Those who have lived under communism experienced not only its dictatorial nature but also the drabness of its daily life. A communist regime is marked by poor lighting, non-existent maintenance, dilapidated buildings, meager food, empty shelves, dull clothing, little choice of entertainment, absence of superfluous goods and other somber elements.
This drabness is an obvious consequence of the economic failure of communist regimes. However, there is also a philosophical reason behind it. The communist system is designed to encourage laziness.
Outside of the privileged few of the nomenklatura, no one has the right to seek out greater well-being based on a systematic quantitative and qualitative increase in effort.
Indeed, the essence of communism is the totalitarian principle of equality: no one can have more than the other since it would produce “alienation.” Thus, the only way for everyone to be equal is for all to be poor: when all are poor, all are equal.
This egalitarianism is the key to understanding Pope Francis’s latest encyclical and the international event “The Economy of Francis” recently held in Rome. The event’s message is that poverty is the means. The goal is egalitarianism.
The notorious liberation theologian, now self-proclaimed “eco-theologian,” Leonardo Boff, was a keynote speaker in “The Economy of Francesco” event. He claims that the gist of the encyclical Fratelli tutti is the world’s transition from the concept of “lord” to that of “brother.” In an essay that anticipated his lecture, Boff affirms that Pope Francis wants to change the current world paradigm—based on “inequalities in every field”—by introducing a new one based on a “universal fraternity,” that is, a “fraternity of equals.”1
According to Boff, this egalitarianism runs so deep that even the laws of nature would need to change and conform. He reasons that the laws of nature reflect the overwhelming power of a governing God, who is, therefore, the source of all “alienation.” In his egalitarian new world, reality would need to be canceled.
Of course, canceling God outright would be a bit too shocking. These radicals begin by dissolving His transcendental nature, treating God as an energy or a fluid circulating in the universe. Boff claims that the immediate, sensory perception of this energy would generate the “universal fraternity” proposed by Pope Francis. In another essay, the Brazilian liberation theologian explains that this paradigm change is characterized by the transition from the “dominion of the logos” to that of “eros.”2
In addition, proposing poverty as an ideal for all as a means to equality is also a bit too shocking. Thus, they begin by manipulating the concept of consumption in a way that promotes pauperism. This manipulation has long been encouraged by the left, well before Pope Francis.
Nineteenth-century Jesuit Father Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio explains the proper role of consumption in his treatise, Saggio Teoretico di Diritto Naturale. He states that God created man with faculties and tendencies that human nature tends to satisfy. This tendency constitutes man’s good. It is consubstantial with his nature and leads him towards the purpose for which he was created. Man has a material purpose, which is the conservation and development of his body. He has a spiritual purpose, which is the development of his intellect and soul, which tends towards the absolute Good. Thus Taparelli teaches that “A being will be perfect when he reaches the end set for him by his nature—material and spiritual—with the faculties given to him by nature itself.”
To achieve his dual material and spiritual purpose, man must consume. Certain modern (and even Catholic) schools of thought like to turn consumption into a dirty word. However, temperate consumerism is a conditio sine qua non for man to achieve the purpose for which he has been created. Like everything created by God, what is good for man is also good for the economy.
What does it mean to consume? Most people associate it with eating, which is certainly included in the concept. However, it also embraces many other ways the appetites are satisfied, which result in well-being. The idea of consumption covers the gamut of bodily and spiritual appetites found in human nature.
These goods go beyond the bare necessities of life like eating. They expand into areas that are strictly speaking not essential for living. Thus man can satisfy spiritual goods in theaters, museums, beautiful monuments, libraries and so on. The concept of consumption includes everything indispensable for survival, but also everything that is ample and even superfluous, making life pleasant and elevating minds towards higher things.
A lady consumes when she buys a beautiful enamel miniature portrait to display at home for the joy of her guests. A married couple who goes to the Prima della Scala opera house to enjoy a performance also consumes. A faithful Catholic who assists a beautiful Latin Mass consumes.
This healthy notion of consumption is contrary to a new emerging theological concept, which tends towards socialism. Alas, it is found in recent pontifical documents.
This trend states that when some have a lot and others have little, the former must keep only the essentials and give the excess to the latter. This anti-consumerist bias holds that man must not possess beyond what is essential. Nobody should seek after luxury or even merely an ample amount of goods.
The result of such reasoning is that in a society where no one benefits from working more than others… no one will work harder than others! Such a society benefits the lazy and works to the detriment of good workers. In this society, abundance disappears first, then the ample things, and finally even necessary goods…
Those who work more must be given due compensation. Thus all society benefits when the most capable, efficient, productive, best sectors are rewarded. Society perishes when it falls into preconceived anti-consumerism, slips into chronic poverty, and finally tends to barbarism.
This thesis applies not only to the relations between social classes but also to nations. The so-called consumerist countries like the United States and European nations represent those with excessive wealth. The Third World countries are supposedly those that lack the ample and sometimes even the necessary means to survive. Thus, the rich nations exploit and oppress the poor ones. The thesis incites the exploited nations to launch a counter-offensive against the consumerist world, forcing it to lower its consumption level to harmonize with the poor. Again: when all are poor, all are equal.
This glorification of laziness is proper to socialism and communism, not to Christian civilization and the social doctrine of the Church.
- São Francisco de Assis. Ternura e vigor, (Petrópolis: Editora Vozes, 1985).
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