‘Why I believe money is the new tyranny’

Battling Mammon: Pope Francis warns that the economy of exclusion kills © Getty Images
by the Pope

Born in Buenos Aires as the son of Italian parents, Pope Francis, elected this March, is one of the most powerful leaders in the world, head of 1.2 billion Catholics.

In his first major pronouncement since he took office, Pope Francis has attacked capitalism and called for global leaders to fight poverty and inequality.

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. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.

Today everything is about competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalised: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

In fact, human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a disposable culture in which the excluded are not merely the exploited but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’.

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.

This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalisation of indifference has developed.

Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.

The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person!

We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

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.

You Decide

  1. Does society ‘worship money’?

Activities

  1. Split into pairs. Do some research about inequality and try to find the countries that have the biggest ‘wealth gaps’ in the world. Report back findings to the class and make a league table with the worst case at the top.

Word Watch

Two points
Unfortunately, points have a different value depending on whether someone is talking about stock indexes or share prices. The use of 'points' to describe share price gains is usually confined to short-term results, such as for the day or week. While with stock indexes such as the Dow Jones, a point is just a whole number in the index value. For individual stocks, points indicate whole dollar price changes.
Trickle-down theories
the idea that benefits enjoyed by the richest will benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole.
Primacy of the human person
the belief that human beings have moral rights that are superior to all others.
Golden calf
in the Bible story, Moses was collecting the ten commandments on Mount Sinai and while he was away the Israelites started worshipping a golden calf instead of God. The phrase now is used to mean a ‘false god’.
Exponentially
an increase in a number at a constantly growing rate, for example if a number doubles every year.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.