What Would Jesus Drive?: A Speculative Essay

This is a picture of one of those "hybrid" cars. Get it? What would Jesus drive? Get it?
This is a picture of one of those "hybrid" cars. Get it? What would Jesus drive? Get it? | Source

Good Day honghahnvt1182! How's it going?

Thank you for the question: Is being born a gift or a curse?

Let's see if we can make this relatively short, sweet, and painless.

Now then, I read the rest of the question, honghahnvt1182, and what it boils down to is the fact that different people and different groups of people have different qualities of life, in material terms. Given this, it would seem that the most likely answer to your question is: neither. Being born into life is neither a gift ('blessing') or curse, certainly not if one wants to assign a volitional role to a "God" in doling out 'curses' and gifts ('blessings). This is true because, on a finite world with finite resources no Supreme Being, or anyone else, can 'bless' or 'curse' in a vacuum.

That is to say, one cannot bless (or 'gift') these people over here (if that is the primary, conscious intent) without simultaneously 'cursing' that group of people over there. Does that make sense? One simply cannot 'curse' that group of people over there (even if that is the primary, conscious intent) without consequently---that's CONSEQUENTLY---'blessing' (or 'gifting') this group of people over here (even if it was never your intention to bless x group of people).

In other words, if you (say, a government entity) takes something (say, land) from somebody (eminent domain, for example), it doesn't just go into limbo or the Phantom Zone or something like that. No, somebody (say, a corporation) gets that land. The former group of people are 'cursed' to the extent that something is taken away from them; and the latter group of people are 'blessed' in that something is given to them (at a bargain basement price, no doubt), which, somehow, contribute to further accumulation of wealth on behalf of the board of directors of the company and its top executives including the CEO, yes?

For example, it seems that two American historians made a study of the British colonial experience. What they found was that while wealthy investors profited from investing in overseas colonies, the middle class only got tax bills that supported the vast military apparatus needed to maintain the empire (1).

The point is simply that wealthy investors profited and the middle class paid. But what we must see, here, is that the wealthy investors profited because the middle class paid. Therefore the wealthy investors were 'blessed' because the middle class were 'cursed.'

Author David C. Korten wrote: "Just as wealthy countries import resources when their demand exceeds their own limit, they export their surplus wastes. Indeed, waste disposal practices reveal with particular clarity the relationship between power and the allocation of environmental costs" (2).

He continued: "Adding insult to injury, the rich commonly point to the miserable environmental conditions in which the poor sometimes live as proof that the poor are less environmentally responsible than themselves" (3).

Stay with me. Globalization

By the mid-1990s, Japan had reduced its domestic aluminum smelting capacity from 1.2 million tons to 140,000 tons, and was importing 90 percent of its aluminum. Now then, the Phillipine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation (PASAR) operated a Japanese-financed and constructed copper smelting plant in the province of Leyte, to produce high-grade copper cathodes for shipment to Japan (4).

This plant occupied 400 acres of land expropriated (or 'eminent domained') by the Phillipine government from local residents at 'give-away' prices. Furthermore, gas and water emissions from the plant had high concentrations of boron, arsenic, heavy metals, and sulfur compounds that have contaminated local water supplies, reduced fishing and rice yields, damaged the forests, and increased the occurrence of upper respiratory diseases among the local residents (5).

What do we have here, then?

Notice:

1. The environment of Japan was 'blessed' only because another, lower wealth country in the world was found that could be environmentally 'cursed,' that country being the Philippines.

2. And yet, the Japanese workers who formerly held those manufacturing jobs, were 'cursed,' in that they lost those jobs when aluminum smelting capacity was drastically reduced at home.

3. On the other hand, it would appear that just as Japanese workers were being 'cursed,' in losing their jobs in aluminum smelting, Philippine workers were being 'blessed' as the Japanese increased copper smelting capacity in the Philippines.

4. But then again, I would imagine that the 'blessing' (or 'gift') given to Philippine workers, is at least somewhat offset by the fact lots and lots and lots of Philippine citizens lost their land at bargain basement prices, 'give-away' prices, meaning that it is likely that they were not justly compensated.

5. Japanese health potential seems to have been positively impacted or 'blessed' (or 'gifted') with the reduction of aluminum smelting capacity in-country, only to apparently negatively impacted, or 'cursed,' the health potential of, perhaps, millions of Philippines's citizens.

6. The reduction of fish and rice yields in the Philippines, as a result of all of this, seems to be an additional 'curse' (a potential increase in hunger) effectively visited upon the Philippines.

And so on and so forth.

What we're looking at here is a complicated pattern of interactive, overlapping 'blessings' and 'curses.'

Okay, you may want to say that "God" is the kind of Supreme Being who can walk and chew gum at the same time. "God" is the kind of Supreme Being who can simultaneously 'bless' (or 'gift') one group of people over there and 'curse' another group of people over here.

