Pope Francis: Why are Deaths of the Homeless not a Headline but a 2-point Dow Jones rise is? (Germanos)

Andrea Germanos writes at Commondreams.org

Pope Francis has issued a new document in which he rails against growing inequality, trickle-down economics and the current socioeconomic system that "is unjust at its root."

Issued on Tuesday, his 224-page document, called an apostolic exhortation, is titled The Joy of the Gospel, and follows previous remarks the pontiff has made against inequality.

From the document:

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Further, the Pope writes, "the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root," and thus spawns violence.

"Until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence," he wrote.

Security is impossible in a state with rampant inequality, and cannot be provided through the surveillance state or militarism, he continued:

When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.

Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. This serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts.

As for adherents to so-called trickle-down economics and austerity policies, he says:

… some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

While some have welcomed Pope Francis' comments against inequality and war, he has been the target of criticism as well, including accusations of ties to Argentina's rightwing junta during the country's military dictatorship.

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Mirrored from Commondreams.org

15 Responses

  1. It’s nice to see that the arguments made by enlightened people ranging from Dr. Paul Krugman to the Occupy movement are being heard. Now, if only Rep. Paul Ryan – who professes to be a good Catholic boy – and the rest of the Republican Party would pay attention.

    • Paul Ryan’s element in the Catholic spectrum might sooner [assassinate] the Pope than heed his words.

      • Ryan and his type are more Opus Dei supremacists than Liberation Theology in their world view and pursuit of material wealth.

  2. The central message of Jesus, which is about a divestiture of the things of this world and concern for those in need, did not come exclusively from the ancient Jewish tradition of concern for social justice. It also came, in part, out of the notion that the kingdom of God was at hand, and only those free of worldly encumbrances would be welcome into it. And so it is for the modern social justice movement: it is not simply out of a concern for the poor, downtrodden, and oppressed that progressives should take their cue. A true social justice (and peace) movement would make the point that it is also concerned, in part, to keep the comfortable comfortable (that is, it would, like Jesus, have an ulterior motive that underlies the ostensible main message).

    A true social justice movement recognizes that at least a sustainable level of material comfort is not an evil, but a good. However to that end it requires a level of social, economic, political, and legal equality (not to mention environmental stewardship) that has now somehow gone missing in our society. We have long since passed the point where the situation is merely wasteful (of human and earth resources both); at some point, if such inequality continues, we will enter a danger zone. Environmental stability, such as it was, has long since slipped our grasp; can economic and political stability be far behind? We know what that looked like in Egypt and Tunisia. What might it one day look like here?

    Progressives need to be adamant that social security, access to health care, food security, and living wages are conservative principles, from the standpoint that they support a stable (not to mention just) society. Modern Libertarians masquerading as the GOP are nothing more than Darwinists and anarchists. I find it incredibly ironic these days that Progressives owe a deep deep debt to Jesus for their political Weltanschauung, but shy away from religion. Meanwhile the Libertarian Right pretends to embrace Judeo-Christian principles, to the point of questioning evolution, yet all the while rushes into the iron wrought arms of Social Darwinism underscored by Survival of the Fittest. (Bang head on wall here!)

    But survival of the fittest on a societal level means that, collectively, we act with some degree of intelligence, compassion, and empathy. This is insurance, not just for others, but for ourselves if we ever fall on a time of need. There simply is no better insurance program or charity than the government, imperfect as it may at times prove, and it acts as both because historically charity could not and does not suffice to provide, say, health care, or ensure that the elderly do not fall into poverty. On an international level it means that we cease to support unjust systems of government in an effort to access resources that often merely serve to perpetuate the materialism Francis seeks to address. Men of stone will invoke “national interest” or “security”; we should invite these catchphrases of empire, if only to deconstruct and redefine what “national interest” and “security” really mean. It has far more, one suspects, to do with feeding the vast numbers of hungry children in this country, and far less to do with, say, our hegemony over the skies of ancient Sogdiana.

    • Mass attendances have not risen in the USA since Papa Fransisco became Pope. I am not claiming to know this for certain, but I am guesing he may be a bigger influence in Latin America, to Latin American politics. There would hardly be USA Catholic strength anymore without USA Latnino parishoners. Yet, people everywhere are, at least, listening, and that is huge.

      Can one not be a progressive if one is not middle class by USA standards? That puts into perspective these progressive people, with their comfortable salaries, being patronizing to the so called poor. As I think I understand you, it is to the best interest and also an ulterior motive of the progressive well-offs, well-educated, to raise the material well being of the folks with rich inner life but little else. Nothing wrong with that, but clarifying.

