If you want to see the difference between adults and children, look no further than Halloween. For little kids, Halloween is the biggest holiday of the year after Christmas.
When kids get older, Halloween fades in importance. My first child was old enough to enjoy Halloween when I was 29. During the preceding 15+ years, I had pretty much completely ignored Halloween and had forgotten how much the holiday meant to little kids. During the early years of our marriage, before we had kids old enough to enjoy the holiday, Marie and I religiously handed out candy, but other than that, I didn’t pay any attention to it. I had simply forgotten that, for the little kids, the holiday season starts on October 31st.
I am now entering my 17th year of taking the kids trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, our cultural bankruptcy goes on full display tonight. A lot of houses won’t hand out candy. There are families in which both parents want to take the kids trick-or-treating, so they turn off their lights and don’t reciprocate. There are people who simply don’t want to spend $5 on cheap candy and perhaps even some who can’t afford it (though they can, of course, afford cigarettes and booze). There are people who forget, and there are people who don’t want their TV program interrupted. When I was a kid, very few houses failed to hand out candy on this evening. Today, the majority of houses go dark.
It’s the disease of Wall Street and California government finance displayed on Main Street. In his most-recent book, Boomerang, Michael Lewis struggles to understand how the people on Wall Street could live with themselves after completely raping America’s economy. But then he looks at the California municipal employees, with ordinary police salaries in six figures and one state employee making over $800,000 per year.
He speculates that it’s part of a brain problem. Our brains can’t deal with abundance. America became so wealthy, the greed stimulated across the spectrum came to dwarf everything else, including any shred of altruism. We are now a culture in which everyone just grabs whatever he can and doesn’t give a damn about the consequences or anybody else. In this, he says, the average fireman who demands that municipal finances make him rich even though it will bankrupt his city is no better than the average Wall Street broker who took a million dollar bonus with taxpayer money.
Lewis formulates this brain problem in evolutionary terms (he’s an atheist), but it’s really a spiritual one. It’s the sin of excessive self-regard (i.e., pride). Pride, of course, is the root of all sin, so it’s not unique to modern America.
But once excessive self-regard exists throughout society, the circumstances of that society determine the way that the self-regard will manifest itself. In modern America, the land of abundance, the excessive self-regard has manifested itself in greed and its attendant sins: lack of regard for other people, lack of community involvement, Tolstoy’s family narcissism writ large. . . .
. . . The simple failure to hand out candy to little kids on Halloween. It’s perhaps the smallest manifestation of the problem, but it might be the most telling.
Will you decline to hand out candy to little kids tonight? Then don’t rail at the Goldman Sachs of the world.Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList
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