Friday, January 1, 2010

A Nation's Wealth

Kings And Queens

Good advice is often unpleasant to people when they first hear it, especially to rich and powerful kings who are used to being flattered and to having their own way. Not only leaders and industrial chiefs, but the entire populations of the developed countries are in a way full of people of royal powers, used to consuming what we want, being flattered and waited upon.

We are accustomed to having unpleasantly realistic things such as corpses, sickness, madness, and poverty kept out of our sight. We do not want to hear that all is impermanent, that unenlightened life is essentially painful and impure. We do not want to acknowledge that all beings are the equals of ourselves and those we love. We do not want to hear that there is no absolute self and no absolute property and no absolute right.

The hundreds of millions of "kings" and "queens" living in the developed world must face their obligations to other peoples, to other species, and to nature itself.

The wealth of modern nations comes from three main sources.

First is the generosity of hard work, self-sacrifice, and inventiveness of earlier generations. Capitalism itself is, in its essence, not a matter of hoarding and attachment, but a matter of ascetic self-restraint in consumption and of the investment of wealth. The more that is given up from present consumption to productive investment, the more that is available for future consumption. Those who simply consume and hoard soon lose their wealth. It is a fact not only of karmic evolution but also of stable economics that the basis of wealth is self-restraint and generosity.

Second is the generosity of older, gentler nations from whose Asian, African and American lands enormous wealth has been and still is being extracted by entrepreneurs.

The third source of modern wealth is the generosity of the earth herself.

We can repay former generations with our generosity toward future generations, by investing in their future, and by restraining our consumption. We can repay the heirs of the exploited by giving back some of the fruits of the wealth they let our ancestors take, especially in the form of equipment they need to produce more wealth themselves. And we can repay the earth by ceasing to pollute her, cleaning up the enormous messes we have made and investing in her long term health.

(excerpts from Robert Thurman)

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