Thursday, July 9, 2015

Downside of Being Rich

In the beginning of the 1960s per capita income in Korea was 100 dollars, in 2013 it was over 20,000 dollars. During the period of 40 years we have seen an increase of over 200 times. Briefly, many citizens have become 'rich overnight'. Sudden accumulation of wealth and new  social status brings new attitudes: self importance, different from others, wanting respect, and the desire to show off the wealth and separate themselves from others.

A university rector brings this reality to the attention of the readers in an opinion column in the Catholic Times. We see this in individuals who become overnight millionaires but also true of a country-- immaturity, confusion and anxiety.

Koreans he says are absorbed with the myth of success. Society does look down upon failures which  promotes the myth of success. Sadly, this thinking has  entered the world of religion. Imported from the  States in the last decades is the power of positive thinking, the  ideology that has moved much of Korea: personal development, happiness evangelizers, and the feel good understanding of life. 

Like a flood this enters our businesses, our churches, and even the academies of learning. Much of this positive thinking has worked. Like a panacea--we are dealing with the placebo effect. What is the object of the positive thinking?  Positive thinking is the motivating force that energizes one to overcome difficulties and  moves the will and gives hope, but it can also be the driving force for ambition and the spirit of greed. 

'Feel good' understanding of religion can be pervasive in society. The power of positive thinking is important but it is not religion. Life is not the thirst for continual prosperity and health. This religion of prosperity is not the longing  for the  eternal but  attachment to the transient and ignoring our follow citizens and matters of justice. God is often used as a tool and as a means to attain success and prosperity. 

Newly rich do not realize they are being controlled by an inordinate emotion. In their new culture of wealth they do not realize they are not being 'more' but losing what they were made to be. Consequently, the uncontrollable passion for education, extreme competition, and many of the  abuses that we have in society.

We need to have a win/win understanding of culture, with the teaching of wisdom enabling us to live together with others, and he concludes that this should be the aim and duty of Christianity.

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