Sunday, 19 September 2010

For the Love of Money

Amos 6: 1, 4-7 Luke 16: 19-31 Year C 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Some people will do anything for money, and we love our deals. Sure, we love to shop, but what do we talk about when we get home? A little about what we bought, a lot about what a great deal we got, or how much money we "saved".

When we, as a society perfectly capable of paying a fair price for a fair product, instead invest ourselves in searching for the “best deal”, and finding that deal to be shirts and shoes and watches and backpacks and sandals made offshore by the impoverished labourers of Asia, we are in effect buying the poor for shirts or shoes or watches and backpacks. They produce the goods we consume, and because we won’t pay more they won’t be paid more. Because we look the other way to child labour, health and safety standards and ecological stewardship (and those things drive up the cost, make no mistake) they can produce these products for a lot less money than they’d cost in a developed country. We get our cheap stuff, and they remain poor in every sense of the word.

We won’t pay more. We love our money. We, amongst the wealthiest people on the planet are obsessed with getting a deal, without regard to the cost. Our unwillingness to part with two bucks for a better quality product made in Ohio, for example, in favour of saving two bucks on a lesser quality item from a factory in China is actually more than just two bucks. It’s the cost of well paying full time jobs in Ohio. It’s actually also the price of the poor working under intolerable conditions in Asia.

Many of the deals we treasure begin in the factories of China where there are no laws enforced, with deadly chemicals flowing freely into the air, the water, the streets and the ground all around the workers. CBS 60 Minutes recently uncovered a story about illegally shipped discarded cellphones from North America being torn apart, dismantled and recycled in China. The unregulated result is a chemical soup of toxic chemicals. The 60 Minutes reporter interviewed one worker. Many Chinese workers leave their small agricultural villages and come to factory towns because that’s where the jobs are, that’s where the money is. The man complained that after years working and living in these conditions, it hurt him just to breathe. Asked why he doesn’t just leave town for the good of his health, and his children’s health, he admitted he had to stay “for the money”. See the whole story here:

Whose money is that, my friends? Mine and yours. We’ve bought his health for the thrill of the deal. That man sold his health for 200 free minutes, unlimited texting, and free evenings and weekends, or more accurately, to paraphrase Amos, we’ve bought him for the price of modern day silver – electronic gadgets.

In her book “Cheap, the High Cost of Discount Culture”, author Ellen Ruppel Shell quotes Richard Locke, professor or Entrepreneurship and Political Science at the Sloan School of Management and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in referring to the scandalously dangerous working conditions in Asia and South America and Africa he concludes that there is only one force powerful enough to enforce workers’ rights and protection: guilt. We can effect change by guilting people into ethical and moral choices. He goes on to say there’s only one institution capable of evoking that force on a global scale: the Vatican. Here's a link to Ruppell Shell's book:

Maybe the terrible abuses of the poor in other countries would not happen except that we’re just not ready to take a stand, with our wallets.

Every so often we need to step back and take a look about what’s important in our lives, what’s really important, and by looking at our behaviour it soon becomes evident what it is we value most. It’s only when we devalue our currency of money by putting stock in prayer and faith, in charity and hope, in works of mercy and in living the Gospel that we can ever gain the best return in this life, and the next.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post Jeremy!

    I despair of finding goods that are NOT made in China or India or other places that pay poverty wages, or make use of child labourers.

    Thanks for the link to the book, that is one that I will be purchasing immediately.