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Being rich wrecks your soul. We used to know that. - The Washington Post
"The point is not necessarily that wealth is intrinsically and everywhere evil, but that it is dangerous — that it should be eyed with caution and suspicion, and definitely not pursued as an end in itself; that great riches pose great risks to their owners; and that societies are right to stigmatize the storing up of untold wealth. That’s why Aristotle, for instance, argued that wealth should be sought only for the sake of living virtuously — to manage a household, say, or to participate in the life of the polis. Here wealth is useful but not inherently good; indeed, Aristotle specifically warned that the accumulation of wealth for its own sake corrupts virtue instead of enabling it. For Hindus, working hard to earn money is a duty (dharma), but only when done through honest means and used for good ends. The function of money is not to satiate greed but to support oneself and one’s family. The Koran, too, warns against hoarding money and enjoins Muslims to disperse it to the needy.

Some contemporary voices join this ancient chorus, perhaps none more enthusiastically than Pope Francis. He’s proclaimed that unless wealth is used for the good of society, and above all for the good of the poor, it is an instrument “of corruption and death.” And Francis lives what he teaches: Despite access to some of the sweetest real estate imaginable — the palatial papal apartments are the sort of thing that President Trump’s gold-plated extravagance is a parody of — the pope bunks in a small suite in what is effectively the Vatican’s hostel. In his official state visit to Washington, he pulled up to the White House in a Fiat so sensible that a denizen of Northwest D.C. would be almost embarrassed to drive it. When Francis entered the Jesuit order 59 years ago, he took a vow of poverty, and he’s kept it.

According to many philosophies and faiths, then, wealth should serve only as a steppingstone to some further good and is always fraught with moral danger. We all used to recognize this; it was a commonplace. And this intuition, shared by various cultures across history, stands on firm empirical ground.

Over the past few years, a pile of studies from the behavioral sciences has appeared, and they all say, more or less, “Being rich is really bad for you.” Wealth, it turns out, leads to behavioral and psychological maladies. The rich act and think in misdirected ways.

When it comes to a broad range of vices, the rich outperform everybody else. They are much more likely than the rest of humanity to shoplift and cheat , for example, and they are more apt to be adulterers and to drink a great deal . They are even more likely to take candy that is meant for children. So whatever you think about the moral nastiness of the rich, take that, multiply it by the number of Mercedes and Lexuses that cut you off, and you’re still short of the mark. In fact, those Mercedes and Lexuses are more likely to cut you off than Hondas or Fords: Studies have shown that people who drive expensive cars are more prone to run stop signs and cut off other motorists .

The rich are the worst tax evaders, and, as The Washington Post has detailed, they are hiding vast sums from public scrutiny in secret overseas bank accounts.

They also give proportionally less to charity — not surprising, since they exhibit significantly less compassion and empathy toward suffering people. Studies also find that members of the upper class are worse than ordinary folks at “reading” people’ s emotions and are far more likely to be disengaged from the people with whom they are interacting — instead absorbed in doodling, checking their phones or what have you. Some studies go even further, suggesting that rich people, especially stockbrokers and their ilk (such as venture capitalists, whom we once called “robber barons”), are more competitive, impulsive and reckless than medically diagnosed psychopaths. And by the way, those vices do not make them better entrepreneurs; they just have Mommy and Daddy’s bank accounts (in New York or the Cayman Islands) to fall back on when they fail."



"Some will say that we have not entirely forgotten it and that we do complain about wealth today, at least occasionally. Think, they’ll say, about Occupy Wall Street; the blowback after Mitt Romney’s comment about the “47 percent”; how George W. Bush painted John Kerry as out of touch. But think again: By and large, those complaints were not about wealth per se but about corrupt wealth — about wealth “gone wrong” and about unfairness. The idea that there is no way for the vast accumulation of money to “go right” is hardly anywhere to be seen.

Getting here wasn’t straightforward. Wealth has arguably been seen as less threatening to one’s moral health since the Reformation, after which material success was sometimes taken as evidence of divine election. But extreme wealth remained morally suspect, with the rich bearing particular scrutiny and stigmatization during periods like the Gilded Age. This stigma persisted until relatively recently; only in the 1970s did political shifts cause executive salaries skyrocket, and the current effectively unprecedented inequality in income (and wealth) begin to appear, without any significant public complaint or lament.

The story of how a stigma fades is always murky, but contributing factors are not hard to identify. For one, think tanks have become increasingly partisan over the past several decades, particularly on the right: Certain conservative institutions, enjoying the backing of billionaires such as the Koch brothers, have thrown a ton of money at pseudo-academics and “thought leaders” to normalize and legitimate obscene piles of lucre. They produced arguments that suggest that high salaries naturally flowed from extreme talent and merit, thus baptizing wealth as simply some excellent people’s wholly legitimate rewards. These arguments were happily regurgitated by conservative media figures and politicians, eventually seeping into the broader public and replacing the folk wisdom of yore. But it is hard to argue that a company’s top earners are literally hundreds of times more talented than the lowest-paid employees.

