By: Mark VanSteenwyk
Note: This article originally appeared on Mark's blog
Recently, Pope Francis has been issuing challenges to our capitalist system–how it nurtures exclusion, inequality, and death. He has gotten pushback from the likes of Rush Limbaugh for sounding like a Marxist. I am thankful that the Pope is using his pulpit this way. Here’s an example:
How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
I agree with the Pope: what we see in our era of late modern consumer capitalism goes beyond conventional exploitation and oppression. The cost of human lives is now factored in as commodity; using up human lives–in wars or in factories–is a cost of doing business. We have entered a new era of disposable humanity.
But it begs the question: What do we do about it? It is one thing to agree with the Pope and share his wisdom on Facebook, Twitter, or (for those stuck in 2004) the blogosphere. Beyond that, we may even try to influence our legislators when we feel stirred. But often such righteous passions are fleeting. How do we respond to the growing devaluing of human beings?
Our first instinct, I suspect, is to distance ourselves from this process of dehumanization. We sympathize with the oppressed and cast off, but it has little to do with us.
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