As president of the Philippines , Ferdinand Marcos' salary was fixed at $4700. But it was estimated that the total he had privately stashed away was in the order of $5 to $10 billion, figures which represented several times the Philippine national budget. At the time when he and his wife fled the country, about 70% of Filipinos were living below the poverty standard.
While the Marcoses might have gotten away with a little more loot than was customary, many other dictators and their wealthy hench-friends got away not only with their heinous acts, but also with outrageous nest eggs stolen from their poor countries' desperately needed funds.
[ Adapted from The Guinness Book of Money by Leslie Dunling & Adrian Room. (Facts on File, 1990. p.164) ]
Practices which run counter to human decency have become so normal in our world that they barely raise eyebrows: from being robbed in public to the U.S. minimum wage being so low that few households can afford to live on it. Quietly watching the evening news, we see outrageous acts of selfishness, stupidity and cruelty--many of them related to money--being repeatedly performed without adequate response or outcry.
No wonder so many of us get demoralized. In self-protection, our hearts crust over. Not only do we feel powerless against larger social forces, but often in our personal lives we feel we have no choice but to accommodate to social norms, even if they offend our deeper moral sensibilities. (Have you ever brushed past homeless people pretending not to see them?)
This week, why not try something different? Instead of operating within business-as-usual acceptance (to whatever extent you do that), let yourself feel outrage when money-related norms violate your sense of human decency. For example, some top executives have been paid tens of millions while deciding to cut corners by laying off thousands of their workers. What do you feel as you read this? Indignant? Resigned?
Why bother to feel incensed when there are far more indignities in this world than you can do anything about? Compared to going numb, sharing outrage with others is likely to help you feel more alive, more authentically yourself, and more connected to your deeper values. If you allow your true feelings to percolate, in time you will discover which problems are most important to you and how to take action on them. Anger can energize you to stand up against the forces squashing the human spirit.
What do you fantasize the money-related norms might be in a more just future? At one time some children worked in factories without ever seeing the light of day. Then outraged people fought for child labor laws. Similarly, people fought for a minimum wage, for an eight hour work day, and for countless other laws that once seemed beyond possibility. Now these rights seem normal. You, too, can be an "outrageous" visionary if you so desire...and feeling outraged may be an important step along the way. .
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