As stratospheric salaries became increasingly common, and as the stigma of wildly disproportionate pay faded, the moral hazards of wealth were largely forgotten. But it’s time to put the apologists for plutocracy back on the defensive, where they belong — not least for their own sake. After all, the Buddha, Aristotle, Jesus, the Koran, Jimmy Stewart, Pope Francis and now even science all agree: If you are wealthy and are reading this, give away your money as fast as you can."
charlesmathewes  evansandsmark  2017  wealth  inequality  behavior  psychology  buddha  aristotle  jesus  koran  jimmystewart  popefrancis  ethics  generosity  vices  fscottfitzgerald  ernesthemingway  tonystark  confucius  austerity  tacitus  opulence  christ  virtue  caution  suspicion  polis  poverty  donaldtrump  jesuits  morality  humanism  cheating  taxevasion  charity  empathy  compassion  disengagement  competition  competitiveness  psychopaths  capitalism  luxury  politics  simplicity  well-being  suicide  ows  occupywallstreet  geogewbush  johnkerry  mittromney  gildedage  kochbrothers 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Missionary, Go Home! | Lapham’s Quarterly
[referencing: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:e3995e7d6a26 ]

"It has become a rite of passage for privileged young Americans to spend a year abroad doing service projects—installing toilets, teaching English, and purveying other rudiments of progress. For many of those embarking on such journeys, there is a further rite of passage: reading the text of a 1968 speech by Monsignor Ivan Illich, a Catholic priest. Illich’s speech usually appears under the title “To Hell with Good Intentions,” after one of its most telling passages. Illich’s argument was an assault on the idea that affluent Americans have any help worth offering poor people abroad—in this case, in Mexico. Attempts to help, said Illich, do more harm than good.

Illich delivered his address in Chicago at a regional meeting of the Conference on Interamerican Student Projects, which was populated by organizers from groups that sent young people abroad for service. They represented the spirit of benevolent expansionism that President Kennedy had promoted at the start of the decade through programs like the Peace Corps and, for Latin America in particular, the Alliance for Progress.

At the time, too, Illich’s Catholic Church was joining in the excitement. From the pope on down, there was an initiative underway for sending 40,000 foot soldiers—a full 10 percent of then-plentiful U.S. priests and nuns, along with lay volunteers—to serve their poorer and less well-catechized neighbors in Latin America. Missionaries would carry out charitable works while lovingly upgrading native religiosity with European doctrines and devotions. Such missionizing aligned neatly with the imperatives of the Cold War—a holy complement to the continuing dirty wars against godless communism.

Before his prepared remarks, Illich began by lamenting the “hypocrisy” he had observed at the conference among those now seated before him. He was impressed, he said, that the young people in the audience already knew, based on past expeditions, that their efforts would probably not be especially helpful, and that most well-intended volunteer activities result in nothing like their promises and ambitions for those they purport to serve. And yet his hearers were still planning to send more gringos south.

“I did not come here to argue,” Illich went on to say. “I am here to tell you, if possible to convince you, and hopefully, to stop you, from pretentiously imposing yourselves on Mexicans.”

This rebuke—to the credit of the meeting’s planners—could not have been entirely unexpected. At the time Illich was among the Catholic Church’s most brilliant and irascible clergymen. He was the son of a Jewish mother and a Croatian father, an ancestry that compelled him to leave his home in Austria soon after the rise of Nazism. He studied in Rome for a career at the Vatican, but afterward moved to New York City and took a poor Puerto Rican parish in Washington Heights. His success there made him the church’s go-to man for tutoring American priests assigned to Spanish-speaking parishes. By the mid-1950s, he’d been dispatched to Puerto Rico to run an institute for that purpose.

At first, Illich held out hope for the church’s expansion of the missionary project. A 1956 speech, “Missionary Poverty,” described the vocation of the missionary as a worthy exercise in self-abnegation. A missionary “has to become indifferent to the cultural values of his home,” Illich said. “He has to become very poor in a very deep sense.” Even this modest, ascetic kind of optimism faded, however. Clashes with the Irish American bishops who governed the church in Puerto Rico caused him to flee and start a more radical teaching center in Cuernavaca, Mexico, which would eventually become the Centro Intercultural de Documentación.

According to an unpublished memoir by Father Paul Mayer, who knew Illich in New York and Cuernavaca, “Ivan believed that U.S. missionaries would (even unwittingly) be neo-colonialist emissaries and bring North American values, theology, ideology, and politics to the people of Latin America under the guise of preaching the Gospel.” In the last years of his life, Mayer—also a Jewish refugee from Nazism who became a troublesome Catholic priest—remembered Illich’s presence in his Cuernavaca seminars. “Although a good-hearted man by temperament, he did not hesitate to resort to ruthlessness in these dialogues,” he wrote.

Illich’s clash with Catholic missionary policy is the subject of a new book, The Prophet of Cuernavaca: Ivan Illich and the Crisis of the West by historian Todd Hartch. It describes the process by which Illich leveraged his reputation as the Latin American church’s foremost educator of linguistic and cultural fluency for a kamikaze mission against the very effort he was supposed to be serving. In part thanks to his writing and teaching at Cuernavaca, the missionary initiative fell far short of its ambitions. His attacks on the missionary project came at a cost; by the end of the 1960s, his relationship with the Vatican had soured to the point that he renounced the public office of clergyman, even while remaining—privately, spiritually, and canonically—a priest.

