The Pope’s call to bridge inequality
The Pope may not be an ideologue nor a firebrand revolutionary seeking to scourge the system of the privileged few. His vision for is for man to maintain his firm belief in God, and use it as his guiding post to enlighten the handful few that the abundance created by men should be shared to give justice to the meaning of progress: for them to be liberated from the pangs of destitution.
He deplores the fact that many are getting only the “crumbs.” The instinct of greed which has goaded the modern-day masters of civilization has, in the words of Pope Francis, produced “grave financial and economic crisis…” They “…have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy.” In effect, Pope Francis is talking of the stark realism that so much wealth in the hands of the few could put progress to a standstill until it becomes a perilous social liability. Wealth, if not allowed to circulate, is likely to produce the toxic fruit of civil strife.
The latest edition of Forbes listed 50 of the richest people in this country with a population of close to 100 million. Even if we take it that many more Filipinos have become millionaires, using the US dollar as the ledger in measuring their wealth, still they do not constitute .001 percent of the nation’s population. While the top 17 can be classified as trillionaires, and those below up to the 50th as billionaires, it does not make sense if the teeming majority or close to 87 percent is only privileged to look at them wallowing in their luxury.
The Pope is not calling for a renewed revolution for it would be self-serving and self-defeating, but is plainly urging those who have been gifted with so much bliss to reorient their concept of wealth by treating it as a means to generate more, but to use it to allow others to enjoy it. The wisdom in wealth can only be appreciated when others equally feel and enjoy it, not in the classic tradition of materially equalizing things as the Marxists would suggest, but of removing the barriers that make it difficult for them to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
An increase in gross domestic product of 6.2 percent for 2013 has no meaning if one-third of the nation’s population or equivalent to 27.9 percent are deemed hungry, as the NSCB said was the case in 2012. It just does not make sense to proclaim ourselves of having been delisted as the so-called “Sick Man of Asia” by an equally bedraggled economy as the US, if close to 19.2 percent of our people are underemployed or living in extreme poverty, earning $0.62 per day, or equivalent to P26.66, far below the amount set by the World Bank at $1.25 per day or equivalent to P53.75.
There is much truism in Pope Francis’ criticism of the mega-salaries received by executives across the globe in contrast to those who toil daily just to keep body and soul intact. Some countries that care to prevent the marginalization of their people from the unfettered system of free enterprise even sought to impose regulatory laws to either limit the salary of their highest executive to not more than twelve times the amount received by lowly employees, or tax those who earn more so that their net income would not exceed twelve times the salary of those earning the lowest wages. It is an approach to make the system of fairness work, and to prevent their society from slipping into the abyss.
In this country, we envy those who earn much, and flaunt their success as if to tell those queuing that there is enough room to accommodate them. We praise to high heavens those who earn more than P15 million a month by the magic of their capital, while condemning as despicable sloths those who earn barely P200 a day by the sweat of their honest labor. We no longer could visualize the grave injustice being committed against people who have no idea of the great difference between capital and labor, but accept as virtue the system of rat race only a very few and by chance could win. We condemn the losers as not clever enough to think ahead of the rest, and accept as part of the Darwinian process the natural selection that the weak are bound to wither in time.
A society suffering from serious economic imbalance cannot, for long, maintain that artificial serenity by giving the deprived the “crumbs”, while proclaim their generosity as some sort of atonement for their sin of greed. The government, the Pope said, must implement “effective policies” to guarantee people’s fundamental rights, including access to capital, services, educational resources, healthcare and technology.
Maybe Marxism fell out as an ideological fashion because it focused on class struggle. It overlooked that all living beings have their own system for survival. Those at the top of the food chain act on instinct to get their share based on the natural order of things, just as every living being evolved to become different species, which is necessary to maintain the ecological balance that could in the end produce harmony in nature.
It was a fallacy to distort the arrangement God has created for man. Thus, the attempt to equalize things saw the fall of regimented socialism – only to see the rise of an ever greater inequality borne our of unfettered economic freedom. Peace, as what the Pope is now teaching his flock, can only be achieved through a system of economic equilibrium, a condition that is neither equal nor unequal, but one that could provide a wider leeway for every individual the opportunity to economically advance and claim his rightful membership in that civilized society.