That Damn Hippie Pope

NEW SLAUGHTERMy guess is that Pope Francis was well aware of the appalling orgy of fevered consumerism — Black Friday and the onset of our sacred “Holiday Season” — when he dropped his 50,000 word rip job on “trickle down” economics and our “idolatry of money.” The timing was just too ideal to be a coincidence. And that, you have to hand it to him, demonstrates some shrewd marketing chops, along with a bona fide Christian conscience.

I am not expecting it to do much good though, unless he requires his “shepherds” in local parishes to hammer that message … to the dwindling audience that still sees moral authority in a church degraded by medieval sexual politics.

Coincidentally, news of the Pope’s hippie-like attack on the foundation of American exceptionalism — i.e. unbridled acquisitiveness and status through possession — came on the same day I caught a nakedly cynical Christmas-y ad that began with a lament for the sad state of Christmas today.  (Open with: A montage of Norman Rockwell-like imagery; happy nuclear families, cherubic kiddies, fresh snow, tree trimming). The clear inference being that we’ve fallen a long, long ways from “the true meaning of Christmas”.

Where, I wondered, was this leading?

Cut to a scene from today … inside some tricked out big box super store, with … you know t, a fake Santa and excited shoppers stockpiling massive amounts of crap (excuse me, “gifts”). It was an ad for Gander Mountain or Cabela’s or some much enterprise, which, I think you can see the irony here, has nothing whatsoever to do with the “true meaning” of Christmas and everything to do with what’s wrong with this blessed season and what the Pope was getting at.

Popes routinely bemoan crass consumerism and exploitation of the lower classes. But soon they move on … to negotiating Vatican politics, managing the church’s vast real estate holdings, meetings with attorneys fending off sexual abuse claims and battling homosexuality. The priority stuff.

Maybe Francis, who is off to a good start, will be a transformative figure. Maybe he’ll push this them, especially when he makes his first visit to the United States. But the odds are against him.

Especially here in America, where to watch the network and local news there is no greater unalloyed good than storming the mall — or WalMart — in support of the economy. Sure they all reported the fistfights over 40″ Funai TVs and laughed at the video of the guy loosing his drawers in a WalMart brawl and flashing plumber butt — but nowhere did I see anyone come back from any of this and say, “This is nuts.”

Obviously, TV news has an enormous stake in shilling for any excuse to spend money. But, Barry Ritholtz in the not exactly hippie-dippy Bloomberg View tells us again, it’d help if “news” was actually based in some semblance of fact instead of junk numbers made up by random shoppers and repeated endlessly everywhere you looked.

I still think it’d be interesting to get someone like Barack Obama into a candid conversation about values. Not just the usual platitudinal stuff about “democracy” and “a thousand points of light” but the essential message leaders have an obligation to convey to their citizens.

Once away from the White House (and you know he’s got scratch marks on the cell wall counting off the days ) I suspect he’d agree with the Pope. There’s almost nothing about inciting mass psychosis and the constant pornographic exultation of the super rich that meshes with actual Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim) values.

17 thoughts on “That Damn Hippie Pope

  1. bertram jr. says:

    Ahhhh, thank you Lambo for your glad tidings of anti-Catholicism and your personal yearning for Barry Soetero to pontificate on values.

    I was hoping you’d work in the story of how he applied for AND received FOREIGN STUDENTaid at Occidental, but you, like the rest of the activist ‘media’, seem to be ignoring THAT smoking gun.

    Nonetheless, Bertram is taking a break from the mad yuletide rush of squeezing merchants for last minute co-op funds to call your attention to the difference behind material gain (the basic human instinct to ‘achieve, excel and acquire’) and material obsession, which is fanning the likes of WalMarts in flames, fatal crowd crushes, and the unseemly behavior exhibited by the low-information types who buy into
    the whole “Black Friday” (sorry Al Sharpton) hype.

    While on the one hand Bertram is a sort of well oiled cog in the wheel of the free market, and the capitalist society that makes us the GREATEST country in the world, he sees the abhorrent behavior of pathologiical materialism as further evidence of the current despotic regime’s plans to take away the fruits of labor, and replace with the state’s allocation of government cheese.

