01 Status.Anxiety


Uploaded by CarloTuscany on 25.03.2012

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The past 200 years in the West
have seen staggering increases in wealth and economic opportunity.
And yet, there have been no comparable increases in our level of happiness.
Despite being so much richer than a few generations ago,
are often more anxious about our own importance and achievements
than our grandparents were.
I call this modern state of restlessness and dissatisfaction,
"Status Anxiety".
I want to explain where I think much of it has come from,
how it affects our lives
and what I believe we could do about it.
STATUS
If we are surprised that being richer hasn't made us happy and secure,
it's because we don't understand the psychology of satisfaction.
When do we feel that we have enough?
What enables us to feel prosperous and content?
Chiefly, a comparison with other people.
But, it's not good enough to compare ourselves to people
who are very remote from us in time and place.
It's not going to help anyone feel very rich to be told
they have infinitely more money than one of their mediaeval ancestors who lived in a mud-walled cottage.
We only feel content when we compare ourselves to people who are like us,
our friends and colleagues,
our neighbours.
In short, the sense of being a success is all relative.
No one spends much time resenting the Queen or Bill Gates.
But we are liable to get extremely resentful
if someone we think is basically just like us,
moves into a bigger house or gets a slightly better job.
We most envy people who we take to be our equals.
The modern world is based around the idea
that we are all, essentially, equal.
Not necessarily financially equal,
but equal in terms of rights and opportunities.
It's a lovely idea
which brings with it one nasty side effect.
In a world in which you could believe that those at the top
belonged to an inherently superior caste,
you didn't need to feel humiliated by anything you didn't have.
You might detest those who had more than you,
but you didn't need to feel ashamed or anxious.
But in a world in which everyone is supposed to be equal,
but where there is still a lot of inequality around,
it's hard not to take the achievements of others
as an implicit reproach for everything you don't have and haven't done.
The best place to go to understand all this,
is the country where the idea of equality first took hold some 200 years ago.
America.
Young, ready and hungryů
In 1776, America had a revolution which changed the world.
Help us to discover the secrets to our dreamů
The new democracy abolished the rigid, class-based hierarchies of Europe.
Say to yourself, every day "it's possible"ů
From the first, this basic sense of equality energised America.
But it also, quite unintentionally,
increased Americans' anxieties about what their true place was.
You can't tell me nothing about this subject, because I was poor.
But I was blessed and I'm not poor now.
Their anxieties were destined to become our anxieties.
The person who first, and perhaps best, understood the problem of modern equality
was a young French aristocrat called Alexis de Tocquville.
In 1831, he came to America in order to study what he called
"the future shape and temperament of the world".
When de Tocquville travelled to America,
the Europe he was leaving behind was still essentially an aristocratic society,
run along feudal lines.
This was a world in which you tended to accept the status that you had been born into.
But in America everything was different.
This was a democracy and here you could change your status,
according to your luck or your talent.
De Tocquville, writing about his journey later, wrote
that what he had come to see in America was the future,
and what he saw when he got there
left him both impressed and frightened for all of us.
De Tocquville distilled the experiences of his nine-month journey into a book
called "Democracy in America".
Its eerie, following his footsteps 170 years later,
to see just how prescient he was.
He foresaw the problems that would arise
when the old social hierarchies based on class were abolished.
There would be no limits
to what we could legitimately expect from life.
De Tocquville was struck at how wealthy ordinary Americans were.
They enjoyed a standard of living far superior to that of their counterparts in old Europe.
But de Tocquville noticed something else,
perhaps more interesting.
That, despite their affluence, they constantly wanted ever more
and felt great envy at anyone who had something that they didn't.
In a chapter of his book entitled
"why the Americans are often so restless in the midst of their prosperity",
Du Tocville analysed the relationship between equality and a gnawing sense of envy.
So where are we now? What is this house?
This is the Delaware model.
Which isů? How does it fit in to the range of models available?
It is a very popular model.
I would say that this model is on the larger end.
Not our smallest and not our largestů
And does it come with all this furniture?
The young Frenchman was immediately intrigued by the houses Americans built.
