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On pride

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Pride, says C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, is the greatest sin. I wholeheartedly agree with him, and, in a leap of judgment, I have decided that pride is also the source of the greed and consequent inequality that plagues my world.

The thought came to me with the rather innocent question of “Who am I to try to squeeze all this profit out of any particular situation for? I’m on this earth for a limited time, as is any other person, and what good will it do me to have more than I know what to do with?”

But the relative guarantee to life that my generation pretty much takes for granted is a pretty new thing. From antiquity to around the early 20th century, life was not the given that it’s presumed to be today. People didn’t live long, and those who did and procreated didn’t know how many of their offspring would live or not, and for how long. In a world like that, where life expectancy was only 40-50 years, it mattered to men that their name live on. Why? Why else but pride?

And there it was, the reason for capitalism: the ideology that life is not to be lived to fulfill our needs and those of our desires that are reasonable and not at odds with those of the world at large, but that every situation must be milked for every vestige of profit that can be had out of it without breaking any laws – not the moral kind but the secularly legal kind.

As I write, it has occurred to me that around the time this idea of living-for-profit came around, the most revolutionary theory of our time, that of evolution through natural selection, came out and gave this new mode of human interaction and unlikely endorsement. “Well,” businessmen could say, “it’s only natural that human life should mirror nature in that every transaction is, unremittingly, an act of competition, out of which emerge a survivor and a perisher.”

And so, I feel, pride is indeed the greatest of sins, and the cause – as accurately as it can be brought to the level of the human individual – of the inequality amongst men in the world today.

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