Chapter 25 » 25.12

We live in a part of the world where the dominant motivation is material self-interest, justified by the concept of personal freedom. In these circumstances, the rich get richer and the poor, for the most part, become comparatively poorer. This offends our moral sensibility and, at the practical level, the process of material growth cannot in any event go on indefinitely. We must find some way in which we in the West can change our dominance in setting the style of the world’s living from one motivated by self-interest into one in which material resources are made available according to need. We know a good deal about this kind of distribution in particular situations but have not yet any effective idea about how to embody compassion into the essential structure of our society. This demands both thought and personal commitment at the level of where we are, not taking refuge simply in telling those with political power what they should do. We must be aware in all humility that it is we who are sinning in accepting the elevation of self-interest and that it is we who must move towards another form of motivation. What are we doing to proclaim our joyful acceptance that our living standards are going to have to drop; what are we doing to join with other Christians and concerned fellow-citizens to proclaim the vulgarity of our affluent style of living; what are we doing to find ways of influencing the way in which our fellow-citizens think and act, be they our neighbours or elected and appointed representatives, to recognise the need for change?

London Yearly Meeting, 1975

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