Hartch faults Illich for not giving Catholic missionaries more of a chance to learn cultural sensitivity, to do real good abroad, and to bring their lessons home. He also challenges Illich for opposing a policy promulgated by the church, to which he always claimed allegiance. “Even the trickle of missionaries who did serve in Latin America has provided its share of critics of American culture, politics, and religion,” Hartch writes. “Imagine if there were a thousand more such people active in American life today.”

Illich, however, was not a patient or liberal reformer, and he never sought to be. Alongside his battles against missionizing, he published widely discussed tracts that took aim at the period’s favorite manifestations of progress—such as Deschooling Society, against compulsory education, and Medical Nemesis, against institutional medicine. His polemics displayed little interest in merely “moving the needle,” as philanthropists are apt to say nowadays. He refused to compromise with whatever appeared newer, bigger, richer, and better, and he sought to smash these in order that smaller and older forms might grow in the cracks. As a passionate educator and disciplined yoga practitioner, Illich was not opposed to structured learning or physical health as such; what distressed him was when the institutions meant to provide such things become so powerful that they deny people’s freedom to define what education means, or what health consists of, for themselves. So also with the church. A church for the poor, he thought, is no longer that when its missionaries are also ambassadors of American affluence.

“By becoming an ‘official’ agency of one kind of progress,” Illich wrote in 1967, “the Church ceases to speak for the underdog. We must acknowledge that missioners can be pawns in a world ideological struggle and that it is blasphemous to use the Gospel to prop up any social or political system.”

Illich’s outlook, among other neglected and worthy tendencies in the Catholic past, finds fresh vindication in the era of Pope Francis. Illich made efforts to cultivate theologies grown out of the distinct experience of Latin American Catholicism. In 1964, for instance, he organized a meeting in Brazil among theologians who would soon go on to become the framers of liberation theology. Notwithstanding a recent spate of claims in the conservative Catholic press that the movement was an invention of the KGB, this was a theology of Latin America, by Latin Americans. Francis, the first Latin American pope, recognizes liberation theology’s best impulses as such; one of those who attended Illich’s meeting in Brazil, Gustavo Gutiérrez, has recently been invited to speak at the Vatican after many years of disgrace. Since his tenure as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the pope has insisted the church should learn from the devotional practices of the marginalized, not try to stamp them out.

The usual logic of philanthropy assumes that a person who has accumulated wealth and expertise is qualified to know what is best for others. Who could be better equipped than Mark Zuckerberg to decide how poor people use the Internet? Or Bill Clinton to promote democracy abroad? Sending affluent teenagers to developing countries helps accustom the givers and recipients alike to the resulting unidirectional flow of aid. This habit, and its corollaries, Illich sought to break.

Many of the Illich’s followers today are more secular than ostensibly Catholic. I once met a Mexican abortion provider, for instance, who cited him as an influence; an arts organization in Puerto Rico, Beta-Local, runs a school named after him. But Illich’s contempt toward the development agenda of the wealthy represents, it seems, an essentially Christian kind of faith that the meek should inherit the earth—and that we have more to learn from them than from the rich.

“Come to look, come to climb our mountains, to enjoy our flowers,” he said at the end of his 1968 speech in Chicago. “Come to study. But do not come to help.”"
ivanillich  servicelearning  nathanschneider  charitableindustrialcomplex  colonialism  imperialism  philanthropy  missions  whitesaviors  education  hypocrisy  catholicchurch  missionaries  toddhartch  popefrancis  latinamerica  mexico  beta-local  development  decolonization  1968  2016  1967  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Frances Stonor Saunders · Where on Earth are you? · LRB 3 March 2016
"The one border we all cross, so often and with such well-rehearsed reflexes that we barely notice it, is the threshold of our own home. We open the front door, we close the front door: it’s the most basic geographical habit, and yet one lifetime is not enough to recount all our comings and goings across this boundary. What threshold rites do you perform before you leave home? Do you appease household deities, or leave a lamp burning in your tabernacle? Do you quickly pat down pockets or bag to check you have the necessary equipment for the journey? Or take a final check in the hall mirror, ‘to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet’?

You don’t have a slave to guard your door, as the ancients did, so you set the alarm (or you set the dog, cave canem). Keys? Yes, they’re in your hand. You have ‘the power of the keys’, the right of possession that connects you to thousands of years of legal history, to the rights of sovereigns and states, to the gates of salvation and damnation. You open the door, step through, and turn to close it – through its diminishing arc, the details of your life inside recede. ‘On one side, me and my place,’ Georges Perec wrote:
The private, the domestic (a space overfilled with my possessions: my bed, my carpet, my table, my typewriter, my books, my odd copies of the Nouvelle Revue française); on the other side, other people, the world, the public, politics. You can’t simply let yourself slide from one into the other, can’t pass from one to the other, neither in one direction nor in the other. You have to have the password, have to cross the threshold, have to show your credentials, have to communicate … with the world outside.

