February 17, 2011

The Cult of Capitalism: Mike Gilliland, underage prostitution & a lesson for all of us.

This is my weekly editor’s letter, an introduction to our Top 10 blogs of the week email newsletter—a great way to follow elephant without getting overwhelmed (as opposed to, say, twitter or Facebook, where we’re verrrrry active). ~ ed.

Calling someone evil is a too-easy way to distance ourselves from the interdependent reality that we all fcuk up.

A moment of reflection (for all of us): Mike Gilliland, wealthy co-founder of Wild Oats and founder of Sunflower Markets was just caught in an underage prostitution sting.

A well-known research study at Princeton University recently showed that happiness increases according to income—but only up to about $75,000/year.

Talking this over with a close friend a week after this was announced, we discussed how I didn’t want to report this in the first place—we don’t like to dish negative publicity when we have nothing original to add. That said, this alleged action—soliciting a prostitute advertised as underage, an action that was videotaped and well documented (it was a sting operation), is if true a sad, bad thing. Mike is a parent, a leader, a visionary, a star in Boulder’s natural products industry and should, of course know better.

The fact that he appears not to know better does not make him a bad guy. It makes him human. Like the rest of us, we all have our failings. We all should know better at various points. The difference, for Mike, is that he’s a multi-millionaire. A newlywed—he’d only recently married a young woman. Given every advantage, he was still apparently dissatisfied, hungry for something.

And this is why capitalism is not the answer. We can not “free” those in third world developing countries by hoping to create jobs, though that is vital work. Spirituality, or religion, strikes closer to the point—we must learn to be happy whether we are poor or rich. It’s a cliché, but so many rich people are still so unhappy. And so many people who live simply are, like my mom, somehow, content.

So if you spend your days, as I do, devoted to business, to building something up…well remember the point of that business. It’s to create enlightened society. And if it’s not, make that the point of your life…or change that life. Or you and I might find ourselves pulling an unbelievably sad, stupid stunt like Mike.

Yours in the Vision of Enlightened Society,

Waylon Lewis

editor-in-chief, host

elephantjournal.com, Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis

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