Monday, November 25, 2019

Is the Pope a heretic, or are we Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, or Lawyers?


Is the Pope a heretic, or are we Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, or Lawyers?

Thanks be to God for Catholic TV and Radio

Like many Roman Catholics I have been pleased to watch programs on EWTN and Salt + Light. I was in seminary when in 1981 Mother Angelica listened to the Holy Spirit and boldly had the first TV and Radio studio built. It was seen as a remarkable act of God and an act of mercy for his Church and for all his children, the people of our time. 

Who are we to accuse this particularly fine Pope of heresy?

To my dismay, and that of many, perhaps countless R.C. Christians, there are now some who in the name of reporting news are joining voices that accuse Pope Francis of heresy. A number of analysts suspect that the primary motive of these accusations – which have been shadowing Pope Francis almost from the start of his pontificate – is that certain people don’t like the Pope’s call and efforts at reform in the Church. 

Is this a contemporary echo of what happened to Jesus?

The more I reflect on this and pray about it, the more apparent it seems to me that Pope Francis is being offered by our Lord Jesus an opportunity to suffer what He also suffered during his short 3-year mission on Earth. Jesus tried to reform the Temple’s practice of cluttering up the “Court of the Gentiles” with merchants selling sacrificial animals and bankers changing currencies. The Court of the Gentiles was part of the Temple intended by God to be a place where interested Gentiles could come for conversation with Jews about God.

Jesus’ efforts to reform the faith of Israel included reminding people about God’s mercy towards sinners, and to remind people that not doing any work to honour God on the Sabbath Day did not excuse anyone from the duty of performing works of mercy towards those who presented themselves in their need on that day.

Jesus’ reform met with severe criticism, unjust arrest, and false accusations, trumped up charges, unjust condemnation, incarceration, torture, and execution. It is obvious that Pope Francis is not the innocent and holy Son of God, but he is a good, just, and righteous man, a true believer, a devout Catholic Christian, a holy priest, an exemplary bishop with a long commitment to pastoral care of all the faithful and a predilection for the poor, and now, finally, an exemplary pope. 

Who were the Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, and Lawyers who accused and executed Jesus?

First of all, they were all men. Second, they were men of privilege, because they enjoyed the highest of all privileges obtainable in their society: education, wealth, and position of influence. Third, in principle, they belonged to the ruling classes, which exist to cultivate order and harmony by their service to their society.

What balance exists between privilege and responsibility, wealth and the common good, power and service? 

Such privileges come with social obligations towards the rest of the population who, through no fault of their own, have little or no access to any or all of those privileges. Those who accumulate to themselves the lion’s share of a society’s resources cannot escape from the truth that all the resources of Planet Earth belong to all for the common good of humanity as a species. Privilege enjoyed without responsibility towards the rest of society could define despotism. Wealth enjoyed without assuring public services could define tyranny. Power wielded without serving the common good could define totalitarianism.  

How could men convinced of their righteousness and religious devotion be so wrong?

The Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, and Lawyers who arrested, accused, and executed Jesus were to all appearances prominent men, religiously devout, and dedicated to their religion and its faith practice. How could they be so wrong about Jesus? How could they fail to see what was obvious to ordinary people, namely, that Jesus was a good and righteous man, a holy man, yes, and possibly even the Son of God? 

The only explanation I can see is that they were unwilling or unable to be self-critical. They were convinced of their perfect record in obeying all of God’s laws, prescriptions, and observances. Jesus had to remind them that they were forgetting the heart of God’s Law which is mercy. They didn’t buy it. They wanted everyone to be clearly identified as the sinners that they were, in accord with all their external failures to perfectly observe all the religious laws and prescriptions. They were mad as hell that Jesus accused them right back of interior sinful intentions and desires, because their good reputation mattered more to them than God’s judgement. Jesus took them to task for their hardness of heart and unwillingness to alleviate the people’s burdens.

How can people be so convinced that Pope Francis is a heretic? What is bothering them so much about him?

Frankly, after having read so many texts by those who accuse Pope Francis, and listening to a few people I know who feel the same way, I can only conclude that in our own day we have – without realizing it – slipped into the hard heartedness and hard headedness of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests, Scribes, and Lawyers who arrested, accused, and executed Jesus. 

We / they want it to be very clear who the “sinners” are, so that we can be clearly distinguished from “them”. Those who don’t like Pope Francis, or are angry with him, or despise him or some of his statements and his attitudes towards “them”: those who identify as LGBT etc., or any other issue distasteful to them, disagree with his efforts to reform the Church. They believe the Church is fine the way it is and doesn’t need reform.

How can we who are convinced of our righteousness and religious devotion be so wrong?

Surprisingly, or shockingly, I believe that we could characterize what happened to the religious leaders in Jesus’ day and is happening to the critics of Pope Francis as “vestigial adolescence”. One of the defining characteristics of adolescence – as a child emerges from childhood and begins to notice all that is wrong with the world which they are inheriting from the generations of adults who have gone before them – is shock at the mess they see and anger at the deficiencies in the inheritance we are bequeathing to them. 

When an adolescent gets stuck in that shock and anger – which are perfectly normal reactions to an abnormal situation – the shock and anger compel them to rebellion and misbehaviour which can harden into juvenile delinquency. By definition, a juvenile delinquent is an adolescent who is angry at the world, sees everything that is wrong with the world, but has no sense of personal fault or responsibility. The delinquent’s eyes are exclusively focused on all that is wrong “out there”, but unable to be aware of anything that might be wrong “in here”, that is, within me. If I cannot admit anything that is wrong with me, by the same token I am unable to appreciate anything that is right and good with me. This is a different kind of hardness of heart

The advent and development of a new professional field: that of the psychoeducator

If you search “psychoeducation” on the web, there are indications that this professional was developed around 1980 and much is made of developments in Germany. However, in the French society of Québec, Canada, in 1940 a priest founded Boscoville, inspired by the American “Boys’ Town”, and in the 1950’s and 1960’s they developed the process of re-education into a process of awareness raising and responsibility. Today there is a postgraduate degree in psychoeducation which produces licenses psychoeducators who participate in the province’s health and social services. 

The primary discovery during those decades of development was that when an interested person who accompanied a delinquent took interest in whatever good they were doing – rather than constantly harping on all that they had done wrong – in trying to speak about the good they had done, the delinquents began to exist in their own eyes. From that point on, they could begin to choose to take responsibility for their own life, and by the same token, had less need to blame the rest of society or to find fault with others. 

It is a well established principle in the Christian life that the best way to avoid becoming obsessed with the faults of others is to assiduously examine one’s own conscience and regularly confess one’s own faults and work on replacing bad habits with habits of virtue. 