You lock the door. You’ve crossed the border. You’ve ignored Pascal’s warning that all humanity’s misery derives from not being able to sit alone in a quiet room. When the Savoyard aristocrat Xavier De Maistre was sentenced to six weeks’ house arrest for duelling in 1790, he turned his detention into a grand imaginary voyage. ‘My room is situated on the 45th degree of latitude,’ he records in A Journey around my Room. ‘It stretches from east to west; it forms a long rectangle, 36 paces in perimeter if you hug the wall.’ And so he sets off, charting a course from his desk towards a painting hung in a corner, and from there he continues obliquely towards the door, but is waylaid by his armchair, which he sits in for a while, poking the fire, daydreaming. Then he bestirs himself again, presses north towards his bed, the place where ‘for one half of our life’ we forget ‘the sorrows of the other half’. And so on, ‘from the expedition of the Argonauts to the Assembly of Notables, from the lowest depths of hell to the last fixed star beyond the Milky Way, to the confines of the universe, to the gates of chaos’. ‘This,’ he declares, ‘is the vast terrain which I wander across in every direction at leisure.’

Whether around your room in forty days, or around the world in eighty days, or around the Circle Line in eighty minutes, whether still or still moving, the self is an act of cartography, and every life a study of borders. The moment of conception is a barrier surpassed, birth a boundary crossed. Günter Grass’s Oskar, the mettlesome hero of The Tin Drum, narrates, in real time, his troubling passage through the birth canal and his desire, once delivered into the world, to reverse the process. The room is cold. A moth beats against the naked light bulb. But it’s too late to turn back, the midwife has cut the cord.

Despite this uncommon ability to report live on his own birth, even Oskar’s power of self-agency is subject to the one inalienable rule: there is only one way into this life, and one way out of it. Everything that happens in between – all the thresholds we cross and recross, all the ‘decisions and revisions that a minute will reverse’ – is bordered by this unbiddable truth. What we hope for is safe passage between these two fixed boundaries, to be able to make something of the experience of being alive before we are required to stop being alive. There’s no negotiating birth or death. What we have is the journey.

On the evening of 3 October 2013, a boat carrying more than five hundred Eritreans and Somalis foundered just off the tiny island of Lampedusa. In the darkness, locals mistook their desperate cries for the sound of seagulls. The boat sank within minutes, but survivors were in the water for five hours, some of them clinging to the bodies of their dead companions as floats. Many of the 368 people who drowned never made it off the capsizing boat. Among the 108 people trapped inside the bow was an Eritrean woman, thought to be about twenty years old, who had given birth as she drowned. Her waters had broken in the water. Rescue divers found the dead infant, still attached by the umbilical cord, in her leggings. The longest journey is also the shortest journey.

Already, in the womb, our brains are laying down neural pathways that will determine how we perceive the world and our place in it. Cognitive mapping is the way we mobilise a definition of who we are, and borders are the way we protect this definition. All borders – the lines and symbols on a map, the fretwork of walls and fences on the ground, and the often complex enmeshments by which we organise our lives – are explanations of identity. We construct borders, literally and figuratively, to fortify our sense of who we are; and we cross them in search of who we might become. They are philosophies of space, credibility contests, latitudes of neurosis, signatures to the social contract, soothing containments, scars.

They’re also death zones, portals to the underworld, where explanations of identity are foreclosed. The boat that sank half a mile from Lampedusa had entered Italian territorial waters, crossing the imaginary line drawn in the sea – the impossible line, if you think about it. It had gained the common European border, only to encounter its own vanishing point, the point at which its human cargo simply dropped off the map. Ne plus ultra, nothing lies beyond.

I have no theory, no grand narrative to explain why so many people are clambering into their own hearses before they are actually dead. I don’t understand the mechanisms by which globalisation, with all its hype of mobility and the collapse of distance and terrain, has instead delivered a world of barricades and partition, in which entire populations seem to be living – and dying – in a different history from mine. All I know is that a woman who believed in the future drowned while giving birth, and we have no idea who she was. And it’s this, her lack of known identity, which places us, who are fat with it, in direct if hopelessly unequal relationship to her.

Everyone reading this has a verified self, an identity, formed through and confirmed by identification, that is attested to be ‘true’. You can’t function in the world without it: you can’t open a bank account, get a credit card or national insurance number, or a driving licence, or access to your email and social media accounts, or a passport or visa, or points on your reward card. You can’t have your tonsils removed without it. You can’t die without it. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, whether you like it or not, the verified self is the governing calculus of your life, the spectrum on which you, as an individual, are plotted from cradle to grave. As Pierre-Joseph Proudhon explained, you must be ‘noted, registered, enumerated, accounted for, stamped, measured, classified, audited, patented, licensed, authorised, endorsed, reprimanded, prevented, reformed, rectified and corrected, in every operation, every transaction, every movement.’"



"All migrants know that the reply to the question ‘Who on earth are you?’ is another question: ‘Where on earth are you?’ And so they want what we’ve got, a verified self that will transport them to our side of history. Thus, the migrant identity becomes a burden to be unloaded. Migrants often make the journey without identity documents, and I mentioned one reason for this, namely that the attempt to obtain them in their country of origin can be very dangerous. Others lose them at the outset when they’re robbed by police or border guards, or by people traffickers en route. Many destroy them deliberately because they fear, not without reason, that our system of verification will be a mechanism for sending them back. In Algeria, they’re called harraga, Arabic for ‘those who burn’. And they don’t only burn their documents: many burn their fingertips on hobs or with lighters or acid, or mutilate them with razors, to avoid biometric capture and the prospect of expulsion. These are the weapons of the weak.