"I was surprised to perceive, along the shore,
a number of little palaces of white marble,
several of which were of ancient architecture.
When I went the next day to inspect more closely,
I found that the walls were of whitewashed brick
and the columns of painted wood.
In the confusion of all ranks,
everyone hopes to appear what he is not".
And this is the, you say, the colonial style?
This is ůthis is a pretty traditional two-storey colonial withů
Is that a Doric column?
Those are our decorated, decorator columns to enhance the room,
where we put the mirror back there which is also decorator touch.
Right.
De Tocquville said
"when inequality is the general rule in society,
the greatest inequalities attract no attention.
But when everything is more-or-less level,
the slightest variation is noticed.
That's the reason for the strange melancholy
often haunting the inhabitants of democracies
in the midst of abundance.
And of that disgust with life, sometimes gripping them,
even in calm and easy circumstances."
Is this real stone?
That is called a nonstandard option.
Joannie Hartley works for Washington Homes.
Their slogan is "Making the American Dream affordable".
Is that a standard piece, do you know?
Yes. Oh, no-no-no, above the door, that is a decorator item.
In a society of equals,
it is natural for people to want what others have.
Between 1970 and now,
the proportion of Americans who defined the things in this store as "necessities"
rose continuously.
3% in 1970 thought a second television essential.
Now it is 75%.
There have been equivalent increases
in the numbers feeling they need the other products here at Best Buy.
This relentless process from luxury to decency to psychological necessity,
had been noticed by de Tocquville.
He thought it explained
why the Americans' greater wealth
would not necessarily make them happier.
The reason was that all barriers to social expectation had been removed
in the United States.
"In America", wrote de Tocquville,
"I never met a citizen too poor not to be able to glance with hope
and envy at the pleasures of the rich".
Move into a better house,
get a better car,
buy better clothesů
Poor citizens, de Tocquville noticed,
compare themselves with rich ones
and trust that they, too,
will one day follow in their footsteps.
My son wants to look just like everybody else.
If they are sporting Michael Jordans, he has got to sport them, too.
So, if I say it 'no I can't get them for you',
what is this child going to do?
It is going to go out there and rob somebody?
Maybe steal, kill, whatever, to get it?
Some people from humble backgrounds do become very rich in America.
But, unlike the poor of aristocratic societies,
low status Americans are prone to view their condition
as nothing less than a betrayal of their expectations.
The differences between democratic and aristocratic societies
came out particularly well, de Tocquville thought,
in the different mindsets of servants under the two different systems.
In aristocratic societies, de Tocquville argued
that servants tended to accept their fates with good grace,
they didn't feel there was anything humiliating
in being a restaurant manager or waiting on tables.
In democratic societies, however,
the atmosphere of the press and public opinion,
relentlessly suggested to all citizens that they could become
anything on earth that they wanted to be.
However, as time passed, and the majority of people failed to realise their dreams,
they fell prey to a kind of bitterness.
And a sense of despair and the hatred of themselves, and their masters, grew fierce.
I met Blaise Pugh at Freddie's,
the restaurant where he works.
Though it is just around the corner from the Pentagon,
it has a 'Key West' feel.
But it is not where Blaise wants to be.
He has set his sights on being a TV chatshow host.
I am a fun person, I am a lot of fun.
I would like to be on television every damned day.
Really? Every day?
Every night?
Every night.
With your own show?
Anywhere between nine and 11 would be fine.
No no no you can't sit thereů.
I need to spray it with Lysol.
We had a naked model in here this morning who had her errů
her naked crotch on there.
Why do you need to spray? I don't mind.
You don't know where she was last night.
I have an idea.
Blaise's agent, Dorothy,
had got wind of the job for him.
I rushed round.
Blaise is here today to do a head shot.
He has got a casting call in New York next week.
If they like his look, which we hope they do.
They're looking for a character type of dude.
And if they like him it's a possible $40,000 job.
What is your ambition Blaise?
Just to be instantly recognised.
But for what?
Famous for being famous.
But not necessarily for anything in particular?
Exactly.
Just famous for being famous.
