Though paraphrased and abbreviated, that message isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Pope Benedict found a characteristically nice way of saying the destiny of each of us is inextricably linked to the destiny of all of us. His message is not exactly stating the obvious. So it calls for some attention.
“The challenges we are currently facing are numerous and complex, and can be overcome only if we reinforce our awareness that the destiny of each of us is linked to that of everyone else. For this reason … acceptance, solidarity and legality are fundamental values”.
He made these remarks to an annual meeting with Roman and provincial officials.
The Pope went on: “The present crisis can, then, be an opportunity for the entire community to verify whether the values upon which social life is founded have generated a society that is just, fair and united, or whether it is necessary to undertake a profound rethink in order to rediscover values which … not only favour economic recovery, but which are also attentive to promoting the integral good of human beings”.
That’s the Pope’s nice way of saying we need a profound rethink at this time.
Benedict XVI expressed the view that the roots of the current crisis lie in “individualism which clouds the interpersonal dimension of man and leads him to close himself into his own little world, concerned first and foremost with satisfying his own needs and desires with scant concern for others”. The consequences of such a mentality are “speculation in housing, increasing difficulty for young people to enter the world of work, the solitude suffered by so many elderly, the anonymity which often characterises urban life, and the sometimes superficial attention paid to situations of marginalisation and poverty”.
The first step towards creating a more human society is “to rediscover relationships as the constituent element of our lives”.
This little address is loaded.
Acceptance must be accompanied by solidarity, because “charity and justice require that, in times of need, those with the greatest resources should look after the disadvantaged”.
Over the past year of global financial crises, I’ve been looking for the human story at the center of it all. Most major media neglect that aspect. But I’ve found a kindred spirit in finance expert Lydia Fisher, Cinderella of Wall Street, who I’ve made a frequent guest on my radio show. Our conversations are as compelling as her insights, which appear in her business blog on Huffington Post. This latest one converges with the humanistic message Benedict emphasized.
Industrialized nations face a humanistic challenge — big debts, stalled or slow growth, maybe for years to come. Yet, promises and obligations remain.
A while back, I watched an interview with Mortimer Adler. One of many interviews and writings, covering topics such as justice, truth, beauty and much more.
Mortimer Adler was an American philosopher, best remembered for editing the Great Books of Western Civilization. I was particularly struck by what Adler said at the end of this interview which derived from a quote of his:
“Everyone is called to one common human vocation — that of being a good citizen and a thoughtful human being… — and that, to discharge the obligation common to all human beings, schooling should be essentially humanistic…”
These messages are converging, and I’m happy to say it’s about time we hear this side of the global crisis story.
Humanistic means keeping the interests and welfare of others in mind. If we’re taught the humanistic, it’s likely that we’d aspire to integrate this into our professional lives and lives at large. After all, we seek coaches and mentors for just about everything else.
Take the late Czech President Vaclav Havel as an example of a “good citizen.” He was a moral voice and beacon of hope for many.
He notes that:
“Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance….”
The thrust of his later writings and speeches was that Communism had made everyone morally ill, or “spiritually impoverished,” in another phrase of his, and it was humanity’s task to recover what had been forfeited.
When you’re on the track of human dignity and pursuit of a just and moral order, things converge in surprising ways. I was just given the opportunity to interview Vaclav Havel’s former General Secretary next week, on his new book that has at its core the message that crisis leads to change. How exquisitely timely.