Economy: The Soul of Generations

There is a rhythm of global dominance. No country remains the first player forever. Maybe this American hour will not last. And who will be the next leading player? Maybe next will be China. But more probably, before China, it will be the united Europe. Europe’s time is almost here. In fact, there are many areas of world affairs where the objective conclusion would have to be that Europe is already the superpower, and the United States must follow our lead.

~Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission.

I’ve been reading “The United States of Europe” by T.R. Reid. I was intrigued by the post-war largesse of the United States to rebuild Europe and Japan after the Second World War. What has changed since the Marshall Plan? It seems like the generous heart of America’s “greatest generation” is being forgotten in Europe by the generations that followed. New generations in Europe are now ready to move ahead, unwilling to look back.

But new generations have emerged in America, too. Now, America is seen in many parts of the world as a bully and a consumer nation-greedy for the resources of the world. Has the generous heart of the greatest generation been supplanted by the greed of the boomers, and the detachment of the generations that followed? Worse, are we the last of all to know it? Certainly there is much generosity expressed by our nation. Still, we have to own up to the charge of rampant consumerism, accumulation, and waste.

Jesus told the parable of the rich man who had decided to gather his riches into barns and take his ease when, that very night, his soul was required of him. It may well be that Jesus’ story may be applied to nations as easily as to persons. Do nations and their constituent generations have a corporate soul?

So, what of the followers of Jesus, the nation within the nation? Are we taking our cues from our national culture or from our spiritual Father? I’m going to need to think about my own heart in these matters. I am a consumer. I am attracted by the lure of stuff. I am wasteful. I’m bombarded daily with the call to accumulate. Jesus warned people like me to keep my vision clear and to accumulate treasure in heaven.

I remember a song by John McCutcheon called “Vultures.” Here’s one of the verses. I’ll close with it, at least for now.

Like a fish in a river bitin’ on a fly
They’re tryin’ to make us want stuff we can’t buy,
It’s the worst kind of treachery, the worst kind of taunt
Tryin’ to make us buy stuff that we don’t want.

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