Today I finished reading The Richest Man in Babylon, by George Clason. Very interesting book, it is a fable, apparently based on some clay tablets, about the principles of gaining and controlling wealth (aka gold.) I have mixed emotions about the book. While it definitely delivers sound financial advice and principles, it leaves a lot to be desired when viewed from my perspective of concern about social and economic justice. I believe that hard work is important. Saving is important, and so is re-investment in socially responsible / life-serving activities. But the book has a decidedly "ends justify the means" approach to investing, that does not account for the present day realities of destructive technologies.
Although the ancient babylonians were (according to Clason's account) not a conquesting sort of people (and good for them!), they were not impervious to severe oppression, to dealing in slaves, and to amassing personal financial empires. I don't think that slavery can ever be rightly justified. No matter how much ambition, desire and determination a person has to succeed - it does not make it right to hold other human beings as property, to be ordered and subjugated in whatever way seems necessary or expedient toward amassing wealth. Dealing in human beings as a commodity is a very injurious and low-down way of economic operation.
This, of course doesn't absolve myself, (or anyone else) as an individual from working. It doesn't mean that as people we oughtn't take the initiative in order to provide for ourselves.
A lot has changed in the thousands of years since Babylon was an active and thriving society. The world is a very different place. While there is still great opportunity in the world, including the opportunity to gain wealth, there is a new need based on the ever increasing environmental impacts of a human population grown large, and grown powerful with technology, to ensure that our economic activities are not having a detrimental effect on others.
It's a new age. A new world. It is time for a new system of ethics. This is the Age of Aquarius. A new age. An age of humanitarian ethics. An age of innovation, invention, and tremendous opportunity - not to blindly pursue economic self-interest - but instead to pursue the common interests that we all share as part of the human family. This planet Earth is a beautiful and wonderful place. It is full of magic. We, as human beings, have important decisions to make about how we will choose to live in the future. Will we live in ways that are harmful to the planet and each other? Or will we live in ways that are beneficial, uplifting, and life-serving?
I believe that we, as a society, can make a transition to a culture that does no harm. And not only that! I believe that we can have a society that actually serves to improve upon our environment, promoting bio-diversity, ensuring for all that there will be healthy water to drink, healthy air to breathe, healthy earth to grow food and play... This is not too much to ask. This is only the right path.