The Responsibility of Affluence

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival. – Aristotle

Indigenous cultures worldwide understand that for anyone to thrive, everyone must thrive.

It’s a consequence of patriarchy that we have forgotten how we’re all interconnected and interdependent. Patriarchy is a system that maximizes hierarchy and minimizes empathy. This reality has been further exacerbated by capitalism. Those that have profited most from the spoils of patriarchy and capitalism have upheld positions of power by virtue of personal entitlement and wealth. But often, the spoils they savor were built on the backs of those less fortunate. And instead of utilizing the excesses of their lives to enrich the lives of others, they all too often turn a blind eye to the most in need. Studies show again and again, the most powerful and wealthiest among us are usually the least charitable.

There is an interesting trend occurring within the affluent classes away from material possessions, towards more aspirational spending on goods and services like organic foods, yoga and meditation retreats, and self-improvement seminars. When engaged wholeheartedly, these pursuits can lead to the kind of thoughtful contemplation that heightens self-awareness, expands consciousness, and transforms the limitations of the ego.

Ego Development Theory teaches us the more evolved our ego becomes, the closer it moves to integration and ultimately, altruism . . .

As of yet, we can’t directly correlate cultural changes to the influence these developmental choices are having on the more affluent among us, as we’ve yet to reach enough of a critical tipping point to see massive change in motion. But since the affluent are the influencers, it would follow that the revelations offered by extended exposure to developmental choices will eventually impact how they spend their money, make business decisions that are more sustainable, and contribute to policy shifts that will support social and environmental programs.

Most of the world’s population doesn’t have the luxury to pursue developmental choices that could contribute to the rapid evolution of their consciousness, as they’re just working to get their basic needs met. While the affluent, are the ones most able to realize their fullest potential within the constraints of Western culture. At a time in human history that literally demands conscious shifts in the way we live, interact, and work, it seems that the bulk of the world’s population is unfortunately dependent upon the few to shift themselves for the greater good.

Cultural changes are exactly what we need, not only to alleviate the suffering of many, but for the very survival of our species.

We need a serious cultural shift, where those that have the most power exert that power for the betterment of all: they wake up to the reality of their responsibility. Anyone who has the opportunity to wake up, has the responsibility to do so, so that everyone can wake up – so that those struggling to get their needs met can move towards their own self-actualization.

I can hear the critics as I write this, but let’s be honest, our system as it exists is unsustainable and likely going to not only affect our own species’ survival, but much of life on Earth. We can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet. We can’t outrun the suffering that exists for so many, when the world’s population is so technologically connected. And finally, we can’t buy our own survival in the face of climate change. We need each other, all of us, to collaborate, to innovate, to commune in a new way.

And as I see it, the biggest obstacle preventing us from manifesting this new paradigm are our individual egos, which continue to tell us that individualism should rule our reality. Malidoma Patrice Some was correct in his assessment, “Individuality, not individualism, is the cornerstone of community.” We all need to manifest what’s unique to us in service to the whole. It’s time to realize the responsibility we have to waking up, to each other, and to our planet.