What would Socrates say?

Mariner recently reported on the corruption of Wells Fargo Bank forcing line level employees to create false customer accounts in order to increase bank profits. Mariner knows he is an eccentric but the word profit is a synonym for selfishness, is an abuse of power, and metaphorically profit is comparable to reusable resources that are thrown away every day rather than make further use of them. Power and profit often are the same coin. To wit:

A Newsy and USA TODAY investigation reveals that former employees of one of America’s fastest-growing dental chains say they saw dentists — under pressure to hit revenue targets — repeatedly suggesting treatments patients didn’t need. Patients complained they were diagnosed with a mouthful of cavities only to later discover nothing was wrong with their teeth. Former employees said they felt uncomfortable with what they witnessed. “I have watched them drilling perfectly healthy teeth multiple times a day every day,” said dental assistant Ashley Hughes. Watch “Open Wide” on Newsy.com or stream it anytime on Roku and Fire TV.

The clearest example of a remedy for the profit disease is set by the Native American Indians (mariner has cited this example on numerous occasions). The notable person in the society was the hunter. What sustained Indian culture for thousands of years was that whatever the hunter brought home did not belong to him; it belonged to the tribe and was distributed accordingly. Not until white man appeared did ideas like profit, wealth and supply and demand become cultural terms. One of mariner’s heroes, Will Rogers, lived by the code of his Native American ancestors.

Everyone deserves to be comfortable in life and to have feelings of fiscal sustainability. However, to possess billions of dollars just to possess them is tantamount to leftover food tossed in the trash rather than redistributing it for re-purposing.

A hackneyed complaint of mariner’s is the pharmaceutical industry. CEOs take home an average of $26 million as an annual salary. Meanwhile, the ‘tribe’ has lives ruined – if not ended – to sustain a corporate profit based on what the marketplace will tolerate. Mariner speculates that no person can make meaningful use of profits beyond what it takes to live quite comfortably; excess profits are an abuse of power and a rejection of tribal responsibility.

When FDR was confronted with the great depression, he changed tax laws to limit income to $33,000 annually[1]. If anyone earned more, that amount was sent to the government as tax due. The principle was that the government needed every dollar it could muster to sustain the nation. In perspective, today virtually every major corporation hides billions of dollars in profit – and the privileged class does as well. These dormant assets are not in use; they are in a cash attic. True, these assets can be used to hoard additional cash through investment and that profit, too, is put in the attic.

It was Socrates who questioned whether wealth was a good thing. He also pondered what was good for the human condition, which he felt was a preeminent concept to understand if humanity was to be happy. Today’s societies, if not at war or destitute, are too busy becoming rich or richer to notice that more and more humans are not happy and cannot sustain themselves financially.

Socrates wasn’t sure about democracy, either. He believed that the ultimate power in life was knowledge – even to the point of denouncing trial by one’s peers. He saw in the democratic method an easy boat to sink because voting was not controlled by knowledge but by the myriad vices of the population.

We need Socrates today. In what direction is wisdom? In what direction is happiness? Donald is a classic antagonist for the US: he can’t read, lead, believe valid truths, or have compassion. Only wealth calls his name.

Beyond Donald, humanity around the planet watches an entire civilization crumble. Is the Coronavirus one of the four horsemen along with artificial intelligence, rampant capitalism and cannibalism of the human soul by big data? What kind of culture will emerge that will bring happiness to humanity? Does today’s world know what is good for the human condition? If it did, could it abide?

Ancient Mariner

[1] $656,644 today.

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