There are so many bugaboo words out there, words that generate immediate, negative, emotional reactions, even horror from people of certain ideological backgrounds. If you are a staunch neoliberal one such bugaboo is the word communism. When accusing someone of terrible philosophical and economic sins don't forget to label them a communist. Of course most people don't really know what communism is, was or might be. They've heard of Karl Marx, maybe even Lenin, The Domino Theory, Fidel Castro, and they know about the Cold War, Stalin, purges, and the Soviet Union, and because Mao called himself a communist and did unspeakably evil things to his population during their “heroic revolution” many people associate the word communist with pure evil, failed states and mass death. Also, most people don't have any idea how the term neoliberalism has changed over time. Many on the left just see it as a synonym for greed and corporate conspiracies. Both are wrong.
It takes some work to get background information on these subjects. They are, well you know, complex.
Now we have a Pope whose political views are a tad bit too liberal for some people. So what do we do? Scream at the top of our lungs, "The Pope is a communist!"
HERE IS A LIST OF QUOTES BY THE POPE. Is the world in danger because of this Pope's message?
It saddens and frustrates me when I'm talking with someone and they obviously have a very shallow idea of the history of social philosophy, and yet are so wedded to labels that have been so abused by global media that they've lost all semblance of relevance and meaning.
A few months of auditing philosophy courses on iTunes U could help a little bit where one is unwilling to read, but regardless of our educational efforts most of us will remain chained to whatever ideological beliefs we've grown accustomed to until doomsday comes. The idea that there may be other ways we could do things never crosses our minds. We are part of a likeminded community and that’s all that matters.
Today despite progress on many fronts across the world: in fighting poverty, in the emergence of democratic states where once there were only dictatorships, in the advancement of technology, science, medicine, agriculture and so on, we still could do things better. Couldn't we? Isn't our aim always to improve?
I'm hoping people will see how important it is to be aware of the major issues of our time, and therefore, make an effort to have a good understanding of where our ideas come from. It's truly difficult to look at many sides of an issue and try to understand where disparate ideas and opinions are coming from, but it's an effort worth making. The more deeply we engage these issues the more motivated we’ll be to participate in molding our future.
I’m from a Catholic and Protestant background with people in Ireland and Holland as well as middle-of-the-road Episcopalian relatives in the States. I grew up in the Catholic Church and the Episcopalian Church. I left the church behind quite early as my experiences traveling through much of my childhood and young adulthood left me with more questions than answers. Questions that just couldn’t be answered by interpretations of bronze-age, or medieval religious canons. I still carry many parts of my metaphysical and religious culture with me. I'm changing in small ways all the time, but I identify more readily with atheist, secular and humanistic thought than with most Christians, whatever type they are. I have nothing against anyone’s faith. Faith is part of our humanness. Perhaps I just can't see the utility of it in the context of my life. My worldview doesn't need it. But, I still learn from religion.
Now, we've had this debate about climate change, inequality, food safety, consumer safety, education, business ethics, union this and unfettered free market that for decades, and the cycles of belief just keep on cycling along. And, of course, we make progress in some areas sometimes - people in the U.K. don't get the death penalty anymore for being Gay. (How tragic was the demise of Alan Turing.) Civil rights was a victory, although an unfinished project in the real world today. The list is long and many people have written eloquently about our victories. Many good social critics have also given us heart-rending views of our horrendous failures; failures that might portend the end of the human species if we are not diligent and careful about how things proceed in our mundane world.
There are also extremist minorities that wouldn’t call anything in the 21st Century “progress”. They are hypocrites, of course, as they arise from our progress and take advantage of every tool our progress has produced. Some would like to see us go back to the middle ages, some would like to have an all “white” state. You know who I'm talking about. I'm pretty sure that they don't represent anything close to a large minority, but they do constitute a dire threat to all the progress we've made until now. They even threaten the potential of our being able to learn from our mistakes and rectify situations that we've caused that also threaten life as we know it.
Miss quoting Winston Churchill: "This is not a large minority, this is not the beginning of a large minority, but perhaps the end of a small minority." (Lest we're not diligent, the world as we know it could pass into obscurity and be forgotten by hapless generations to come.)
And all that brings me back to Pope Francis. On Thursday, he's publishing his encyclical dealing with his views on climate change.
The thing that bothers me is that when the Pope talks about poverty in his Liberation Theology way, or suggests that to really help alleviate poverty top down gifts won't help; instead, we the people have to learn to understand what it really means for poor people to be poor; to empathize with their situation; to exercise some compassion; to have to walk in their shoes to really learn what it will take to bring people to a better place, not just to the shopping mall - then he's labeled communist.
(Yes, he’s no Ayn Rand.)
For his sincere and well thought out perspectives the best his critics can do, way before engaging with his ideas, is point a finger and scream communist. I find that to be the pinnacle of ignorance, laziness, and dishonesty. People like Rush Limbaugh in the US are lionized for calling the Pope names. But where is the rigor of their thought? I just don't see it. Shock jocks have a conspicuous lack of imagination. They merely play to their market and ramble on and on about what scares us.
Now we see that the ultimate shock may be a Pope who actually cares about life on earth. WOW - what a situation we find ourselves in! "People, The Rapture doesn't have to be fire and brimstone, it could be a realization that we can do better." Now that's a revelation.
Now, I'm not an apologist for Catholicism, or for the current definition of neoliberalism, I'm just hoping and praying (in my Atheist way) that people will educate themselves about these issues. It seems to me that we have a religious leader that’s got some important things to share with people about what it means to be a good human being. He seems to walk the Jesus walk, whether you believe the story of Jesus is a myth or not, he's got some good things to say. Some of his moral messages are quite good I do declare.
Please read the Pope’s encyclical when it’s published on Thursday. Then meditate on it and think about what he’s saying a bit more deeply than Rush. Then decide if he’s just a communist or if he may be more that that - like a truly concerned and decent member of the human race.
We all need to learn from each other. Let’s give the guy a chance, then we can go back to some comfort ideology from Rush or whoever we like to hear barking at us.
FROM CORP WATCH FOR ACTIVISTS (I'm not saying I agree with it, BUGABOO)
I prefer the droning monotone of one of my favorite shock jocks: Good old Noam.
Rush rambles on and speculates endlessly as do media types in the US. Is this entertaining?