Why are some Catholics / Christians critical of others rather than “walk humbly with their God”? (Micah 6:8)

Eurasia and the Middle East – a heritage of empires

This part of the world went through successive empires, invasions, wars, and eventually the development of nations. Human nature being what it is, the various peoples accumulated experiences of domination and exploitation by monarchs and invading tribes. At times they enjoyed benevolent rulers, but it didn’t last. Some nations developed empires of their own: the Ottomans, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Holland. They in turn expanded, conquered, and exploited other peoples. 

The Americas

The European nations and empires set their sights on the “new world” and some settlers came to escape the tyrannies they had known there. Unfortunately, the settlement of the Americas collided with native peoples, and the general policy practiced by the settlers in effect carried out the results found in genocide. The native peoples of the Americas were, more or less completely, wiped out or subjugated in destructive ways.

The United States of America

Most prominent among American states is the U.S.A. which has taken the name of “America” to itself. From the beginning, those who developed this nation have taken a posture of superiority towards all others with whom they have had dealings. They took over much of the Spanish colonies in the south and west, and even so far as the Philippines. Through various policies over the centuries they have exerted such influence and power over other states in the Americas; that few if any have enjoyed similar freedom to develop their own forms of government and effectively care for their own populations. Holding other nations back or assuring that they are ruled by dictators or governments willing to do American bidding is seen as a duty to assure “American interests”. 

It is increasingly becoming apparent to American citizens that government policies pursued in the name of “American interests” are not necessarily oriented towards the common good of citizens, but rather towards the good of the largest and most influential corporations. In other words, more and more of the resources in the land are at the service of profiting the very small minority of people who own those corporations. There are too many documentaries to be counted that report the American countryside resembles more and more a third world or undeveloped society. Companies exploit an area for profit and abandon it when it suits them.

The legal system, the health system, large corporations, and the military industrial complex are extremely efficient at assuring their own interests and development; while citizens experience that increasingly none of these players have any interest in the well being or development of citizens, families, or communities. This dimension of America is deeply infected by the virus of profit and greed that excludes the common good. We could call the virus “American capitalism”. 

Canada

Like the U.S.A., in World War II Canada had the impression of standing on a higher moral ground than the people of Europe, where the war was principally being fought. However, we were not very hospitable to Jewish refugees trying to find a safe haven from the Nazi death camps. We didn’t object very strongly to the bombing of civilians in Germany and other nations. We weren’t overly sad at the atomic bombing of civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but only too glad that those atrocities may have accelerated an end to the war.

The death of western civilization

Sadly and embarrassingly, Canada is now on the forefront of those championing “open season” on humanity: abortion on demand, euthanasia increasingly on demand, and what will be next? When a society no longer acknowledges the existence of a Creator, God, let alone any responsibility of gratitude and worship towards the Divine Being; it is a very short step for human beings to begin behaving as though they were god, exercising with reckless abandon power over life and death. What we found so abhorrent in Hitler we now embrace with hardly a qualm of conscience. 

Is there any remaining sense of the common good on the Earth?

One reason that America, Canada, European nations, Japan, China, India, and many nations have at some point been great and retain a capacity to be great nations is the existence within them of great people. Human beings attain greatness when they develop depth of conscience and greatness of spirit, which becomes manifest in their positive contributions to their own society and to other societies.

Poland

Citizens of Poland have with great effort maintained a collective sense of identity and survived very harsh and destructive regimes. Many of their citizens have shown greatness, and now they must meet the challenge of a form of capitalism that focuses primarily on personal profit without due consideration for the common good. They must now contend, like most nations on the Earth at this time, with the virus “American capitalism”. 

Africa and Latin America

The nations and peoples of Africa and Latin America have been exploited by the ancient empires of Greece, Babylon, Chaldea, Syria, Assyria, Egypt, Rome, and others. These were replaced by the Arabic Empire which came to be known later as Islam, the best known and longest lasting version of which was the Ottoman Empire. In turn it was displaced by the European empires and now by the American Empire. For a time they were caught in the cold war between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. With the fall of the former, there now is only the latter. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the American empire – particularly through its transnational corporations – is greatly interfering in the development of nations and their ability to look after the proper interests of their own peoples.  

Japan

The Japanese have long been impressive as a people. Their rise from medieval society and poverty at the end of World War II into an economic powerhouse and highly developed, educated, and sophisticated society has been truly remarkable. The whole world has been impressed with their response as a society to natural or other disasters, at which time their whole society mobilizes as though a single man. Their practice of wearing masks in public transit in order to avoid spreading respiratory infections is very impressive. However, not even the Japanese have been able to resist the virus of “American capitalism”. They are having so few children that their whole population is tipping into old age. Their development has not been without fear for the future. 

China

We westerners have been effectively brainwashed into seeing only the harsh violence of the communist revolution when we consider China and its people. As a child I was deformed with stories of missionaries tortured and killed. The narrative given to us came from our own societies which had been formed by their own interests as empires of exploitation and conquest. When missionaries came from European nations to the Americas – as they did to Asia, Africa, and Oceania – they travelled on the same boats that brought soldiers on a mission of conquest and exploitation.

The Communist Revolution in China had as its first goal the elimination of outside empires and their policies of conquest and subjection for exploitation. Only recently have I discovered that 80% of Chinese in China today self identify as Han. They are an almost completely homogeneous people and their language is Mandarin. Their current rapid progress is due to the hybrid development of capitalism and private ownership and enterprise with a central government operating according to communist principles. 

The Basque economic revolution

One of my most astounding discoveries in the past year has been to hear and read about a different form of capitalism that not only exists but is thriving in our world. In 1956 a Roman Catholic priest encouraged his unemployed and impoverished people not to wait for capitalists to come and invest in creating jobs for them but to go ahead and do it for themselves. Well, they did. Today, the Mondragon Corporation includes over 100 companies entirely owned and operated by the workers themselves. 

Workers evaluate supervisors instead of the other way around. Profits are not siphoned off for the benefit of a handful of owners or share holders, because the workers all have equal shares in the company and together they operate develop it. They set up their own university to assure the development of cooperation as a more beneficial form of capitalism, more beneficial for the whole of society, because the corporation reinvests in the nation in which its owners, the workers, dwell. The corporation pays its fair share of taxes, rather than seeking refuge in foreign tax havens.

Mondragon Corporation reinvests 10% of profits into education, 45% into research and development, and 45% into the worker / owners’ pension funds; where until they retire they are reinvested into the Corporation’s ongoing development and growth. The highest paid worker earns not more than 5 to 6 times the least paid worker, unlike American corporations where the difference is more like 300 times more. Is the success of Mondragon due to the strong sense of collective identity enjoyed by the Basques? Can others emulate and reproduce their success? Can cooperation co-exist with American capitalism and, in time, even replace it? 

