The sculpture 'I' is of a man sitting upon a coin beneath which there is great suffering for men, women and children. I finished this piece on the day Donald Trump was elected the president of the USA (on 9.11.2016) although I expected Hillary Clinton to be elected!
The inspiration for this piece came while I was watching BBC One's Poldark and saw the Warleggan family oppressing and taking advantage of the village's poor. I was going to call the sculpture 'Faceless Capitalism' to illustrate that the creation of wealth has negative consequences but this is not always the case with capitalism as some wealthy persons do help those in need. For example in the past philanthropists, such as Cadbury and more recently Bill Gates, have used their wealth to create a healthier society for the poor. Capitalism presumes that where there is wealth it will 'trickle down' to the less well off. However in this particular sculpture that is not the case. This man has exploited, unwittingly or knowingly, those who are less fortunate for his own gain. This is illustrated in the news today. For example Philip Green took money out of BHS funds resulting in the depletion of the pensions for thousands of employees: His yacht, 'Lionheart', alone is valued at £100m. There is also the austerity measures where politicians, past members of the Oxford Bullington boys club, squeezed the provision for the poor resulting in the rise of food banks whilst many of the richer companies avoid paying millions of pounds in taxes.
I watched a Ted talk called, 'Does money make you mean?' about a rigged Monopoly game. It was found that those who were given a random, unfair advantage came to believe it was theirs by merit and not by chance leading to them to a false sense of entitlement and elitism. Further studies showed that this attitude pervades areas of resourcing and the rule of law and morality. This leads to arrogance and dominance and the moralising that 'greed and self interest are good' . Wealth was also found to cause a decrease in compassion, empathy and pro-social behaviour. The poorest people however were found to maintain levels of compassion, law keeping and generosity. So it appears that wealth indeed hardens hearts to the needs of others. As Jesus said, 'What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but looses his soul'.
Christ calls the poor blessed, perhaps it is because they have kingdom values. He not only aligns himself with the poor, but consistently lambasts the rich for their sense of self-importance and ignorance to the suffering that their greed causes. The sculpture shows the pierced hand of Christ beneath the coin as he too was betrayed for wealth, his life for a mere 30 pieces of silver.
The balance of self interest with the interests of others is a difficult balance. Pursuing success and prosperity is not an evil in itself but one must always maintain an awareness of the effects of one's actions on others. When one's pursuit of success and prosperity creates greater inequality, disconnection or societal break down, then the balance has been tipped and the pursuit of success degenerates into baseless greed.
There is a growing awareness of the existence of an elitist class and the consequential rift between the rich and the poor that comes about as a direct result of their actions. Robert Peston in his book Who Runs Britain writes about “turbo capitalism”; the faceless private takeover of public services and the private financial initiatives who hold the strings of power. Some have identified groups such as the Davos Class who run the largest corporations. Oxfam said that the richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined.
The Guardian wrote this interesting article (link below) about the present dilemma and calls it Neoliberalism.
What is the solution? It has been found that when there are even brief reminders to peoples values to embrace community, collaboration and generosity there is positive change. This is an encouragement for us to speak out and provide opportunities to illustrate the difference we can make together. Instead of me, myself and 'I', 'Love others as much as you love yourself'.