And Dorothy, do you think that could happen?
Oh, absolutely.
Are you guys familiar with Dateline?
They voted him personality of the week,
eight years ago.
Failure is not an option.
Somebody once said to me "what happens if you don't..."
Well I won't know because I'll probably be dead trying.
Do your Sean Connery.
Well, it is been a while, let's seeů
Miss Moneypennyů..
You did a terrific job.
When I next met Blaise, he prove difficult to recognise at first.
Roncom is offering 20% off today.
Roncom is having a sale and I'm just out promoting Roncomů.
The rigid, hierarchical system of almost every Western society
until the 18th century was unjust in a thousand ways.
Roncom to its having a sale across the streetů
But it did offer those on the lower rungs one notable freedom.
The freedom not to have to compare their achievements
with so many more successful peoples,
and so find themselves inadequate as a result.
Roncom is having a sale today...
Do ever think, when you are doing this kind of work,
do you ever sort of think,
you know, maybe I should just accept
that maybe I won't make it to the next level.
No.
And that maybe I should just accept that,
you know, life in the restaurant business is my lot?
But it's not where I'm supposed to be.
But do you ever despair, do you ever just say,
" I should just accept, really, that what I am is a restaurant manager.
I am not Johnny Carson I am not David Letterman, I'm a sponge"?
Well, no, you see I can't, because I am, they just don't know it yet.
We are all more like Blaise than we care to admit.
We torment ourselves with comparisons between our lives
and the lives of those a few rungs up the ladder.
It obviously does not make us any happier.
Why are we so unable to curtail our painful aspirations?
Roncom is having a sale across the street...
It isn't just comparisons with others which stop us feeling content.
It is also what we demand of ourselves.
So find some reasons
that can keep you strong when you want to give up.
We are all now expected to succeed.
Here's what I want you to repeat after me please with power and conviction. Say, "it's possible".
Les Brown is one of America's top motivational speakers.
He was flying-in that evening to meet me.
Something about the prospect made me feel lethargic, even desperate.
I said hello, Mr Butterball, how are you?
Les, how are you? How was your flight?
Young, ready and hungryů.
That's how I got into it, because I love connecting people.
Right.
One of the, sort of, paradoxical things of watching your tapes,
reading your material is that it's incredibly optimistic.
But watching it has kind of made me feel that I'm kind of a loser
because I haven't achieved as much as I might have done.
I do that. I don't want you to sleep at night.
Particularly if you have not been living up to your potential.
Does it frustrate when you meet people who you feel are not living to their potential?
Oh, absolutely not.
When I see those kind of people I look at them, and I check them out,
I see what kind of physical fitness they are in.
They perhaps would be very good in cleaning my house,
washing my dishes,
driving me around,
you know, cleaning my clothes, cutting my grass.
Some people choose a life of mediocrity.
That's your choice.
There are people who decide "I don't want to do anything but what I'm doing.
I want to do drugs, I want to be an alcoholic,
I want to be worthless, I want to be no good,
I want to be a criminal.." People make choices.
But what about those people who say,
"I don't want to be a criminal, I want to be chief executive, etc,"
but they happen to be a criminal they or they happen to be a drug addict.
They don't happen to be. They have chosen to become that.
So whatever you are, whatever you are in life,
you have chosen it.
Wherever you are at some point in time, you have made an appointment to be there.
But with this very tough philosophy one could say,
that actually, you have been a very privileged man.
Privileged?
You have been a very privileged man.
How so?
Well, you were born into a loving family,
you were born with gifts,
a gift for public speaking
a very quick mind, a very intelligent mind.
These are gifts.
I didn't start out like this. I was not an orator.
I trained myself. I never had any college training.
I saw a guy speaking and I said 'Hey, I think I would like to do that'.
How much money have you made, Les?
Over 37 million dollars.
In how long?
18 years.
You've got to continue to work on yourself personally,
to work on yourself professionally,
you have got to be hungry.
My basic feeling with Les is that he is very inspiring, obviously,
you come away from his company feeling like this really is someone
who can help you to make your, life make your millions, etc.
