Young: Worshippers at church of the immaculate profit
Special to the Daily
War on Christmas alert: In this season as we gather for our most cherished tradition, who stands ready to serve as an agent of its besmirchment?
Who but Pope Francis.
And we thought he was on Christmas’ side.
That most cherished holiday tradition? Spending money, lots of it, and making profits, lots of them.
The pope has called that into question, and with it the spirit of Christmas as we practice it. And just as the fist fights had commenced.
Granted, when he said that “unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence,” he wasn’t necessarily talking about Black Friday brawls over bath towels. He was talking about economic inequality.
But what the pope had to say wasn’t all about matters that make a few rich and so many poor. It also was about the “idolatry of money.” Indeed, he called unfettered capitalism a “new tyranny.”
He might as well have plugged Snoopy between the eyes at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The subversive comments are contained in his “Evangelii Gaudium,” described as the platform for his papacy. And let us say, the pope let ’em — er, us — have it.
He denounced “the absolute autonomy of markets,” particularly when the poor lose out relative to those whose ungodly riches and interests are ever preeminent.
Wait. A tyranny of free markets? That can’t be. Anyway, isn’t this the freedom implied in Genesis? You know: “Be fruitful and multiply”? Well, it depends.
Recent comments by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the maverick Vermont independent, sound a lot like the pope’s. Instead of the poor being Sanders’ chief concern, however, he is thinking of our planet.
He speaks of “hyper capitalist” conditions, where policies even promote efforts “to privatize water, for God’s sake.”
Relative to hypercapitalism’s sway, he points to special interests’ successful resistance to addressing fossil fuels’ role in climate change. Industrial and political forces hold sway against even incremental responses. Why? Because in our value system, profitability is next to godliness.
To those who reject the science of climate-change causation: Even if you are right and the science is wrong, reducing pollution, conserving fossil fuels and being better conservators of the Earth are all right. “Drill here, drill now” is about making something that is already scarce even scarcer. Energy conservation is about extending the life of what we have.
“Conserve” is the root word of “conservatism.” Unfortunately, as pertains to economic matters in a state of hypercapitalism, “conservative” has come to mean “profit-driven.”
Gordon K. Durnil, in his 1996 book “The Making of a Conservative Environmentalist,” expressed frustration at getting fellow Republicans to see the health costs associated with pollution when calculating whether environmental initiatives might be worthy.
In a debate over a state GOP platform, Durnil recalled being on the losing side of a clash over what a “cost-benefit analysis” meant. He maintained that “cost” should include general health costs. The winning side in the debate simply wanted to know what a particular policy might cost business (or taxpayers).
How will the Affordable Care Act shake down ultimately? Will it mean higher premiums for some? Extra government subsidies? Better not, say those who see costs in only one way, the corporate way.
What about the benefit (and avoided costs) of millions of previously uninsured Americans getting preventive care? What about the benefit (and avoided costs) of these people’s needs being met by primary-care providers rather than ER staffs?
These conditions carry incalculable costs. We avoided addressing them for generations. Why? Because, as Pope Francis explains, our system is built on inequality, and material gain is valued above all else in a tyranny that is money-driven.
Talk about raining on our holiday parade.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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