Thursday, September 24, 2015

Time to Pull Out Some Christopher Lasch

If you have been reading the last day or two, I have been harping on the idea that Pope Francis is not political and should not be understood through the stale political and ideological categories that Americans tend to use to pigeonhole public figures.

I have long been attracted to people like Pope Francis. People with very strong convictions that are hard to place in this or that ideological box.

Maybe this is why I have always been a fan of the late historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch. Here are some pertinent quotes from his book The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics.

p.13: ...human wants, being insatiable, required an indefinite expansion of the productive forces necessary to satisfy them.  Insatiable desire, formerly condemned as a source of frustration, unhappiness, and spiritual instability, came to be seen as a powerful stimulus to economic development.

p. 22: Ritual deference to "traditional values" cannot hide the right's commitment to progress, unlimited economic growth, and acquisitive individualism.

p.29: The work of [Raymond] Williams and [E.P.] Thompson also showed how Marxism could absorb the insights of cultural conservatives and provide a sympathetic account not just of the economic hardships imposed by capitalism, but of the way in which capitalism thwarted the need for joy in work, stable connections, family life, a sense of place, and a sense of historical continuity.

p.33:...To see the modern world from the point of view of a parent is to see it in the worst possible light.  This perspective unmistakably reveals the unwholesomeness, not to put it more strongly, our way of life, our obsession with sex, violence and the pornography of "making it"; our addictive dependence on drugs, "entertainment," and the evening news; our impatience with anything that limits our sovereign freedom of choice, especially wit the constraints of marital and familial ties; our preference for "nonbinding commitments"; our third-rate educational system. our third-rate morality; our refusal to draw a distinction between right and wrong, lest we "impose" our morality on others and thus invite others to "impose" their morality on us; our reluctance to judge or be judged; our indifference to the needs of future generations, as evidenced by our willingness to saddle them with a huge national debt, an overgrown arsenal of destruction, and a deteriorating environment; our inhospitable attitude to the newcomers born in our midst; our unstated assumption, which underlies so much of the propaganda for unlimited abortion, that only those children born for success ought to be allowed to be born at all.

p. 53:  Envy, pride, and ambition made human beings want more than they needed, but these "private vices" became "public virtues" by stimulating industry and invention.  Thrift and self-denial, on the other hand, means economic stagnation."

Sounds a lot like Pope Francis and the tenets of Catholic social teaching.