“By this all will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
— John 13: 34-35
“The Law of Moses and the writings of the prophets were in effect up to the time of John the Baptist; since then the Good News about the Kingdom of God is being told, and everyone forces their way in.” — Luke 16:16
Pope Francis repeatedly pleads with us to transform our “culture of indifference” as a means of transforming our increasingly grotesque culture of death to a variety of authentic cultures of life.
Development modes formed within these cultures are to respectfully use the sacred life-giving gift of God’s creation to ensure all God’s children have life with dignity for their full continuum.
Previous columns mentioned that the increasingly efficient industrial mass slaughter exhibited during the first half of the 20th century prompted our Catholic social teaching, essential aspects of the official teachings of the church, to state we needed a massive paradigm shift.
The dignity of all human life — not ideology, money, technology, nationalism and definitely not empire of any form — was to be the centre of all development modes thereby co-creating authentic peace by organizing societies to meet the true needs of all impacted.
Putting human dignity at the centre of our development modes meant all who felt the impact needed to be full subjects (i.e. have effective political power) educated to be involved in shaping it.
Decision-makers need to consider the dignity of people unable to be fully involved for any reason; not just their life.
Our teachings make clear: production, investment and consumer choices are as moral and political as any others that have an impact on God’s sacred gift of life and creation.
Doing this is not only “the way” to peace, contentment and right relationship with our Divine Beloved as revealed and lived by Jesus — it was the way forward supported by insights gleaned from all the social sciences since their late 19th century beginnings.
Life with dignity was to be the criterion by which all structures for decision-making and the lived realities generated were to be evaluated.
If this had been implemented, “cultural relativism” would never have been an issue.
If the ways decisions were made and the results generated did not enable all earth’s co-habitants sustainable life with dignity for the common good of all — they were to be transformed.
I quote St. John Paul as Pope Francis is criticized for saying and modelling essentially the same thing by many who call him Pope John Paul “Great.”
In his oft-misrepresented 1991 Centesimus Annus Pope John Paul states:
“What is wrong is a lifestyle which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards ‘having’ rather than ‘being.’ It is therefore necessary to create lifestyles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of the common good are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments” (36).
We know how and have everything to do this for over 70 years — but effective political will.
Preventing the formation of effective political will underlies the need to obfuscate scientific data while pitting religion against science.
Canadian cultural anthropologist Wade Davis stated in his 2009 The Wayfinder: “The central revelation of anthropology is that the social world does not exist in some absolute sense; rather it is the consequence of one set of intellectual and spiritual choices” (page 1).
He goes on to state: “The myriad of cultures (over 7,000) of the world make up an intellectual and spiritual web of life that envelops the planet (p. 11). (They) are not failed attempts at modernity, let alone failed attempts to be us. They are unique expressions of the human imagination and heart, unique answers to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be a human and alive?” (page 19).
For over 200 years we have been and are capitalist societies with capital (wealth capable of generating more wealth as measured in money) at the centre of our culture and development mode.
Rather than use these insights to transform societies into a variety with authentic sustainable cultures enabling life with dignity for all impacted, most were used to develop scientific techniques to intellectually, spiritually and emotionally manipulate us to support empire and war efforts (Bernays, 1928 Propaganda).
After the Second World War, in order to avoid another Great Depression while meeting the needs of capital, it was determined we needed to be a consumer-oriented and materialistic society.
In 1955 American economist and retail analyst Victor Lebow stated (online):
“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The very meaning and significance of our lives is expressed in consumptive terms. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever increasing pace.”
The powerful scientific techniques for “engineering our consent” (Bernays paper, same name online) to support war efforts were now also used to transform us into materialistic consumers who determine self-worth and reasons for living to be wealth accumulation and consumption.
These techniques were refined and put into hyper drive to continue to sell us wars (great for generating capital) and “things” as a way to peace, fulfilment and happiness.
We were and are not given the freedom to choose to use our power to co-create a variety of authentic sustainable cultures and development modes generating life with dignity for all impacted as our faith requires of us.
We were not, in reality, given this freedom because those controlling the most capital feared we would choose such cultures over our culture of death — as Jesus stated in Luke 16:16.
After the Second World War, in some nations for a few decades, a tiny portion of the wealth generated was redistributed through governments enabling taxpayer supported schools, medical care, social safety nets and other public programs — primarily to keep the peace.
People had suffered and died through two total wars which they were told would bring them better lives through freedom and democracy with political power distributed on the basis of one vote/adult citizen.
During those decades people started to learn about other cultures, other ways of doing things, the real reasons we were at war, and they realized this was not “the way” to peace — personally or societally.
Remember the 1971 Powell memo mentioned in previous columns.
Structural deficits (mostly through cutting taxes for global corporations and the rich) were engineered in order to justify austerity programs used to cuts funding to public education, medical care and other taxpayer-supported programs which at least enabled people to live, if not with dignity or full informed participation in democracies.
Waging the “war of ideas” morphed into the “culture wars,” particularly in our church.
If you couldn’t influence all the actual teachings, you could use the vulnerability of the Vatican’s financial situation to distort the faithful’s understanding of its teachings and new evangelization.
Compare the Centesimus Annus quote to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) response to the American 9/11, unanimously passed Nov. 2, 2001.
These are excerpts from two articles in their Universal Declaration of Cultural Diversity (online).
“As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature.
“Cultural diversity widens the range of options open to everyone; it is one of the roots of development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence.”
Contrast that with the 1955 Lebow quote about a consumer lifestyle (above).
Widening the range of options to enable us more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence is why St. John Paul modelled and advocated authentic dialogue and Pope Francis pleads with us to arm ourselves and children with them.
Both valued what the various sciences were revealing about the actual realities being generated.
Dialogue is a specific process for communicating which opens our hearts and minds to understanding the perspective and culture of another while deepening our own understanding of our own and our faith.
This is why Development and Peace Share Lent program this year stresses dialogue . . . and the projects you support around the world by supporting Development and Peace Share Lent while learning and putting dialogue skills into practice.
By entering into authentic dialogue, we discover our Divine Beloved so loves us little human earthlings, Spirit has been meeting us wherever we are through time and space trying to let us know “the way” is love, compassion and co-creating life with dignity for all God’s Creation.
Isn’t that something to joyfully celebrate while co-creating!
Happy Easter and Pentecost!
A critical 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.