Are we any longer capable of recognizing goodness, righteousness, and mercy, or of practicing them?

We are descendants and products of genocidal empires and plutocracies. We modern homo sapiens are ever more convinced of our superiority and inversely willing to recognize any external authority. To put it in a Roman Catholic context, the Pope cannot possibly be infallible because everyone else already is. While it is shocking to see TV reporters and commentators taking what appears to be glee in insinuating if not outright accusing Pope Francis of heresy; it is not surprising, and it is disappointing. 

Because of our political en economic heritage, but especially because of our human nature, we are almost incapable of recognizing authentic goodness, true righteousness, and divine mercy when we see them. It appears that we have very little appetite for practicing such virtuous attitudes and behaviours. However, the situation is not without hope, because it is merely further evidence that we stand in need of a Saviour. Thanks be to God that He has given us One: Jesus, his only-begotten Son, for whose coming once again we now have the privilege of preparing through yet another Advent Season.

Blessed Advent to you and your family!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Green for our environment but toxic for human life?

So now more and more people are showing concern for the environment

There is without question in our day - last summer and now the fall of 2019 - a rapid awakening and excitation of human awareness and related movement of human uprising over the rapid changes to the global environment of Planet Earth. The science is massively in and it is no longer logical to deny these changes: rapid melting of glaciers and ice caps, warming and acidification of the oceans and seas with resulting coral deaths and algae blooms, rising of sea levels, intensification of tropical storms and other storm systems, increasingly severe material damage and human injury and death due to severe storms, flooding, and, ironically, droughts, and the rapidly increasing occurrence of extinctions of living organisms.

We would expect this shift in human awareness and concerns to move citizens to shift from political parties lethargic to take remedial actions for the environment towards parties apparently committed to take remedial if not radical actions to stop further degredation of the global environment, such as in Canada the Green Party.

I joined the Green Party of Canada before the previous election, but when I received no coherent reply to certain questions, in the end I decided to vote for another party in order to bring to an end what I perceived at the time as dictatorial use of the PMO - Prime Minister's Office - to silence MP's and cut short dialogue and in effect limit cooperation.

My questions to the Green Party of Canada and its leadership touch on questions often considered to be moral issues, but actually my question addresses the very foundation of the term "green".

This political party is "green" and calls itself Green because it intends to champion the cause of the natural environment of Planet Earth for its own sake and for the good of humanity dwelling in and living as part of this natural environment. That's very good.

So "green" means doing all we can as human beings to protect and favor the flourishing of all living things on this planet, on the earth, underneath in the soil, on and in the waters - fresh waters and salt seas and oceans - in and on the trees, and in the air throughout the atmosphere. So we are "green" when we protect, care for, cultivate, and make judicious and good use of all living things. We are just beginning to understand that his also means to care for the soil with all its microorganisms which play such a crucial role in the development and productivity of plants, our main food source.

So what then is my question or problem?

Why, in not only the Green Party of Canada but also in the other parties that claim to champion the cause of our natural environment, do all these people consider the philosophy and policy of "green" to be inapplicable to human beings?

Women's health and well being

We Canadians are in great solidarity, for the most part, in continuing to commit ourselves to the gains made in the past century towards achieving, maintaining, and assuring equal rights and opportunity, health care and social services for women and children as well as for men.

It is true that there were women who suffered injury and even death when attempting to have an abortion when these were offered by doctors with questionable credentials or competence and in clinics under poor conditions. The Government of Canada brought these medical procedures into the health care system; so it is now less likely for a woman to suffer such injuries or death.

A woman's right to choose

Much propaganda is imposed on the whole population around a woman's right to choose her care. It is misdirecting and misleading propaganda because it obscures something else that is happening when a woman has an abortion. The unborn baby is terminated, killed, sucked out in a violent and bloody act or poisoned and burned by some sort of intense saline solution, both painful procedures from the point of view of that baby.

We go home content to know that we are upholding women's rights to choose their proper health care, but why are we so unwilling to uphold those same rights for the most vulnerable among us, the baby that has yet to be born into this world and cannot yet speak up for itself?

More pertinently for this discussion, why are we continuing to impose abortion as the only solution for issues of pregnant women's health care in those cases where the pregnant woman does not want the baby, is not able to afford the baby, is not ready to have that baby, or whatever the reason may be?

Why not champion babies as well as women whenever possible?

Why are we so unwilling to champion both lives, that of the pregnant woman as well as that of the unborn baby? All too often, the oppressive attitudes and social conditions known to hold women as captive as slaves in previous centuries persist today, but in a different mode.

A pregnant woman may not have the support of the male who fathered that baby, either because they are not married or because he does not want the baby or not yet, or because he is afraid for whatever reason. Under difference circumstances, she may be alone or young and still living with her parents. The conditions and circumstances will be as varied and different as women are unique.

It is almost impossible to believe that women would be so callous as to have no feelings whatsoever about a new life growing within them. It would be a rare woman who would consider a new baby as a dangerous enemy to be destroyed as soon as possible, but not unreasonable or difficult to understand how a woman might find the pregnancy itself, the change in her circumstances, as problematic.

We as a people have sufficient moral character and social fortitude, I believe, to champion both lives. Political parties - especially one so bold as to call itself "green" - should be able to not only preserve the practice of medical abortions within the health care system, but also to develop a far more robust support system across Canada to encourage all pregnant women troubled by their pregnancey to get the help they need in order to give their new baby - however unwanted by them - a chance to live.

Pregnant women need real support in real time, not oratory or political speeches

These women would need support throughout their pregnancy and then, after the birth, support as they get ready to surrender their baby for adoption. Instead of living through their months of pregnancy with dread and then having to endure the life long effects of having experienced the highly invasive procedure of abortion - no thinking human being can deny the violence of terminating this human life; these women wound discover the option they have of carrying their unwanted baby with love, knowing that they will lovingly transfer their baby to a set of parents willing and eager to do so.

For women who would avail themselves of this option to give birth to their baby, it would be better for the baby, better for the adoptive parents in the case of an adoption, better for the mother to not have the burden of having ended a life, better for the mother who in the end decides to keep her baby, better for the "absent father" who may experience a change and choose to take responsibility for the child as well as for its mother, better for the whole family that can rejoice in the welcome of a new life rather than conceal under cover of secret the termination of that life, and better for Canada.

Now that would be a more truly "green" policy and practice, if not entirely green.

Is contraception green? Could it be green if we wanted it to be green?

What about contraception? Again the propaganda would have us not touch this by claiming it has to do with a woman's right to choose her own health care. How is it health care for us human beings to treat our own human condition as something that needs to be medicated?

