11.12.2013

”The money God they made”: the market totalitarians exposed. The critique by Pope Francis of “the idolatry of money” and the “new tyranny” of a “fatal” economic system and the denial of the “Christian” fundamentalists

The denial of the market totalitarians to give up their extremism is not surprising. They have been repeating the mantra of (neoliberal) capitalism giving everybody purportedly “free choice” and having “liberating effects” for society since the advent of Reaganomics and Thatcherism. Pope Francis, in his “Evangelii Gaudium” has blasted this economic model and its “deification of the market”. He has, unsurprisingly, reaped harsh criticism by Conservative (pseudo-)“Christian” ideologues.

Pope Francis at St Peter's Square, Rome, May 12, 2013


Pope Francis shocked the members of the political establishment, especially those one on the right side of the political aisle, with the first major publication of his papacy, published a couple of weeks ago, entitled “Evangelii gaudium” (“the joy of the gospel”). In this, his first, Apostolic Exhortation, Francis sharply condemned the “idolatry of money” and described the neoliberal capitalist economic system,where the “interests of a deified market”, as he put it, “destroy everything that stands in the way of increased profits”, as “an economy that kills”. He also identified the existing primacy (and prioritization in the media coverage) of the financial markets and the speculation on the stock exchange, over politics and social issues, as a root of the world's problems, criticizing 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?” and pointing out in the same manner: “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems”.


He didn't, as some of the wackosphere claimed, promote a “Marxist” or “socialist” agenda, let alone revolution, he merely denounced the rule of the market over human beings as the basis for a “one-dimensional man” (Marcuse) type of logic of competition and consumption. In this logic of the economization and commodification of everything and everyone, if someone doesn't produce or consume, he or she is a “superfluous human being” (Bulgarian-German writer Ilja Trojanow wrote a book by that title, German: “Der überflüssige Mensch”, published this year)). As the pope put it in his exhortation: “Today everything comes under the law of competition and the survival of the fittest. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.” This “denial of the primacy of the human person” as well as “the dominion of money over ourselves and our societies” are, according to Francis, the origins of the current financial crisis. Thus, he blasts social Darwinist and market fundamentalist positions that defend free-market capitalism as a “liberator”. Francis argues in the style of the Hungarian economist Karl Polanyi (1886-1964) insofar as Polanyi also saw the primacy of the market (and of unregulated market economy) over that of the regulatory state as a root cause for the crises of his day, i.e. World War I and the global economic crisis of the 1920s and early 1930s. Thus, he, with Polanyi, argues not for socialism, but for a market economy based more on social rather than purely economic criteria, i.e. a "market society" under state regulation and/or with state intervention (such as, in a way, the “New Deal” policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States, or, even more concrete and current, the policies of Scandinavian economic systems of “social democracy”).

Of course, the pope's critical letter immediately drew harsh criticism from the neo-feudalist right-wing extremists supportive of the criticized system of free-market, unregulated capitalism. First, a non-white (or non-WASP) (“Muslim”, “Arab”, “foreign”,“un-American”) U.S. president, and now, a “liberal” pope critical of the global plutocracy! This seems way too much for these members of the right-wing wackosphere.

The “journalists” of this influential sphere, to be found at Fox News or talk radio shows of similar political affiliation, proudly boast that they are “true believers” and good Christians. Yet, their critical reaction to the pope's remarks exposes that they are anything but true Christians, rather just pure ideologues in favor of sustaining the hegemony of global plutocracy and the economic system of social Darwinism going along with it. Having to choose between essential and true Christian values such as charity, humanism and compassion and a crude pseudo-”Christian” ideology of unfettered capitalism that they legitimate by the “Weberian” Calvinist-Protestant principle “wealth shows that you are a member of the chosen few”, they choose the latter and denounce the most prominent leader of Christianity.



