From Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton:
Christian social action…envisages those conditions under which man’s work can recover a certain spiritual and holy quality, so that it becomes for man a source of spiritual renewal, as well as of material livelihood….. Christian social action…discovers religion in politics, religion in work, religion in programs for better wages, Social Security etc, not at all to “win the worker for the Church,” but because God became man, because every man is potentially Christ, because Christ is our brother, and because we have no right to let our brother live in want, or in degradation, or in any form of squalor whether physical or spiritual. ..if we really understood the meaning of Christianity in social life, we would see it in as part of the redemptive work of Christ, liberating man from misery, squalor, subhuman living conditions, economic or political slavery, ignorance, alienation.
From Seeds of Destruction by Thomas Merton:
It seems to me that we have little genuine interest in human liberty and in the human person. What we are interested in, on the contrary, is the unlimited freedom of the corporation…in our eyes, the freedom of the person is dependent on money…the most basic freedom of all is the freedom to make money. If you have nothing to buy or sell, freedom is,in your case, irrelevant.
…It appears that the one aspect of the Negro demonstrations that is being taken most seriously… is that they hurt business. As long as there was talk only of “rights,” and of “freedom” (concepts which imply persons) the Negro movement was taken seriously chiefly by crackpots, idealists, and members of suspicious organizations thought to be under direct control of Moscow, like CORE and the NAACP.
All this talk of Negro rights, especially when accompanied by hymn-singing and religious exhortations, could hardly be taken seriously! It was only when money became involved that the Negro demonstrations finally impressed themselves upon the American mind as being real.
…we end up treating persons as objects for sale, and therefore as meaningless unless they have some value on the market… Our trouble is that we are alienated from our own personal reality, our own true self…We do not believe in ourselves, except in so far as we can estimate our own worth, and verify, by our operations in the world of the market, that our subjective price coincides with what society is willing to pay for us.
From Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Whether we are digging wild leeks or going to the mall, how do we consume in a way that does justice to the lives we take?
Gifts from the earth or from each other establish a particular relationship, an obligation of sorts to give, to receive, and to reciprocate.
We are showered every day with gifts, but they are not meant for us to keep. Their life is in their movement, the inhale and exhale of our shared breath. Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift and to trust that what we put out into the universe will always come back.
…the economy of the commons, wherein resources fundamental to our well-being, like water and land and forests, are commonly held rather than commodified. Properly managed, the commons approach maintains abundance, not scarcity.
Gratitude for all the earth has given us lends us courage… to refuse to participate in an economy that destroys the beloved earth to line the pockets of the greedy, to demand an economy that is aligned with life, not stacked against it.
From Fratelli Tutti (Brothers All) by Pope Francis:
…there are markets where individuals become mere consumers or bystanders. As a rule, the advance of this kind of globalism strengthens the identity of the more powerful, who can protect themselves, but it tends to diminish the identity of the weaker and poorer regions, making them more vulnerable and dependent. In this way, political life becomes increasingly fragile in the face of transnational economic powers that operate with the principle of “divide and conquer”.
To care for the world in which we live means to care for ourselves. Yet we need to think of ourselves more and more as a single family dwelling in a common home. Such care does not interest those economic powers that demand quick profits. Often the voices raised in defence of the environment are silenced or ridiculed, using apparently reasonable arguments that are merely a screen for special interests. In this shallow, short-sighted culture that we have created, bereft of a shared vision, “it is foreseeable that, once certain resources have been depleted, the scene will be set for new wars, albeit under the guise of noble claims”.
In today’s world, many forms of injustice persist, fed by reductive anthropological visions and by a profit-based economic model that does not hesitate to exploit, discard and even kill human beings. While one part of humanity lives in opulence, another part sees its own dignity denied, scorned or trampled upon, and its fundamental rights discarded or violated.
…obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction.
Some people are born into economically stable families, receive a fine education, grow up well nourished, or naturally possess great talent. They will certainly not need a proactive state; they need only claim their freedom. Yet the same rule clearly does not apply to a disabled person, to someone born in dire poverty, to those lacking a good education and with little access to adequate health care. If a society is governed primarily by the criteria of market freedom and efficiency, there is no place for such persons, and fraternity will remain just another vague ideal.
Indeed, “to claim economic freedom while real conditions bar many people from actual access to it, and while possibilities for employment continue to shrink, is to practise doublespeak.” Words like freedom, democracy or fraternity prove meaningless, for the fact is that “only when our economic and social system no longer produces even a single victim, a single person cast aside, will we be able to celebrate the feast of universal fraternity”. A truly human and fraternal society will be capable of ensuring in an efficient and stable way that each of its members is accompanied at every stage of life. Not only by providing for their basic needs, but by enabling them to give the best of themselves, even though their performance may be less than optimum, their pace slow or their efficiency limited.
Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community. It means that the lives of all are prior to the appropriation of goods by a few. It also means combatting the structural causes of poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land and housing, the denial of social and labour rights. It means confronting the destructive effects of the empire of money… Solidarity, understood in its most profound meaning, is a way of making history.
From Unbowed by Wangari Maathai:
[In colonial/post-colonial Kenya] Everything was now perceived as having a monetary value . . . if you can sell it, you forget about protecting it.
From Deep Economy by Bill McKibben:
Three fundamental challenges to the fixation on [economic] growth have emerged. One is political: growth, at least as we now create it, is producing more inequality than prosperity, more insecurity than progress. This is both the most common and least fundamental objection to our present economy…The second argument is…that we do not have the energy needed to keep the magic going, and can we deal with the pollution it creates? The third argument is both less obvious and even more basic: growth is no longer making us happy.
There are many kinds of paternalism, including the assumption that for poor people only material things matter… Just like us, [poor] people need dignity, security, identity. Some of these can be achieved through economic growth, and some of them can be undermined by it.
It is our economic lives…that play the crucial role in wrecking or rebuilding our communities. We need to once again depend on those around us for something real. If we do, then the bonds that make for human satisfaction as opposed to endless growth will begin to reemerge.
Local economies would demand fewer resources and cause less ecological disruption; they would be better able to weather coming shocks; they would allow us to find a better balance between the individual and the community, and hence find extra satisfaction.
From Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) by Pope Francis:
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 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.
From Wendell Berry’s writings:
Most of us get almost all the things we need by buying them; most of us know only vaguely where these things come from and not at all what damage is involved in their production. We are almost entirely dependent on an economy of which we are almost entirely ignorant.–Sex, Economy, Freedom, Community
We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes which we are inviting catastrophe to make.--What Are People For?
We are involved in an economic disaster in which the production of monetary wealth involves the destruction of necessary goods.–What Matters?
The advantage of diverse local land-based economics is not luxury and extravagance for a few but a modest, decent, sustainable prosperity for many. —What Matters?
From Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World by Dorothy L. Sayers:
Whereas formerly it was considered a virtue to be thrifty and content with one’s lot, it is now considered to be the mark of a progressive nation that it is filled with hustling, go-getting citizens, intent on raising their standard of living. And this is not interpreted to mean merely that a decent sufficiency of food, clothes and shelter is attainable by all citizens…it means that every citizen is encouraged to consider more, and more complicated, luxuries necessary to his well-being.
…the whole system would come crashing down in a day if every consumer were voluntarily to restrict purchases to things really needed. (ibid)
from The Consumer Society anthology, edited by Neva Goodwin, Frank Ackerman and David Kiron:
Everyone cannot simultaneously succeed in getting ahead.
The rich damage the environment through high consumption levels, and the poor damage the environment by being forced to utilize marginal and fragile ecosystems.
As yesterday’s novel pleasures become today’s habits and tomorrow’s socially defined necessities, maintaining the same level of pleasure requires new levels of consumption.
from What Money Can’t Buy by Michael J. Sandel:
What is the moral importance of the norms that money may erode or crowd out?…Are there some things that money can buy but shouldn’t?
Where all good things are bought and sold, having money makes all the difference in the world… Not only has the gap between rich and poor widened, the commodification of everything has sharpened the sting of inequality by making money matter more.
Putting a price on the good things in life can corrupt them.
Altruism, generosity and solidarity are not like commodities that are depleted with use. They are more like muscles that develop and grow stronger with exercise. One of the defects of a market-driven society is that it lets these virtues languish.
From the Afterword to the 2nd edition of Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh by Helena Norberg-Hodges:
[In Ladakh] I witnessed how outside economic pressures created not only pollution and resource scarcity but also unemployment and feelings of cultural inferiority, all previously unknown there. I also saw how these pressures sped life up and how they separated people from the living world around them and from one another.
The primary cause of our crises is [not] human nature…but rather a relentlessly expanding economic system that is steamrolling both people and the planet. Unfortunately, this system has grown so large that it has become difficult to recognize it as human-made.
From the writings of Barbara Ehrenreich:
The ‘working poor’…are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else. —Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America
Our economy–with its dizzying bubbles, wild lending sprees, reckless downsizings and planetwide hypersensitivity–has gotten far too disconnected from basic human needs.–This Land Is Their Land
From Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood by Susan Linn:
In the US freedom is one of our primary shared values. We do not like to be manipulated–or we do not like to think we are being manipulated. Therefore…marketers perpetuate the illusion that all of our choices are ‘free’.
From The Case Against the Global Economy, ed. Jerry Mander:
Such negative events as the depletion of natural resources, construction of more prisons, and the manufacture of bombs are all measures of “health” by current economic theory. Meanwhile . . . unpaid household work, child care, community service, or the production of food to be eaten and artifacts to be used rather than sold by the formal economy are not registered in the statistics at all.