What’s Wrong with the World and the Root of Evil


“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world,”  said a doctor who has devoted himself to serving the poor and prisoners in the Caribbean, South America, Siberia, and Boston.  How are we to reconcile this with the statement that “love of money is the root of all evil”?

Granted that the latter statement is considered infallible, canonised as sacred writ and hallowed by the use of many nationalities and philosophers for millenia; while the other is an equally infallible statement of a personal observation, but limited in scope by one man’s experience in a certain period of time?

If the two are to be reconciled, I would offer it in this manner:  the belief that some lives matter less — or more — is a belief in the value of an individual life.  If a value can be assigned to something, monetary worth can be assigned it.  A human life ceases to be an entire world, and instead becomes a commodity, a consumer or an object to be consumed, an abstract number to be acquired or expunged from the record.  It isn’t a change which occurs in the absence of viewing humans in numerical terms.  David was chastised for taking a census.  For numbering people.   Numbering people, that is, so that the cost effectiveness of war could be measured.

So people become representations of money.  “Dollars with legs” as American tourists are sometimes thought of in some countries.  And the love of money?  How is this the root of evil?

Because one who loves money sees human beings as the means to money, at best — or the hindrance to acquisition of money, which seems more common.  Deny that human access to life, and you will have removed the hindrance to your goals.  Treat that human in terms relating to money, view that human in terms of net worth and calculate your interactions with him or her in such terms — which is only natural if the bottom line is purely financial — and you have embraced the idea that yes, indeed, some lives are worth more than others.

This argument could even be sustained when placed in the context of the first century Roman and Persian empires, two empires very well connected to the exploitation of human lives in the service of increasing wealth for the already wealthy.  Two societies known for their stratification of social classes.  Perhaps not as stratified as India came to be, and exceptions did occur, particularly if one was able to join the army or get a good education in rhetoric.  But still — a society which viewed human lives as expendable.  Which viewed human lives as having varying worth.  Strike a slave and pay a penalty less than if you struck a free citizen, and much less than if you struck someone “of worth” — someone “of valor”.

Love of money entails love of humans who are “worth more.”  It of necessity views human life as unequally distributed.  Such a view feeds upon itself and ensures that its particular perspective on humanity, its view that persons are indeed of differing worth — and not simply that some activities (activities as opposed to humans) are more or less useful to sustaining society or a family, and that activites can be separated from the humans who engage in them — is justified.  It is not justified.  Every time a human dies, an entire world dies with that life.  A world cannot be priced.  Every individual human life is priceless.

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