Human fertility is not a disease, but one of our natural abilities and powers, the power to procreate as well as to form a lasting bond of spousal and family love and care. Ironically, there are perfectly effective ways for human beings to regulate their fertility and "plan" their family that are completely green, that don't involve subjecting either the woman or the man to invasive chemical concoctions that almost always have side effects, some of which are very troubling.

There has probably never been so much infertility in human history as there has been since the introduction and regular use of the contraceptive pill. The propaganda around the introduction and later the continued marketing of the pill claimed to "free women" from the confines of their fertility cycle, but the evidence since 1961 shows the opposite effects. Women have never been so reduced to the level of a commodity or object to be used as since then. When people had a little more respect of the mystery of human fertility, men in particular but also women were more inclined to have respect for their bodies and their whole self.

When the respect or more basic "fear" of fertility was removed, the floodgate was opened for women to conduct themselves "as freely as men", but the result was not Utopia or Paradise on Earth. If truth be told, women are less happy or fulfilled now than ever before.

How can we be "green" when we assist in our own social disintegration?

For men the collapse has been even more complete and tragic. Whatever their faults may have been in previous generations, at the very least most men could at least be credited for showing respect for the women in their lives and for women of all ages in general. The sexual revolution accompanied by the launch of the pill made it easy for men to reduce women to objects for their pleasure, in one stroke surrendering or abandoning their male role of protector and reducing themselves to narcissists.

The ravages are everywhere to be observed and lamented: selfish and uncommited adult women and men, disintegrated families, single parents that are mostly mothers, absent or non-existent fathers, unfathered lost rebellious adolescents, adult children who never leave their parents' home and never grow up or take full responsibility for their life and contribution to society, ever increasing violence in a downward spiral sapping the life from human society. Individual citizens can and do try to do all they can to cultivate life in their own home and family and around them, but the "ungreen" human policies of our political parties will not do anything to remedy the situation but only ensure that it gets worse.

Medically assisted dying

The reason we now have a law in Canada obliging medical staff to aid people to hasten their dying is because a good cause was made for those people who apparently were suffering to a degree that had become impossible to endure any longer. It has proven difficult if not impossible to argue against the new policy now enshrined in law. We who are currently living on Planet Earth have developed a high intolerance for pain and suffering, perhaps losing sight of the values human being have nonetheless found in their suffering since the dawn of time.

Not unlike pregnant women who are troubled by an unexpected pregnancy combined with the lack of support, or in some cases their perceived lack of support, for continuing their pregnancy and bringing the baby to term - for whatever eventual outcome - there is a similar crisis in the case of those who want to hasten the time of their death.

Normal human beings under normal circumstances generally want to live and to live as long as they possibly can. Life is worth living as Bishop Fulton Sheen used to say. That perspective can and does change when people get sick or are injured and suffer and experience pain on various levels.

Why are our public institutions so intent on imposing abortion as the only solution to an unwanted pregnancy? Now in this case, why are our public institutions so intent on imposing medical aid in dying as the only solution for the person who wants an end of their suffering?

Encouraging or supporting a patient to hasten the ending of their life through in effect a medical execution makes a very violent statement about the value of human life. It is understandable that one who is dying and enduring suffering and pain they no longer feel able to sustain could, then, in the absence of any other solution, desire to die. Those who are in such a painful situation could also be expected to not want to kill themselves but prefer to welcome their death as coming from outside. What is unfortunate is that this new law in Canada in effect and in truth makes of medical healers and practitioners nothing less than executioners.

How is this a "green" policy and practice?

Our societies are not stuck in the stone age. Incredible advances have been achieved just in the past few decades in caring for the dying. Just a few generations ago when people reached a point when the medical staff could no longer heal them, the medical staff tended to scatter and abandon them. Why? Because it is uncomfortable for medical staff to admit they can no longer offer healing to patients who are, in effect, dying. Medical staff would normally want to help their patients, but in the absence of anything to do, it is easier to simply stay away and let the family and friends, if any, take over.

What's to prevent us from creating a national Palliative Care program?

A whole new branch of medicine has developed since the 1970's called palliative care. It is medical care that simply has a different goal than the regular medical establishment which seeks to heal. For palliative care, the goal is to temper pain and suffering with expert medical care and medication, but also and more importantly to provide the patient with a supportive environment and opporunity for them - with or without their family and or friends if any - to ponder and make sense of their life, to realize the value and contribution of their life, to discover what they have accomplished but also to learn from what they have failed or been unable to do. Most of all, this complex medical goal in the giving of quality palliative care is to help the patient make of their death a meaningful moment, if not the most meaningful moment of their life.

Now these would be more completely "green" medical policies, don't you think?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Canadian Federal Election Guide for Roman Catholics and Other People of Good Will


Roman Catholic Public Election Guide

(Intended for use in Canada for federal and provincial elections)

Is voting for a pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia party a mortal sin?

It is clear that to talk or write about abortion or euthanasia must be done with great sensitivity, because the action of ending a pregnancy or ending a human life are very serious and poignant issues that have profound impacts on those struggling with them. When people face an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy or face a pregnancy that is wanted but comes at an inopportune time; there can be great anxiety felt by those directly concerned. All too often, the pregnant woman may find herself alone and without any support, and fear alone may pressure her to end her pregnancy, or the pressure to do so may be put on her by others around her and at times even from health and social service agents. The same kind of pressure may be felt by those who suffer from disability, chronic or prolonged pain and feel like a burden.

These are culture of life issues, and there are many others, not the least of which are newly developing trends around human gender. These are perhaps the most important issues in our federal election because they have direct bearing on life itself for every citizen. Catholics and other people who treasure the sanctity of life are the only people who can publicly manifest this importance. The election is a prime opportunity to do this.

As you may or may not know, the Diocese has posted on its website "Let'sVote Responsibly" – a message from the AEQ for the 2018 provincial election which in many ways makes points applicable in this federal and indeed any federal or provincial election. A link to the CCCB's Federal Election Guide will lead you to further links to several statements by the CCCB on various moral and ethical issues facing Canadians, most notably abortion, euthanasia, and the right to life and dignity. Ours are very challenging times, but we have a new opportunity every day to put our trust in God and to give witness to the truth which is always good news. The CCCB Election Guide makes this important point:

"Exercising the right to vote means making informed and discerning judgments about the options available. There are times, however, when making a decision about who to vote for may prove very difficult. The Church reminds us that “in this context, it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law in which the fundamental content of faith and morals is replaced by the introduction of proposals differing from this content or opposing it.”

