: Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. –Thomas Edison
This. This is good: If you don’t value your time, neither will others. Stop giving away your time and talents. Value what you know & start charging for it. –Kim Garst
Every time I have a thought, someone else has said it first, though usually not by 1,500 years: No wealth can ever make a bad man at peace with himself. — Plato