Monday, April 27, 2009
Remember the coming of photocopy machines? Credit cards? Automated bank tellers? Data banks? Satellite communications? Faxes?
Each advance, if it was noticed at all, went by with a small sigh of "Oh, this is more convenient, isn’t it?"
And then: A tourist checks into a hotel in Moscow. He pays with an American credit card, verified by direct line to an office in Belgium which shares a computer link to his bank in the States.
Moments later, a Japanese businessman representing a combined venture with an American company checks in. His credit check goes in the other direction, to Japan and across the Pacific.
In less than five minutes, without the slightest departure from routine, two financial transactions span the globe.
Already today, such limitless bounty is a real possibility.
Let’s take a look at the following figures in the United States.
At the turn of the century, one third of all Americans worked on farms. They were able to feed America’s population and produce raw materials for industry, but there was little left for export.
Today, the American population has grown tremendously, and only 3% work on farms. Nevertheless, this 3% produce enough food, not only for the entire population, but to export throughout the world.
And in manufacturing: Many countries have developed an industrial framework, that provides the average man with comforts and conveniences, previously enjoyed by only the most wealthy and pampered.
More and more nations are reaching the point, where in all areas - agriculture, health, industry, communications and travel - technology has provided standards of living, undreamt of by previous generations.
And with minimum wages and industrial efficiency doubling ever more rapidly, the effects of these breakthroughs, is being felt in even the poorest nations.
Today the challenge in the industrialized and post-industrialized countries, is not how to produce wealth, but how to encourage its production by the rest of the world; and how to distribute it, more justly in the meantime.
Can we create a global society, that provides its members with peace and security, rather than violence and fear? What kind of education will create both the know-how, to keep us moving forward; and the spiritual maturity, to keep us moving in the right direction?
Prosperity can only serve as a means; it must never become an end unto itself. A million, is a one followed by six zeros. To treat this concept homiletically, without the One, the zeros are zeros, of no worth whatsoever.
Comfort and wealth are beneficial to man, only if they allow a life of wisdom, governed by spiritual values.
To cite only one factor: The use of robots and sophisticated computers is being deliberately restrained, because of their influence on the labor market.
Should these restraints be withdrawn, even conservative estimates speak of a reduction of our work force, by one third. Some people speak of 75% unemployment.
What will people do with their time?
A person who anticipates the Redemption, and for whom Moshiach is a reality, knows that this time should be used to grow in understanding and awareness. The road to wisdom, is a journey without end.
World prosperity, will also change our interpersonal relationships. At present, people feel wealth to be scarce, and security rare.
Naturally, this causes them to rationalize selfishness in the present, so as to be sure of comfort in the future, to "look out for number one," and grab "their share of the pie."
Needless to say, this breeds jealousy and lack of trust. It leads to corporate fraud, and the attraction of "get-rich-quick" schemes. On a more basic level, it causes the violence and crime, that plague our cities.
But what if the pie is big enough for everyone?
It is, it always has been; it’s man that has been too small. This will be revealed in the Era of Redemption.
Maimonides alludes to such a change in his words: "Delights will be as freely available as dust."
It is, and always has been; that man has been too small. This will be revealed in the Era of Redemption.
Man will become conscious, of the abundance of material blessings, and will no longer be obsessed by them. Since they will be freely available to all, people will partake of them whenever they desire; but without today’s grappling for wealth and power.
As Maimonides says: "In that Era, there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition.
Mankind will know hidden matters; and will attain an understanding of their Creator, to the full extent of the human potential."