You shall not covet, says the commandment.
But, my observation is that such selfish desires of the body, mind, and soul befoul American culture today. We covet power, money, sex, material things and undisciplined freedom.
Dictionary.com defines “covet” as “to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others.”
Covetous politicians’ desire for power not only subverts the system of government-by-compromise established by our founders, but also empowers special interests to enjoy what Sen. Mike Lee recently described as “cronyist privilege at the top, where political and economic insiders twist the immense power of the federal government to profit at the expense of everyone else.”
It’s not hard to tell politicians who desire power from those who desire to serve… the former talk and strut a lot, the latter work with others to get things done. The falling number of public servants in elected office bears witness to the rise of our covetous culture.
Covetous corporations caused the Great Recession and continue to hold sway over America’s economy. When such corporations place short-term profits above all else, they decimate jobs and wages for American workers. This drives both high unemployment and the growing wealth gap between the rich and middle-class.
In its new Growth & Opportunity Project the Republican Party now acknowledges corporate misconduct as an issue: “We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.”
Of course, our covetousness culture extends beyond corporations and politicians. Many of us covet others’ money – moochers who could and should work but instead choose to game safety-net and entitlement programs; retirees who believe taxpayers owe them never-ending cost-of-living adjustments; victims who pursue egregious settlements; and so on.
Many covet illicit sex, both visual and carnal as evidenced by the rise of pornography on the Internet and cover-ups of child molestation. Covetous distributors and retailers take advantage of these desires by creating sex-based ads.
Most of us covet material things as demonstrated by the dramatic shift in our economy from production to consumerism.
Perhaps the greatest calamity of our cultural change comes from how much we now covet undisciplined freedom. The self-discipline and duty required by moral imperatives – those principles that define virtuous behavior, from industriousness and self-reliance to the Golden Rule to Biblical admonitions – have eroded. These changes fuel other covetous behaviors.
Nothing less than a MADD style campaign against covetousness will change anything. Without such, we will find ourselves pledging allegiance to a nation out-from-under God.
Bill Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.