The implication is that a Catholic could not vote for parties that have explicit pro-choice and pro-euthanasia policies in their platform. This does not mean that a person needs to only vote for parties that do not endorse abortion or euthanasia. While these may not wish to bring these issues up or allow caucus members to bring them to the Commons, they may at least allow MPs or candidates to hold pro-life views and vote accordingly.  The Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) advice is that a Catholic (or other person who shares culture of life values) would check to see what candidate in their riding has pro-life views and vote for that person. 

A key point here is that abortion and euthanasia are not morally equivalent to any other election issue, e.g. foreign policy, economy, etc... The right to life is the first human right from which proceed all other rights... While our society and culture may comfortably hold views that fail to consider the unborn as human beings; from the earliest days Christians have always held abortion in abhorrence, according the unborn respect for their human dignity. The basic human right is the right to life; then come liberty and well being.

Once life is assured, the next right is liberty. Once life and liberty are assured, the next right is to seek and assure well being or happiness. One person’s right to liberty cannot trump another person’s right to life; nor can one person’s right to well being trump another person’s right to liberty, and certainly not their right to life. Our culture has acquired an intense repugnance for pain and suffering, to the point that freedom from pain and suffering has come to be considered by some to be more important than the value of life itself. This is so in spite of the abundance of evidence that for human beings, meaning and purpose are not contained in what happens to us; rather, human beings have a capacity to give meaning and purpose to what happens to us.

Christians have always held that life and death belong to God. Human beings are not wise enough to determine when a life should end. Taking it upon oneself to put an end to one’s life or to the life of another is unwise and usurps the rights and authority of our Creator God. He made us and our lives belong to Him. Our reluctance to trust in God is the primary cause of much human suffering and many destructive human decisions and behaviors. It is an act of love to provide the dying with palliative care, to help pregnant women, and to take interest and accompany on their journey any who suffer.  

There are 100,000 abortions a year in Canada. The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF), co-sponsored by the CCCB and Knights of Columbus Supreme Council, noted “Canada, with China, North Korea, and Vietnam are the only countries which have no restriction in law with regard to abortion.” Most of the major parties support abortion over the full term of the pregnancy until birth.  President Trump stopped U.S. international funding to abortion organizations but the Liberal government now funds Planned Parenthood and other organizations to perform abortions around the world. 

Canon Law does not define what is or is not a mortal sin, distinct from the discipline of theology, and defers to her in matters of moral theology. Canon Law is inspired by the Church’s theology, forbidding abortion from the earliest days, and its statutes clearly reflect this. In law we speak of delicts (a.k.a. as crimes), and these are very precisely defined.  Note that a delict MUST be clearly and explicitly defined as such in canon law. With regard to those who directly procure an abortion, the law imposes several restrictions or imposes penalties: 

Canon 1041: irregularities impeded ordination – actually procuring an abortion makes a person irregular for the reception of orders
Canon 1398: latae sententiae ex-communication of anyone who effectively procures an abortion, “the killing of the foetus, in whatever way or at whatever time from the moment of conception”.

On a more local level, a bishop does have the authority to decree statutes and laws that apply to his diocese, and may impose penalties in this manner.  With regard to abortion, the legal landscape varies from place to place. The document “Forming consciences for faithful citizenship” was issued by the USCCB as a guide for Catholics in the US which states: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf      

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

In the U.S.A. during the 2004 presidential campaign Cardinal Ratzinger stated that voters would be "cooperating in evil" if they voted for a political candidate precisely because of their permissive stand on legalized abortion or  euthanasia. He further stated that voting for these candidates for other reasons of commensurate gravity in spite of their stand on abortion / euthanasia was justifiable in principle. Ratzinger… supported the denial of Holy Communion to these politicians… but bishops should only withhold communion after meeting with, teaching and warning politicians first.

So, to answer your question – voting for a pro-choice or pro-euthanasia candidate may be considered a mortal sin if the intent of your vote is to specifically advance the cause of abortion or euthanasia.  If not, then it will not be considered a mortal sin. Voting for a candidate who supports the value of human life from conception to natural death is a just way to promote public consciousness of the inherent value of human life and also honours the rights of our Creator God. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Why are some of our beautiful youth killing themselves or turning violent? We can do a lot!

I live in Montreal, Québec, Canada, which is at the top of North America. For years we have been troubled to have the highest suicide rates in the western world! It is shocking to see beautiful young people - who have their whole lives ahead of them - put an end to their lives prematurely. Why?

Then there are the others who turn violent. Again, why?

Being a RC priest offers a unique perspective

In my almost four decades of experience as a Roman Catholic priest, it is almost always the ones that are the most sensitive and intelligent that commit suicide. Oh there may be attenuating personal circumstances in their lives that brought them to such a state of desperation as to give up all hope for their own future or of ever emerging from their particular suffering and pain. However, we are all imperfect and all families, all parents, all children and siblings are imperfect, and it's an imperfect world. So why do most of us get over it and survive and some don't?

Consider for a moment this scenario.

Sensitive, bright young people look at their world, our world, and what do they see? They see that we are in trouble, we being humanity. They accumulate lots of raw data - and the level of technology into which the young today have been born is the most intense in all of human history - and it doesn't take long for the intelligent to begin drawing dire conclusions.

The extinction of species is progressing and a geometric rate with few signs of abating, despite the valiant efforts of some inspired individuals, groups, and agencies to protect certain species that are in danger of extinction.

For decades the weather patterns have produced ever intensifying storms in both hemispheres, often with catastrophic devastation causing the displacement of populations. Glaciers are disappearing and the great ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland are melting at accelerating rates, and little is being done to stop it. Ocean levels are rising and no one knows how fast or how high it will go. 

Meanwhile, transnational corporations - the principal wheels turning the world economy - the world's governments, which principally cater to these large interests, and the armies of scientists employed by them to defend their interests (profits for their principal shareholders, senior officers, and board members, but certainly not the common good), and the major public media - controlled by those same transnational corporate interests - all of them are living in total denial. All of these are obsessively dedicated to maintaining the current order at all costs.

Intelligent and sensitive young people look at their world and see humanity as a vast herd speeding towards a cliff - ever getting closer but still at an unknown distance - and when we get to the cliff, our denial will have us speed over the edge into oblivion.... So, why wait, why not make an end now?

Okay, so this scenario seems quite bleak, granted, but I do believe that our young people cannot avoid coming to such conclusions, given the staggering quantity of data to which they are exposed. 

Ironically, young people have within themselves all they need in order to make a difference!

Let's face it. We all need hope in order for our life to begin to be bearable, but we want more than just to be able to endure life, we want to thrive! Actually, we were designed and built to thrive. That is the focus that generates so much of the energy which characterizes youth and makes them so attractive to each other and to all of us who are older and have lived longer. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

We need our youth and our children. They aren't the future; they are the present! They care deeply about life, about their world, and about humanity. The look to the future and we need to support them.