The boat carrying more than five hundred Eritreans and Somalis sank off Lampedusa in October 2013, barely three months after the pope’s visit. Whether they had lost their identity papers, or destroyed them, when facing death the people on board wanted to be known. As the boat listed and took on water, and with most of the women and children stuck below deck, those who knew they wouldn’t make it called out their names and the names of their villages, so that survivors might carry ashore news of their deaths.​5 There isn’t really any other way: there’s no formal identification procedure for those who drown. In Lampedusa’s cemetery, the many plaques that read ‘unidentified migrant’ merely tell us that people have been dying in the Mediterranean for at least 25 years – more than twenty thousand of them, according to current estimates.

Everyone must be counted, but only if they count. Dead migrants don’t count. The woman who drowned while giving birth was not a biometric subject, she was a biodegradable one. I don’t want to reconstitute her as a sentimental artefact, an object to be smuggled into the already crowded room of my bad conscience. But … [more]
borders  identity  cartography  francesstonorsaunders  georgesperec  lampedusa  güntergrass  refugees  identification  personhood  geopolitics  legibility  mobility  passports  pierre-josephproudhon  globalization  thresholds  homes  milankundera  socialmedia  digitalexhaust  rfid  data  privacy  smartphones  verification  biometrics  biometricdata  migration  immigration  popefrancis  facialidentification  visas  paulfussell  stefanzweig  xenophobia  naomimitchison  nobility  surveillance  intentionality  gilbertharding  whauden  lronhubbard  paulekman 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Towards a Bright Mountain: Laudato Si’ as Critique of Technology | boundary 2
"Throughout Laudato Si’, Pope Francis praises the merits of an ascetic life. And though the encyclical features numerous references to Saint Francis of Assisi, the argument is not that we must all abandon our homes to seek out new sanctuary in nature, instead the need is to learn from the sense of love and wonder with which Saint Francis approached nature. Complete withdrawal is not an option, to do so would be to shirk our responsibility – we live in this world and we bear responsibility for it and for other people. In the encyclical’s estimation, those living in affluent nations cannot seek to quietly slip from the scene, nor can they claim they are doing enough by bringing their own bags to the grocery store. Rather, responsibility entails recognizing that the lifestyles of affluent nations have helped sow misery in many parts of the world – it is unethical for us to try to save our own cities without realizing the part we have played in ruining the cities of others.

Pope Francis writes – and here an entire section shall be quoted:
“Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new conviction, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.” (Francis, no. 202)

Laudato Si’ does not suggest that we can escape from our problems, that we can withdraw, or that we can “keep calm and carry on.” And though the encyclical is not a manifesto, if it were one it could possibly be called “The Bright Mountain Manifesto.” For what Laudato Si’ reminds its readers time and time again is that even though we face great challenges it remains within our power to address them, though we must act soon and decisively if we are to effect a change. We do not need to wander towards a mystery shrouded mountain in the distance, but work to make the peaks near us glisten – it is not a matter of retreating from the world but of rebuilding it in a way that provides for all. Nobody needs to go hungry, our cities can be beautiful, our lifestyles can be fulfilling, our tools can be made to serve us as opposed to our being made to serve tools, people can recognize the immense debt they owe to each other – and working together we can make this a better world.

Doing so will be difficult. It will require significant changes.

But Laudato Si’ is a document that believes people can still accomplish this.

In the end Laudato Si’ is less about having faith in god, than it is about having faith in people."
laudatosi'  popefrancis  zacharyloeb  2015  technology  lewismumford  jacqesellul  economics  environment  via:audreywatters  nature 
july 2015 by robertogreco
In Pope Francis's Environment Encyclical, 'Laudato Si,' He Also Has Strong Criticism of the Internet - The Atlantic
"Loneliness. Obsession with technology. Spiritual flatness. These are hefty accusations to lob at the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and in some ways, they may be more connected to Francis’s age than his stature as a theologian. “For the pope’s generation, [the] media was telephones and the telegraph,” said Schneck. “There is a generational difference here.”

Even though the pope makes broad, sweeping warnings about the way people use technology, he reserves one particularly biting criticism for people who make media for a living. “Many professionals, opinion makers, communications media, and centres of power [are] located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems,” he writes. “This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality.”

“Tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality”: If there’s ever been a more withering critique of the take, I’ve not come across it. No mainstream newspaper or magazine is obligated to follow the teachings of the Church, but even secular journos might do well to heed the pope’s call for “self-examination.” What perspectives are lost when so many reporters are focused on the powerful populations in a handful of cities? And what would coverage look like if more journalists spent time walking the streets among the poor?"
laudatosi'  internet  online  relationships  emmagreen  technology  isolation  poverty  inequality  popefrancis  power  affluence  wealth  conscience  reality 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The pope's climate change message is really about rethinking what it means to be human - Vox
"Critics will (and do) argue that the pope does little to grapple with the tension between the economic growth and development that has allowed billions to escape dire poverty — development fueled, literally, by the same polluting technologies Francis sharply criticizes and would see curtailed — and the pope's call for all to share in the very benefits that such growth and development has made possible. For all its problems, the fact that the global economy has lifted billions out of the worst poverty must count for something. Would the pope have us hamstring the engine of economic development for the sake of environmental conservation? And if so, how are the poor to receive the incredible benefits that our modern economy has made possible?