But I suppose there remains a dark undercurrent of all this.
That it raises your anxiety levels.
You think, "I should be so much more than I am".
And in many ways, I think that life simply isn't as flexible as Les makes out.
And I think that the old resignation to one's condition
is obviously negative in all sorts of ways,
but it can also be quite calming.
It helps you to accommodate yourself with what could be
quite harsh and quite unbudgeable conditions of life.
So, I think there is real benefit, sometimes,
to an approach that sees life as essentially a cruel joke.
Our expectations for our lives have grown exponentially in the democratic age.
A philosopher who thought deeply about what that might mean for human happiness
was John Jacques Rousseau an eccentric, shrill
but unsettlingly persuasive 18th century Frenchman.
Rousseau had a fascinating idea about what it is to be wealthy.
Being wealthy isn't just a question of having lots of money.
It's a question of having what we want.
Wealth isn't an absolute, it's relative to desire.
Every time we seek something that we can't afford,
we can be counted as poor,
however much money we may actually have.
And every time we are satisfied with what we have,
we can be counted as rich,
however little we may actually possess.
There are two ways to make people richer, reasoned Rousseau:
To give them more money, or to restrain their desires.
Modern societies have succeeded spectacularly at the first option,
but by continuously inflaming our appetites,
they have at the same time,
helped to negate their own most impressive achievements.
This analysis led Rousseau to one of his most provocative ideas,
his concept of 'the noble savage'.
Rousseau argued that the so-called 'uncivilised' peoples who lived in the forests,
in the language of the day, "savages"
were not just morally better than the corrupted inhabitants of cities like Washington DC,
they might also be happier.
Modern societies might actually leave us feeling more deprived than primitive ones,
where people contented themselves, in Rousseau's words
"playing with crude musical instruments, or using sharp-edged stones to make a fishing canoe".
I think it is possibly quite easy to dismiss Rousseau's ideas as a piece of romantic fantasy.
But if so many people in the 18th century took these ideas so seriously,
I think it's because they had before them one stark example of many of its apparent truths
in the shape of the fate of the North American Indians.
Here's a picture of my grandfather and my grandmother and my aunt.
Warren Cook is deputy chief of what remains of the Pamunkey Tribe,
once led by a mighty Powhatan, king of Virginia and father of Pocahontas.
It is just another picture of my aunt.
I don't know why she has a gun, but, probably to get an Englishman.
Reports of native American life from the 16th century onwards
had described it as materially simple,
but psychologically rewarding.
Communities were close-knit, egalitarian, religious, playful and marshall.
Well we have here how the people sort-of dressed and what they sort-of looked like.
These are called John White's Drawings.
And then, of course, a little bit of their music and their flutes and the rattlers.
So, incredibly simple instruments.
Of course, you are talking a very primitive people, of course.
Within only a few decades of the arrival of the White Man,
the technology and luxury of European industry
had awed the Native Americans.
When the English came over, everything of course changed.
The native people wanted the thing that the English people had.
Do you think before the English came,
they were more or less happy with what they had.
I mean they had led a very simple life, what is your sense ofů
Of course they were happy, they didn't know any better.
They couldn't be unhappy because they didn't know what they didn't have.
I once read a letter between two English merchants
saying the problem with the Indian tribes
is that many of them don't want enough things.
And then, the other merchant said, yeah but if you try and interest them in Venetian beads
they will love those.
Well everything was new.
They would try something new and exciting,
and they had never seen before.
Their new possessions didn't appear to make the Indians much happier.
Rates of suicide and alcoholism spiralled and communities fractured.
The Tribal Chiefs would have known what Rousseau was talking about.
How much land did the tribe have?
Well, just about all of Virginia.
All of Virginia?
And now it's got?
1100 and some acres, that's about it.
And do you think the culture that they have put in in its place,
I mean we drove through on the way here, through endless strip malls,
Walmarts, you know, KFCs, all these big brands.
That's the culture that has replaced the native American culture.
What you think of the new American culture?
You've got 10 times more things to be anxious about now.
What we are anxious about now?
We are anxious about everything.