      Anyway, Papa Fransisco is right. The recent death of a blind begger I saw for some year is more news to me than the constant ticker tape of the Dow Jones on CNBC. The blind guy was only in his 50’s, died from an unattended wound from a fall, as he went back to his dwelling in the mountains. And that does not matter at all? You are right, it is time to be serious about humans in our communities and be serious about the environmental disasters which loom.

      • I think the best way for Progressives to treat the issue of social justice is to hammer home again and again that the well-being of all depends on, well, the well-being of all. That is to say, arguing about compassion and the right thing to do is not going to cut it. It must be an argument, unfortunately, that appeals to reptilian del-interest. The sheer expense and economic impacts of a lack of social spending is what will likely best win the argument for the left.

        I’ve commented on this blog before, for example, about the horrible economic cost of not investing in our children or in alleviating hunger.

        And to clarify my point about materialism: I think material well-being is important, but needs to be achieved without excess materialism – a dicey and problematic slippery slope, I know! But life is a dance – meden agan, “Nothing too much” read the inscription over the temple to the god at Delphi.

        But at base, regardless of what you think of him, Francis is correct: our priorities are indicative of a profound malaise, and in a society flooded with information and obscenely rich in material resources, the very fact of hunger in our country is a grotesque failure of the spirit. Don’t look to see Paul Ryan washing the feet of the homeless.

    • -
      Grumpy,
      you offer an interesting riff on three of the world’s great religions: Christianity, Buddhism and what I call “secular humanism.”

      This unordained and frequently wrong Catholic priest would say that the center of Jesus’s teachings is a focus on the self, not the other. It is this: “you can be forgiven; you have been forgiven. Go and sin no more.”
      Christian service rates up there pretty high (Faith without works, &tc., &tc.,) but in no way eclipses the personal apprehension of God and the personal response that apprehension elicits.

      I also represent myself as a student of religions. I believe the central message of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was to free oneself from the cares of this world, the things of this world. So brilliantly distilled by Bobby McFerrin. Again, look inward for ? salvation ?

      The religion you mostly describe is neither of these, but the major religion in Western Europe and North America today. This religion, in denying God, looks to other people for the correlate to salvation.
      I don’t really like the name I used above.
      It also goes by, “I’m a very spiritual person, but organized religions are so full of hypocricy (not to mention silly beliefs like an invisible all-powerful being who never does anything to evince his existence,) so I relate to the Force behind the Universe in my own way.”
      Adherents sometimes insist they are “atheists,” and I’m sure some fraction are. Others believe that they elevate science to a place that replaces any need for a god.
      Whatever.

      So,
      most of what you wrote isn’t about either Christianity or even about Buddhism, but that religion of the anti-religionists.

      I’ve lectured the observant on the core of Judaism, and it’s never ended well, so I redact that part.
      -

  3. “The socio economic system is unjust to it’s root.” This Pope has a grip in that sense. I’d add that many people are unjust to their core. Replacing capitalism with something better is difficult, when the human nature of leaders very often longs for power over others. Then the people lose. Of course, that’s happened in many communist and socialist states. Yet, I still believe communism and socialism could be a blessing and that capitalism is obviously out of control. It would help if people embraced some Christian ideals, but watch out, you will get taken advantage of, if you go full throttle being a true turn-the-cheek-giver. I like Papa Fransisco.

  4. That does not sound like the “conservative populist” described in by the thinly-sourced gentleman in the Democracy Now link.

  5. Well as a radical socialist Christian I would come from the perspective of Matt 25 where Christ says that when we do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, and that sort of thing, we are not doing it for him. What does it mean not to feed Christ when he is hungry! Of course we cannot do all of this individually for the “least amongst us.” so their many needs most be met collectively, and the only institution capable of doing that is government. Capitalism–particularly of the highly unregulated kind in the U.S.–and private charities are not capable of doing that.

  6. Well said, Pope. Excellent comments on exclusion. Now, how about speaking out about the exclusion of women.

  7. -
    as a member of the cult of the Roman Rite,
    I am heartened to see an implicit recognition that THIS Pope is the Pope of all, Christians and non-Christians.
    That is new.

    As YOUR Pope,
    you don’t have to obey him,
    or blindly accept his pronouncements.

    But as YOUR Pope,
    you have the right to demand that he responds to your concerns.

    See, as Franchesco understands it,
    “Pope” is a position of servitude, not authority.
    -

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