An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
New Human Beings
Christ came among us not to spiritually justify the power relationships of empire, but to create new human beings, "interbeings", each of whose happiness is linked to that of the others in webs of joy, in which the flourishing of each is the condition for the flourishing of all. While capitalism isolates each consumer in the web of his or her possessions, Christ liberates us from individual possessions into the world of the common good, whose light enriches our spirits with the reflected glory of the whole. Socialism, as described in the Acts of the Apostles, was originally a Christian idea, one that grew directly from the spirit of the Gospel.
This is a truth that the great political leaders of our time such as Hugo Chavez, understand instinctively. Recently, in his commentary on Socialism Doesn't Fall from the Sky, he expounded the following statement, "To build the new society, he stressed, it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations' -- the factors of production and the production of goods and services -- 'to build the new man, the new woman.'" in this way:
"And do you know who spoke of new human beings more than two thousand years ago? Do you know who? Christ and the prophets spoke of the arrival of new human beings. Christ was a new man; he was the incarnation of the new human being, except that they crucified him. Old human beings often crucify new men and women because they don't want anything new. And new human beings are social beings, human beings. Che said that revolutionaries are the highest form of human beings, the kind of person who lives each day not thinking of her own gain nor of how to obtain that personal material gain -- no, no, no, thinking of other people. And, what is more, in relation to a project -- in this case the revolutionary Bolivarian project -- completely committed, struggling against old vices -- corruption, abuses of power, egoism -- and against those categories that are capitalist: commodities, economic profitability."
Note that revolutionaries are the highest form of human beings in the view of Che Guevara because they are not centered on their own material interests. There are several major flaws in socialist thinking as practiced in the 20th century, but one of the most fatal was its economic determinism: the idea that history would inevitably lead to just social relations through the operation of deterministic laws of material interest. This thinking is as illusory as the blind faith in the free market practiced by our current capitalist overlords. In fact, Chavez is speaking of the necessary spiritual basis for just social relations. To take the "dull instruments left by capitalism", individuals enslaved by the commodification of life, and try to build the world of socialism out of that, on the theory that the material interests of the oppressed class would lead to victory, is sheer fantasy. The just society is built by those who live justice in their daily lives, and this justice flows not from material interests, but the love that flows from the root of the branches.
"This isn't the most important thing - individual material interest, etc. can't be what guides any human being who calls herself socialist and who joins in the construction of a socialist society." Here we see the awakening of a new type of socialism, emerging directly from its practice under current Latin American conditions. This practice is implicitly spiritual and leads to a spiritual goal: "We need to remember the goal. The world that we want to build is the society of associated producers, where each individual is able to develop his full potential, the world which, in Marx's view would allow the 'absolute working-out of his creative potentialities,' the 'complete working out of the human content,' the 'development of all human powers as such the end in itself.'" Of course, these "human powers" need not be understood in a purely materialist sense, though they require a material basis in just economic relations.
At the center of this vision is the new man, "Christ, as I mentioned before -- although some bishops get angry, that's not my fault, I am free to say what I believe; here everyone is free to say what she or he thinks -- I believe that Christ was a great socialist, the greatest of our era." - Hugo Chavez
The new man is built through the practice of love, who finds joy in making others joyful, who cannot rest in his individual happiness as long as one soul suffers on God's earth. This revolutionary practice requires complete dedication and is not simply the antidote to the violence and injustice that poisons life in this world, but is the positive force of which violence is the negation. "Truth's answer to the problem of a social injustice more profound that was anticipated - as is always the case - is not the contradiction to truth of violence but rather more commitment, more imagination, more aggressive action, more love, more suffering, more of our lives in the struggle - for the medium of truth's power is neither a proposition nor a gun but a more and more loving human being." - James W. Douglass.