Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Coveting and Rage

After reading “From 'Connectedness' to Conflict,” an excellent piece by David Ignatius (on a tip from Raising Kaine), I thought about a little essay I wrote for STYLE Weekly in 1999, “The Tenth Commandment.”

The Ignatius essay in the Washington Post is thoughtful and he’s on target with his analysis of a significant dilemma that seems to be built into our instant communications-driven, postmodern way of life. As an aside, I must say it was pleasant to read a provocative piece so much about politics, which had nothing to do with Red States, Blue States, and that whole contrived, lathered up realm of partisan politics.

Here's the opening paragraph of what Ignatius wrote for the Post:

"One of the baseline assumptions of U.S. foreign policy is that 'connectedness' is a good thing. Linkage to the global economy fosters the growth of democracy and free markets, the theory goes, and that in turn creates the conditions for stability and security. But if that's true, why is an increasingly 'connected' world such a mess?"

By the way, Lowell Feld's comments on that same piece, posted at Raising Kaine, are well worth reading, too.

Try reading the Ignatius piece first, then see if you can dig the connection I made to what I wrote for STYLE back in those sepia-toned pre-9/11 days, a sample of which is below:

“The Ten Commandments are to the point and very basic stuff: Honor your God and your parents. Be willing to make sacrifices for what matters most to you. Don’t kill, lie, or steal and don’t cheat on your spouse. And in the final of the 10, we are warned not to covet a neighbor’s goods. I find it interesting that after the laundry list of shalt-nots, the last rule is against even thinking too much about a shalt-not. What were those ancient cats thinking about with that afterthought of a commandment?

“...The lifestyle of a celebrity is constantly sold to consumers as the good life. Wanting that good life is a carrot on the stick that helps drive our consumer culture. Therefore, in some ways, it has been good to all of us. But my thesis here is that there is a dark side to this strategy. When powerless people, who have no financial resources see that same material, they naturally want the good life too. However, if they have no hope, they don’t believe the good life is available to them through legitimate channels. So, instead of feeling motivated to earn more money, the powerless are left to covet.”

Note: At the top of the piece in STYLE that subtitle about "God's law" was added on by the magazine

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