There’s a concept that exists that relates economic standing with time. The theory goes that each economic “level” has a different concept of time and piece of time that they worry about more than the others. Time is divided into three parts – past, present, and future. Likewise, economic levels are broken into three categories as well – wealthy, middle class, and poverty.
This theory is of course a generalization and there are of course exceptions. not everyone fits nice and neatly into any of these categories. But just because it doesn’t work 100% of the time doesn’t mean we throw the theory out. We take what we can from it and learn and go forward.
According to the theory, those that are wealthy are most concerned and anxious about the past. Their present and future are secure financially. They have limited concern about these phases of time. Instead, the part of time they have no control over is the past. It happened. So the concern and anxiety surrounding the past is related to how the past is presented – family histories and origins of wealth. Presentation becomes something important for those with wealth – whether that has to do with presenting the past, or food, or other material things.
The middle class are most concerned and anxious about the future. Their present is financially secure. They have little concern of where they will sleep or what they will eat in the immediate time. They can’t control the past and don’t have the time or energy to do so. Their concern is for the future which is uncertain. The middle class spend a great deal of time worried about retirement, debt, loans, and anything else that extends into the future.
Lastly, those experiencing poverty (also referred to as the poor) are concerned and anxious about the present. Their present is not financially secure. They are concerned with where they will sleep and what they will eat right now, today, maybe even tomorrow. That’s as far as it goes though. Survival is the name of the game. If you are concerned and worried about surviving then the future and the past are out of sight and mind. There is no future if you don’t survive today. Planning is worthless when all you can do is do what you can to survive. Looking to the past only reminds you of the pain and suffering that has brought you to where you are right now.
Which leads me to the title of the post – moral poverty. I wonder if morality falls into the same theory. Not in terms of economic levels, but rather in relation to time.
Could we have moral wealth, moral middle class, and moral poverty with their respective perspectives of time? I don’t know. I’m playing with an idea.
Would those who are morally wealthy be most concerned with the past and all that the past contains – the sins of the past that caused one to get where they are? What if those sins are exposed? Would the morally wealthy then be seen as a fraud? Or would they be seen as being forgiven and transformed?
What about a moral middle class? Would their concerns be with the future – an uncertain future? Would these people worry about decisions that are being made in the present and their impact on the future? Would they be looking at present policies? Would they be considering how moral decisions are? Would they be concerned with what present decisions will impact future decisions morally?
How about moral poverty? Would these folks only have eyes on the present, with no consideration of future impact or looking to the past to see how we got to where we are? Would morally impoverished decisions only care about short term, immediate gains and benefits? Would they be about getting the most out of something now, regardless of the cost for the future? Would morally impoverished decisions even have a concept of a past or future?
I don’t think these are new ideas – maybe just a new label for them. I think they have been present for all of human history. It’s really just a matter of which one happens to be the prominent driving force at any given time in a culture and society in time.