BABY YOU’RE A RICH MAN

“I wonder if Heaven got a ghetto?”

The rich young man informed Jesus that he faithfully obeyed each of the commandments. The rich young man was certain Jesus would smile, nod, bless him, then send him on.

Jesus did not.

Instead, Jesus told the man to sell his possessions, give all his wealth to the poor.

We are led to believe the man did no such thing.

Was he right?

We spend too much time admiring the rich, discussing the rich, attempting to copy the rich, rather than seeking to understand the poor, and poverty, and living without.

Chamath Palihapitiya is a very rich man.

He has Facebook money.

Mr. Palihapitiya, who also owns the Golden State Warriors and possesses interests in various other tech companies, is, I doubt you are surprised to learn, quick to tell others what they are doing wrong Recently, however, he told us what he did wrong: helped build Facebook.

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. And it’s not an American problem. This is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion.”

Do not expect Mr. Palihapitiya to hand over any of his Facebook money or other worldly possessions.

Do not expect him to live like the poor, nor the middle, nor even the well-to-do professional class. He belongs to that tiny thriving cabal of aggressively globalist, virulently tech-centric, fabulously wealthy men and women who have prospered mightily these past 30 years, even as millions of Others lose their work, their livelihood, and witness first-hand the destruction of their community.

Do not expect Mr. Palihapitiya to question globalization, immigration, open borders, platforms for all, spoils for the few.

Just as the controllers of the culture call it “culture” while the losers call it “culture war,” so too the economic winners brandish their conception of “the economy” as simply, the economy.

Do the economic losers have a different term?

To deride the men and women who find hope in electing someone–a Donald Trump, for example–who just might represent their needs, their wants, their communities, at long last, is to deny the very real suffering your preferred economic system has created for millions.

You are the bad person in this tale.

Maybe the poor will always be with us, but the poor also have a vote–and they deserve a listen.

Tupac wondered if there is a ghetto in heaven.

“I’d rather be dead than a po’ nigga
Let the Lord judge the criminals
If I die, I wonder if Heaven got a ghetto?”

I suspect not.

I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto is a lyrical call to worship and a brutal call to arms. A five-minute homily that drops more wisdom, more real, than a college student might learn in a year — or a journalist in a lifetime.

Sadly, the music is wretched. Strip away the words and I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto is almost painful to listen to, a throwaway 1990s drum kit vomit of a song, saccharine R&B blended with “urban adult contemporary” preening.

I think our current economic and cultural and political structures are like this Tupac song. There is brilliance inside, some goodness and truth, even a looking forward, but there’s also so much crap and hate and anger and violence overlaid, and we need to come to terms with this if we are to right it.

Maybe, and I can’t promise this will be validated, but maybe if we listen to all those who the current economic winners are brandishing as angry or racist or on the wrong side of history, maybe by listening to them, not labeling them, we can remake the system to also work for them–and without any of the winners forced to give up everything they got.

Or is even that too much to ask?

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