Maybe. But the problem with that analysis is that there are observed, very long-term patterns of resource distribution among global hemispheres, among countries, among socioeconomic classes within and across countries that make one ask: When does the statute of limitations run out on whatever 'sin' the ancestors of those people committed, so that there present descendants can get some ever loving relief from hellish poverty, disenfranchisement, and misery? When does the mileage run out on whatever good deed the ancestors of this group did to bring a slowdown, if not a halt, to this uninterrupted period of cosmically staggering wealth and power?

One more thing

A study was executed by one William Rees, an urban planner at the University of British Columbia at the time. Rees estimated that 4 to 6 hectares of land are needed to maintain the consumption of the average person living in a high-income country; and that's including the land required to maintain current levels of energy consumption using renewable energy supplies. However, in 1990, the total available ecologically productive land area (land capable of generating consequential biomass) in the world was only an estimated 1.7 hectares per capita (6).

David C. Korten again: "The deficit of the industrialized countries is covered in part by drawing down their own natural resource stocks and in part through trade that allows them to expropriate the resources of lower income countries" (7).

William Rees estimated that the population of the Netherlands consumes the output equivalent to fourteen times as much productive land as is contained within its own borders (8).

And speaking of the Netherlands, that is said to be the fourth happiest nation in the whole wide world, according to a United Nations report (9). The fact that it uses the equivalent of fourteen times the land contained within its own borders must provide a substantial foundation for a societal feeling of well being.

Thank you for reading.

References

1. Korten, David C. When Corporations Rule the World. Berret-Koehler & Kumarian Press, 1995. 28

2. ibid, 30

3. ibid, 31

4. ibid

5. ibid

6. ibid, 33

7. ibid

8. ibid

9. Retrieved 12/10/2014 http://www.dutchdailynews.com/netherlands-4th-happiest-nation-in-the-world/; http://www.iamexpat.nl/read-and-discuss/expat-page/news/netherlands-fourth-happiest-nation

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10 comments

Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 24 months ago from Australia

WingedC

As the question is about "being born" (being or not being a curse) you may have strayed into other quasi related interesting areas in your extrapolation.

As to actual birth I can't help but see this very question as a proof of the real possibility of reincarnation as many are either blessed or cursed or a bit of both at birth.

Life can be seen as a nightmare or a dream depending on our view of the half full cup as half full/half empty.

Certainly an atheist view of fully sentient beings very aware of their eventual doom is a horror scenario. A theist view is full of faith and promise where even bad things are seen as the fight between good and evil.

Is your cup half full or half empty or does your cup "runneth over"?


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 24 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@Oztinato: Good Day to you and thank you so much for doing me the kindness of reading and commenting on this little essay of mine! I will admit that it is possible that my extrapolation has run a little far afield. Its interesting that you mention that bit about reincarnation; I was actually going to incorporate that, but decided against it, as that might have made this piece, perhaps, unnecessarily long.

But yes, the actual wording of the question does indicate reincarnation. Is "God" either rewarding or punishing the soul by incarnating it into flesh?

However, I did think I was responding the other part of the question posed. Her explanation went into the fact that different people find themselves in different material circumstances. I talked about the impossibility---on this finite world with its finite resources---of blessing X without consequently, if inadvertently, cursing Y.

A lot of this does have something to do with the social class one is born into. While not necessarily determinative, nevertheless, material circumstances can set the table for one's emotions, psychological health, happiness, and the like.

In other words, one's material circumstances might either augment, alleviate, or perhaps leave one's inner state unchanged. For example, if one suffers from schizophrenia and is born into an upper middle class, New England, white American family, it can be managed much more easily and with more and more effective medical resources directed at it than if one who has the same condition but whose genetic lottery has placed him in an inner city, working class, Chicano family. That's really all I'm saying.

Take care.


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 24 months ago from Australia

As I said its an interesting topic which has fascinated philosophers.

When I look at the hand I was dealt things that I once saw as a disadvantage (like being good at art but not chemistry) are now positives.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 24 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@Oztinato: Good Day to you again and thank you for your sustained interest in the ideas the original question evoked and that this essay attempted to deal with. Though I see that I continue to express myself very badly.

Remember the example I used about the Netherlands, how it uses the equivalent of fourteen times more land than is contained within their natural borders? Well this sets the table for the lifestyle they lead; they differ from, say, the United States in that wealth is distributed on a more equalitarian, broadly democratic basis.

But you see, the Netherlands has an imperial past like many other European countries. That imperial past has set patterns of resource distribution that has extremely favored the Netherlands in relations to its former colonial possessions in what is called the developing world or third world.

This unequal pattern of exchange has greatly "blessed" (or gifted) the people of the Netherlands relative to the people of the former colonial possessions in the so-called developing world, whom you could say are relatively "cursed," since the vastly reduced material condition they enjoy today relative to what they once had before they came under the imperial sway of the Netherlands, set the table for a certain amount of misery, which paid for a certain amount of corresponding joy felt by the people of the Netherlands because of the unequal exchange relations established, many, many years before.

Does that make any more sense? I hope so.