We've got all these psychological problems,
we've got Prozac kids, Prozac women, Prozac menů
But surely thereů
You've lost maybe just a simpler type of life, without the anxieties.
The Indians ceased listening to the quiet voices
that spoke of the modest pleasures of community
and of the beauty of the empty canyons at dusk,
and that, thought Rousseau, was what we had all done.
I get angry when you read about it,
you go back and kind of relive probably what the poor people went through.
I get mad about that.
When you meet English people now do you feel angry or do you forgive them?
You English?
Yeah! That's why I'm asking, nervously.
Would you like to swim?
Are you going to throw me in?
It was an American psychologist,
William James who first explored, from a psychological angle,
the particular problems that societies create for themselves
when they start raising huge expectations in their citizens.
And James illustrates this kind of fascinating dynamic between expectations and fulfilment,
in a kind of theory that he writes.
He says that our self-esteem
that thing that we are searching for, self-esteem
is a result of two things:
success
the number of things that we are successful at,
over
expectation
the number of things that we expect to be successful at.
And what he is really saying by this
is that in order to have high self-esteem you can do two things:
either become more successful
or lower the number of things that you expect to be successful at.
And the problem, James says, of modern American societies, and also western European,
is that they are constantly placing us under huge pressures to succeed.
They are constantly raising the level of our expectations
and in so doing, they are making self-esteem a very elusive thing indeed.
Every rise in our levels of expectation,
entails a rise in the risks of humiliation.
And if we do fail,
how much sympathy can we expect from other people,
when the system seems bent on removing every excuse we might have
for our failures?
I worry about trying to survive, trying to make it,
you know, just working hard and trying to provide for my kids,
trying to keep a nice home over their head and make sure something someday
it's hard.
Move into better house,
get a better car,
buy better clothes.
And when God gets finished tell him to give you the mike and let you testify.
It seems I will never buy the big, big house like I see on the TV.
You have got to decide to be relentless,
you have got to decide to never give up,
you have got to be hungry.
If you are rich you are rich, if you are poor you are poor.
It's not, you know, ..and then and if you are in between,
you've got to strive to stay where you are at,
or you are going to fall under.
God is sick and tired of his people looking like lemons in the face.
He wants you to enjoy your life.
I worry about my safety, you know, I am a young black man.
Most young black males are either dead or locked up.
You know?
That's horrible.
I don't want to have to worry about that.
You know what I mean?
That's not living to me.
That's not living at all.
See the only time normal times I would be able to get to get on camera,
is if I was coming out of court,
do you know what I mean?
Or something else.
No country embodies the meritocratic ideal like America.
It is, we are constantly being told, a wide-open country,
where anyone who works hard can succeed.
This constant striving can disturb the mental calm of people
who are, to all intents and purposes, rich.
But it has will also change their attitudes towards the poor.
Of course, America isn't a meritocracy,
you only have to look around you
to see that the system is weighted in favour of certain groups,
and massively weighted against others.
You only had to remember the issue of race.
Yet the key point is that Americans perceive that their society is, in fact, meritocratic
and there is a cruel logic to the whole idea of a meritocracy,
because if you genuinely believe that those at the top merit their success,
you have to believe that those at the bottom must merit their failure.
Jenny Lamont begs by the side of the road to feed her two children.
What do you think when you see people like her?
Do you think they have been unlucky?
Or do you tend to assume that they have, in some way, brought it on themselves?
That they are losers, even?
I think a lot of the middle-class people and people that have money,
yeah they look down on me.
When rich people come,
they'll be rolling their windows up or they weren't even pull their car up next to you.
They don't want to have anything to do with you.
So who are the people who help you most?
Mexicans, Indian women and a lot of women.
Why do you think that is?
Because they have been there
and they know that you wouldn't be out there if you didn't need it.
Thank you so much ma'am,
God bless you, thank you.
You have a nice day ma'am, thank you so much.
My husband and I were together for 26 years and my husband recently died.
I was a bookkeeper for a small company.
I worked there for seven years and I lost my job.
I came home from work
he was in a coma on the couch.
I called the ambulance,
hey took him to the hospital,
he died September 11,
02 of the year anniversary of the plane crash.
