Monday Madness – Liquid Gold Edition

Holy Gilded Irony, Batman!

Maybe you found some humor in my previous Monday Madness post about the Pope criticizing the “pagan” sin of opulence, well, now he’s at it again, declaring that the current economic problems in the U.S. and elsewhere are proof positive that the pursuit of wealth is pointless.

The global financial crisis is proof that the pursuit of money and success is pointless, Pope Benedict XVI has told a meeting of bishops in Rome.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church said that the disappearance of money as banks collapsed showed that wealth meant “nothing”.

The Pope said that people should instead base their lives on God’s word.

Those who think that “concrete things we can touch are the surest reality” are deceiving themselves, he said.

Yes, someone is deceiving themselves. Methinks it is the dude in the gold-plated hat.

‘Building on sand’

The crisis in the financial industry has seen billions of dollars wiped off the value of shares, and a number of seemingly untouchable banking institutions have been taken over, nationalised, or have collapsed.

Speaking to the bishops assembled at the Vatican, Pope Benedict said those who seek “success, career or money are building on sand”

When he opened the Synod on Sunday, the Pope attacked modern culture, saying that “nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture”.

And with the current market volatility, the price of gold is through the roof. In other news, the Vatican recommends a swift investment in solid gold, preferably in the form of tortured prophets and conical hats. Madness. Perfect for a Monday.

I would just like to ground this issue in a little reality for a second. Excessive greed is one thing, but market troubles affect far more people than shrewd investors. It affects a huge number of people, everyone from employees at affected companies, to people whose retirements are put at risk, folks who are trying to keep their homes, and even those who are trying to get a home. It is very easy from a position of gold-plated comfort to decry the ‘greed’ of masses of people who are really just trying to get by. Even yours truly, if he didn’t have his wits about him a couple of weeks ago, might not have been able to afford the home he and his new spouse were hoping to get.

Money isn’t everything, nor are the possessions that we buy with it. But money is a medium of exchange that allows us to ensure our own security against hard times. (Like the huge amounts of money and property that the Catholic Church has saved up and is paying out to victims of abuse – I bet the Pope is glad that that’s there.) Careers, the pursuit of knowledge, happiness, our families and friends, volunteerism, cameraderie – these are a few of the things that make life worth living. Money is involved in some of these, but should always be a means to an end, rather than an end unto itself.

Any belief system that builds its membership on human suffering is laying foundations on sand. For as we progress morally, culturally, and humanistically, such belief systems are destined to crumble, unable to find a niche in the human psyche. Thanks for reading, enjoy your week, and try not to let the woes of the business world make you fear too much for your futures.

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Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar researching citrus genetics at UC Riverside.

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