The pope's answer, it seems, is that the material benefits of our modern economy might not be quite so wondrous as we like to think. In a poorer world, a world less able to afford self-reliance, solidarity between people will be all the more important. As he writes toward the end of the encyclical:
Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that "less is more."

This may be rather shocking to some, perhaps even most. So let me suggest a way to understand how the "pope of the poor" can, essentially, advocate for a poorer world. Francis is a man who understands that abject poverty grinds men down and crushes their human dignity. It is inhumane and unjust, a source of scandal and a cause for moral outrage. But the pope is also a man who understands that there is a kind of relative poverty in which basic material needs are met but there is limited room for luxury and no room for waste.

This kind of poverty can provide detachment from material things, allowing us to enjoy them for what they are — gifts from a generous and loving God. This understanding of poverty — which has deep Christian roots going back to the Gospel itself — is far from an unqualified evil. In fact, it's a virtue. And for Pope Francis — a man who long ago took his own vow of poverty, and took as his namesake a man of profound poverty, Francis of Assisi — this understanding provides a crucial insight into the way human beings relate to the world around us and to one another.

Like I said, the pope's views on climate change aren't what make this a radical document."
laudatosi'  popefrancis  2015  environment  climatechange  human  anthropocene  humanity  via:anne  technology  science  economics  inequality  poverty  detachment  consumerism  capitalism  stephenwhite  christianity  catholicism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Harmony, Communion, Incarnation | The American Conservative
"It is tempting to call LS a traditionally conservative document, but there is plenty in it that will unnerve free-market individualists, who generally call themselves conservative — and liberals will be just as challenged by it. What Francis has written is an encyclical that celebrates life as harmony, communion, and incarnation. He calls on all persons to revere nature as gift, and to think not as atomized individuals, but as stewards who owe a debt to others, as well as to the past and to the future.

If you have read my 2006 book Crunchy Cons, the roots of all this in traditional conservatism should be very familiar. LS is a radical challenge to modernity as both the political left and the right understand it. Catholic blogger Jennifer Fitz understands what’s it stake here, calling, tongue-in-cheekily, LS a “terrible problem” for Catholics who practice the separation of their faith from their entire lives …"



"The root of all our environmental and social problems is selfishness, is pride, is the belief that we are the center and the height of all creation. Therefore, if we are to restore the environment, it can’t simply be a matter of applying an ingenious set of technical solutions. It requires, more deeply, conversion of the heart. The core of the problem, Francis indicates, is the mistaken belief that humankind lives apart from nature, and the related belief that we owe nothing to others, either those who share this time and place with us, our ancestors, or to our descendants.

And, it’s the unwillingness to see that everything is connected, a phrase that turns up over and over in LS. For example, says Francis, there is a solid scientific consensus that the planet is warming, and that humankind dumping of carbon into the atmosphere has a lot to do with it. (He’s right that there is a scientific consensus, by the way.) This means that the industrial nations, with the activity that has both made them wealthy and that is a result of their wealth, bear a disproportionate responsibility for contributing to a condition that affects the entire planet. The poorest people on the planet, though, are those who suffer the most from the effects of climate change, yet, says the pope, the richest nations feel little sense of obligation to help those whose suffering is increased, indirectly, by the way the rich nations choose to live.

He has a point. One weakness of LS, though, is the pope’s lack of recognition of the fact that the greatest force pulling the poor masses out of poverty has been … capitalism, and industrial development. (David Brooks has a valid critique of this out today.) On the other hand, the pope is correct that the planet cannot withstand a universalization of the industrial, carbon-based system. And he is certainly right that the solution cannot be found in a “deified market” — that is, a vision that treats the free market as an end in itself, rather than as a means to an end, which is a just and harmonious life based on the common good.

“The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis,” says Francis. He means that our individualism and self-centeredness keeps us from seeing and doing what is necessary to meet the challenge. This, the pope indicates, is at the root of so many of our problems today — and not just environmental problems."



"Laudato Si is a rich, complex work. It doesn’t offer solutions — the Pope admits that the Church is not competent to offer technical advice — but it does provide a framework for discussing solutions. Francis says that rather than give up in the face of the immensity of the challenge, each of us would do well to live by St. Therese’s “little way”: doing what we ourselves can do, within the limits of our own particular circumstances, to restore harmony to creation by restoring it in our own hearts and lives. Even that would be a radical countercultural act, because it goes against the dominant paradigm of our time."
laudatosi'  2015  roddreher  popefrancis  christianity  conservatism  consumerism  culture  society  nature  environment  clinatechange  science  economics  ecology  harmony  communion  incarnation  via:ayjay  selfishness  capitalism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
'Care for Our Common Home': Taking Up the Moral Challenge of Pope Francis – Blog – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
"The normalisation of liberal individualism and the unsustainable form of prosperity on which the West has so long relied are, of course, the crowning achievements of what Luigino Bruni calls the "grand 'immunizing' project of modernity." But this project did not simply clear away the tyranny of inherited privilege, thereby returning individuals to themselves and their own acquisitive desires. Instead, this immunity from our obligations to others - what John Rawls more prosaically called the "mutual disinterest" constitutive of the social contract - involved the radical renunciation of the munus: that obliging gift which forms the basis of the social bond that is at the heart of communitas.

