Nelson Mandela was the archetypal hero. To achieve his goal, he had to endure great personal suffering before leading his people out of the wilderness of fear and pain. He vanquished the oppressors by dint of unwavering faith in the eventual triumph of right. The world has seen few heroes so steadfast in their adherence to their principles. On the occasion of his death on December 5, Mandela was deservedly eulogized as a man who, despite his faults, achieved greatness.
One hero passes, another one rises.
Throughout its history, the Vatican has always sought to enrich itself. Bishops and popes accumulated earthly treasure even beyond the store in royal coffers. Yet now we have a pope who is calling out the evils of income inequality, which, along with climate change are our gravest challenges. Pope Francis:
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power.
To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
With all its spying, the NSA can never make the U.S. safe while exclusion and inequality radicalize people:
Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility.
He denounces “unbridled consumerism”:
Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security … .
He refutes the claim that education is the only solution for the poor:
Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.
Peace is much more than the absence of violence:
Peace in society cannot be understood as pacification or the mere absence of violence resulting from the domination of one part of society over others. Nor does true peace act as a pretext for justifying a social structure which silences or appeases the poor, so that the more affluent can placidly support their lifestyle while others have to make do as they can.
This past week President Obama addressed income inequality. Will the exhortations of two of the world’s most prominent leaders have any lasting effect?