Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Katrina vanden Heuvel editorial in The Nation

Is Time on our side? Katrina vanden Heuvel asks in The Nation. Here's my response:

Time is indeed a political issue, as Katrina vanden Heuvel asserts. The reason our lives are so frenetic is directly related to the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us. As the wealth gap grows people come to believe that their happiness and self worth is measured by their status and increasingly, everyone is in a race to be a “winner.”

As people compete for more money and prestige they have little time left for the things that matter, in particular caring and community. Happiness research shows that after a certain point, more money is not related to happiness. What brings happiness is supportive relationships with others. In our corporate consumer society everyone becomes your adversary and trust and concern for the common good declines.

We need policies that create a strong, large middle class, with a smaller wealth gap between the top and the bottom. But since people believe, mistakenly, that being rich will make them happy and eighty percent believe, again mistakenly, that if they work hard enough they can be rich, no one resists the tax cuts for the wealth. Everyone thinks that someday they’ll be rich and so they accept the tax cuts.

We need change on all levels. We need new policies that reduce the wealth gap and new policies that guarantee adequate leave, both vacation and sick leave, for all people. But to get the policy makers to respond, our belief system about money and time must change. We need to learn from those old cliches, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy;” “Money isn’t everything;” and “Life is short.” When we change our belief systems we’ll take action and demand new policies.

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