In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II captured the essence of this gift in a simple, wondrous sentence: "God entrusts us to one another." Once this munus is renounced, what follows is a hollowed out form of social life, a debased, erstaz community in which, "Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail."

(It is worth pointing out in passing that Pope Francis and John Paul II find an unlikely ally in Julian Savulescu, who shares their critique of the failure of liberalism to produce the kind of citizens that are willing make decisions for the good of others, especially when doing so would run counter to self-interest and immediate benefit: "This restraint of self-interest is the very opposite of the unrestrained satisfaction of it made possible by industrialization and its profusion of material goods, which brought liberal democracy into existence. Liberal democracy has so far been a politics of prosperity, and this induces doubt whether it could turn into a politics of parsimony, voluntary restraint, and decreasing welfare." As a result, Savulescu warns, "contemporary liberal democracies are in the danger of being too liberal to last.")

The great achievement of Pope Francis's encyclical is the way it explicitly deepens and extends the scope of that which has been entrusted to us: our shared environment; the wellbeing of those near and far; the wellbeing of future generations. The language of gift and of what is in common pervades the encyclical, and at once condemns the interpersonal and political indifference that has held sway over the "climate change debate" and exposes the inadequacy of purely technocratic solutions to the problem of environmental degradation.

Implicated in the pope's critique of both interpersonal indifference and a kind of technophilic solutionism is the way that social media cultivates a feeling of concern and even ethical responsibility, all the while shielding us from any real commitment to others."



"For Francis, there is simply no substitute for the recovery of a sense of deep moral obligation - of what he calls at the end of the encyclical "generous commitment" - through which we will then joyfully constrain our behaviour and redefine those benefits to which we feel we are entitled. This is particularly clear when Francis addresses the debilitating political problem of how to galvanise public support for an intergenerational problem like climate change. As Stephen Gardiner has examined at considerable length, the problem is not only that the benefits of carbon pollution are enjoyed by the present generation while the deleterious effects (or "costs") are deferred to some future generation; the iterative nature of the problem ensures that "each new generation will face the same incentive structure as soon as it gains the power to decide whether or not to act."

This, it would seem, is the brute reality behind the myth of progress, and a powerful illustration of C.S. Lewis's extraordinarily prescient claim in his 1943 book The Abolition of Man (which is a favourite of Benedict XVI, interestingly enough). Lewis was, of course, fiercely critical of that heroic liberal narrative of the " progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power.""
popefrancis  2015  laudatosi'  morality  christianity  luiginobruni  modernity  capitalism  interdependence  johnrawls  juliansavulescu  popejohnpaulii  scottstephens  normawirzba  clivehamilton  celiadeane-drummond  charlescamosy  michaelstafford  via:anne  religion  climatechange  ecology  economics  technosolutionism  anthropocene  antropocentrism  individualism  generations  internet  relationships  inequality  power  cslewis  progress  technology  stephengardner  interpersonal  indifference  empathy  responsibility  socialmedia  concern  commitment 
june 2015 by robertogreco
first thoughts on <em>Laudato Si'</em> - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"2) A key passage comes early (pp. 16-17): “Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.” (My emphasis.) That there is such a mysterious network of relations is central to Franciscan spirituality, and this concept points to a wholly different understanding of “network” than our technocracy offers.

3) “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.” It is therefore simply immoral to act in such a way as to generate changes in the climate that affect others — especially those who because of poverty cannot adjust or adapt. “Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited” (p. 20).



9) A book frequently quoted in this encyclical is Romano Guardini’s The End of the Modern World. Pope Francis has long been interested in and influenced by Guardini, who was also a major influence on Benedict XVI. If I had my way, I’d spend the next couple of months preparing to teach a class in which this encyclical — a far richer work than I had expected it to be, and one that I hope will have lasting power — would be read alongside Guardini’s book, with both accompanied by repeated viewings of Mad Max: Fury Road. The class would be called “Who Killed the World?”"

[Additional notes by Alan Jacobs on Laudato Si':

“more thoughts on Laudato Si'”
http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2015/06/more-thoughts-on-laudato-si.html

“on sustainability”
http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2015/06/on-sustainability.html ]

[Direct link to Laudato Si'
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html ]
laudatosi'  popefrancis  2015  alanjacobs  environment  interdependence  capitalism  sustainability  climatechange  rossdouthat  ecology  christianity  catholicism  elizabethkolbert  lynnwhite  patriarchbartholemew  technology  technosolutionsim  anthropocentrism  snthropocene  biocentrism  disposability  throwawayculture  consumerism  nature  humanism  jacquesmaritain  romanoguardini  ethics  morality 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Richard Rodriguez: “New Atheism has a distinctly neo-colonial aspect”
"Provocative thinker Richard Rodriguez challenges orthodoxy on religion, liberals and class, Pope Francis and more"



"My qualm, right now, with the political left is that it is so taken over by sexual issues, sexual questions, that we have forgotten the traditional concern of the left was always social class and those at the bottom. And now we’re faced with a pope who is compassionate towards the poor and we want to know his position on abortion. It seems to me that at one point when Pope Francis said, “You know the church has been too preoccupied with those issues, gay marriage and abortion…” at some level the secular left has been too preoccupied with those issues."

