EG 53: “No to an economy of exclusion”

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium lets loose on two qualities of human culture, exclusion and inequality. As he responds, “No to an economy of exclusion,” he links the usual, natural, and often inevitable consequences of social darwinism, namely that competition and survival of the fittest drive human interaction in many culture spheres, including the world economy.

To be fair to both the pope and those who are bothered or even alarmed by his teaching, let’s read carefully these next few days.

53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion.

It is not the particular fault of businesses that people follow and the media cover the particulars of the economy as defined by a very quantifiable number, a stock market index. Is that index, on a day to day basis, really news? No doubt many people are interested. But is the interest a genuine offshoot of a moral good, namely the analysis of trends for investment? Or does it just avoid human tragedy on the streets far below the traders, investors, and CEO’s?

Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Massive unemployment grips hundreds of millions, including significant percentages of the populations of countries considered “wealthy.” Unemployment is considered a given, four percent plus the ignored millions who have already been excluded because of age, race, education, medical conditions, or other prejudiced peccadilloes of managers and others.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

Is something new happening? Is it not just an intensity of competition? Fudging unemployment numbers, as has been done for years now, isn’t this part of the exclusion Pope Francis speaks of? Or is this an overreaction? Comments?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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