Without Nourishment for the Spirit, Society Crumbles

Western society has opted for the pursuit of fool’s gold. The results are becoming more and more obvious each day as the Gulf roils with gushing oil, Greece struggles helplessly against imminent economic collapse and Wall Street plunders the public purse.

You will find repeated admonitions against this kind of folly in the Bible, where so much wisdom resides. The passage that springs to my mind is:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

American conservatives will tell you that theirs is a Christian nation and the state should not be separate from religion. Yet these same conservatives defend and even promote the “freedom” to lie, cheat and steal, and harden their hearts against their neighbor’s suffering.

This hard-nosed attitude permeates Western society, especially today. If you don’t believe me, check out the way society rewards the contributions of the money changers and the software engineers who are building a virtual Tower of Babel – as opposed to the pittance that “liberal arts” graduates can expect to earn.

Especially in America, everything is valued according to the price it can command. And a college degree is no exception. A report published today by PayScale.com shows that liberal arts degrees have the lowest earning power in America.

Degrees in engineering – especially software engineering – are the top earners. And I am sure I don’t have to remind you of the obscene bonuses those Wall Street wizards rake in.

But when it comes to skills that are devoted to the betterment of society, don’t expect to “lay up treasures on earth.”  Among today’s bachelor’s degrees, the lowest earners include:

Social work (starting annual salary: $33,400; mid-career annual salary: $41,600);

Music (starting annual salary: $34,000; mid-career annual salary: $52,000);

Theology (starting annual salary: $34,800; mid-career annual salary: $51,500);

Fine arts (starting annual salary: $35,800; mid-career annual salary: $56,300);

Education (starting annual salary: $36,200; mid-career annual salary: $54,100);

Drama (starting annual salary: $35,600; mid-career annual salary: $56,600).

(Of course, you only read about the mega-millionaire movie stars – not about the hundreds of thousands of  drama school graduates waiting tables and parking cars.)

We’re lucky we still have students who choose to enter careers that nourish the mind and spirit even though the monetary rewards are so minuscule. But how long will this continue if society persists in valuing only skills that promise material wealth and do nothing for its spirit?

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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