Another day, another heartwarming Internet meme. This time, it’s the story of over 300 Starbucks customers “paying it forward” and picking up the tab of the next person in line. Nice thing to do? Sure. But it also feels like a distraction. Yes, we can get all mushy about regular people buying each other a coffee. What about some bigger ways of paying it forward?

In the past few years, corporations in this country have made stunning, record-breaking profits. They have made those profits thanks to our very hard work. And they are not paying any of that forward–if anything, they’re doing the opposite. Worker wages, during that same time, have gone down. Likewise, our government representatives are not paying us forward for the votes and loyalty they have received from us. But I suppose that when it comes to the politicians, they have much bigger financial favors to pay back, and those business transactions have nothing to do with us, their constituents.

Americans are truly some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. We also come off looking like chumps sometimes, getting fleeced on every side by powerful interests, and not standing up and speaking out about it like we should. We work harder than any other nation in the world, and are working ever harder all the time, yet getting less and less in return.

Perhaps this serves to reveal the true “Secret” of the Universe, which is that it has a dark sense of humor, and that it does not, in fact, reward kindness with kindness. Good deeds are more likely to be punished, and assholes will always thrive. I guess one answer is to do as most spiritual traditions of the world tell us to do–don’t expect to be compensated for the love you give to others–give it anyway. Unfortunately, I have a handicap–I’m not capable of being a heartless asshole–so I don’t have much choice in the matter.

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