Tag Archives: women in retirement

One Percent

American political scientist, activist and author Norman Finkelstein is new to me. I have not yet read his important 2018 book, GAZA, and I’ve only seen him talk, briefly, on Facebook reels. Occasionally, as I quickly wade through Facebook’s quotidian flotsam and jetsam, I discover something worth considering more deeply. That was the case the other day when I heard Finkelstein talk about values.

In this video he said there are essentially two sets of values – material values and spiritual values – and they conflict. The material values are power and privilege, fame and fortune, he said; the spiritual values are truth and justice. He contends that 99 percent of people (I’m assuming he had American people uppermost in mind) strive for the material values of fame and fortune, while only 1 percent strive for truth and justice. 

No wonder, I thought, so little gets done to correct the rampant lies and injustices in this world! No wonder the loud, clear voices for truth – think Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, and Bobby Kennedy’s, among too many others – are silenced. If what Finkelstein posits is correct, the one percent doesn’t stand a chance, it seems.

Yes, we Americans have been practically indoctrinated since childhood to equate consumerism and materialism with patriotism. To buy stuff, often more stuff than we need, is thought of as helping the economy. We’re even judged by our stuff – the clothes we wear, the cars we drive. We as a group are not “people”; we’re labeled “consumers.”  We keep the big wheels of commerce whirling, and that’s considered a good thing.

And yes, Madonna got it right: “You know,” she sings, “we’re living in a material world.” But we don’t have to be “material girls” like her at this age and stage of life. We’ve outgrown the razzle-dazzle of it all, haven’t we? We have bigger, better things to do with our lives now that we’re nearing our exit from this material world. Now’s a good time to turn our attention to the higher, spiritual, values of truth and justice.         

For the past ten years I’ve been touching (harping?) on this theme in my weekly blogposts. This is the wisdom that we older women have to share now. We’re still alive, we’ve learned a lot in our three-score-years-and-ten-plus years of life, we’ve seen the ultimate emptiness of fame and fortune (think Elvis Presley, who reached the heights of both, then crashed and died an ugly death at the age of 42), yet we’re treated as has-beens and muzzled — at least in the ageist/sexist (to say nothing of racist) U.S.A.

In fact, though, we’re not done yet. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be silenced. We have the power to swell the ranks of that one percent and to help make a positive difference in our worlds.

This is a great opportunity. We have the experience, the intelligence, and the time now that we’re retired from the full-time workforce. We’re able to pay attention to local, national as well as international concerns like we’ve never had time to do before.  We can read and learn and grow in confidence and band together in boldness. Truth and justice are well worth fighting for while we’re still alive and have a voice.

Tracy Chapman

I’m often reminded of Tracy Chapman’s heart-felt entreaties, and I sing them to myself. This is my favorite:

            Don’t be tempted by the shiny apple

            Don’t you eat of a bitter fruit

            Hunger only for a taste of justice

            Hunger only for a world of truth

            Cause all that you have is your soul.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~