Thanks again, Oztinato! :)


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 24 months ago from Australia

WingedC

Of course I think your ideas are very interesting. You are also expressing your ideas very well. There is no doubt about that.

Philosophers have puzzled over these things for thousands of years.

I visited India on two occasions and saw the inequality, poverty and disease first hand; but in the midst of it I also saw what can only be described as truly remarkable uplifting and miraculous spiritual phenomena on numerous occasions. The spiritual Indians know of these phenomena but the average wealthy Western nations and others have no inkling of such phenomena and would not believe it anyway if they were told. That difference was astonishing.

The Netherlands one the other hand is one the first countries to normalize euthanasia and to begin the erosion of laws against infanticide. This is the opposite of spirituality!

More often than not great prosperity leads to great moral decline. This has been noted by both religious and materialistic scholars.

Struggle and pain can be blessings in disguise, and riches can have hidden evils.

It seems the idea of "relativity" goes beyond maths and science and seeps well into philosophy.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 24 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@Oztinato: Good Day to you, once again. Thank you, again, for taking an interest and for being so complimentary. But I can only express my profoundest regret because I can see that I continue to fail miserably to express myself clearly. Let me emphasize my embarrassment; the fault is mine and the inadequacy is mine.

I have simply got to learn to be more clear. Perhaps I got too cute with this essay. But, still, I did think I was answering, or attempting to answer, the original question in the spirit it was asked. The question seemed to me to refer to unequal material circumstances.

Let me try it this way: Suppose I found a magic lamp, within which lived a ("Jeannie"?) and this Jeannie could grant me wishes. I only need one wish. Let us suppose that I wished for twenty million dollars, deposited in my bank account.

First of all, let us suppose such a thing was actually possible, that I indeed had twenty million dollars magically added to my net worth, twenty million dollars, which, I could, theoretically, draw out, enjoy, and spend. Okay?

Here's the thing: If twenty million dollars suddenly appeared in my bank account, this would, let us say, raise many, many, many eyebrows. The authorities would want to know where exactly it came from (narcotics trafficking, for example?).

Certainly, from the perspective of the authorities, I would be profiting from something destructive and illegal; they would not be inclined to unquestioningly accept my 'good fortune,' or 'blessing,' or 'gift.' Twenty million dollars showing up suddenly in my bank account would demand explanation (gun smuggling? sex trafficking? Where did the money come from, sir?)

You know, one of the major things that brought down the notorious Chicago gangster, Al Capone, was his patent refusal to play the game, to even pretend to try to come up with a good, false story about how he may have 'legitimately' made his fortune; and he refused to play even the pretense of being a good citizen as far as paying taxes was concerned.

Anyway, until and unless I could give a legitimate, legal explanation of how I suddenly earned twenty million dollars, the authorities would most certainly freeze that bank account so that I could not access those funds, which must certainly be ill-gotten gain (Where did you get the money, sir? Poaching elephants in Africa for their ivory tusks?)

This is one way to approach the issue I raised in the essay: It is impossible, on this finite world with finite resources, for 'God,' or anybody else, to grant 'blessings' or 'gifts' in a vacuum; and again, I was answering the original question as it alluded to inequality of material circumstances.

Now, realistically, if twenty million dollars was suddenly deposited into my bank account---and I didn't invent something, sell something, sign an NBA contract or movie or record deal contract, become a corporate CEO, sell a company I started, or something like that---then it is most probably something illegal and/or destructive which would account for it; in which case, I might add, shows that my 'blessing' comes at the direct expense of someone else (many someone else-s) getting 'cursed.'

Thanks again and take it easy! :)


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 24 months ago from Australia

WingedC

I agree that if someone has exceedingly more it means they have milked others on the way. We all only need a minimal and equal amount.

I personally know a so called "inventor" of a childs toy that supposedly makes ice. I watched over the years as he lied and cheated and stole etc to make big money using Chinese slave labour. The toy doesn't work properly but its only ten bucks so no one bothers to return it!

So I largely agree with you about materialistic wealth.

However if we expand our vision we can see the ethical or as I said the spiritual implications. Gangsters and sheisters highlight this spiritual/ethical side of materialism.

All things including money have an ethical or spiritual aspect.

I am not disagreeing with you at all. The problems you are pointing out ARE ethical and spiritual dilemmas that's all.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 24 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@Oztinato: I concede, my friend. I will agree to accept 'yes' for an answer. The example you gave about the 'inventor' and virtually enslaved Chinese labor is just right; it captures the angle I was working. And yes, as you say, "[a]ll things including money have an ethical or spiritual aspect."

Mario Puzo wrote a novel in the 1960s, The Godfather. Before we even get to the first page of chapter one he quotes Balzac: "Behind every great fortune is a crime."

Anyway, take it easy and thanks again!


Oztinato profile image

Oztinato 24 months ago from Australia

Yes we are agreeing.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 24 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Cool!

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    William Thomas (wingedcentaur)245 Followers
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    The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.



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