Q: You’re saying that the church — it’s not exactly Catholics, it’s the church itself, the Vatican — has been obsessed with these questions at the same time the Anglo-American cultural left has been obsessed with these as well. To the exclusion of other important issues?

Yes, particularly the very poor. And it seems to me what the pope doesn’t say when he says we’ve been too preoccupied with these issues is: why? And that is what really interests me in my description of the relationship of heterosexual women in my life. I think that the problem with women controlling their reproduction and gay men getting married is that we’re not generative, as the Vatican would judge us. And that’s a deep violation of the desert. It’s the whole point of the desert religions, to give birth, you know. And when women are not doing that, or women are choosing to control the process, or men are marrying each other outside the process of birth, then that’s the problem.



"I think that increasingly the left has conceded organized religion to the political right. This has been a catastrophe on the left.

I’m old enough to remember the black Civil Rights movement, which was as I understood it a movement of the left and insofar as it was challenging the orthodoxy of conservatives in the American South. White conservatism. And here was a group of protestant ministers leading processions, which were really religious processions through the small towns and the suburbs of the South. We shall overcome. Well, we have forgotten just how disruptive religion can be to the status quo. How challenging it is to the status quo. I also talk about Cesar Chavez, who is, who was embraced by the political left in his time but he was obviously a challenge to organized labor, the teamsters and to large farmers in the central valley.

So somehow we had decided on the left that religion belongs to Fox Television, or it belongs to some kind of right-wing fanaticism in the Middle East and we have given it up, and it has made us a really empty — that is, it has made the left really empty. I’ll point to one easy instance. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. And what America heard was really a sermon. It was as though slavery and Jim Crow could not be described as a simple political narrative; racism was a moral offense, not simply an illegality. And with his vision of a time “when all of God’s children” in America would be free, he described the nation within a religious parable of redemption.

Fifty years later, our technocratic, secular president gave a speech at the Lincoln memorial, honoring the memory of the speech Dr. King had given. And nothing President Obama said can we remember these few weeks later; his words were dwarfed by our memory of the soaring religious oratory of fifty years ago. And what’s happened to us — and I would include myself in the cultural left — what has happened to us is we have almost no language to talk about the dream life of America, to talk about the soul of America, to talk about the mystery of being alive at this point in our lives, this point in our national history. That’s what we’ve lost in giving it to Fox Television.



Q:Where do you find yourself very conservative these days?

I would say even on an issue like affirmative action, for example, I haven’t changed. I think that the hijacking of the integrationists’ dream as it announced itself in the North, where racism was not legalized but it was de facto, the hijacking of that movement to integrate Northern institutions by the middle class and to make middle class ascendancy somehow an advance for the entire population — I think was grotesque. And so you ended up with a black and brown bourgeoisie and you did nothing with those at the bottom, and you also managed to ignore white poverty. What the left has forgotten or ignored is that it is possible to be white and poor in America. The solution to de facto segregation in the late 1960s, as the black Civil Rights movement turned north, was an affirmative action that ignored white poverty altogether. And to make matters worse, Hispanics were named with blacks as the other principal excluded society in America. Conveniently ignored by the liberal agenda was the fact that Hispanics are not a racial group and therefore cannot suffer “racism” as Hispanics. And to turn misunderstanding into a kind of cartoon revolution, it became possible for, say, a white Cuban to be accepted to Yale as a “minority,” but a white kid from Appalachia would never be a minority because, after all, whites were numerically represented in societies of power.



And totally ignores the reality or the fantastic contradictions of the word or concept of Hispanic/Latino. We are posing ourselves as a racial group when in fact we are an ethnic group. The left has no idea. The left says nothing about the obliviousness of our political process to poor whites. The fact that the Civil Rights movement managed to ignore white poverty was the beginning of the end of the Democratic party in the old South. The white poor began to turn to the Republican party, which is where it is now."

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/71039097451/you-know-one-of-the-things-about-that-piece-that-i ]
richardrodriguez  atheism  newatheism  catholicism  2013  via:ayjay  religion  politics  conservatism  liberalism  popefrancis  bilingualeducation  civilrights  affirmativeaction  class  society  nature  desert  homophobia  culture  jerryfaldwell  poor  race  ethnicity 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Pope Francis denounces ‘trickle-down’ economic theories in critique of inequality - The Washington Post
“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,” Francis wrote in the papal statement. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

[Full text here: http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/politics/pope-francis-denounces-economic-inequality-consumerism/619/ ]
economics  trickledowneconomics  neoliberalism  popefrancis  2013  inequality  capitalism  materialism  consumerism  greed 
november 2013 by robertogreco

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