Strength has been worshiped by various cultures throughout the history of mankind. The strong are elevated and the weak are subjected. We would like to think we have matured a bit past older barbarian habits, but the god of strength has found a new home in our hearts. That home is our zealous embrace of capitalism.
Capitalism is NOT “Christian Economics”
Capitalism is the best method of economic governance we have for found for producing wealth… so far. I want to make it clear that criticizing capitalism is not a default argument for communism. Besides, we are in a sad state if we think we only have those options. Instead, I am simply pointing out that there is no reason for capitalism to be so embraced by western Christians as to confuse the two. Just because it is “the best” doesn’t mean it is perfect, beyond criticism, or above reform.
“You Will Succeed… If You Are Strong Enough”
Just about every cry of social inequality today is countered by zealous capitalist anthem of, “If you work hard enough you will succeed.” No matter how disadvantaged you are, or far behind the curve, cries for empathy fall on the deaf ears of “just get a job.” Yes, it seems that every situation has the simple solution of working more, working harder, and working longer. We say this with an implied social contract that all our hardship will pay off with success.
Survivors Often Despise the Weak
“but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,”
– 1 Corinthians 1:27
There is a commonly understood effect in modern psychology that people who survive stressful and difficult situations often come to despise others in similar situations who fail. If someone had strict disciplinary parents who bordered on abusive, then they tend to grow up and think punishment made them strong, and then despise those who say they were “abused.” When we have to suffer and grow strong to succeed, then why shouldn’t others have to suffer just as much as we do? That thinking is what adds up to worship of strength.
A Zealous Veil Over Our Eyes
To passionately defend capitalism at all costs allows us to be blind to social injustice. By repeating our mantra of opportunities, it is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are all starting out equal. The reality is that we still have classes, socio-economic boundaries, and cultural privileges. As Barry Switzer put it, “”Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” Just because we “made it” in life, and we feel like we worked hard to get there, does not mean we could have made it just the same in another person’s shoes.
The Best is Yet to Come, If We Stop Idealising the Present
Corporate life is so messed up that it has inspired comic stips like Dilbert, TV shows like The Office, and movies like Fight Club and Office Space. None of us actually enjoy the way the world is today, but we fooled ourselves into thinking that our ability to survive is virtuous. In fact, our warped “work ethic” culture has fooled us into thinking that the more we suffer, the harder we are working. Yes, there is a virtue in enduring the demands of the world to provide for our families. No, there is not an inherent virtue in having an economic system that demands it.
Today’s workplaces and professionals are beginning to learn that being hard on ourselves doesn’t even really end up producing any more. In fact, studies are showing that a low-stress well-rested worker outperforms a strung-out work-a-holic anyday. The problem is that most of our advancements are taking place in the white-collar world, while blue-collar workers often still function just above indentured servitude. We can keep making the world a better place to work if we stop idealising hardship.
Instead of Punishing the Next Generation, Let’s Make it A Better World
So as we struggle through our own obstacles and make it to a better life, let’s try and pave the way behind us instead of trying to make sure others “suffer as much as we did.” That is how the world moves forward, with our children starting from we ended, instead of starting over. Never should we confuse the strategies we might adopt to survive in this world with virtues of living, lest we worship strength and despise weakness. Yes, we should expect to endure cruelty, injustice, and unreasonable circumstances. No, we should not participate in their perpetuation.
“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:10
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