“Trade, Profession, or Profit,” by Andrew Schatkin
There is a view held by many in our society that the best in any field charge the most. I counter to this position that those who charge the most are the most greedy and, if you will, most avaricious and not necessarily the most competent. The position I just defined held by many in our society and system reflects the current philosophy or our age, if it may be defined as a philosophy, but more exactly is kind of popularized propaganda, the articulation and embrace of what is no more than our capitalist economic system, i.e., rank sordid materialism. If our present society may be said to inculcate and promote any thought or valuation system, it is materialism; sex; self-gaining –getting; and outdoing. All of us must support ourselves with some sort of work, whether physical, trade, white collar or professional. I submit that the purpose of any work or income-producing task is to render a competent service or work product within the financial reach of as much of the general public as possible. It is not to engage in a course of purely selfish acts, and self-aggrandizement to the end that we may acquire not a humble Ford but a status Lexus, not a home in middle income Queens, but an estate in the Hamptons. Materialism, self-enrichment or the simple raw acquisition of wealth is not a value system. Wealth acquisition is not a value. Honesty, integrity, love and the desire to contribute to society, not take from it to enrich ourselves, are values.
Any profession, any sort of work that embraces materialism as a value, must fail. We wonder why our society produces no poetry, no music other than the resounding din of rock music, no drama, and no art, and yet we continue or embrace materialism rejecting love and romance for pure animalism and embracing cold secularism, turning away from any religious or spiritual life for power and money. We strip our youth of feeling and meaning; we create a race of men without chests and women without hearts ,embracing acquisitiveness as the answer. If we are to continue as workers of whatever sort, and if our society and system are to continue to survive, we must recognize that materialism is no value and must lead to empty nothingness. Material good and gainful employment equally distributed make a better life for us all possible and enable us to enjoy the higher goods and not devote our lives to sex and earning alone. The answer is in values beyond ourselves that will create and remake us. Materialism must fail because it does not lead even to happiness but only a fretful self-involvement. Most important, it must fail because it fails to recognize that we man and women are not flesh alone but something more. Materialism must fail because it is simply not true and only leads to emptier and emptier lives devoid of beauty, goodness, and truth. The material basis of society is a necessity, not an end. Actual goods are the basis for our participation in the higher goods which permit us to grow. Without material goods, we cannot survive. With them, we move beyond the immediate necessities.
Materialism alone brings emotional and spiritual deprivation, cutting us from love and being; materialism is no value but only a privation. It has been tried before. Communism brought in capitalism; imperialism yielded to independence; aristocracy led to democracy. Any system based on selfishness and materialism, values our society so fervently currently embraces, will and must die a slow death.
This essay is taken, with alterations and changes, from the Queens Bar Bulletin Vol 67, No 8, May 2004, and reprinted in the book Essays on the Christian Worldview and Others, Political, Literary, and Philosophical, Chapter 3, Section 8, pub. 2011 by Hamilton Books.