And I went into a real bad depression,
I was still at my job at that time.
And at that point, you lived in a nice house?
I had my own apartment, two-bedroom apartment.
But I couldn't play the rent,
so I just recently got evicted
and I have to be out on the 13th of this month.
So where are you living now?
My father-in-law has let me stay in his basement.
When you need to feed your kids, you do anything.
It's real degrading going out there, but it's how I feed my kids.
So I don't care what the people said to me is, what they yell at me, or anything.
Thank you so much ma'am, God bless you, thank you.
They don't know my story.
They don't know what's going on in my life.
Are you surprised by what has happened to you when you look back on your life?
Are youů.are you shocked?
How do you think about what has happened to you?
I try not to because I get depressed,
you know, because everything I had was great, my life was great,
and I kind of lost it, like, within a month, everything was gone.
From the middle of the 19th century, especially in the United States,
perceptions of the relative virtues of the poor and the wealthy began to change.
The possession of money began to seem less like a fortunate blessing,
and more like proof of moral superiority.
I felt a bit nervous about meeting Grover Norquist.
He is one of Washington's most prominent neoconservative lobbyists.
Can you make sure the front desk does not put calls through?
So what do you see as the most fundamental ideas about American society and the economy?
Well, it basedů, the United States, from day one
was founded down the basis that anybody could do and be anything they wanted to.
Didn't matter who your parents were, didn't matter what are they did.
That you were in charge of your own future,
there is no ceiling, and there is no floor.
If you want to be a bum, you can be a bum.
If you want to accomplish great things you can do that, it's up to you.
The State's responsibility is to provide for a free and open and Just society,
to execute murderers and otherwise leave people alone.
Why shouldn't the state help the needy?
Because to do that, you would have to steal money from people who earned it
and give it to people who didn't,
and then you make the State into a thief.
Why is it theft?
To take money that you didn't earn?
Could you give me one second?
Damon.
Damon.
Whatever you're doing shouting over there, it comes right through the walls.
Could you make sure people are quiet,
because we are getting noise louder than just talking noises through the walls.
You are suggesting that taxation is theft?
Taxation beyond the legitimate requirements of providing for Justice, is theft, sure.
It strikes me that there is a lot less guilt
towards the underprivileged in American society, compared to in European society,
why do you think that might be?
If you believe that somebody's property and wealth,
is not necessarily legitimately earned, because he is an Earl or a Duke for he got it from
his great- great- great-great-grandfather who stole it from the Normans or the Saxons,
or something.
Well then, Proudhon "property is theft".
And in Europe, a lot of property was theft.
In the United States because we take so many immigrants,
it's a little hard to argue that you can't succeed when you see
five-year-old Cambodian children coming out of the killing fields of Cambodia
becoming the best speller in the country at aged 12.
OK, that person can do it
and you are telling me that you can't get out of bed in the morning
and go to work because life is unfair?
Do you think it is nicer to be poor in Europe than it is in the United States?
Nicer?
I don't know, maybe less dignity if the government is willing to do more for you.
When people give you money for not working,
it is destructive of human dignity and eventually destructive of human liberty.
It turns people into lazily folks who don't want to accomplish anything
and just sort-of sit around.
Why would you want to have anything to do with that?
I don't believe in the American dream.
You know. I really don't.
I think it is just words, you know?
In America, it became possible for the first time,
to argue that the rung of the ladder each person stood on,
accurately reflected their true qualities.
Conveniently for the successful,
this reduced the need for welfare,
redistribution of wealth
or even simple compassion.
Given this relentless logic, voices like Grover's will only grow louder.
DAMON
If you met someone who was very successful in every way,
had lots of fame, money respect,
and you asked them why they were successful
and they said "well it's just good luck",
you would think they were being unduly modest.
Similarly, if you met someone who was a failure in every way
no job, no money, no respect
and you asked them what had happened,
and they said it was just bad luck,
you would think they were trying to hide something.
Essentially, luck has disappeared
as a plausible explanation
for what happens to people in their life.