Consider our ancestors and the amazing things they accomplished

Our grandparents began working full time when they were 10 or 11 years old. My parents began working full time when they were 13 or 14. Full time for them wasn't a 40 hour week including 5 hours for lunches and 2 1/2 hours for morning and afternoon breaks. They often worked 60 hour weeks and sometimes 6 days a week. The young are capable of amazing efforts and outstanding contributions, but for one reason or another, our society has come to think of children and teenagers, and even young adults, as lazy, selfish, and uninterested in the common good. It's a lie!

Canaries in the mine shaft

I believe that our children and youth are like canaries in the mine shaft - they are the first to sense the danger which threatens us all. We need to pay close attention to the clarity with which our youth now perceive our world and the dangers which currently threaten our common home and very existence.

The future is in the present - young people are already changing the world!

You have only to browse the Internet to discover many amazing initiatives being taken be children and older youth to do something proactive about the issues currently challenging humanity. 

We can't wait for the major media, for our governments, for corporations

The major media are not interested because they are, for the most part, controlled by the transnational interests that are fiercely dedicated to maximizing profits for their major shareholders, senior officers, and board members - representing less than 1% of the general population. The general drift of what is called "news" is to stoke the fire of fear in the general population in order to keep the current system going. Governments generally think they have no options but to cater to the large business and bank interests - see how it was our public funds that governments used to bail out the banks that basically became bankrupt in 2008 due to bad judgement and risky investments.

Individuals in government and in corporations may very well be good people, and they may very well want to change ways of doing things to make a better world, but they apparently all feel stuck in the way things are. If they try to do things differently, the population will panic and vote them out, or in the case of business, the board will fire them and replace them with someone more compliant.

We already have the power to think, to create, to do

A number of social and economic analysts calmly insist that the real power lies with the general population - but violent revolution is not the answer - as we saw in the 20th century. Communism simply replaced one bad group of tyrants with another. We do have power, but not to topple the government or to boycott companies and banks. Our power is to think, to create, and to do.

We need to join the ranks of creative children and young people - or at the very least to support them in their creative initiatives - and to create circles of enthusiasm and cooperation to generate new ways of doing things. The journalists who produced a book and video documentary "Demain - Tomorrow" went exploring the world and found amazing initiatives being taken to work for the common good and stop waiting to companies or governments to "save" us. Consider the major cities around the world that have created their own local currency to protect themselves from the high risk investments being made by worldwide banks. 

There exist companies begun, owned, operated, managed, and developed entirely be the workers. Check out the Basque wonder called "Mondragon Corporationwhich has grown non-stop since 1956 and is spreading to other countries around the world. The workers do the work but they also evaluate their directors and managers, make the decisions needed by their company, and when the work shrinks in one company, workers are offered jobs in a neighboring company. No one is fired unless they simply don't want to work, but people are motivated because they are also the owners. The highest paid member is not paid more than 5 to 6 times the lowest paid. 

There isn't only one form of capitalism and we don't need revolution

In the uncontrolled capitalism currently controlling our world, the spread is more like 300 times, because the bulk of the profits don't go to the workers but the less than1% of the population making up the major shareholders, senior officers, and members of the board. At worker owned companies, there are no such elites because the profits are not grabbed by a handful of people but shared by all. 

In the Mondragon Corporation, their 80,000 worker members commit ten percent of profits to be invested in education of all their children and in their university which develops their future. Forty-five percent of profits are reinvested in the corporation to develop, do research, grow companies, implement new technology, and acquire new companies. The remaining forty-five percent of profits go to the common pension fund of all workers and, until they retire, the finds are reinvested in the corporation and its member companies. Everyone profits, not just a few, and their whole society is enriched by the presence and activity of their over 100 companies members of the Corporation.

Young people - You have a bright future, and we all need you!

We can no longer afford to wait for governments or companies to come and be our saviors. It was a simple parish priest with a handful of unemployed workers who started the first company in 1956 that became the Mondragon Corporation over the next six decades. We can identify needs and create our own solutions to provide for those needs and build for ourselves, our families, and our society a better future. We don't need permission to think, to explore, to create, to do, to cooperate, to develop, and to thrive. We have a mandate from the Creator of the universe who told us to "cultivate the garden" which we call Planet Earth. So, it's really up to us. Some really creative individuals can accomplish a lot by themselves, but even they need the support and cooperation of others. Together we can do a lot more than we may at times think or feel. Let's talk! 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Capitalism - to suck us dry or to build us up - it's our choice

Mondragon Cooperative Movement

Dramatic change brought about by the Industrial Revolution

In high school history we studied how England was the motor that drove the industrial revolution. Before that time, all “business” was done in homesteads, that is, in homes. Wool was spun and woven into fabric at home and people would sell their produce. Better quality got better prices generally. Then someone invented the “cotton gin”, a machine which processed and wove cotton much faster than by hand, and the industrial factory was born. As jobs were created, people moved from urban areas, left their homes, and moved to proximity to these factories, and the modern city was born. The American Ford is credited with bringing the assembly line to the production of his automobiles, but he did not invent the industrial factory.

Dramatic conflicts between capital and labor

In the 19th century, the 1800’s, there were terrible conflicts between capitalist industrialists and workers. That is primarily because the way factories developed, the work week consisted of 6 days of 10 to 12 hours. Initially people didn’t mind working so long because they were accustomed to long hours on their small subsistence farms. However, factory work was heavy work, and over time, people realized their hours were too long, their work week was too long, and they were suffering fatigue and worse health problems.

The owners, capitalist industrialists, for the most part were not humanists and generally took a dim view of the workers’ complaints and demands for better conditions. Setting aside reason and compassion, they resorted to the police and coercive methods of the state to impose on the workers resolutions favoring the owners.

Trade unions and the new "middle class"

It took a long time but eventually, by the early to mid 20th century, trade unions emerged with sufficient power and representative authority to effectively negotiate better conditions and payment on behalf of workers, including all kinds of benefits. By then, the capitalist industrialists didn’t mind too much making those concessions because they were now making very healthy profits. This was particularly true of the industrial expansion occasioned in North America during WWII. By the 1950’s there emerged a new “middle class” which enjoyed stable employment, excellent remuneration, and valuable benefits. 

Globalization shatters the "American Dream"

This “utopia” lasted only a few decades until the 1970’s and 1980’s with the advent of globalization. American presidents struck down much of the legislation developed in previous decades to protect workers, with the result that there were no longer any obstacles to prevent corporations from exporting jobs to countries where they could pay much lower wages and not be obliged any longer to provide benefits.

As a result, America is no longer the “land of the American dream”; rather, it is increasingly becoming a wasteland. It’s inner city cores are often a dangerous dead zone of abandoned homes ruled by lawless street gangs, and small towns across the nation are resembling more and more the exploited towns in third world countries. How could such a great nation come to this in so short a period of time? That is the question.

