Once upon a time, God was almighty. Throughout the world his word conferred moral authority. In the Western world his body, the Church, held power in society.
Then modern revolutionaries like America’s Founding Fathers came along and crashed God’s party. For good reason; the party had gotten out of hand, what with Holy Wars, Inquisitions, and the King’s usurpations.
In the new world of the late 18th century, science, reason, and democratic freedoms unleashed the power of free minds and free markets. Capitalism’s invisible hand came to replace religion’s invisible man. The Corporation became King as the good word gave way to the good deeds of rational actors seeking modern salvation through the almighty dollar.
And now, at the dawn of the 21st century, has Occupy Wall Street come along to crash the corporate party? The party has gotten out of hand. Especially in America, with skyrocketing corporate profits and stratospheric CEO salaries flying in the face of stagnant employee wages and high unemployment, with bailed-out banks doling out big bonuses and “too big to fail,” with a failing political system corrupted by the influence of economic power.
What comes next is not anybody’s guess. Conscious capitalism. Philanthrocapitalism. Corporate social responsibility. The triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. These movements are responding to our world in crisis. They are gaining momentum. Their purpose, I submit, is the creation of a new social, political, and economic order based not on the accumulation of capital but on the distribution of care.
Today’s money-driven society will meet the same fate as our God-centered world did when humanity entered the modern age (“God willing”). For starters, free market fundamentalism will be looked upon no more kindly than religious fundamentalism is today. On the whole, the modernist corporate agenda will be no more politically influential than the traditionalist Church is now.
The voice of anti-corporate activists calling for an end to global capitalism will grow louder. But capitalism will not go away, not any more than religion has gone the way atheists would have it. In fact, if history is any indication, the almighty dollar will be absolutely essential to our emerging new age, as fundamental as God almighty has been to the modern age.
It is written: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” “Perhaps no single phrase from the Revolutionary era,” observes historian Jack P. Greene, “has had such continuing importance in American public life.”
Imagine that: God, in pre-modern times the ultimate authority and basis for tyranny, ultimately the fomenter of the American Revolution, becomes the foundation for a nation, and indeed for a completely new mode of civilization!
Well, what if we moderns did the same with money? What if the way to solve our problems—the only way—is to turn money on its head? Make today’s power source for greed and corruption tomorrow’s resource for giving and caring. This would require something extraordinary, “a true revolution of values,” to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. In the economic arena, conscious capitalism, philanthrocapitalism, corporate social responsibility, and the triple bottom line represent such a revolution.
They would put capitalism to work for social change, sustainability, and shared prosperity, not the wealthy. They would set up an economic system that rewards men and women for being creators of good, not consumers of goods. They would champion a political system that rewards the same kind of men and women. With their post-materialistic values, empathetic consciousness, and concern for the global commons, they would create the conditions for a new world; something akin to what Jeremy Rifkin calls “the empathic civilization.”
Is there any doubt that Occupy Wall Street is of the same mind?
The Occupy movement has made a point of operating independent of existing institutions of power because it protests our entire institutionalized way of life. It rejects the materialistic values and the coldhearted, self-interested, you’re-either-a-winner-or-a-loser culture of business, politics, modern life. Period.
That the Occupiers have made no demands has prompted observers to criticize the movement for failing to offer a new vision. The confusion is understandable, and the critics can be forgiven. No demand is big enough for the Occupiers’ intention. The Occupiers envision a true revolution. Their movement has a mission: dethrone the corporate kings of modernity. Give birth to a new, post-modern age of humanity.
This is the real, incredible, unfolding story.