How about God PLUS Mammon?
How about God PLUS Mammon?
I am indebted to Clarinda Choh for some excellent thoughts that have contributed to this article. The expression of them – and thus the responsibility for them – is entirely mine.
In a nutshell, God is Vision and Mammon is Greed. You may not believe in one or the other; you may despise both. They have been there for a long time. They are intrinsically part of humankind’s makeup. They have a common purpose – survival. Their adversarial relationship grew because both are seen to be unfair. God’s apparent favouritism of certain groups and individuals cannot be accounted for by simple application, diligence or even worship. Mammon’s illogical distribution of the world’s resources can be accounted for by little more than the spin of a roulette wheel.
From time to time, when unfairness seems overwhelming and when there are no other distractions such as wars, groups of disenchanted people disrupt what they see as a flawed system. They may be humble labourers like the Luddites or they may be top people like Presidents Trump, Duterte, Erdogan, Kim Jong-Un et al. Their purposes will be a mixture of God and Mammon however warped they appear to you and I. The battleground between the two will be Vision vs Greed.
There’s a good side to disruption. Lots of people are scrambling to find it right now. The old order invariably becomes self-serving, set in its ways, sometimes scared of change. Change will happen whatever protectionism is employed to resist it. A good shake-up can be helpful provided it is well done. Too often the disrupters are in the mould of the people they want to improve. Expectations of cooperation, even connivance, get in the way of the change agent. What was supposed to be radical becomes a tweak here and a twitch there with no visible or lasting outcome.
Thus we are taught to believe that the world is about God vs. Mammon. Must it be? The phenomenon is epitomised by two organisations The Catholic Church and Goldman Sachs.
Good Pope Francis is a model of humanity as well as Christianity we could all do well to follow. Example is the best of all teachers and his is beyond reproach as far as we can see. He cares, and that is the measure of aspiring to be good. He practices his caring, and that is the measure of sanctity, though he would, I am sure, resist the accolade. He has tried to temper the excesses his institution has created over 2,000+ years but with frankly limited success. Nevertheless, he walks in the shoes of the fisherman. Pope Francis’s bravado is truly awesome.
Goldman Sachs is a model of opportunistic capitalism. In case you are wondering, I regard that as a valid model of what capitalism set out to achieve. Certainly, obstacles – known as regulations – have been increasingly put in its way to temper what is seen as an excess of capitalistic behaviour. Goldman Sachs regard these obstacles as challenges to be overcome in their honourable struggle to make capitalism continue to produce wealth not just for themselves – though they come a good first – but for all. Goldman Sachs’ bravado is truly awesome.
It seems that whether on the side of God or Mammon we overdo what we aim for. Presumably this is because of our pathetic belief that more means better. It’s nearly sixty years since Amis pointed out that the opposite was true. We did not learn from that. We don’t need more religion anymore than we need more capitalism. We need a big disruption of both. How to bring this about when the disrupters are ring-fenced by their own philosophies? What could create awesome change?
Both institutions are firmly entrenched. Change, however, dramatic, will not come instantly. So let us suggest that for five years Good Pope Francis becomes Chair, though not CEO, of Goldman Sachs and Lloyd Blankfein becomes Chair, though not Pope, of the Catholic Church. Their remits: to influence the culture of the two organisations for all who think they must learn to live side by side for each other’s benefit.
Wouldn’t that be truly awesome?