"Winners make their own luck"
is the punishing, modern mantra.
And yet, for all our unwillingness to put much faith in luck,
we are, in important ways,
more at the mercy of forces beyond our control than ever before.
The globalised economy has brought great reward to its winners.
But it is also constantly creating large numbers of losers.
In traditional societies, high status and the respect it brings,
may have been inordinately hard to acquire,
but they were also pleasantly hard to lose.
Modern societies have sought to make status dependent on achievement,
primarily financial achievement.
But the nature of the economy that those societies have created
is making that achievement ever more precarious.
Bethlehem steel outside Baltimore was once the largest steelworks in the world.
Now all but one of its furnaces lay rusting,
its workforce down from 32,000 to 2000.
Joe Rizell has worked there all his professional life.
There is always been a sense of pride in the steel industry,
a lot of the people in the steel industry are patriotic,
people who enlisted in the Army,
we were doing lot of work that would build America and people knew that.
I thought I would be unable to retire here like my father.
My father is second-generation, my father worked right here in this mill.
We are on slippery slope now, we could be here today, gone tomorrow, we just don't know.
There is a lot of uncertainty.
For most of us, our work is the chief determinant of the amount of respect
and care that we will be granted.
The globalised economy is making that work more unstable,
opening up an anxiety-inducing gap
between what we need and what the world will give us.
Constant pressure from imported steel coming into the country
has made these jobs very precarious in terms of
"Are they going to last? Are you going be able to get to your retirement?
Are you going to get your pension or not?"
No matter what it seems we do to make ourselves more productive,
and we are more productive than we have ever been,
it never seems to be enough.
Does all this makes you more sad or more angry?
I'm more angry than sad,
but the anger is towards people saying there is free trade
and fair trade when I know there is not.
The sadness is seeing an industry that doesn't have to be destroyed,
be destroyed over time by he globalisation of trade,
with no plan on how that should be done, just having chaos reign.
We seem determined to remove any excuse we might point to for failure.
Just when more and more of us are less secure in our jobs than ever.
I am interested in the consolation still available to the unsuccessful,
when the world doesn't give them the respect that they need.
Move into a better house,
get a better car,
buy better clothes
and then when God gets finished, tell him to give you the mike and let you testify.
Over the course of the 19th century, many Christian thinkers,
especially in the United States, began to change
their views of money and worldly success.
Increasingly, in a departure from traditional Christian thought,
American Protestant denominations
have suggested that wealth might be a reward from God for holiness.
Made money your friend.
Touch a neighbour, say: "make money your friend".
Make all the money you can.
Our friend, de Tocqueville, also noticed this new American tendency
for Christianity to align itself with the materialist values of the rest of the culture.
"The evangelical mission", he said,
"appears here to be an industrial enterprise".
Bishop Jimmy Ellis III,
founded the Victory Christian Centre in a rundown Philadelphia neighbourhood in 1983.
His congregation now numbers 1600.
We need to learn how to become friends with money.
You know the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
That though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor,
that you, through his poverty, might be rich.
And that's not spiritual riches there.
People try to make it spiritual,
it is not spiritual. The whole chapter is something about money.
So let me try and understand:
So, Jesus became poor, so that we can become rich on Earth.
That is right.
Sunday morning in Levington, Suffolk England.
For centuries, all across the West,
people have been coming to services like this.
On offer, has always been the consoling reminder
that there might be more important things in life than status and success.
The very fact that we still retain a distinction between wealth and virtue,
and ask of people whether they are good, rather than simply important
is, in large part, due to the impression that Christianity has left on Western consciousness.
ůfor Jesus Christ's sake, our only mediator and advocate.
It has become rather unfashionable to take Christianity all that seriously,
in Britain at least.
And yet, the fact that we don't,
may be a major cause of our modern status anxieties.
We have largely lost the Christian sense
that there is no necessary connection
between a person's value and their status in the world.
For Christians, Jesus had been the highest man,
the most blessed,
and yet on earth he had been a humble carpenter,
ruling out any simple equation between a person's status and their position in heaven.
It is worth dwelling on just how much consolation there must have been
in that very simple idea.
