POLITICAL ECONOMY, UTOPIA and POPE FRANCIS
Many who hear of our initiative to use the vote, your vote, to create a People’s Political Economy of Trusteeship set in Ecology and Evolution, sympathetically and simply reply: ‘It’s impossible’. Others speak of a Utopia, which means you may recall No-place. Pretty vision, poor politics – they imply.
Two points in our response
FIRST. We think it is possible …with your help – that’s the key. We are inviting you to engage; and, when the time comes, to vote for independent and just inclusiveness in a society of trustworthiness.
SECOND. Rather than Utopia think of Pope Francis. He has just published an encyclical focusing globally on environment and human responsibility, addressing his strong challenge to all the world’s people. Remember that ‘universal ‘ is the primal meaning of ‘catholic’ Viable wisdom is that which fits all. It is an inclusive concept.
Take the theme of what for the Green’s is ‘unsustainable’, for the moral is greed. Someone speaks of Pope Francis as being ‘like a Naomi Klein in a cassock’. This encyclical is nothing less than a call to redesign our entire mind-set of ‘political’ versus ‘economic’ to a unified Peoples Political Economy set in Ecology and Evolution.
It is greatly encouraging to us that this encyclical, ‘Laudato Si…’, contains strong points that fortify many themes in our initiative for a 2015 People’s Magna Carta for the 21st century
One of its many history-making features is that it is the first encyclical fully conceived and completed by a non-European. What difference does this make?
It comes from a Third World pope. Pope Francis’ earlier life and ministry were marked by global capitalism and authoritarian communism fighting for control over his native Argentina. He saw firsthand how both ideologies left the poor in misery. Argentina suffered crippling economic crises as it attempted to play by the rules that richer countries put in place. This encyclical speaks from that history.
It transcends Cold War antagonisms. What it offers is a refreshing departure from the ideological boxes that plague the rich world’s discourse. It opposes an economy based on short-term corporate profits while embracing the creativity and productivity that markets encourage. It deplores the divide between haves and have-nots, and calls for dialogue rather than battling allegiances. Above all, he opposes the idolatry of any ideology that puts itself before the well-being of human beings and creation. That is the basis of what we call ‘principled pragmatism’, stated universal wisdom and practical steps to pursue it.
At best the environmental movement and its opponents often seem to be pursuing a theoretical cause, reserved for the wealthy and highly educated. Pope Francis frames his teaching with the perspective of the world’s poor, for whom the climate crisis is not a future possibility but a present reality. He identifies the “ecological debt” that the rich owe to the poor for the effects of their relentless consumerism. We wrestle with this as the ‘democratic deficit’ and seek to enable everyone to participate responsibly in generating inclusive justice.
As with our emphasis on Trusteeship the encyclical places the commons over property. “God rejects every claim to absolute ownership,” Pope Francis writes. While the world’s rich justify their pollution on the basis of property rights, Christian tradition upholds private property only as long as it fosters stewardship for the common good. The world is first of all God’s gift to everyone, and property cannot be used to withhold the necessities of life from the many for the enrichment of the few. “The climate is a common good,” he reminds us, “belonging to all and meant for all.”
As with our emphasis on subsidiarity and devolution the encyclical doesn’t offer particular policy proposals so much as it invites everyone into a common dialogue.
As with our emphasis on science and religion woven into ‘principled pragmatism’, it takes both Christian tradition and science seriously. However radical this document may seem, it falls squarely in the mainstream of both the scientific community and Christian tradition. Regarding scientific claims, he respects the authority of scientists who speak from their qualified studies and takes it for granted that Christian faith must be consistent with the deliverances of reason that seeks inclusive justice and intergenerational replenishment of the earth rich resources.
As with our emphasis on a context of Ecology and Evolution for all political and economic governance so that ‘power-over others’ is to be transformed by ‘power –with others’ it speaks of relationship rather than dominion. Pope Francis outlines an “integral ecology,” one centered on the sanctity of human life, while recognizing that human flourishing depends on the flourishing of the environment of which we are a part. He too takes the African concept of ubuntu, ‘I am because t you are’, seeing the dignity of humanity expressed in our relationships to origin to each other and to evolving creation.
As with our emphatic call for you participation, yes, your participation through your continuing association and then your vote, the encyclical insists that we can make a difference. Addressed to “every person living on this planet,” Pope Francis concludes that we can rely solely on neither the state, nor an invisible hand of the market, nor the wonders of technology can solve the climate crisis for us. He calls on each of us to recognize our own personal and communal mistakes against creation, and in metanoia – a mighty change of mind, to reorient our lives toward a healthier kind of relationship. This means not choosing one form of consumerism over another, but directing our resources toward a different kind of political economy altogether—one based not on short-term profits but on long-term flourishing. We’ll disagree about how to do this. And it is not a temporary matter of somehow saving the world and then being done.
This encyclical will be a lasting part of Christian teaching on universality, and it calls us—now and always, wherever we are in the world—because ‘our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest and of violence’; calls us to deepen our relationship with our profoundly threatened planet; and to determine a new PEOPLE’S POLITICAL ECONOMY OF TRUSTEESHIP SET IN ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION.