“What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom — the mother of great men and women who upheld and even sacrificed their lives for the dignity of their brothers and sisters?”
— Pope Francis May 6, 2016
Given the tragic hate crimes committed in Quebec City Sunday, Jan. 29, resulting in the deaths of six men at prayer and the wounding of 19 others, we need to be asking: Canada, what is happening to us?
Please stop blaming Mr. Trump! He is a symptom — not a cause.
These hate crimes follow decades of fear-mongering, hate speech and lies intentionally incubated in our communities. This includes our real, digital and faith communities.
Remember the 2015 campaign of the Harper Conservatives? It had the same divisive characteristics as Trump’s — just different intensity. Two-thirds of us rejected it!
The 2016 Brexit campaign and what is currently happening in Europe are similar.
These tactics achieve the desired result of preventing the much needed systemic change we actually know how to do to co-create a variety of authentic cultures of life.
St. John Paul II brought the notion of “social sin” into our official church teachings in his 1991 Centesimus Annus. “Social” when used in this manner means “co-created by humans.”
Anything co-created by humans can be changed by humans.
“Social sin” refers to any situation flowing from our social arrangements that denies God’s Creation life with dignity — such as our economy.
The purpose of social justice is the removal, with Divine inspiration and assistance, of the causes of social sin while assisting those denied life with dignity.
To become effective in stopping these tactics corroding our, and our community’s souls, we need to understand who developed them, why and who benefits from their use.
The intentional spread of disinformation/misinformation, fear-mongering, objectification of “the other,” and intolerance are “weapons” in the arsenal of “low-intensity warfare.”
These were developed through a clever, if disingenuous, application of insights gleaned from the social sciences over the last century.
Edward Bernays in his 1928 classic Propaganda outlines how these insights were used to develop social scientific techniques to manipulate “the masses” (that’s us) in democracies without our knowing it is happening.
During the 1970s some were morphed by the Americans and their allies (us again) into something called “low-intensity warfare.”
As American sociologist and investigative journalist Christian Parenti outlines in his 2011 Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, the purpose of these tactics is to destroy “the sinews of community.”
That is, it is a form of “warfare” intentionally designed to destroy a community’s capacity to understand what is happening to it in a manner that enables it to work together for the common good.
These stealth soul-corroding tactics were turned on us in the 1980s and their use intensified through and since the Great Recession to divert us from effectively addressing the multifaceted existential threat both Popes Benedict and Francis say is a priority.
The immense financial wealth generated for the few by the structural adjustments made to our economies since the 1970s does not “trickle down” as we were repeatedly told it would.
The 2017 Oxfam Report identified the world’s richest eight men whose 2016 combined wealth equalled that of Earth’s poorest 50 per cent. In 2015, it was nine. In 2010, it was 43.
In 2000, it took one per cent of the richest to equal the wealth of the poorest 50 per cent.
Yes, worshipping at the altar of the Bronze Bull generates unprecedented financial wealth.
It is also generates an unprecedented number of refugees, accelerated environmental devastation (one symptom of which is climate chaos), social chaos, wars, increasing personal and sovereign debt, and the destruction of our democracies for which many millions died.
These are all preventable social sins generated by our current social arrangements.
If we can be manipulated into blaming Muslims, Christians, Jews or immigrants for the wealth and power being increasingly concentrated in the hand of a few, we are inhibited from working effectively with others to make the systemic changes we need and know how to do.
Who wants to prevent this?
Jane Mayer in her 2016 Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right identifies a number of Americans and how they have organized their wealth to manipulate us.
American multi-billionaire and Earth’s third richest man Warren Buffett stated: “There’s class warfare all right. But it’s my class, the rich, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Hate speech, fear mongering and killing hope are weapons in this war.
As is “charitable” giving that does not address the root causes generating the social sins.
Warren Buffett’s son Peter stated: “As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few,” philanthropists were frequently left “searching for the answers with their right hands to problems they created with their left.”
Peter Buffett dubs this the “charitable-industrial complex.”
What can we do?
·Pray for the courage to raise good questions to stop this scapegoating.
·Pray for the strength to resist having your soul corrupted through fear and hate.
·Counter attempts to corrode your soul and that of your community with words and actions of love, compassion, inclusion and solidarity.
And remember, the Divine is always present to us if we but open to Her.
An educator, writer and engaged citizen living in Qualicum Beach, B.C., Zarowny is also on the leadership team for her parish’s Justice and Life Ministry.