A number of those reading Gifthub (secretly) are advisors to some of the world's wealthiest families. They read for years and say, "I have no idea what you are talking about." I ask you, those who identify as Consiglieres, Trusted Advisors, or Secular Priests, to dynastic wealth to imagine that you were with Alice Walton, or another of your best clients, showing her how her family could own and control as much money as the bottom 42%, as today but more and more than that, as time goes by, if they follow your suggestions and pay you well. At about the point you have assured the client of a Dynasty to Flourish for 100 Years, you hear noise on the street and peek through the blinds to see priests, rabbis, nuns, academics, and Wal-Mart workers holding a prayer vigil, holding up signs, "All religions believe in Justice," or "The Waltons are robbing America." This is not a private nightmare: It is happening in real time. Mr. or Ms Fixit:
What would you counsel your client?
Would you call the police?
Would you invite the demonstrators inside?
I have a friend, well-educated, who takes learning lightly, who lives simply, and speaks with plain truth, tempered with tact. This friend advises families with net worth on up into the billions. I asked this friend, over a cheeseburger and a beer in an aiport lounge, the questions above. The answer my friend gave: "I would invite the demonstators in. They might find they have more in common with the heirs than they might think. The heirs of dynastic families may not be making the decisions. The money may be held for them in tools they do not control. They too may feel that the world is out of joint. And they might welcome a conversation."
Not all families have a heart for the poor, not all middle class families, not all rich families, not all broke families. But to the staff and board (on which I serve) of Interfaith Worker Justice, I would say, and have said, it takes more courage to talk with billionaires and their advisors in the faith that they and we are human clay, than it takes to go to jail. We who have less would rather be beaten with a truncheon, than enter into a moral dialogue with those we see as "oppressors." Our protest without conversation confirms the very thing we hope to change: the polarization of wealth and the impossiblity of our being "one nation under God."
Interfaith Worker Justice (organizing these protests) is the org to which I give most, because they live the faith that all God's children matter - and matter without regard to wealth or power. If you believe that IWJ is opening an important dialogue about the proper uses of wealth in a putative democracy, consider a gift to them. (To IWJ a major gift starts at $500.) If you believe that we can do better than confrontation, street theater, symbolic arrests, and the hardening of the human heart, consider making a gift, and sending with it an offer to talk. If you represent tremendous wealth and believe in the commonweal, commonwealth, or shared destiny of our republic, please do not just gawk. (If you call yourself a Secular Priest to Flourishing Families, or aspire to such role, please consider joining the real priests and Drs of Divinity in a holding cell. You might learn some good interfaith moves and improve your singing voice as well.)
Bakhtin, the great literary critic, writing under Stalin, writing of Carnival, if only to avoid writing transparently of current events, said it was "a play without footlights." We are all, even the bystanders, written into this play, The Human Comedy, by An Omniscient Author Function, one with a wry sense of humor. With Rabelais, may we say, "Come let us eat, drink, and be merry." I would like to meet all my friends around that table, particularly if the rich or their most trusted advisors will bring the wine. $5 a quart plonk is all IWJ ever serves, and the crappiest cheese and crackers. My friends, we can do better together.