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(Read this series from its beginning here.)
There have always been voices calling for new wine and new wineskins here in the United States. The present system is in crisis and amplifying these voices. Two weeks ago, states competed with each other and even with FEMA, driving up the price of life-saving equipment and PPE for medical personal across the country. This is not simply inefficient as some have described it. It is immoral.
The crisis has shown that our system is a well-oiled machine that profits a global few at the expense of the rest of the masses. But there must be higher values than profit, capital, and production. If not, then people become disposable. Lives lost become collateral damage and our economy becomes our highest concern.
This is not to say that our economy cannot be one of many competing concerns. What we are discussing here is our innermost, prioritized values. What do we value most: people’s lives? Or something else?
This is a call for those within a system that has steadily valued profit over people, over the last forty years especially. It’s a call to reclaim our humanity. Even as Congress provided some aid, there was also talk of ensuring whatever aid was provided didn’t prevent people from wanting to return to the endless cycle of production so that others may profit from their labor. Even our elders have been on the chopping block. Our entire system, from groceries and mortgages to rent and health insurance, is built to keep large swathes of people in our society desperate and motivated to be the cogs in the machine producing capital for the richest 1% of the world. Crises like our present one bring that low-level desperation to the surface and amplify it.
Moments like these not only call us to reassess our systems but also our own personal values and the values our societies have been built on: the systems we are accustomed to and our own personal action and behaviors are connected.
While you are at home during this time, if you can be at home, take a moment to pull away from endless production and dream. What would a society whose members take care of each another look like?
Pick up the Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matthew or the sermon on the plain in Luke, and with pen and paper, brainstorm what a society that prioritized equity, justice, love, compassion, and people, especially the presently marginalized ones, would look like.
Life is cyclical. It’s time not just for new wine, but for new wineskins with it.