The “personal worth” of the very wealthy is always a report of how many zeroes there are following the initial numbers in their financial records. In itself, this is a commentary on what has become a routinely accepted convention of social discourse. If someone asks “what is their personal worth,” it is immediately understood that this has to do with money and assets that can be converted into same. Never is it an inquiry about the worth of the person, their qualities and values.
We live in a society ruled by very wealthy people who are engaged in the undertaking of adding more zeroes to their existing balance. For those who ply their trade of self-enrichment via their activities as elected officials in Congress, their income is often indirectly bolstered via donations to their campaigns for reelection…and the familiar cycle of the “revolving door,” whereby they find lucrative positions in industries they previously “regulated” while still in government. Regardless how much they have, there is always the quest for more. Occasionally, this project is expressed in truly surreal terms, such as when Bill Clinton was asked why he charged so much for his public speeches, by saying “you’ve got to put bread on the table.” To the exceptionally wealthy, there is never “enough”; always, their accounts must be added to and expanded. The absurdity of this segues into vulgarity and then to something more pernicious…for in a world where the want of basic necessities of life are inadequate or absent for countless millions of people, the accumulation of wealth is not a sign of personal worth but of personal affliction.
It is also an assault on the very vulnerable, for the mechanics of a society based on private accumulation of wealth do not allow for anything like equitable distribution of life’s necessities–neither at home, nor abroad. It is not cliché to observe that the snatching of an entire loaf for one, results in crumbs at best for those unable or unwilling to try grabbing all for themselves. Thus, the “personal worth” of a person that reflects a long line of zeroes–in the millions or billions, for example–is ultimately an indictment. Thus, those touted as leaders and victors of industry and in government show that their badges of success are in fact articles of impeachment. We do well not to encourage those young enough to still be forming their goals, to aspire becoming like these drifting wrecks of moral abandonment, barnacled with hypocrisy.
Finally, it needs to be noted that it is these worthies (sic) who lead the destruction of our planet. They serve the industries that devastate the earth, poisoning every dimension of life. It is the case that they extinguish real value–the air, water, and soil needed to sustain life–in exchange for an abstraction of value…expressed as the long sequence of zeroes produced for the edification of “the shareholders”–themselves overwhelmingly constituted as corporate entities investing in each other’s enterprises. The world is being burned, poisoned, choked with plastics, and strip-mined of animal life, literally for nothing. This is the final flowering of a system and society based upon exploitation and private accumulation. It is a system that serves death–fast approaching on a global scale. This is the legacy of the zero people.