All Maine Matters

September 2006



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All Maine Matters

Because All of Maine DOES Matter!
Vol. 1, No. 9      September 2006 FREE

Profit Motive or the Soul of Man
by Fritz Spencer

As summer slowly turns to autumn, Mainers have a chance to see a sight as rare and beautiful as the world has to offer. The setting sun fills our fields and meadows with a shimmering golden light, while the wildflowers seem to raise their heads to reach out for the light which has fed them gently and tenderly throughout the brief Maine summer. The careful observer will see that the sun, by its mysterious power of warmth and light, has recreated each flower in its own image. And as the cycle of life nears completion, the goldenrod and meadow lily blaze out in a final moment of fullness, glory, and strength.

This mutual embrace of sun and meadow tells the questioning onlooker that the world was indeed created by love. In the same way that nature is willed into being through the power of love, the works of man proceed from the desires of his own heart. Who can deny that the work of the inventor laboring for long years without pay is a work of love? Who can deny that the Olympic champion racing towards the finish line is motivated by a love of his sport? Who can deny that the artist painting seascapes of Monhegan Island is inspired by a love of his native land?

Yet some would claim there is a more powerful creative force in the world, and that is the love of profit. Let men be free, they say, to pursue their own financial interest, and Heaven will at long last be brought down to earth. Poverty, war, and social injustice will end; and freedom, liberty, and prosperity will be had in abundance. This new utopia will be built with gold, dug up hard and cold from the subterranean reaches of the earth. This same gold, possessed in abundance, will make each man good. What a tragic misunderstanding of the nature of man! Those who believe that money is the answer to all the ills of society overlook man’s inborn capacity for good and evil. They forget that man’s hidden inclinations cannot be blocked by a mountain of gold, or shunted aside by the cold winds of misfortune, since they lie within the realm of the spirit, beyond the reach of the world.

Our nation became great through the power of the spirit. We must keep uppermost in our minds that the hallmark of our civilization is the preference for the spiritual over the material. No other nation has been as productive or as humane and democratic, precisely because no other civilization has had such a high a view of humanity and its duty to preserve the eternal, moral law.

But a new doctrine has replaced the idealism of our forefathers, and that is the cold and heartless doctrine of materialism. Materialism in its purest form teaches that each man is a soulless clump of matter, whose needs can be understood in purely economic terms. But economics is only one small part of the life of the individual and society as a whole. Nonetheless, we are told by politicians and opinion-makers that all our problems will disappear if only we are given a better economy. We hear no mention of how life, individually and collectively, amounts to more than wealth. Instead, spokesmen for both political parties tell us to turn our eyes away from the hearts of our fellow man, and towards our bank accounts and balance sheets.

This new doctrine of materialism, in which the values of the marketplace take center stage, represents an ominous break with our own traditions. It also heralds the demise of our unique culture, as an economy based on natural resources and self-reliance gives way to the values of a global economy and mutual interdependence. The wise man can see that the future belongs to those who will bring these high values - our patrimony as New Englanders - before the eyes of our people once again.

For what will happen to a democracy whose leaders fail to encourage the values which preserve the bonds of justice and equity between its citizens? What will happen to a citizenry in which the ties of mutual obligation and affection are replaced by the officially-sanctioned pursuit of self-interest? What will happen when Maine aspires to become like New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Rome in the mistaken belief that society is better off for being richer? Clearly, a view of society which sees man in purely economic terms can only result in disaster. And on this, left and right, Republican and Democrat, should be able to agree.

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