One model of capitalism has a stranglehold on western societies

The answer has to do with the model of capitalism at work in the U.S.A. and most of the western world, but also in the rest of the world that has until now admired America and its capitalism. It is a capitalism that champions a few of the basic human values such as the right to private property, the right to work, the right to generate and to accumulate wealth, and so on. However, its basic model also has some flaws. In particular, the wealth generated by most capitalist corporations is accrued almost exclusively to the major shareholders – who hold majority decision-making power and authority – and also to the senior officers and the members of the board.

A realistic economic analysis of what is going on

In all of these corporations, with few exceptions, the workers are not share holders and have no say in the governance and decision making of the corporation. With the advent of globalization as a new trend in business and economics, corporations gave themselves the freedom  to export jobs away from the more expensive home base where they had developed in previous decades in favor of countries where, for various reasons, they could pay much cheaper wages and not have to provide benefits, or not as many.

Why is America becoming an economic wasteland?

This shows that in this model of capitalism, corporations manifest zero loyalty to the populations that gave rise to them and their success. They show no qualms about abandoning those populations, putting them all out of work, pulling up their stakes, and moving out. They do not consider it their concern or responsibility that their former employees go without work, lose their homes, and suffer all the harsh consequences of sudden impoverishment. 

Worse still, these corporations show little interest in taking their fair share of responsibility for the general development and well being of society, what we could call the common good. The burden of maintaining public infrastructures for the most part rest squarely on the shoulders of citizen tax payers; while corporations export their assets to foreign tax havens precisely to avoid paying taxes on their accumulating wealth. If we step back and look at the bigger picture of our western societies, we see the following devastating consequences:

1.      Traditional capitalist corporations take zero responsibility for the well being of their workers.

2.      They show zero concern for the well being of the communities and societies which gave them rise and / or where they currently operate; avoiding as much as possible sharing the burden of maintaining public infrastructures.

3.      They do not hesitate to abandon the populations which gave rise to their success for more profit elsewhere.

4.      Many of them move much of their wealth to foreign tax havens to avoid their corporate social responsibilities.

5.      In an age when workers are no longer illiterate but well educated, corporations still refuse to allow them to participate more fully in the management and profit of the corporation.

6.      Due to competitive pressure from Japanese auto makers, some corporations began to introduce incentives to employees who proposed innovations that improved productivity, but these workers remained outsiders with one time rewards their only benefit.

7.      These corporations, by their very nature, create inequality by separating the small minority of people who are major shareholders, senior officers, and board members from the workers and the general population.


It doesn’t have to go on this way. At present, most of our corporations suck the marrow from the bones of our society and then, when they can make more profit elsewhere, there is nothing to hold them here and they simply leave us high and dry. Unless we choose for ourselves better ways of doing business for ourselves, we and our society will inevitably go down the drain. The choice is ours to make, alone, individually, but also collectively.

Our choice is NOT between capitalism / democracy OR communism / Marxism / socialism

Anyone who spoke this way 50 years ago would have been branded a communist by capitalist industrialist interests. Why did they do this, and why might they do it again? The answer is very simply because they don’t really like competition, not fair competition anyway. They say they thrive on competition, but only when they can rig the game in their favor. That’s how I used to play Monopoly with my 9-year old sister when I was 15. I liked to win and didn’t care about her feelings. Time goes by and we grow up, or at least, we should grow up. Why do you think that most corporations have such big budgets for their lawyers? They need lawyers in order to exploit the best possible interpretations of laws in their favor.

Our choice IS between 

greedy irresponsible capitalism VS cooperative socially responsible capitalism

In politics this is the difference between dictatorship / oligarchy VS participation democracy

What if there is a better way to do business? It would be a way whereby decisions would not be made by senior officers and the profits would not go to a small minority of people. Instead, the workers would own, operate, and manage their own company as a cooperative and democratic venture. After the cooperative company paid its fair share of taxes, taking full responsibility for its corporate existence on an equal footing with the general population, the profits would go 100% to the workers according to a formula something like this:

10% of all profits invested in the education of the workers’ families – in their own schools and university

45% of all profits would be reinvested into the cooperative company for innovation and development.

45% of all profits would go to the worker / owners / members of the cooperative company, but not in immediate cash; rather invested yearly back into the cooperative company for innovation and development of more coops, and to be given to them for their retirement.

This is an alternative version of capitalism – unlike the one we find oppressive and heartless which rewards only major shareholders, senior officers, and board members and sucks dry the marrow of the bones of society and leaving only ruins in their wake – this new innovation has proven since 1956 that we can do it differently and better by together freely turning over the ownership, operation, and management of the company to the worker members. The workers become full participating and voting members of the cooperative and they make all the important decisions for their corporation at the annual general meeting; for which they prepare thoroughly at a series of local meetings on work time. There are no minority millionaires because the whole society benefits from stable work and prosperous living conditions, which in turn enrich and elevate the entire society. How can this work?

Rule #1 – Workers together hire and fire and evaluate the efficiency of managers

Rule #2 – Best paid workers cannot earn more than 8 X the lowest wage. In practice it is 4.5 to 6 times at most.

It all began with a poor priest and a handful of his poor parishioners.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gPF4fCGO7c&fbclid=IwAR1ZPtymnIP_b2npKnVC0h1_dT-Wiy1d3V6iF_MRtaT5sMglF5Uik7Zav44

Here's a 35 minute interview to help us understand how the 120 coops of Mondragon Corporation and over 100,000 workers operate... in which workers participate cooperatively in management, innovation, and profits. 10% of profits is invested in education, 45% innovation & development of the corp & growing more coops, 45% to the workers but not in cash; rather in capital investment in the corporation which comes to them in retirement... fascinating.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bcNfbGxAdY&fbclid=IwAR2iYWLEofvPLeNl1BMZV7CW_lEjx_4RqJLLjfFYvMnD4UPpexXyVCqaMoI

Richard Wolff on Mondragon Cooperatives   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bcNfbGxAdY

This is not the only example of innovation and enterprise that puts human beings at the center of any business operation, thereby enriching workers and stabilizing and developing the whole society. There have been and continue to be others. Many believe that these alternative ways of bringing people together cooperatively for work and human development are the future of humanity and they can be seen in such imaginative fiction as the Star Trek universe. 

In our real world, Pope Francis has been writing and speaking about these issues, encouraging everyone to develop new business practices and new economics that do just that, put people at the center rather than profits. As Mondragon Corporation successfully shows, when we put people first and at the center, there will definitely be profits, but these profits will benefit everyone, not only a few, and the whole of society.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Hope through resistance in the midst of troubled times

We are grieving the death and loss of a friend these days, one who in many ways went through hell these past several years. As we prepare for his funeral, my spirit has wandered far and wide among the travails of our times, and have stumbled upon some remarkable social commentators.

