Monday, September 10, 2012

the social justice workers that I love


I've long been a fan of liberation theologists who risked their lives and their standing in the Catholic church by speaking out for sharing the wealth. I love Dom Hélder Câmara for saying, "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."

"Why are the people poor?" is the most dangerous question anyone can ask a capitalist. The answer's obvious: in this world that has enough for everyone, the only reason anyone is poor is because the rich don't share.

Speaking for "social justice" makes sense in countries where socialists are marginalized, imprisoned, or killed, but social justice is a movement that cannot exist without the tolerance of hierarchs who will squash it if it goes too far. That's what happened to the liberation theologists; Wikipedia notes, "The influence of liberation theology diminished after proponents were accused of using "Marxist concepts" leading to admonishment by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 1984 and 1986. The Vatican criticized certain strains of liberation theology for focusing on institutionalized or systemic sin, apparently to the exclusion of individual offenders/offences; and for allegedly misidentifying Catholic Church hierarchy in South America as members of the same privileged class that had long been oppressing indigenous populations since the arrival of Pizarro."

In Martin Luther King's time, socialists were excluded from political discourse in the US. To be effective, he had to talk about social justice instead. In a 1963 WMU Speech, he said, "I think with all of these challenges being met and with all of the work, and determination going on, we will be able to go this additional distance and achieve the ideal, the goal of the new age, the age of social justice."

But his concept of social justice was very different than that of identitarians who appropriated the term. That became clear as his focus expanded from race to poverty and peace, when King was willing to directly confront capitalism directly with statements like “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.”