Immersed in our own cultural milieu, we often forget how malleable are the money "norms" that we live by. What seems ordinary to us may seem completely absurd to someone from a different culture, continent, or time in history.
Nowadays few people question the legitimacy of charging interest for money loaned. However, during most of the Roman Empire, the Christian church condemned it as sinful, and bankers were driven underground or out of business. U.S. laws now protect the right to private property, but to the native people who were here before Europeans, the concept of buying land was preposterous, beyond comprehension.
In our time and place, people work hard to accumulate wealth and possessions, but a friend of ours who spends time with an Aboriginal tribe describes the opposite behavior: "When one of them catches a kangaroo, they roast it and everyone eats. On the rare occasions I've seen any of them get some money, in five minutes it is distributed among everyone."
Making money by selling human beings used to be commonplace in this country. John Newton was a slave-ship captain who one day had an epiphany; he turned his boat around and returned to Africa, freeing his captives. Certainly, for his times, this was an outrageous act with money, but eventually enough people found slavery abhorrent and it was abolished. Person by person, widely-held social standards change; individual outrageous acts, when liberating, can help lead the way to more systemic change. Even today, Captain Newton's song "Amazing Grace" inspires people to believe in the possibility of transforming their lives.
We, the editors, believe it should not be "normal" for some people to live in enormous wealth while others, sometimes living just minutes away, suffer grinding poverty; for some people to have two or three, or even a dozen homes while others have none.
While we sometimes feel hopeless about these norms ever changing, we remind ourselves that what's normal now often required individuals to take a stand for what they believed in.
"The power of a bold idea uttered publicly in defiance of dominant opinion cannot be easily measured. Those special people who speak out in such a way as to shake up not only the self-assurance of their enemies, but the complacency of their friends, are precious catalysts for change."
-- Howard Zinn , You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train, p.33
We hope this issue of More than Money inspires you to examine what is "normal" about money--in your life and in society at large. May you fire up your outrage at norms that belittle the human spirit, and boldly burst through restrictive norms, when doing so, to a more just and joyful world. .
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