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Einstein and Me

Dec 06, 2015
It’s gratifying when you find a genius who agrees with you. Here’s what Einstein once said:

Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men—above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.

Einstein doesn’t just mean you need to keep your boss happy. If, for instance, your fellow citizens are ill-housed, un- or underemployed, impoverished, unhealthy, and uneducated, you can bet your life your happiness will be diminished if not ultimately destroyed.

Your happiness is diminished when your paycheck is plundered to provide a niggardly subsistence to those unable to provide for themselves. This includes the three million people who earn at or below the minimum wage (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics), not to mention the millions more who earn less than a living wage.

The current federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour since July 2009) is considerably less than half a living wage by most accounts (see, e.g., the living wage calculators at MIT and the Economic Policy Institute).

Your happiness is diminished by the increase in all sorts of crime and corruption that thrive in times when the absence of “smiles and well-being” is so apparent among so many. We are living in an angry world, where in the U.S. a mass shooting happens on average more than once a day; where millions risk death to flee places that should be considered their home and sanctuary; where existence is threatened for other millions by rising ocean levels and capricious weather patterns; where a vicious fundamentalism has replaced strong-man tyrannies and spread its venom throughout the world.

Your happiness is diminished by the cost of dealing with all this unhappiness, in domestic surveillance, enforcement, and imprisonment; and in international conflicts that siphon trillions from our treasury.

In Darwinian terms, ensuring the other guy’s “smiles and well-being” is a survival mechanism, not some feel-good, altruistic effort, and this is Einstein’s point: Our survival depends on the other person’s survival; our happiness on their happiness.

No candidate for president has proposed policies or programs that are not, finally and essentially, business as usual, or worse, or much worse. No candidate has proclaimed that we must rewrite our social contract with ourselves, to acknowledge the truth of Einsteinís observation and to pursue its goals with dispatch. Not even Bernie.

And for that reason, I despair of the short-term future for our nation, and of the long-term future for our planet.

tags: People | Poverty | Politics

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