26 April 2005

Whatever understandable lack of physical courage he displayed as a teenager is trumped a thousand times over by moral cowardice today

An insightful piece that echoes my thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI and his Nazi history as a youth in WWII Germany.
Clearly, when Ratzinger and his brother (who is also a priest) say that anti-Nazi resistance was "impossible," they're lying. And it's not an insignificant or harmless lie. Denying the option of resistance insults, indeed, denies the existence of, a lot of people who made far braver and more difficult decisions than the Ratzingers. Failing to exhibit extraordinary courage is human and understandable. Denying the extraordinarily courageous their due is shameful. Denying moral agency is surely unworthy of a man who would be pope.

The Ratzingers lie about this because if they admit that moral choices were involved, they'd have to explain their choice. In fact, I would suggest that anyone who cared about moral agency would recognize the need for self-reflection, for either admitting moral failure, or asserting moral principles. I can think of many possible explanations, but none of them fit well into black and white morality.

It's not that he was swept up in the tide of the time as a powerless youth, it's the notion that they had no choice at all. I could accept the justification that a frightened 14 year old would be incapable of arriving at such a moral decision, but to pronounce that there was no other choice strikes me as troublesome, because others in that setting faced the same peril, and came to a completely different conscientous choice.

5 April 2005

The Dignity of Work and Workers: The Message of 'Laborem Exercens'

I'll have more to write about Pope John Paul II but thought I'd highlight this 1981 Laborem Exercens Encyclical Letter on the dignity of work. He was as harsh a critic of unbridled capitalism as he was on the depravity and failure of communism.
A systematic opportunity for thinking and evaluating in this way, and in a certain sense a stimulus for doing so, is provided by the quickening process of the development of a onesidedly materialistic civilization, which gives prime importance to the objective dimension of work, while the subjective dimension-everything in direct or indirect relationship with the subject of work-remains on a secondary level. In all cases of this sort, in every social situation of this type, there is a confusion or even a reversal of the order laid down from the beginning by the words of the Book of Genesis: man is treated as an instrument of production, whereas he-he alone, independently of the work he does-ought to be treated as the effective subject of work and its true maker and creator. Precisely this reversal of order, whatever the programme or name under which it occurs, should rightly be called "capitalism"-in the sense more fully explained below. Everybody knows that capitalism has a definite historical meaning as a system, an economic and social system, opposed to "socialism" or "communism". But in the light of the analysis of the fundamental reality of the whole economic process-first and foremost of the production structure that work is-it should be recognized that the error of early capitalism can be repeated wherever man is in a way treated on the same level as the whole complex of the material means of production, as an instrument and not in accordance with the true dignity of his work-that is to say, where he is not treated as subject and maker, and for this very reason as the true purpose of the whole process of production.

The above principle, as it was then stated and as it is still taught by the Church, diverges radically from the programme of collectivism as proclaimed by Marxism and put into pratice in various countries in the decades following the time of Leo XIII's Encyclical. At the same time it differs from the programme of capitalism practised by liberalism and by the political systems inspired by it. In the latter case, the difference consists in the way the right to ownership or property is understood. Christian tradition has never upheld this right as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone.

While the media talking heads drone about how Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War, truth is, Pope John Paul II had a much greater impact in the fall of communism. It was for one of the Pope's books, or when he was known as Karol Wojtyla (though he wrote under cover of pseudonym) that the underground presses in Poland began churning. He spoke to his countrymen and others in neighboring nations in language that they understood, but not in an overt fashion that could land him a prison sentence. He worked on the gnawing of communism from within and truly was Man of the Century.

Flawless he was not, but he was a man of momentous significance.

3 April 2005

US will cease to exist in the year 2007

So says one Koran scholar, who predicts a giant tsunami will hit the US in 2007.
Silwadi said his study of the Koran showed that the US would perish mainly because of its great sins against mankind, including the Native Americans and blacks.

"As soon as the Europeans started arriving in the new world discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, they declared a war on the so-called Red Indians, the legitimate owners of the land," he wrote. "Then they began enslaving and humiliating Africans after kidnapping them from their countries and bringing them to America. Millions of blacks were brought to the US and treated with unprecedented harshness. Those who became ill during the journey were thrown overboard to feed the fish."

Silwadi pointed out that the US continued to commit war crimes and "ethnic cleansing" against humanity by becoming the first country to use nuclear weapons during World War II.

"International law penalizes such crimes," he said. "If these laws were not applied then, they are certainly implemented in heaven. If no one on earth is capable of punishing [the US], Allah was and remains able to do so. All these actions have been documented by Allah in a big archive called the Koran."

Sounds about as accurate as the DaVinci code…
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