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, August 02, 2008

The Vision




"It is the vision of a society with the goal (according to Saint-Simon) of providing to its members 'the greatest possible opportunity for the development of their faculties', a goal to which Louis Blanc referred as ensuring that everyone has 'the power to develop and exercise his faculties in order to really be free' and of a society in which, according to Friedrich Engels, 'every member of it can develop and use all his capabilities and powers in complete freedom and without thereby infringing the basic conditions of this society'" - Michael Lebowitz, "The Spectre of Socialism for the 21st Century"

This is the dream that cannot die. The fundamental injustice of capitalism is that it subjugates the development of our human capacities, for compassion, for creativity, for spirituality, to the demands of the marketplace. It then mystifies a situation which is the conscious creation of committed ideologues as the natural state of fallen humanity. As Christians, we have the legacy of a vision of the rich human being, exemplified most clearly in Jesus Christ and lived by saints throughout the ages. The subordination of our moral and spiritual aspirations to economic brutalization, along with the military excursions which this requires, can no longer be tolerated.

The division between secular economic life and personal religious life is an historical artifact. The new economic order which arose in the sixteenth century found it necessary to separate religious concerns from economic "necessities" in order to extend its profitable reach. The legacy of this split is the impotence of Christians and other religious to speak with clear and consistent authority on economic practices that violate the fundamental moral truths that Jesus Christ died in bringing to us.

But new voices such as Leonardo Boff who speaks out for another kind of spirituality "based on an ethic of responsibility, solidarity and compassion; and a spirituality founded in care, in the intrinsic value of each thing, in a task well performed, in competence, in honesty and in transparency of intentions." - Leonardo Boff, "Essential Care: An Ethics of Human Nature"

Real wealth is the person who is rich in his or her own humanity, rich in qualities and relations. Real wealth is the development of human capacity, for invention, for creation, for the unbiased pursuit of truth, for an ever-increasing sense of solidarity with others, especially those most marginalized. Jesus has shown us the way to true wealth. He provides the spiritual underpinning of that "development of all human powers as such the end in itself", which Marx spoke of as the goal of liberated humanity. Instead of acting as disposable batteries for the expansion of the wealth of others, we rise up in our essential humanity and refuse to subordinate the rich potentialities which God has given us to that which is fundamentally immoral - the enrichment of the few through the enslavement of the many.

We stand at a point in history where our need for development must begin to take precedence over the dominance of global capital which is destroying the very earth that it leeches from. The means to provide a decent life free from hunger and treatable diseases for all the people of this world now exists. The fact that these means are not being employed to carry out this purpose is a shocking scandal to the Christian conscience. "Our goal, in short, cannot be a society in which some people are able to develop their capabilities and others are not; we are interdependent, we are all members of a human family. Thus our goal must be the full development of all human potential." - Michael Lebowitz, "The Spectre of Socialism for the 21st Century"

This implies that we are participants, not consumers. Our fully developed capacity for conceiving and implementing new social forms requires that we participate in the formation of our own social reality. The cynical passivity which sits at the end of the pipe of production and sucks down whatever is generated by corporations implies a severely stunted humanity. It is by producing that change ourselves that we become transformed and enliven the powers of transformation. Social change is not a gift bestowed from on high by Presidents, policy wonks, or Congressional representatives. It is a burning hunger within ourselves to participate in the shaping of our own political and economic world, shaping them according the spiritual standards that grow within our hearts as we grow in the love of God.

Our struggle - to love God and transform society - is the means by which we grow as human beings. This power is not something we find in the voting booth, but it can only be discovered as we struggle to become more human in our relationships with others and to reject the passivity which consumerism instills. Change in ourselves is the only path to social change.

Orthopraxis is the daily practice of reinventing ourselves as rich human beings. We live democracy by practicing democratic action in our work life, our schools, and in our families. We do not believe that Christ has called us to crippling, impoverishing labor that stunts our humanity in order to glut a tiny minority with enough worldly goods to feed whole countries, which are then frittered away in useless luxuries. If the right to private property permits this, then that right is a slap in the face of God's people.

The consumerist culture is not merely an expression of fallen human nature which we must resist privately by refusing sinful temptations to avarice and gluttony. It is a consciously cultivated ideology which produces alienated and fragmented human beings who must try to satisfy themselves by possessing and consuming things. It is a deliberately anti-spiritual ideology which stunts and truncates human nature in the interests of profit, often with the collusion of Christian churches.

While socialists are often accused, particularly by Christians, of instilling class hatred, the truth is that class hatred is a fundamental feature of this economic system. In this system, we relate to each other as competitors or customers. Thus in every social transaction, we are habituated to treating others as means to our own ends or as enemies. This applies particularly to the relations between owners and workers. The system is designed to objectify workers in the eyes of owners, reducing workers to mere expendable units to be discarded at the least expense when worn out. This is the root of class hatred, not socialist propaganda. Our relationships with others are rarely fulfilling because of the training in manipulation which we have all undergone, and which has left us fragmented and crippled human beings. Human beings torn apart and longing for a real unity with others that always eludes them are duped into a magical unity promised by megachurches.

So what is the alternative? The new Jerusalem, the original unity of the human beings and in the words of Augustine, the common destiny of the world's goods: "God willed that this earth should be common possession of all and he offered its fruits to all. But avarice distributed the rights of possession." The redemption of the world includes redeeming possession, so that all might share in the bounty of the earth.

10 comments:

Moon said...

i agree with part of ur words and invite u to my blog to see that muslims are dreaming the coming peace and how much they love jesus and Mary through quran. i hope u come to develope a friendship.

Boyd said...