    I think you misread the Pope. Now, Bertram is off to the ammunition store, to add to the stockpile before the regime furthers its agenda to restrict production to foreign countries, therebye ensuring taxation / confiscation.

    God bless us all!

  2. pm1956 says:

    I have to say, I am loving the confusion on the Right that the Pope is causing. Limbaugh speculating that the Pope is a Marxist! This is great! It will really cause a spike in the conspiracy theorists–who is behind the takeovers of both the US Presidency and the Papacy? Trilateralists? Bilderbergers?

    In any event (and back to reality), I thought that this was a great article on the Pope’s views:

    I remember reading Polanyi a long time ago. Imagine an anthropologist writing about economics. I do think that there is, however, a more convincing argument that makes the same point–Marcel Mauss in “The Gift”. He examines the Pacific islanders who created an intricate economy that spanned huge, distant island chains, where they traded….rocks. Things of no real value–symbolic value, maybe, but they expended huge effort (paddling outrigger canoes hundreds of miles across the ocean) into the trading of things that had absolutely nothing to do with wealth. No one was better off because of this trading activity in a material sense. There was literally a market with no products, trading/exchange with no material gain.

    So Mauss’s speculation was that it was the exchange, the market, the human interaction that was the central thing, not the wealth/material well being that was at the center of this huge and intricate network.

    And i think that that is what the Pope is also getting at–that we as humans have a need to interact with each other, to be social, and that that need is what is at the bottom of all systems of economic exchange, but that this human need has been eclipsed by the desire to accumulate wealth–the ends and the means have been switched in our modern capitalist society.

    I sort of agree with all of this. At the very least, it is an interesting and valuable discussion, and people like Limbaugh are simply too stupid to understand the important nuances here. Much easier to try to label this as “marxism” and dismiss it.

    1. I saw Obama’s comments about the wealth gap minutes after I posted this one. And I think he could do much worse than synche up with the Pope for the last three years pounding home a message of “responsible capitalism”. He will of course be pilloried mercilessly by conservative deep-thinkers like El Rushbo and the Wall St. sycophants on the biz news networks … but who really cares what they think. Their audience is a dust mote of a minority in comparison with the people who believe the modern deck is stacked against them. An equitable tax code would be the legislative fix required, but on a strict values level both leaders could argue — effectively, I think — for a reappraisal of what constitutes “need” among the wealthier classes, and how even their security is imperiled by the animosities of those not as well protected by the tax codes.

      Cranks like me, meanwhile, will continue to bore our families with churlish comments about credulous idiots wasting hard-earned cash on instantly disposable crap … in the name of “celebrating” a sacred holiday.

  3. bertram jr. says:

    You had ne until you took a (missed) shot at El Rushbo.

    I would add that the human interaction we naturally require is also being snuffed by the interwebs, youtube and texting, etc – customized individual entertainments.

    Nobody, it seems, seeks or initiates real conversation anymore, especially the debt laden entitled little miscreants that our ‘higher learning’ institutions are excreting at an alarrming rate.

    It’s a bad combination ‘o circumstances, ain’t it?

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      Bertram and I are in accord. It must be a sign. Yes, we need to step away from these digital portals and get out and, sure, shop a bit for tokens of our affection for each other, if only to see one another, and, perhaps, stop in at a public house and exchange a bit of good cheer in the process. I’m hoping to sample some pints of hard cider tonight in NE.

    1. PM says:

      and, for some of the same reasons, as Chait shows here:

      Jacob Zuma (current President of SA) is another expression of special interests gaming the system for their personal benefit. The story of the ANC and the arms purchase deal (where foreign arms companies paid massive bribes to both the ANC (the ruling political party) as well as to top ANC leaders is telling. Mandela was not in any way implicated, but he did nothing to stop it, and it was his party and his ministers who did accept the bribes. If you are interested, this is a good place to start:

  4. PM says:

    Well, we now have more evidence that Obama is a commie, along with the Pope (shaking Castro’s hand at Mandela’s funeral……)

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