Predictions about a new face of human society—if this pandemic ever ends—include hopeful prophecies that humankind will have learned a lesson about the significance of community. We will have learned, according to those wishful forecasts, to value time with one another more deeply and to place greater worth on relationships than on things. Would that it were so. I am not so optimistic. I have no doubt that many among us will fully embrace those lessons, but I fear many, if not most, will not. Already, I see evidence all around that suggests greed is in full bloom, even in the wake of monstrous human catastrophe. This is not new evidence; it’s just ongoing confirmation of a characteristic trait of an enormous wave of ego-driven people, a wave that continues to threaten to founder the ship of humanity, drowning civilization under the crushing weight of greed and insistent egocentricity.
While a significant minority of human beings are fundamentally good, caring, decent people whose empathy and compassion and selfless caring are beyond reproach, their numbers are insufficient to assure their attributes survive. Many others, who are not innately moral creatures, have been molded and shaped by the finer elements of society, repressing their natural tendency toward greed and self-serving behavior at the expense of others. There have been times, I think, when religion successfully thwarted selfishness in those large, innately selfish, segments of society.
Those times are gone, though. Most religion today acts as an accomplice in camouflage, pretending to celebrate the ethic of reciprocity while surreptitiously enabling and encouraging exclusionary greed and selective judgment. Prosperity theology, an increasingly embraced apology and justification for economic inequality, is among the latest religious arguments that attempt to legitimize greed.
Few things would please me more than for my bleak assessment of the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic to be proven absolutely wrong. I would love to see evidence of a resurgence of generosity, compassion, empathy, and kindness at the same time I witnessed a decline in selfishness and greed. For that to happen, though, a large-scale commitment to change hearts and minds would be necessary. Skepticism, like mine, would have to relax into hope. Wishes would have to transform into productive actions. A deep appreciation of community would have to replace the artificial happiness triggered by rampant consumption and selfish greed. We collectively would need to recognize money for what it is, a transactional mechanism for assigning value to “things,” not life.
I do wish my mornings would begin in bursts of happiness, rather than muffled explosions of dread and disgust.