Monday, December 2, 2013

Popes, planets and politics

Last night, we headed to our local second-run movie theater to watch Elysium, described thusly:

"In the year 2159, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. The people of Earth are desperate to escape the planet's crime and poverty, and they critically need the state-of-the-art medical care available on Elysium -- but some in Elysium will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve their citizens' luxurious lifestyle."

Generally, I avoid films and books that present bleak visions of the earth's future. The premise that humanity and the planet are doomed, that we are fated to be victims of the worst parts of ourselves...this overall seems to encourage us to be powerless and passive in response to this perceived inevitability.

And in that way, it seems to me such creations may enable these grim futures even as they decry them. Surely we can imagine and create a more positive, hopeful scenario for humanity to strive for? What is this unhealthy fascination with violence, cynicism and darkness? (I do believe I've become a Pronoia-ist without even realizing it. I thank Rob Brezsny.)

In any case, the injustices and inequalities portrayed in Elysium are all too real. Money rules in a capitalist society. The government, the economy, our cultural beliefs and values, the way hundreds of millions of us live our lives--all based on a socio-economic system that puts money at the center and marginalizes humans and the earth our home.

Of course we each can try to live and act from different values. But the systems in which we function are themselves based on a fundamentally flawed relationship to the earth and other peoples--the culmination of centuries of conquering, consuming, destroying and discarding.

Not only are lives and our humanity diminished by these impoverished and destructive systems; most horrifying to me is that they are systematically destroying the life of this planet. But it doesn't need to be this way; for thousands upon thousands of years, human societies were human- and earth-centered.

And that is why I am so inspired and moved by Pope Francis's powerful denouncement of our morally bankrupt financial system. Even on the page, his words ring with Truth, compassion and righteousness.

I am not a Catholic, but this is not a matter of religion; it is a matter of that which no religion owns: ethics, morality, compassion, justice. Humanity. In our most positive sense, not our least.

Pope Francis writes:
"Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.....
The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule."
YES to that a thousand times. When righteousness speaks with such a powerful voice, it makes us feel part of something larger, unites us in a joint cause...we have suffered so many losses, yet perhaps all is not lost. Humanity is so close to overthrowing the current paradigm, and we need words like these to lend support and shape our thoughts and actions.

Read the apostolic exhortation in its entirety here.

This, too, came floating across my screen today. The first commandment really encompasses all the rest; but ten makes for a nice symmetry.

Earth's Ten Commandments

1. Thou shalt love and honor the Earth, for it blesses thy life and governs thy survival.

2. Thou shalt keep each day sacred to the Earth and celebrate the turning of its seasons.

3. Thou shalt not hold thyself above other living things nor drive them to extinction.

4. Thou shalt give thanks for thy food to the creatures and plants that nourish thee.

5. Thou shalt limit thy offspring for multitudes of people are a burden unto the Earth.

6. Thou shalt not kill nor waste Earth's riches upon weapons of war.

7. Thou shalt not pursue profit at the Earth's expense, but strive to restore its damaged majesty.

8. Thou shalt not hide from thyself or others the consequences of thy actions upon the Earth.

9. Thou shalt not steal from future generations by impoverishing or poisoning the Earth.

10. Thou shalt consume material goods in moderation so all may share Earth's bounty.

And here is a slightly different version, enhanced by music and visuals of our beautiful planet:


  1. As I was reading that summary of the movie, I was thinking, "but we're already there." And yet, there is hope too. So long as people like Pope Francis live and are willing to speak, there is hope.

  2. That sounds like getting the job of pope appears to have given that bloke an opportunity to try and make some positive changes, which in itself is a change.
    It does disturb me that many people in this world are really thoughtless and mean; but I do understand that the greatest change I can make is only to treat others how I want to be treated & not allow others to take advantage either. We can be the change we'd like to see in the world. I've found it's not possible to take over the universe and change it; we would only ruin it. Everything will balance itself out, no matter what it is—that's hard to grasp, but I find it to be truth, so I do not strive. If we resonate, it's possible through resonance that others will harmonise. The simpler we are, the easier it is to live the way people were meant to.


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