                                                           
This shows that for the “Christian” market totalitarians only greed is good and greed is a higher value than humanistic compassion. They even go so far as to say that with his criticism the pope is “kowtowing to a liberal agenda” and “apologizing for theCatholic Church, thinking that the church is at its best when it'spassive not offending anyone's sensibilites”. So, in their view, reminding “true believers” about what the message of Christianity in essence is (was?) all about, namely altruism, humility and charity, is “apologizing” and “being passive”? Is to reiterate the charitable and egalitarian message of Jesus Christ's “Sermon of the Mount”, something to apologize about, especially if you're the pope? And what is “passive” about that, what “active”? As a liberal, you would think that it's the other way around, that the principles of liberation theology evoked by the pope here are the basis of an “active” strife for the improvement of the fate of the poor. But the the right-wingers critical of Francis - in this case Fox New's Adam Shaw in his article “Pope Francis is the Catholic Church's Obama. God help us” - don't see it that way. Shaw - as a fundamentalist that he, much like the islamists, that the “Christian right” despise, is - refers to the passage of “Evangelium gaudii”, where Francis writes “we need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us” (by the way, the pope is taking up another thought from Polányi here, who suggested interactive and universal understanding as the solution for the crises of his day, in his opus magnum “The Great Transformation” (1944):If we really want to achieve a healthy world economy, what is needed at this juncture of history is a more efficient way of interacting which, with due regard for the sovereignty of each nation, ensures the economic well-being of all countries, not just of a few.”) But Shaw is criticizing this message of universal understanding as too conciliatory (“passive”) and less aimed at conversion (“active”). What, then, in the opinion of those pseudo-Christian ideologues, is the message of “Christianity”? Apparently, “get rich or die tryin'”. And the aim seems to be, in Shaw's opinion, to try to convert as many people to this crude ideology they falsely call “faith”? To him, the pope's concern of the poor is “vacuous” and his critique of unfettered capitalism shows that he is “painfully misguided on economics”.

So, to defend their neoliberal capitalist ideology the right-wing market totalitarians don't stop at denouncing even the pope as an ignoramus, after all the (their?) most prominent Christian leader, that they, identifying themselves as “true Christians”, should respect.




But obviously, this is exposed here, they only respect the money and the greed of “the markets”. Cenk Uygur, host of “The Young Turks”,an internet political commentary program, hit the nail on the head by “reminding” these “Christian” Conservative, who are the ignoramuses themselves: “Your prophet was not Adam Smith, nor was it Alan Greenspan”.






As the result of a study of the Pew Research Center on knowledge of (world) religion(s) in the U.S. has shown, those who identify themselves most strongly as “persons of faith”, be it Catholic or Evangelical, have the least knowledge of the background, basics, history and/our true values of their own, let alone of other, religion(s) (i.e. there is a high degree of “religious illiteracy” among Christians in the U.S.).


In that respect, atheists and agnostics fare much better. The hostile reaction of the right-wing wackosphere nuts towards critical remarks that are based upon fundamental Christian values, but that they just discard or ignore, seems to prove that. Uygur rightly mocks them: “You should pick up the book [the Bible] and read it every once in a while”.


According to the ideology of the “Christian” market fundamentalists, the values of humility and charity don't apply to the field of economics; the spheres of the economy and the markets and the sphere of ethicsand/or religion (as well as politics, i.e. state intervention and/orregulation) should be separated, the  markets should be left alone, to be guided by the infallible, “invisible hand” that has so brilliantly directed the markets into the right direction (as the global economic crises of free-market capitalism have shown; in these cases, the capitalists screamed for the government to bail out the banksters and “the markets”). If they didn't postulate that separation, if they didn't embellish greed as necessary and wealth as a sanctified divine gift (and poverty as a divine punishment of the poor), they would have to admit to the contradiction that it is being “Christian” on the one hand, but a greedy and irresponsible social Darwinist capitalist on the other. Paradoxically, allegedly “Christian values” and morals do apply when it comes to the freedoms of the lifestyle of an individual, e.g. of his freedom to follow or live according to his sexual orientation; apparently it is more of a sin to be gay than to be greedy.


All this just goes to show: The market totalitarians are members of the system that favors the 1% financial "elite" they belong to (or get paid by) and that promotes their interests, be it in the right-wing (or, to some extent as well, the main stream) media or as actors in the markets themselves. By putting forth this crude ideology (or rhetoric) of “Christian values”, combined with market totalitarianism, they are fiercely fighting any change to the economic system (and society, for that matter), i.e. a system of plutocracy and ongoing redistribution of wealth from the (financial) lower and middle classes to the upper class. It's a neo-feudal logic, that justifies the class society, its inequalities and injustices with divine ordination, as heaven-sent. After analyzing the contradictions between the (in the capitalist system apparently old-fashioned, dated, obsolete?) humanistic values evoked by the pope and the ideologically tainted “values” of the market totalitarians, it is not hard to subsume that this God, i.e. today's neo-feudal divinity, is not a transcendental or outer-wordly one, but an inner-wordly, earthly one, it is the “deified market” of the capitalist world.


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