Could Venezuela's "social meltdown" happen to us?

First, I was shocked to see video clips of the profound meltdown experienced by the people of Venezuela. It seems that the cause of their trouble is primarily that their economy has been almost entirely based on their oil revenue; such that when the bottom fell out of the price of oil, so did that of their economy. What made things worse is that successive governments had promised and delivered extensive social programs and almost free gasoline, which in turn rendered much of the population more passive and receptive than active and productive. Infantalizing adults is never a good thing, as any parent with 30-year-olds who never left home sadly discover.

As I looked at those desperate people wandering the devastated streets in some sectors and the rich carrying on almost as normal; I could picture our own societies going through the same troubles without stretching the imagination too far. The question arises: why do we so often allow ourselves to become so passive and wait for government and other institutions to do for us what it is really up to us to do for ourselves?

What will happen to us, to our nation, to our world, in the next 100 years?

The next dot in this series of dots was an interview with Dr. George Friedman (Founder and Chairman of Geopolitical Futures) ten years ago in 2009 on the topic of America's domination in the 21st century. He comments on how it is that the United States of America came to exercise such unparalleled influence in the world. Then he gave a conference at the World Government Summit in March 2017 to the United Arab Emirates, where he mourned the passing of the period which began in 1945 after the war period of 1914 to 1945. He declared "the end of the myth of two things: the belief that multilateral institutions will solve all of our problems if you get somebody from Harvard to manage it - it's more difficult than that - and secondly, do not look at the GDP but look at how the GDP is distributed, because that will tell you what your future will look like."

What's really going on?

In Boston last April long time MIT professor, historian and social critic Noam Chomsky gave an almost sympathetic explanation of why the western world economy is in such trouble, which means that ordinary citizens are in so much trouble. The CEO's of banks and large corporations are caught in the system which these entities make up, and they have no choice, really, but to make the decisions which the entities are designed to make, because if they don't, they will simply be replaced by someone else who will. Another observation he made is that whereas in the past Israel's 50-year policy of assimilating the West Bank was done more or less secretly, now with President Trump's support it is now being done in the open. Chomsky wonders what would happen if the U.S.A. were challenged to follow or keep its own laws internally and internationally, because until now the government has for the most part served unbridled capitalism. At least, that is what I take away from this lecture.

It's really up to us, whether we know it or not, do it or not

Next, I listened to a conference given by journalist and author Chris Hedges in January 2011 on the "Death of the Liberal Class", in which he talks about the "technocrats" that George Friedman talks about as well. Whereas our western society used to support liberal arts on university campuses in order to provide young adults with the opportunity and means to learn how to think, develop their social conscience, and explore ways to fashion life, work, and society with values; recent U.S. presidents have dismantled government regulation of corporate banking and business interests with the result that universities have become highly and narrowly specialized to serve the business world rather than life.

Health care for profit is only one example he cites of the ways in which public and private institutions can no longer be expected to support the rights of citizens individually or of the population of the nation as a whole. Those institutions in effect only serve themselves and those who own them. In "America: The Farewell Tour" Chris Hedges notes that if people are to continue to hope in the face of the increasingly harsh conditions of our time, the only way to go forward is for them to resist the control these institutions have over our lives and to resist any way we can in accord with our values. I take away that this means by way of non-violent resistance coupled together with personal initiative and responsibility.

It's okay to criticize capitalism after all - a talk at Google

A further dot in this fascinating series of dots was a talk given by Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Richard Wolff at Google in June 2017. Under the title "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism" he explains why thinking stagnated for 50 years in the U.S.A. in economics - it was because of the Cold War. In a collective need to oppose the Soviet Union, Americans felt it necessary to uncritically defend and promote capitalism as it was practiced in the West.

I was astonished to listen to and hear his review of Karl Marx's analysis of capitalism and realize that this is the first time I've heard an unbiased account of Marx. Until now I think I've only heard either communist interpretations of Marx or western condemnations of communist interpretations of Marx, but no unbiased understanding of Marx. The contrast, therefore, in economic theories, is between capitalists who are concerned with the price of things and Marx who prefers to begin with what could be called the pool of labor or of available workers and work time and energy.

What is called neoliberal economics is what has come to dominate western societies. Our version of capitalism is based on a free market economy that doesn't want government regulation, intervention, or ownership but leaves everything to the private sector. The problem for the citizen and the general population is that this version of capitalism has only one value, and that is profit. Jobs, the value of work and labor, public infrastructures, the common good, none of it matters or exists for this version of capitalism. In recent decades, U.S. presidents have legislated deregulation of industry and corporations, with the result that jobs have been exported and unemployment increased, along with the public debt. There are other ways of doing business.

Wolff cites examples of people who have begun successful businesses that from the beginning don't operate for the profit of small boards of directors or shareholders, as do all current capitalist corporations. Instead, from the ground up, these new enterprises are composed of people who come together to produce products or services entirely owned and operated by the workers themselves. They are not communists but democrats living in democratic countries, and they are doing so well that capitalist enterprises cannot compete with them. Such initiatives have been emerging since the 1950's but only now are they coming to light, because the taboo against "communism", "Marxism", and "socialism" as political systems is eroding and people are beginning to understand that it is possible to hold economic views of labor that are not political but favor workers.

One such enterprise in Spain has been so successful that it has become a huge conglomerate of small businesses owned and operated by workers - over 100,000 of them. These successful businesses that put people first, as Pope Francis has been promoting in his writings and teachings, operate on the basis of two simple rules.

Rule # 1. Workers together hire and fire all workers and evaluate the efficiency of managers.

Rule # 2. The highest paid worker cannot get more than 8 times than what is earned by the lowest paid worker.

These rules create a form of capitalism that puts people first, not unbridled profit and greed. It effectively eliminates the disparity we now have between rich and poor, as in most large corporations in which the small minority of people at the top and on the boards earn 350 times more than the lowest paid workers. Also, many of these corporations export their assets to tax havens outside the countries where they operate, putting the entire social burden for the maintenance of public infrastructures on the shoulders of the citizens who end up being doubly exploited in both earning less and in having to pay more taxes. Capitalist enterprises owned and operated by the workers do neither; they neither create inequality nor avoid their social responsibilities, but effectively bring wealth to everyone. American capitalism claims that benefits will "trickle down" from the top to everyone, but in reality, they don't.

Listening to these social commentators has been very enlightening, and like in the documentary "Tomorrow / Demain", they open the door and put on display amazing initiatives already being taken by people to address the crisis of our times.