Leo XIII: How must one’s possessions be used?


‘Private ownership, as we have seen, is the natural right of man, and to exercise that right, especially as members of society, is not only lawful, but absolutely necessary. “It is lawful,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “for a man to hold private property; and it is also necessary for the carrying on of human existence.”” But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used? – the Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor: “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.”`
-Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum No.22


Earth Day Thoughts

The Earth is my home and my favourite place in the universe. I can’t imagine a better place to live. Astronomy has found some wonders, but nothing to rival the Earth. The Earth has allowed us to live for billions of years, to get to our modern human life today. She deserves our love and gratitude.

Maybe you roll your eyes at me personifying a planet. But when science considers people/life as material, spirituality must consider all matter as personal/living.

For too long, we’ve viewed the earth as a dead object to be exploited for private profit. For too long, some (our rich and powerful) have thought they have a right to damage our common home.

‘You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.’
-St. Ambrose of Milan (4th Century Bishop and Doctor of the Church)

God bless you


Sainsbury’s Christmas Advert

Hmmmmm… They are using a war that killed millions of people, in order to sell chocolate… They are using the terrible tragedy of the first world war, and the incredibly beautiful and profound Christmas day peace, to increase their own profits… They are trying to connect which rich people receive our money, with our deepest longings for peace and humanity… But they do it so well!

Is there nothing that can’t be capitalised? Is nothing sacred! Well, no, not really. This is capitalism: The religion without any dogmas.

If the production costs are high, the only way it will ever happen is if its profitable in some way. Beautiful and tragic films are also made for the monies. The best modern architecture is for offices (offices!).

G.K. Chesterton understood the matter quite perfectly when he wrote,

‘But the improvement of advertisements is the degradation of artists. It is their degradation for this clear and vital reason: that the artist will work, not only to please the rich, but only to increase their riches; which is a considerable step lower. After all, it was as a human being that a pope took pleasure in a cartoon of Raphael or a prince took pleasure in a statuette of Cellini. The prince paid for the statuette; but he did not expect the statuette to pay him.’
-from Utopia of Usurers

The Sainsbury’s advert is beautiful and profound. Even the chocolate bar at the end, reminds us that it’s not just a chocolate bar. The right use of the most base material goods is for them to be used as more than material goods. It testifies beautifully, that our lowest material goods are destined to embody the highest spiritual goods. But here lies the real perversion of this advert: the advert itself, is using the most profound spiritual goods as just a tool, at the service of the very lowest material good: profit.

It is both beautiful and ugly. Its beauty lies in its lowliness and horror being exalted by love. Its ugliness lies in its glory being chopped down and processed into another product at the service of mammon.

Household debt lowers wages

This is something I recently realised, that I haven’t seen before, and, based on a quick google search, doesn’t seem to be common knowledge on the web.

Debts must be repayed: Failing to repay debts has bad consequences, such as repossessions and higher debt; Debt repayments are a cost to individuals, and, as there is nothing in return, lower standards of living; Because there is a higher cost of living including the repayments, work is needed more, increasing the supply of labour, which increases competition over jobs and over-time, and therefore lowers wages.

I don’t know why this isn’t more well established economic knowledge. There is very little difference between the notion that lowering unemployment benefit will increase work and decrease wages and, what is the same, increasing a cost such as paying off debts will do the same.
I suspect it may be that the wealthy, who set policy, don’t wish to reveal their advantage. It wouldn’t be popular to tell people they will have higher debt and lower income. And the economists are generally in love with the rich, and wish to present them as kind and helpful in all they do. Ultimately, they will see this as an increase in productivity.

Student debt (in many countries) is different, as it doesn’t last forever and is only paid by those on relatively high earnings. This is paid in proportion to earnings over a threshold, and so works as a tax. It should, therefore, disincentivise work over the threshold, and so increase wages (before tax & debt repayments).

Mortgages can be particularly bad, as the cost of missing repayments is extremely high, even if just a short period is missed.

Interest is the key problem here, as receiving a loan would initially improve cash-flow and help absorb falls in income. But as more will have to be paid back due to interest, the dependence on wage-slavery is increased, overall, rather than decreased.

Basically, the important thing about capitalism is that the more needy a person is, the less they are given and the more is demanded of them. And the capitalists still dare to refer to themselves as kind benefactors (however, occasionally one genuinely is).

God bless you.

Play and work; childhood and adulthood

It’s odd, how as we grow up, we tend to play less and less. When was the last time you had a game of it, or tag, with friends? Why do we “grow out” of such great things?
Even animals play more when they’re young. Puppies chase their tails, and kittens play with string, but cats and dogs have grown out of it. It’s a natural change.
Yet, we do still play. Sports, computer games, card games all survive into adulthood. Why not all the wonderful running games? I think, the change is, that we want the games to increase, and change, and be games upon games. We want long term improvement and therefore training in the game. We want the game to be part of a bigger game, and so we make cups and leagues.

I think society’s negligence of play is partially responsible for many of today’s problems. Amongst playing children, we find equality, friendship, and freedom. We find much the same among sports playing adults (not so much when sport becomes work). And what about the creative industries/businesses where workers are largely just playing around?
My question is, why don’t we play more? If a child will build an entire house out of Lego, why must the real thing be made drudgery? If children happily build their own toys from mechano, why bother with exploitation and the division of labour in foreign workshops? Why do we work, rather than play?
Capitalism [gasp!]. The demand for “efficiency” has long been at work, forcing man to be a part of a grand machine. The system demands quantity, and hates true quality.
Cost pressure drives the minimization of work, in order to minimize wages. But in doing so, it both ruins work for man through the division of labour, that may otherwise have been done as play (or art), and by reducing the demand for workers, increases their dependency on working the same way.
Arguably I should be blaming the consumers for wanting goods which weren’t made for art/play. To an extent maybe.
But more so, I blame the institution of property. Without this, we would be free to play. We wouldn’t be working on another’s property for his gain, and according to another’s desires; it would be ours to take joy in, and manage for ourselves. Even if it wasn’t for the worker’s own final use, it would be their work (play/art), for their own pleasure, even in the aid of their fellow man. We would all be self-employed, and have the joy and hard work of it.

We desire nearly everything we do to be part of ever greater and greater games. Why not?

I also believe the lack of play this is leading to social issues. There comes a point when working and recovering from work are too much, and there is stress, and there is boredom in work, and boredom in recovery, and there is depression. Or the unemployed have nothing to do, as work is taken, and no good play/art is accepted or available, so video game, watch TV, and little more is available; and therefore, feel unproductive and worthless, leading to depression (unemployed people are more likely to commit suicide). One in seven people in Scotland are on anti-depressants, and rates are similar elsewhere, showing how dire the situation is.
Lack of play and art is obviously not the only cause, but no one gets stressed or depressed from over play.

Here are a couple vaguely related scriptures

let all your things be done in love.
1Corinthians 16:14

Perhaps I should have defined play earlier. I consider it an act of love. I believe it’s largely with God, as it enjoys creation, but also about sharing with humans.

‘verily I say to you, whoever may not receive the reign of God, as a child—he may not enter into it’
Mark 10:15

Accept the reign with joy and humility, like children. If this reign is among us, let us all be like children.

I often feel like we grow into fools. Childhood made more sense. But I also feel, that the important part of childhood never does grow up or disappear; it’s just not listened to as much.

God bless you.