Monday, January 27, 2014

How does Pope Francis keep believing?

The world I will hand over to my grandson is measurably worse than the world I was given, in almost every sense imaginable. Like many other people of goodwill, I have fought the good fight and essentially lost. How does Jorge Bergoglio keep the faith?

I have no idea.

This is not a rant against others. I know my flaws all too well ("...I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me," says Psalm 51). Any dispassionate observer looking at my life would see someone born with more privilege than 4/5ths of humanity (this probably applies to most people in the United States) and all I managed to achieve is securing my own well-being and a college degree for my sons.

If I am honest, my life says I care about me and mine. Well, "mine" not so much at times.

Looking at my life I see that I have written about injustices for decades, done some volunteering here and there, made tax-deductible and non-deductible donations to "good" organizations and to people I have come across, voted responsibly and generally been an average middle class do-gooder. None of this has had much effect; granted these were not heroic nor large contributions.

Lest the reader think I don't know what I am talking about, consider that in the richest economy in the world, middle incomes have been in stagnation and decline since 1973, while productivity and profits have soared. Things have not been better elsewhere.

Consider how
  • "Second wave" feminism of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem ends up looking like a deliberate ruse by the plutocracy to double the supply of workers, thus driving wages down. 
  • The civil rights movement led to only token reforms and blacks never acceded in the right proportions to the social and economic well-being experienced by whites when Martin Luther King spoke of his famous dream. 
  • Those who took arms against injustice actually furthered the careers of many a Western intelligence and military man's career.
Moreover, to delve in Pope Francis' pond, didn't Soeur Sourire (the gentle nun who sang "Dominique-nique-nique" about St. Dominic to the sounds of her guitar) end up committing suicide at the end of a lesbian affair gone wrong? Weren't the clerics of the Vatican II era, conservative and liberal alike, consummate liars?

So, who's to say that the much ballyhooed victories of the Baby Boomers in the 1960s and 70s weren't merely mirages and the leaders mere stooges? Even polio is back, thanks to the Syrian civil war.

This is why I'm thinking that the Republican economic conservatives have a point. Life is nasty, brutish and short; the law of the jungle prevails and the real ethic to which everyone adheres is "me first."

In that state of things, why love your neighbor (other than carnally if it pleases you)? Why derive from such a principle a socioeconomic perspective that would in theory lead to a better life for all? Why not admit our fundamental selfishness and be done with it? Let the most selfish win.

Certainly, the tale about a Galilean woodworker 2,000 years ago is full of holes, as are the stories of Abraham and Moses. The religion of Mohammed has been so twisted and distorted into hate and war as to neutralize its genuinely peace-loving principles. Perhaps Buddha, who did not bother to start an actual religion, had a the right idea.

I suppose that's why I believe that the sun will "rise" tomorrow. Beyond that, I'm not so sure.
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