Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Makes Nations Thrive while others Die?

Why do certain nations fail while others abundantly succeed? Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi concluded that trust based on trustworthiness was a major factor:

  • Why are the Dutch or the English able to trust each other in a way that the Indians or the Egyptians cannot? What makes some cultures more honest, less corrupt, more trustworthy, and therefore more prosperous? And why is the postmodern West discarding the moral secret of its success? (Truth and Transformation: A Manifesto for Ailing Nations)
Mangalwadi became convinced that the way we believe is the way we behave and even grow the economy. He observed:

  • People in the Netherlands had money to give because generation after generation was taught to work hard and give tithes and offerings to God. The Dutch made money to give to the poor in India because the Bible taught, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Eph. 4:28).
The contrast he observed between the beliefs of his Hindu Indian and the Christian West were profound:

  • Acharya-turned-Bhagwan-turned-Osho Rajneesh, who gave widespread publicity to the tantric idea of salvation through sex, summarized the Indian as well as the postmodern Western worldview in similar terms: “We have divided the world into the good and the evil. The world is not so divided. The good and the evil are our valuations [not God’s commandments]. There is no good, there is no bad. These are two aspects of one reality… The data collected by Transparency International shows that the least corrupt countries are overwhelmingly those whose soul was nurtured by the Bible.
It should be no surprise that if we do not believe in an objective right and wrong, we will begin to act in concert with this belief. Immediate gratification will inevitably triumph over moral truth. However, we might not see this transformation in the Western world because Christian habits still remain even as postmodernism and moral relativism have co-opted the Western mind.

Mangalwadi reasons that Hindu philosophy is directly related to the impoverishment of India:

  • India’s religious philosophy taught that since the human soul was divine, it could not sin. In fact, our most rigorous religious philosophy teaches that everything is God. God is the only reality that exists, and therefore there is no ultimate distinction between good and evil, right and wrong.
Who would want to enter into a business deal with someone who doesn’t believe in right or wrong! Wouldn’t we rather affiliate with someone who has such a high commitment to moral truth that honesty would govern his life? The answer is plain. Therefore, Mangalwadi reasons that economy is inseparable from morality:

  • Their chronic poverty proves what Adam Smith, a father of capitalism, knew: real- world economics are the result of the kind of morality you have, which in turn is a fruit of the kind of philosophy you have. For example, why have health care costs become so obscene in America that they are destroying the very culture of compassion? Insurance and pharmaceutical companies that sustain health care are blamed only because the intellectual elite can no longer calculate the economic costs of academic godlessness that separates economics from moral truth.
The relationship between morality and economy can be observed in many instances. Mangalwadi relates a revealing experience. He was experiencing frustration trying to purchase tickets from a machine on an Amsterdam tram. He asked a couple of American tourists for assistance. They responded:

  • “Why do you want to get tickets?” they responded. “We’ve been riding around for a week. No one has ever come to check any tickets.”
Mangalwadi was startled more by their hardness of conscience than by their theft of service:

  • Their shamelessness shocked me more than their immorality. They represented the new generation, liberated from “arbitrary” and “oppressive” religious ideas of right and wrong. University education had freed them from commandments such as “You shall not steal.”
Someone has to pay the price for sin. Eventually, the Dutch will have to hire additional personnel to collect the fares. Who pays for them? Everyone! I too have met many such travelers. They are intelligent, likeable, knowledgeable, highly educated, and even sensitive to victimization in its various forms, but they were unable to connect the dots to their own behaviors. Not a twinge of shame!

However, their conduct serves as an omen of the coming tsunami that will inevitably submerge the economy along with everything we value. It is already at our door, but no one sees it. When I talk about this coming destruction, my secular friends look at me as if I am from another planet. Instead, their hope is in this world, and it is just too difficult to question their sustaining hope. Mangalwadi also marvels at what is happening in the West:

  • This good news [of the Christian faith] became the intellectual foundation of the modern West, the force that produced moral integrity, economic prosperity, and political freedom. If moral integrity is foundational to prosperity, why don’t secular experts talk about it? The reason is that the universities no longer know whether moral laws are true universal principles or mere social conventions made up to restrict our freedoms. And why don’t they know? Economists have lost the secret of the West’s success because philosophers have lost the very idea of truth. Why? The truth was lost because of an intellectual arrogance that rejected divine revelation.
I think that it is not simply the arrogance of the West but the disdain of the West towards objective moral does-and-don’ts along with the judgments they inflict for transgression. The West wants to be free from such judgments – anything that will tell them that they are wrong, anything that will cause them to feel guilty or shamed.

However, their quest for absolute freedom has made them slaves and has deprived them of their dignity as human beings. They are so intent to escape from guilt, shame, and their resulting negative self-images that they have adopted philosophies that will degrade them. They have exchanged the concept of human culpability for the belief that we are simply products of our society and upbringing, convinced that this belief will give them the freedom from their painful feelings. After all, they are just a product or result.

However, when we degrade ourselves in this manner, we pay a big price. Psychologist James Hillman observes that we can deaden our lives through the way we interpret them:

  • We dull our lives by the way we conceive then… By accepting the idea that I am the effect of…hereditary and social forces, I reduce myself to a result. The more my life is accounted for by what already occurred in my chromosomes, by what my parents did or didn’t do, and by my early years now long past, the more my biography is the story of a victim. I am living a plot written by my genetic code, ancestral heredity, traumatic occasions, parental unconsciousness, societal accidents. (The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, Random House, 6)
Some even go a step further and deny freewill, opting instead for the belief that everything that we do has been predetermined by previous bio-chemical events. Therefore, they claim that we needn’t feel guilty for anything we do. They have even become evangelists for this new faith. One gentleman, with whom I have had considerable contact, leads a group entitled, “The illusion of freewill,” and insists that this belief is necessary to liberate us.

I joke, “I don’t talk to machines, even wet machines.” More seriously, it just becomes too easy to cheat your business partner, if you believe that you couldn’t have acted otherwise. In fact, it becomes too easy to give into any temptation. Without any substantial rational resistance, we become slaves to our impulses.

  • The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly. (Proverbs 5:22-23)
Once we do wrong and refuse to admit it, we condemn ourselves to a never-ending pattern of rationalizations. We deny our guilt whether through denying freewill or through the many methods of “mindful” dissociation, which have never helped those nations that have practiced them.

I often ask people if we can learn any lessons from the past. Their answer is usually, “No! The situation is now different and requires a different solution.” They can anticipate my next question, “What then has made the West successful,” and skillfully avoid it. Why be encumbered by the lessons of past, if this will interfere with finding the “truth” within one’s own desires! However, according to King Solomon, they will reap the fruits of their own choices:

  • Since they hated knowledge and did not choose… the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them (Proverbs 1:29-32)

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