You can't tell me nothing about this subject, because I was poor.
But I bless God I ain't poor now.
I didn't have no bank account, but I thank my God that I followed him.
I thank God I know what God can do for you, if you just follow and obey him.
In "The City of God", written in AD 427 in the closing years of the Roman Empire,
the theologian, Saint Augustine,
explained that all human actions
could be interpreted from either a Christian or a Roman perspective.
The very things esteemed so highly by the Romans,
amassing money, building villas, winning wars,
counted for nothing in the Christian outlook.
Saint Augustine urged Christians to replace Roman values with a new set of concerns:
loving one's neighbours, practising humility and charity,
and recognising one's dependence on God.
Practising those values offered the key to elevated Christian status.
Over coffee and biscuits at Ian and Margaret Angus's,
Canon Geoffrey Grant explained.
How can you tell if someone is spiritually rich?
Is that connected to if someone has got quite a lot of income?
Not necessarily, no, I don't think so at all.
Do you think that the Lord rewards people who are good with riches?
Absolutely. Absolutely.
I mean if somebody has got a very nice car,
doesn't that show that God thinks that this person is quite good?
I don't think so.
You get ůa classic example is Mother Teresa.
Jesus Christ came in order to make us abundant,
so that we wouldn't have to live in poverty
and we wouldn't have to live in lack
and that is part of the new covenant that he provided.
So there might be people here who have little money but they are very rich, spiritually.
They are rich spiritually and that comes out
when they come to church
and when you talk to them.
They are pillars of the village and they will go round spending their whole lives
looking after their neighbours.
On the whole, if you saw 100 rich people and 100 poor people,
would you in a way.. if you had to make a choiceů
would you say that the richer group was the holier group,
not just rich but also holy
and that the poor group was in a way maybe the more sinful group.
No, I would not advocate that at all.
I would not advocate that at all.
Because riches, is not an indication of holiness.
But before, you said it was.
Excuse me?
No, I said that's a part of it, I was very clear,
I said that it is a part of the blessing of God.
But you don't have to be rich in order to be holy.
Because many rich people are not holy
and many poor people are not holy, too,
so the richness itself is not holiness, no.
So what, overall, can we say about riches?
I mean, is riches a sign of holiness or isn't it?
I mean if you had to make a sort of generalisation.
Riches is a by-product of walking with God.
Geoffrey, what is your own attitude towards the wealth for yourself.
My car, for instance, is 16 years old.
Why don't you get a newer one?
Really because I haven't been able to afford it
and I'd rather have the car I know than buy a secondhand car.
So it doesn't really matter to you what car you drive?
No, I don't, as long as it goes and it's reliable.
And perhaps that is what God thinks about us.
The Bible does not say money is the root of all evil,
the Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil.
And you can have plenty of it and don't love it,
and the key to that is being generous.
I believe the Lord is so good Amen.
He has been better to me than I have been to myself.
Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah.
Coming to hear Bishop Ellis here in Philadelphia,
I think what is striking for me,
is to realise just how much Christianity has been readapted to fit a new, American, model.
To fit the idea of the American dream.
And I think what is particularly striking perhaps to someone coming from Europe,
is just how much that consoling message, the traditional message of Christianity
that you can both be poor and spiritually rich
has been lost.
And that, I think, is a very troubling lesson indeed.
Until the late 19th century,
it was the spires of churches and cathedrals
which dominated the skyscape of every town and city in the West.
City dwellers engaged in worldly tasks
could remind themselves of a vision of life,
which challenged the authority of ordinary ambitions.
There is no doubt that it's worldly values that have now triumphed over spiritual ones.
And there is one aspect of this decline in Christian belief
with particular implications for status anxiety.
In an age which could believe that what happened to you on Earth
but a brief prelude to what might happen in the next life,
the pressure to succeed and fulfil yourself would inevitably be lessened.
But in a secular age,
in which the whole idea of an afterlife has become increasingly unbelievable,
the pressure to succeed in this life has inevitably heightened.
What you achieve, right now,
in your own life is all that you will ever be.
No wonder we are slightly more worried.
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