Dear Moon, Please tell me what part of the post you agree and what you don't. I look forward to corresponding with you.

Moon said...

Hi . sorry in fact I was waiting for u so I just saw ur message Friday and I didn’t had enough time to type the answer that day.
At first I must say that my language is not English so it may happen that I don’t use a proper word for conveying my mean, but I hope u get it!
One : ur words r correct and I am agree with the soul of the writing but there is some points of ambiguity. Eg u say “ to really be free” from what? And how in ur words there is not an actual given way eg for me to do that. What kind of spirituality? And how I can get it?
Two: do u believe in a secular economic life or not ? I mean do u think that economy must be in the hands of a Christian view? Or in other words is it right in ur mind that the government be a Christian one? (not necessarily a church one)
Three: I think ur view is a mixture of that of Marx and Jesus? I want to ask u can we trust again in Marx when his thoughts came to an end in the countries that try it?
U may say plus spirituality it would work but the reality is that NEVER. The idea of common property would not work because it is intrinsic of human being to love himself so when he work but his money is not for him he prefer not to work. How much of equality existed in the soviet union ? nothing were the governors lived in the same way as the workers ? never. So u cant deny the right to private property but u must give a way to have it and have a healthy society

Moon said...

I think the way is a religious government. Not that kind of the church. But the one I know. In this one the governor and his men live as the lowest class of society do, he is a real pious man, in word and action. And meanwhile try to have control of his men by being careful to their works and their lives, they do not have the right even to take part in the parties of the high class, to be free of their demands later. And the main part of their work is to be careful about the life of the stunted ones. I think the resolution is justice that can be done by a religious government and a pious man. Spirituality and moral codes alone dose not work there must be a supervisor!
This is the words of that man to one of his governors:
Let me remind you once again that you are made responsible for guarding the rights of the poor people and for looking after their welfare. Take care that the conceit of your position and vanity of wealth may not deceive you to lose sight of such a grave and important responsibility. Yours is such an important post that you cannot claim immunity from the responsibility of even minor errors of commission or omission with an excuse that you were engrossed in the major problems of the State which you have solved diligently.
Therefore, be very careful of the welfare of the poor people. Do not be arrogant and vain against them. Remember that you have to take particular care of those who cannot reach you, whose poverty-stricken and disease-ridden sight may be hateful to you, and whom society treats with disgust, detestation and contempt. You should be a source of comfort, love and respect to them. Appoint a respectable, honest and pious person - a person who fears Allah and who can treat them honourably, order him to find out everything about them and to submit a report to you.
Then treat these poor people in such a way that on the Day of Judgement you can plead your case successfully before Allah because of all classes of your subjects this class deserves more of your attention, sympathy and fair-deal.

Moon said...

Then treat these poor people in such a way that on the Day of Judgement you can plead your case successfully before Allah because of all classes of your subjects this class deserves more of your attention, sympathy and fair-deal.
Though everyone of these poor persons deserves your sympathy and you will have to do justice to His cause to achieve His favour, yet you should pay more attention to young orphans and old cripples. They neither have any support nor can they conveniently come out begging. They cannot reach you; therefore, you must reach them.
Remember that the fulfillment of this obligation and duty is considered as a tiresome burden by most of the rulers but to those who desire to achieve His Blessings and to enter into His Realm, even this work seems light and congenial. They bear it happily, dutifully and sincerely. They find pleasures in it and they believe in the promise made by GOD.

Out of your hours of work, fix a time for the complainants and for those who want to approach you with their grievances. During this time you should do no other work but hear them and pay attention to their complaints and grievances. For this purpose you must arrange public audience for them during this audience, for the sake of Allah, treat them with kindness, courtesy and respect. Do not let your army and police be in the audience hall at such times so that those who have grievances against your regime may speak to you freely, unreservedly and without fear
You must never give lands in permanent lease with all proprietary and ownership rights to your friends and relatives. You must never allow them to take possession of the source of water-supply or lands which have special utility for the communes. If they get possession of such holdings they will oppress others to derive undue benefits and thus gather all the fruits for themselves leaving for you a bad reputation in this world and punishment in the next.

Be fair in dispensing justice. Punish those who deserve punishment even though he may be your near relation or a close friend and even if such an action may give you pangs of sorrow and grief. Bear such a sorrow patiently and hope for Divine reward. I assure you this will bear good fruits

Moon said...

just that i am waiting for ur view ! good luck!

Boyd said...

Hi Moon,

It pleases me very much to see the love which Muslims have for Jesus and Mary. I would very much like to understand how Muslims view Jesus and Mary so that I can communicate it to Americans who are constantly bombarded with anti-Muslim propaganda.

Boyd said...

Hi Moon,

I just looked at your blog, "Jesus of Muslims" and I was moved by it. It shows how much Muslims revere Jesus and Mary. It made my own reverence for them to grow as well.

Boyd said...

You say that "I think ur view is a mixture of that of Marx and Jesus?" I would say that it is not a mixture of Marx and Jesus. My whole political philosophy is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. The place where Marx fits in is that he understood better than anyone the economic and political system that we have in the West. He understood why the poor are oppressed and how to change the system to release them from slavery. This has nothing to do with Russia or China, which never practiced real socialism, but a form of dictatorship and economic tyranny. Also, I am a Christian not an atheist like so many socialists. I hope that helps you understand where Jesus and Marx fit together in this philosophy.

Moon said...

thank u boyd first because of ur friendly view toward muslims. yes we love Jesus and Mary and in fact all prophets of God. actually we must believe in them all to be a real muslim. God says they come to say one thing! message of God never changes! thats muslim view. we like christians too because of that. i hope a day come when we enjoy peace !