Source: Brian Holdsworth via YouTube
Music written and generously provided by Paul Jernberg. Find out more about his work as a composer here: http://pauljernberg.com
I would never say that I am a Capitalist because I think it’s degrading to place oneself in a posture of subservience to an ideology like that. The only label or category that I find doesn’t reduce us to something less than we are is Catholic because Catholic means the whole – the whole picture, the whole truth. That’s what I follow. I’m not some tool of an economic policy.
As a Catholic I can appreciate attempts to offer solutions to human problems in both capitalism and socialism, but neither of them offer a complete solution because both of them treat the difficulties of humanity as merely material which reduces us to our basic needs, like a herd that needs to be fattened and fenced in.
A movie I saw recently that I enjoyed a lot more than the critics was Passenger starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.The story is about a spaceship carrying a number of passengers who are in a state of suspended animation for the duration of the long journey but one of them accidentally wakes up.
He’s basically alone on a cruise ship with all the food and entertainment he could want, but his situation reminds us that having our material needs provided for isn’t nearly enough to satisfy the spectrum of that which makes a person human. So he begins to entertain the dilemma of waking up another passenger.
Now I think a lot of people think that’s the missing piece. We are an animal with needs, we have basic needs, but we also have social needs or we get lonely and depressed. But I don’t think that really captures the problem. This hierarchy of needs seems to suggest that we are mere consumers that must have our appetites satiated, including our appetite for relationship. But we don’t just need to have relationships. We need to have purpose.
We need to experience life as an amelioration of moral choices that have eternal consequences. We are moral agents and we have to exercise that moral agency and if we don’t, we become bored, restless, sterile, and malaise.
And this moral agency is best experienced and tested in our relationships with others. It’s easy to think of ourselves as patient, kind, generous, and agreeable until someone with a different temperament and different wants and preferences competes with your own.
The experience of trying to blend your life with someone else, to try to provide for someone else, and then to care for the lives that are produced through that union at the most critical and vulnerable stages of life is the most intense immersion into a confrontation with your moral quality.
It isn’t just that we get lonely without the opportunity to have and experience relationships with others, it’s that we stop having opportunities to learn and grow as moral beings and the moral dimension of our souls decays into ruin.
Capitalism doesn’t seem to appreciate any of these aspects of our humanity or human life and if it is meant to provide solutions to human flourishing and happiness – or what Aristotle called eudaimonia, then Capitalism falls critically short of those requirements.
Pope St. John Paul II said this, “In reality, while on the one hand it is true that Capitalism shows the failure of Marxism to contribute to a humane and better society, on the other hand, insofar as it denies an autonomous existence and value to morality, law, culture and religion, it agrees with Marxism, in the sense that it totally reduces man to the sphere of economics and the satisfaction of material needs.”
Christopher Dawson said, “Both Communism and Capitalism agree in putting economic things first and in ordering society to an economic end, and consequently they are both far more opposed to Catholicism than they are to one another.”
Chesterton had a point when he said “It is Capitalism that has … destroyed the influence of the parent in favour of the influence of the employer; that has driven men from their homes to look for jobs; that has forced them to live near their factories or their firms instead of near their families; and, above all, that has encouraged, for commercial reasons, a parade of publicity and garish novelty, which is in its nature the death of all that was called dignity and modesty by our mothers and fathers.”
And I would add that it is capitalism that turns people like the Kardashians into role models and pornography into your 13-year-old son’s new best friend.
And that’s because the aim of capitalism is profit and economic growth. It doesn’t account for the moral implications of those ends. If it thrusts highly dysfunctional people into the cultural looking glass and normalizes their abnormal lives, as long as it generates revenue, the aims of Capitalism are satisfied.
To read the full transcript, visit https://brianholdsworth.ca/digressions
Header images: Brian Holdsworth via YouTube; Markus Spiske via unsplash.com (img. removed since posting); Alexander Schimmeck via unsplash.com