Aparecida 46: The New Colonization: Individualism

Imposition of alien artificial cultures is an ongoing theme:

On a mass level, one may note a kind of new cultural colonization by the imposition of artificial cultures, spurning local cultures and tending to impose a uniform culture in all realms.

The bishops reiterate their concern for local cultures and the challenge of a new cultural colonization that seeks to impose a single culture, a culture characterized by a radical individualism.

A translation note: “a uniform culture” is the official translation for “una cultura homogeneizada” – a homogenized culture. The Spanish is much richer than the English and may have a different meaning. Any suggestions?

It is helpful to remember history. Latin America’s pre-colonial cultures were varied and some were very advanced. The colonists arrived with a sense that they had an advanced culture and religion that had to replace the bloody and superstitious cultures and governments that they found. Most of the colonizers – except for a few religious like Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas – saw the natives as less than human. Even when they did discover cultural documents, they often destroyed them, as did as the Church in Mexico, imposing the rule of a European crown, a largely Iberian culture, and an Iberian Catholicism.

The bishops in Aparecida have noted the diversity of cultures in Latin America today and, as we shall see later in the document, express a special concern for the indigenous and their cultures. Perhaps they do not want to see a repeat of the earlier colonization.

The new culture they see being imposed is a type of individualism.

This culture is characterized by the self-reference of the individual, which leads to indifference toward the other, whom one does not need and for whom one does not feel responsible. (My emphasis)

An individualism which sees the self as the center of everything, the reference point for living and for understanding the world, undermines a sense of relation with others: I do not need others and I am not responsible for them.

There is thus a lack of meaning and purpose for life and a lack of bonds. The person is reduced to a consumer and a sense of responsibility is lost:

There is a tendency to live day by day, with no long-term designs, and no personal, family, and community attachments. Human relations are regarded as consumption goods, leading to emotional relations without responsible and final commitment.

I find these last two sentences of this paragraph a welcome strong indictment of radical individualism, especially the Ayn Rand variety.

The Catholic understanding of the person as social is undermined by a culture that denies our social nature, our relationships with others, and our responsibility for others.

Here is the USCCB translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

About John Donaghy

Permanent deacon, ordained in the Catholic diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, in 2016. Missionary in Honduras since June 2007, living and working in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María.
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