From one unexpected corner (and one not so unexpected), I just got full agreement on something that I have been marking as the root evil at the heart of our political and socio-economic system for some time — a dark and overlooked-by-most evil which makes our system not only hateful in moral terms but incredibly stupid on a purely objective level. (I will argue the latter point once more at the end of this piece). First, here are the statements of those two luminaries:
Pope Francis wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation (11/24/2013), which sports chapter headings like No to an economy of exclusion, No to the new idolatry of money, No to a financial system which rules rather than serves, and No to the inequality which spawns violence:
55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
Spot on. We are lost in a consumerist society in which human needs, ideals, and values, as well as caring for others and collaborating for mutual benefit end up on the bottom rung while money is being worshiped like a god and seen as the ultimate goal and measure of all things. He continues:
56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control.
Remember the constantly repeated mantra that government is bad and the private sector is good? Remember how the banksters gave us the Great Recession and were bailed out by our bought-and-bribed government using our tax dollars? A government serving special interests instead of its people is indeed bad — made bad by the private sector which isn’t good, after all. Such a subverted government is like a rifle grabbed by a bandit and turned on its owner.
Remember the Princeton Study that proved once and for all that our wishes don’t matter to our government? Money in politics, anyone? In recent articles I made this point: our inequality generating economic system is at the heart of Money in Politics. It’s the source of the blood money used to bribe politicians, buy campaigns, and muddle our minds through the use of paid think tanks and corporate media! It’s why we need to reform our system of despotic economic ownership and control, to stop the corrupting money flow at its source!
Pope Francis continues: To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
May I ask you, my dear readers: How do you enjoy this ruthless rule over you and its destruction of the world in which we live? Do you deem yourself safe if you don’t live in Flint, Michigan? More quotes:
Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person.
Am I the only one whom this passage reminds of certain people (especially on the political “right”) who love to mock any of us who denounce our system’s injustice as bleeding hearts, snowflakes, or the like? Indeed, such people merely confirm their lack of ethics, sacrificed at the altar of money and privilege. This also makes me think of a theory I recently concocted, and will elaborate on in the foreseeable future, that – with time – our ruling class probably becomes increasingly composed of psychopaths, turning it essentially into a different species, a kind of aliens which subjugate, exploit, and with complete indifference murder or discard us. More quotes:
53. 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? … 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.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
Sadly, Pope Francis is quite correct in pointing out that many who have been shoved to the utmost fringes are not even exploited members of society anymore but thoroughly tossed out from it, discarded like trash, denied their membership in the human covenant. I do want to caution against the possible interpretation, tough, that exploitation has been replaced by this. Rather, I’d say, exploitation has risen to such extremes that some of the exploited are pushed so far from the dinner table as to be completely expelled from the house. Behind this is, after all, still the system which treats money as a god and places the profit-making of a handful over consideration for anyone or anything else.
More quotes: 54. In this context, 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. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
Ah, the gold watches and luxury cars, the latest iPhones, play-slime and artificial blood for Halloween, the hoverboards, the… And for the goodness of those placed in economic power, well ain’t that funny? I have been accused before of declaring a whole class of people the enemy. My countering question has never been answered: Among the pitifully small number from among the rich who paint themselves as charitable, can you name a single one who – instead of merely handing out a few alms – has ever done anything substantial to reform the system which creates our giant economic inequality, the suffering, the hopelessness, the helplessness, and even mass killings for the profit of a few? Can you name just onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnne?
You may recall the old saying, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Under the injustice machine which is our economic system, the equivalent would be for a billionaire to use his or her billions to contribute substantially to a system reform, one which would curb or even end the constant genesis of misery, instead of merely giving some of the victims of our cruel system a few alms.
For example, such a rich person could contact a guy like me, who is bursting with ideas for real change, and make them happen. Did you hear that, Bill Gates, or are you stuck too deeply in Africa handing out band-aids and syringes? Guess, what, Bill: those African countries suffer so greatly because they are ruled by the same injustice machine which is ruling us here at home. If they weren’t, they could make and distribute their own band-aids and syringes. And for those sociopathic, unethical defenders of this system who mock the likes of me for allegedly desiring a restrictive and impossible system of absolute equality (say, one that would impose the same earnings down to the last cent even for very different work), get real! The word inequality is the word we are stuck with in the English language. When people like me use it, we do so to talk about grave injustices, like people left to starve, bombed for profit, or left to die from avoidable diseases when they are denied available healthcare; not about a perfectly even distribution of nickels, dimes, and cents!
Pope Francis goes on: 57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics… Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person.
Pope Francis then calls for financial reform, saying quite rightly: Money must serve, not rule!
On inequality and violence he writes: … until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. … If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.
In a speech, held the same year, Pope Francis also said: there is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone.
And finally Bernie Sanders, speaking at Liberty University, said, referring to Pope Francis’ statements: Now those are pretty profound words, which I hope we will all think about. In the Pope’s view, and I agree with him, we are living in a nation and in a world… which worships not love of brothers and sisters, not love of the poor and the sick, but worships the acquisition of money and great wealth. I do not believe that is the country we should be living in. Money and wealth should serve the people. The people should not have to serve money and wealth.
I am tempted to say amen!
The quotes I presented here all lead to the same conclusion I have drawn when tracing back the flow of Money in Politics:
Our government fails to serve us because of bribery coming from the very rich. The very rich, in turn, obtain this money by stealing it from the rest of us – perfectly “legally” – simply by benefiting from being placed in the beneficiary positions of a societal pyramid scheme — an economic system which takes from the many and gives to a few. Those few, who benefit so greatly, are thereby motivated to preserve or even expand their dominant role of influence and opulent position of entitlement (and, of course, to pass these on to their children and children’s children down the generations). This they do by spending some of their stolen wealth to manipulate our thinking and further skew the system (say: our laws, especially our laws of ownership, inheritance, and corporate governance). To accomplish these goals, they make use of politicians, lobbyists, think tanks, and media personalities, all paid off with a small fraction of the stolen wealth which quickly becomes an investment that produces huge returns.
Thus we have an injustice machine of a system, one which perpetuates itself and gets worse over time. A system in which – as the current Pope and Bernie both agree – all human needs and all noble and caring human impulses are rolled into the ditch. A system in which everything and anything that gets done – no matter how indifferent or cruel – is done purely for money. It is therefore a system in which America’s citizens (and all humans on Earth) are pitted against each other; a system in which we become our own worst enemies. Could there ever be a worse social system than one that turns its members into their worst enemies?
This insane system is the one we have and maintain in a cosmos and planetary sphere which – on their own – are hostile enough to our lives, plaguing and destroying us with terrible diseases and debilitating wreckage from aging (aging which comes much more quickly than most of us realize… before it is too late). So, in a world where we need each other to cope with nature’s attacks on us and improve our lot through scientific and medical research, we instead waste our energies and resources fighting, murdering, exploiting, marginalizing, or even completely excluding one another. It’s a system in which we therefore are all cursed to waste away and fizzle, not doing anything about it, even though we could. Life in our self-made system is totally futile.
This is why our system is not only immoral but utterly, incredibly, and stupendously stupid. It is insanity in its purest form.
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