‘America — with its decaying infrastructure, its third-world public transit, its shrinking labor market, its evaporating middle class, its expanding gulf between rich and poor, its heartless health insurance system, its mindless indifference to a dying ecology, its predatory credit agencies, its looming Social Security collapse, its interminable war, its metastasizing national debt and all the social pathologies that gave it a degenerate imbecile and child-abducting sadist as its president — remains the only developed economy in the world that believes it wrong to use civic wealth for civic goods. Its absurdly engorged military budget diverts hundreds of billions of dollars a year from the public weal to those who profit from the military-industrial complex. Its plutocratic policies and libertarian ethos are immune to all appeals of human solidarity. It towers over the world, but promises secure shelter only to the fortunate few’.
Queensland, a part of the country where most locals seem to espouse the philosophy that two wongs don’t make a white and which is not especially well known for a radical brand of Christianity, sees some religious fanatics charged for beating swords into garden hoes.
Paul Collier reviews a couple of recent efforts to understand the logic and opportunities of, and challenges to, capitalism. Along the way, he has some insightful things to say about nationalism, ‘nationhood’, multiculturalism, and global citizenship too. (However, given the reality of religion, for example, it would be very difficult to defend the claim that ‘nationhood is the only force that has proved to be sufficiently powerful to bind millions of people together in a sense of shared identity’.)
‘In poverty of spirit we learn to accept ourselves as beings who do not belong to ourselves. It is not a virtue that one “acquires”; as such, it could easily turn into a personal possession that would challenge our authentic poverty. We truly “possess” this radical poverty only when we forget ourselves and look the other way. As Jesus put it: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the reign of God” (Lk. 9:62). To look back for reassurance is to try to acquire possession and full control over this virtue, which amounts to losing it.
Poverty can never be isolated from the roots of existence and laid hold of. It is thoroughgoing interiority. It is the concentrated commitment of all our capabilities and powers. It cannot be viewed abstractly; it must involve total personal dedication. Like truth, it must be lived (cf. 1 Jn. 1:16) from the depth of our heart, where our existence is unified and were our act of self-acceptance is unified and harmonized with our conscious presence to Being.
The fulfilled ones are the ones who dare to forget themselves and offer up their heart. “The one who loves his or her life loses it, and the one who hates his or her life in this world will keep it for eternal life (Jn. 12:25). To be able to surrender oneself and become “poor” is, in biblical theology, to be with God, to find one’s hidden nature in God; in short, it is “heaven”.
To stick to oneself and to serve one’s own interests is to be damned; it is “hell.” Here we discover, only too late, that the tabernacle of self is empty and barren. For we can only find ourselves and truly love ourselves through the poverty of an immolated heart’.