Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saints preserve me, I think I'm beginning to agree with the Pope!

In a recent blog post, "Popes come, Popes go", I cautioned against believing too much in the newly minted Pope's statements about how the church should pay more attention to how it cares for the poor, noting that I believe he is trying very hard to bring the flock back into the fold, so to speak.

I still stand by that post.  No matter how much sense this new guy makes in his public statements, he is still the head of the oldest and most conservative bureaucracy in the world.  He is still the monarch of one of the oldest surviving monarchies, and most definitely the only one with anywhere near absolute authority.  At least in theory.

But dang it, his statements sound so good!

The cyberwife and I were talking today about some of the recent posts we've seen on Facebook about right wing political statements we've seen, discriminatory laws we've seen getting either passed or proposed, the terrible time many people are having just staying above water on the bills, and juxtaposing all that with our own circumstances and my eventual retirement in a few years.

We are very lucky.  Lucky to be born white.  Lucky to be born in First World countries where we were able to get good educations, and have been able to help our children get well on their way to being productive adults as lucky as us.  Fortunate to have an income better than most Americans (though not wealthy, and burdened with more debt than we should).

And as a Fed, destined to have a decent retirement after over 40 years in service.  (So, don't think I didn't EARN it!)

But darn it, so damn many people who have worked just as hard as I, or harder, don't have either a decent income or are unable to look forward to any retirement, much less a good one.  Or even a half-assed one, for that matter.

We live in a house that we bought a couple of decades ago when we had three teenagers, and really needed the space.  Now, with them gone, we rattle around this house like two quarters in a can.  The technology we use to heat and cool this space ensures that we must heat/cool the entire space, regardless of how much we use.

That's not all.

In looking at our entire livelihood and lifestyle, it is plain that living in this capitalist country, in order to protect ourselves, provide for our own welfare and look out for our future, we must live in a way that is, essentially, selfish.

We live in a house that is too big.
We use too much energy to heat/cool it.
We tend to buy/consume too much food.
We use a transportation system that costs too much and uses too much fuel.

In order to protect our lifestyle, we cannot bring in strangers in frigid weather who need a warm place to sleep, because that would place our lives in danger.  The amount of money we can afford to donate to causes that help such people is, really, not nearly enough.

Why?  Because as the Pope says, we live in a country under a capitalistic system that cares only for the almighty dollar.  People do not count.  Wasted resources do not count.  There is no effective way to force this system to change in time to keep more people from dying in poverty.

We are, in short, trapped.  Like most Americans.  Trapped in a system that doesn't care about us, doesn't care about the poor or the unfortunate, or the sick or the mentally ill.  A system where only money talks.

It forces me to live in guilt, feeling that I am using too much energy and other resources (which I am), but also knowing that if I don't, I run the chance of losing all that and ending up in poverty.

And I hate that.  I want to live in a society that cares for the less fortunate.  One that provides good, solid and low cost health care for all its citizens.  One that provides a good roof overhead and three squares a day for everybody.   Someplace that will pick me up if I stumble, and gives me a way to pick up my neighbor if he/she stumbles instead without jeopardizing my livelihood or my safety.

One that doesn't tell people who need help that they don't deserve it.  A society which allows people their personal freedom to determine their own future, without coercion, without shaming, without making them feel like second class citizens.

Is that too much to ask?  Is it?

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