This is a long one, so buckle in. Tonight NBC aired a special Dateline hosted by Ann Curry about how the poor in our country have been affected by what they deemed "The Great Recession". No matter what my parents say about Curry's reporting style, I do think she has a heart for the unmet needs of many in the world. Besides, I really enjoy her photography.
If you have an opportunity, I would strongly encourage you to watch it or at least catch yourself up on the story (see link above).
I enjoy NBC news reporting because I think it's about the only thing that NBC has going for it nowadays, given current competition.
Curry made a good point in an interview about how much of the reporting on this recession has been about how the economy has affected both the middle class and upper class, but not much about how the recession has affected those in extreme poverty. She also references a Duke University (Go Blue Devils!) study that 22% of American children are currently living in poverty. That's up 5% over the last four years.
Watching it, I found myself thinking what many blessed, selfish Americans were thinking. Many of the people she is interviewing don't seem educated. They don't speak or present themselves in a manner that would make me say, "I need to hire you". Many of them had an abundance of children. One girl seemed like a talented singer, was a straight A student, but had given birth to two children before she dropped out of high school. Curry asked her if they had taught her in high school about birth control. She said they had but that mistakes happen.
All this time, I had a flashback to Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story". Say what you want about Moore, he hit the nail on the head with this film. More on the film in a second.
See, I grew up in a weird situation. My family is relatively southern (I guess as southern as a Florida cracker can be), some of them are old fashioned, and a few of them are old mannered. Some of them are even stuck in an old way of thinking.
I was taught from an early age to work hard, not give up, rely on my talents and abilities, and make the people you work for never regret a penny they paid (payed?) you. And I was blessed, I was given a great brain, some fantastic talents, and a family that nurtured me, encouraged me, and went extremely out of their way to make sure that I succeeded. But I'm not like these people in this special.
Back to Capitalism. Moore kept making the point throughout the film that Capitalism seemed to work throughout the mid 1900's. We had won a gigantic war, our economy looked killer compared to Europe's and we kept being told this story that if we worked hard, we made the money, we could have a comfortable life. Steve Jobs explains the basic concept really well here. The best product wins.
Moore made the point that big companies got greedy. Ruined the unions. Outsourced jobs. Destroyed the economy. This is all pretty true.
But, I come to the realization that Capitalism may not be working from another angle.
If the best product wins, then there has to be a loser. For me to win, someone has to lose. That's the way the world and the market works.
And so, we end up with the uneducated, those who made bad decisions, those who didn't have natural talents, and those that haven't worked 100% all of the time being on the losing end of things. They live in poverty. And they have children. And the children are like their parents. Because it becomes a fight to survive on a daily basis, very little innovation or dreaming gets done by them. The world progresses, and they don't.
America is faced with a situation that Capitalism didn't take care of. If we are humans, who have any sense of humanity, what do we do with those who lose? What do we do with those who can't seem to get an upper hand? Well, the government creates programs. But those are met with strong opposition. Because the job market is so privatized, the jobs are extremely difficult to simply "create". Those that "lost" have it worse than we thought.
My good friend and one of the greatest talents of all time (at least I like to think of him as a good friend, because I think he would have been my friend if we had known each other, and it's the only way to bring me comfort to the fact that he is gone) Rich Mullins said this about the church and its relation to society (starting at 1:16 on the YouTube link):
I don't believe that God chose you and blessed you so that you could heap those blessings up upon yourself. I believe God chose you and you and you and every one of you others, because He wants to make a difference in this world. And you know what? What I think is scary about God is He didn't come up with any 'plan B.' That He left the church here, and the church is the only group of people and the church is the only institution in the world that can bring about a change. This government cannot do it, so stop depending on the government. Educational systems cannot do it, so stop trusting educational systems. The church was chosen by God to make a difference.
If the church that I'm a part of is not the church that he describes here, I don't want any part of it.
The church, all of us-as a whole, is for the losers.