Two Dreams and One Nightmare
Well, hesitating (again) if there is any use in writing, as actually the facts are clear and thus little if anything can be added – perhaps a personal rant, and then of course the Beckett’ian danger is coming with it:
I tried to groan, Help! Help! But the tone that came out was that of polite conversation
Still, having decided to write I want to begin with two dreams – though seeing them as dreams may be in itself questionable and it may be better if we talk about two claimed visions and gospels.
THE FIRST DREAM
Well, the one is surely about a gospel, nearly literally
“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” – “
” Praise be to you, my Lord”
– these are the words standing at the beginning of the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of The Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home
There is much to be said, finally we are talking about a document of 184 pages. And though most of it is not much more than a long lament, extending the praise of the Lord to the world and mother earth, there is also something said about this Common House highlighting that it is the responsibility of all of us. And the old vision is taken up: we are talking about the need of profound changes needed when it comes to
lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies.
– thus already said in the Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus from 1991.
It is somewhat striking that the lament then translates into establishing a tension between individual behaviour and technical possibilities and ‘technical wrongdoing’ on the one hand and the celebration of the common good.
Sure, there is some general sentiment, highlighting that
[w]e are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to com- bating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.
And indeed it is highlighted that
the abandonment and neglect also experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services and where some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or even the hope of a more dignified life.
And it is also emphasised:
Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same “use and throw away” logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary.
However, when the letter turns to concrete steps the ‘systemic character’ seems to be forgotten.
It is indeed remarkable that Francis highlighted on another occasion, with respect to the Evangelii Gaudium
The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.
It may be considered that exactly this lack, not as matter of (non-)Marxism but as matter of engaged reference to real discussions and power-questions and their scientific reflection is highly problematic. In a way it turns another statement of the pontiff against himself, namely the statement he made in Asunción on the 11th of July:
Ideologies end badly, and are useless. They relate to people in ways that are either incomplete, unhealthy, or evil. Ideologies do not embrace a people. You just have to look at the last century. What was the result of ideologies? Dictatorships, in every case. Always think to the people, never stop thinking about the good of the people. A sharp critic of ideologies was once told: “Yes, but these men and women are well intentioned and want to help the people”. The critic replied, “Yes of course, everything for the people, but nothing with the people”. Such are ideologies.
This may well be true even if he aims on the 180 degree turn, leaving everything to the people, including, with a bizarre twist poverty bay taking refuge in the preaching and living of Assisi, strangely taken up by Evo Morales
THE SECOND DREAM
Are we then, taking it from there, not living in a modern society, in a capitalist society with certain rules, and even democratic claims and standards? This is the danger of general statements and appeals: forgetting about the realities
– The one harsh reality is that the common house is only possessed by ‘the one percent’ and the praise of poverty easily translates into the praise of exclusion, though it surely is not meant by him.
[i]n some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty.
– The return to the medieval is toped now by European governments that recently went further back – it is not about beauty but about the brute force, betraying democratic rules, but also the command of enlightenment and its quest for rationality – indeed, they crucified him: Alexis and with the person they sacrificed exactly those rights that had been just mentioned.
In fact, the common home ‘belongs’ to the one percent and this one percent is not following its claimed rules of a ‘rational economy with an invisible hand’; instead it is based on a very visible hand, that denies the meaning of any rationality, even the IMFIMF now highlighting that the ‘victory’ is an expensive fixation of failure, making a sustainable development impossible – taken everything together making clear that negotiations had not been to any degree touched by a notion of respect and rationality as experience shows:
It’s not that it didn’t go down well – it’s that there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. … You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on – to make sure it’s logically coherent – and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply. And that’s startling, for somebody who’s used to academic debate. … The other side always engages. Well there was no engagement at all. It was not even annoyance, it was as if one had not spoken.
The only rationale had been the strangulation, strangulation even of top-level people if they are not fitting into their scheme.
the name of that game was deterrence. In plain English, make the terms of any deal with any rebellious, indebted, government in Europe so tough – almost unacceptable – that nobody in their right mind would ever dare challenge the status quo ever again. And while one is at it, make sure that everybody else understands that the terms of the agreement – like the one recently foisted on the Greeks – is seen for what it is: unconditional surrender.
and the reality had been characterised by Yanis in clear words:
The recent Euro Summit is indeed nothing short of the culmination of a coup. In 1967 it was the tanks that foreign powers used to end Greek democracy. In my interview with Philip Adams, on ABC Radio National’s LNL, I claimed that in 2015 another coup was staged by foreign powers using, instead of tanks, Greece’s banks. Perhaps the main economic difference is that, whereas in 1967 Greece’s public property was not targeted, in 2015 the powers behind the coup demanded the handing over of all remaining public assets, so that they would be put into the servicing of our unpayble, unsustainable debt.
What remains – amongst others? Debt not paid by Germany after WWII; no flourishing landscapes in the former GDR as they had been promised. But the humiliation of not only the people of Greece, but of those people of Europe who really have (had) a democratic vision.
The governors said and claimed they would have a dream of a Europe for all; in fact they confirmed a fortress, using banks instead of tanks and building fences as in Hungary, where the water the water is not ‘protecting’ the wealth of the few, right as said in Mathew 25:29
For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
What remains – amongst others? There are five giant tensions:
- the overproduction of goods and the turn of goods into ‘bads’
- societal abundance versus inequality of access
- abundance of knowledge and its misdirection towards skills
- the individualisation of problems and their emergence as societal threat
- the complexity of government and the limited scope of governance
It is not ideology but simple necessity to tackle them by clearly looking at the responsible individuals and the underlying structures. Really arriving at a common home means that still some should leave, and these are not the people, ‘disappearing in poverty and humility’ but those who pull at the one side of the strings by one or another kind of force.
Sure, as it had been said
We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.
But, equally sure is that the principle of Matthew will not be overcome by hope and retreat in joy as long as we face a
The challenge for us – as economists, social philosophers and even more so as people – is to think thoroughly about the alternative
- between an economy that is without values, i.e. that is disembedded and only following the value of reproduction – the paradox being that this means pure self-destruction
- and a value system that finds its joy in retreat from reality.
If there is any truth in the common home, the
thinking about the good of the people
has to be made a reality an economy of, and not for the people.
 It is questionable as for instance the so-called European Social Model always had been a bit about a fig leaf for what had been foreseeable for a while
 See as well my notes on the Vatican Spring:
 see also my forthcoming works: The Silent Revolution Reaching Society – Outlining a New Analytical Perspective; Precarity – Outlining a New Analytical Perspective; Social Policy Development in the International Context – Social Investment or a New Social Treatise?; Social Policy Development in the International Context – From Contract to Treaty? And Employment Crisis or Crisis of Employment