The Christian Science Monitor Weekly

Vol 106 / Issue 20

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"S ticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me," we children used to sing-song on the playground. But that hasn't stopped the news media from fxing on some set terms to describe key actors in the unfolding crisis in Ukraine and Crimea. The "busi- nessmen" in the inner circles of Russian Presi- dent Vladimir Putin and the ousted Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanuk- ovych, are referred to as "oligarchs." An oligarch is part of an oligarchy, a system of "government by the few." This term came into English around 1570, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, from French, but it's rooted in Greek. The front end of the word is from oligos, meaning "few." That arch element, meaning "rule," is familiar from other words in English such as monarch or hierarchy. There's an implication of wealth, and in a system where great public wealth was sud- denly "available" for privatization (e.g., the Soviet Union as it was dissolving), oligarchs could be counted on to fgure out how to en- rich themselves, and many certainly did. But the essence of oligarchy is the few- ness of those at the top, not their wealth. In- deed, Forbes, a publication that knows about such things, reported recently with some apparent astonishment on Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian businessman associated with Ukrainian former President Viktor Yush- chenko. Though widely described as a "billionaire," Mr. Firtash, detained in Vienna last month at the request of the FBI, turns out to be, according to Forbes, more like a mere half-billionaire. Poor fellow. While we're visiting oligarch, we might want to drop in on a related term that lives nearby. Plutocrat is another Greek-derived term suggesting a combination of wealth and power. It ought to be a useful synonym for oligarch, as the disheartening coverage from Crimea continues. But the two terms seem to show up in very different political contexts. Plutocracy has been used in English since the middle of the 17th century to refer to the rule or power of the wealthy. Plutocrat is a back-formation to refer to the individual rich people exercising power. Pluto comes from a Greek word for "wealth," rooted in the idea of an overfowing abundance. Children are never taught in school that plutocracy is the system they're growing up in. It's a term that's used pejoratively, about others. Malcolm Turnbull, Australian commu- nications minister, has had to explain that Rupert Murdoch was not the person he had in mind with his recent unscripted public re- mark about a "demented plutocrat" who was in the news business. (He meant some other demented plutocrat, evidently.) Back in 1917, Theodore Roosevelt said that anything that tends to government by a plutocracy is "un-American." The other day, a couple of politically conservative bil- lionaire activists drew fre from a Daily Beast commentator as "angry plutocrats." Another opinion writer, in the Herald of Everett, Wash., blasted as "liberal plutocrats" another couple of billionaire brothers who reportedly aspire to be the "Koch brothers of the left," serving Democratic interests as the Kochs serve Republicans. It took Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, to roll both terms into one sen- tence. It happened a couple of years ago when he railed against domestic spending cuts: "This is not what democracy looks like. This is what oligarchy and plutocracy look like." History has long recorded violence as a sport against anonymous victims in shooting sprees, "happy slapping," and more recently in what some refer to as the "knockout game," in which an individual – usually with a gang – attempts to knock a stranger unconscious with one blow, leaving the victim severely wounded or dead. It startles our sensibilities to hear reports about groups of youths who travel streets for that purpose, laugh about it, and even take pic- tures to post on social media. But is there a rem- edy? What can you and I do about it? The Bible's spiritual message can set things in a right direction to stop violence, correct wrongs, and replace fear with the calm expectancy of good. Prayer is the tool for such transformation. The Bible says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). A false premise that is sometimes at the out- set of prayer is the assumption that both good and evil thoughts emanate from the same source. Christian Science reveals that good thoughts are spiritual, reflections of the divine Mind, while evil thoughts are mortal and are the outgrowth of a mistaken sense of things. While to the material senses evil feels real and powerful, Christian Science shows that evil can be overcome by good, which is spiritual power. Such power originates in God, divine Love. Christ Jesus showed that the ultimate power of good saves humanity from wrongs, including violence; it heals the sick and, as he proved, can raise the dead. To lessen violence, it's imperative to ex- press honesty and love. We can let the spirit of the Christ reign in us by replacing hate with compassion, and revenge with forgiveness. The man or woman of God's creating is never condemned, but evil must face the rejection and condemnation of Christlike goodness in order to be destroyed. Writing of this, Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy instructs: "At all times and under all circum- stances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occa- sion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you. The ce- ment of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 571). Understanding this leads to solutions for so- ciety's ills. Good thinking and living provide an armor against the influences of poor role models or violent movies and video games. It is only in such righteous living that the small-minded er- rors of peer pressure, jealousy, anti-Semitism, and racial hatred – often used to explain and even excuse wanton vio- lence – can be stopped. Understanding that no element of God's creation can victimize or be victimized is a good start. Because crime of any type is not part of the expression of God, it has no legitimacy in any- one's thinking, and instead, we can expect to see peaceful, constructive interactions with others. All of us can do more to stop violence in whatever form it takes as we acknowledge that God protects and directs His children and as we let goodness inspire our motives and actions. – Judy Cole Toward ending random acts of violence A ChristiAn sCienCe perspeCtive Of oligarchs and plutocrats verbal energy by Ruth Walker the ChristiAn sCienCe Monitor Weekly | April 7, 2014 47

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