Espèce d’âne rouge!

These are the words of the dying Doctor Spiletti to the Communist Mayor Peppone in one of the Dom Camillo films – You red ass! Since the downfall of Soviet Communism in 1989, Communism has made as much of a caricature of itself as Peppone in the old Don Camillo films. He spouts out ideology about the workers being oppressed by the owners of capital and the means of production – without really understanding the deepest meaning of the works of Hegel, Engels, Marx and Lenin.

As most revolutions, like the French one of the end of the eighteenth century, the oppressed became the oppressors. Intolerance against difference and the “enemies of the people” led in France to the guillotine, and in Russia to the gulags and the deaths of millions in various parts of the Soviet empire. I remember the sadness of the Nepomucene College in Rome in 1985. Some of those seminarians were ready to walk out of their country with nothing but their papers and a bit of money in their shoes for freedom to become Catholic priests. We read about Ostpolitik and the vacillating attitude of men of the Church in regard to the Soviet empire – and now the empire of corporate capitalism.

One thing strikes me very deeply as a Christian and a priest – the increasing inequalities between rich and poor. In England, an ordinary family cannot find an affordable house to buy. Unsaleable food from supermarkets is being wasted on an unprecedented scale, and stealing it from dustbins in England is against the law (France has at last outlawed this wastage). Less than one hundred people own the same amount of money as billions of the rest of us. From what I read, the USA is on the slippery slope to totalitarianism and the Police State, and it becomes very frightening.

Should we bring back Communism? What a question to come from a priest! Perhaps if the Communism were of a voluntary nature, tolerant of difference and open to the spiritual, there might be something with which I could sympathise – like the village in Spain and the Mayor who looks like Castro. Everyone can find work, though on a modest salary. On the other hand, food and housing are at an affordable price. Education and medical care are free and assumed by the Cooperative.

We read about the “end of history” represented by corporate capitalism and economic liberalism, the free-for-all for the bankers and speculators. The crisis of the 2000’s has put all that into question. I am tempted by the Communist idea with the reservations I expressed above, but I know that human nature can be just as vile with socialism as with the kind of capitalism that is now destroying the world by sucking it dry.

Capitalism is unmasked in its grossest cynicism, and its tyranny rivals that of Stalin and Beria. I am concerned about the way the European Union is going, the plight of Greece, Spain, Ireland and many other places – as we all languish under the bureaucracy of Brussels. Should we go back to the pre-1989 situation? That would be impossible. The dinosaur died under its own unsupportable weight. Socialism in France is nothing more than “state capitalism” as it would have been in England had Labour won the election.

Actually, I think that any political system at a state level is doomed to failure and internal corruption. It can only work at a much smaller scale and when there is some way it can be prevented from being infected by men with evil intent from seeking power and money. It may seem a hopeless dream.

What could be hoped and worked for? Some of the people working to transform institutions in Gramsci’s cultural Marxism are not the kind of people we would invite to dinner. We find ourselves close to the Frankfurt School and Critical Theory – destroy the DNA of everything and create something different. There are many different types of anarchists as in Russia before the Revolution of 1917, some identified as “demons” by Dostoevsky, the nihilist who does the logical thing – suicide. On the other hand, we find extremely noble ideas in the thought of Tolstoy. It is a labyrinth and as diverse as the individual hotheads who worked to topple everything.

I can understand the way many French priests sided with Communism in the 1950’s, almost in expiation from the way their bishops had collaborated with the Nazi Occupation during the war. Sooner or later, the bomb will go off, and I would hope that the visionaries and prophets of this world will be heeded before blood flows. Communism as we have known it has been as irretrievably tainted as the Nazi regime. Is the evil intrinsic or a deviation from the noble ideal?

Something will arise to restore justice and peace in this world, and I mean justice and peace in a different way from the Vatican bureaucrats. The last straw will break the camel’s back. Perhaps it is now the vocation of Christianity to influence and help what is to come, above all to keep noble ideals out of the hands of evil exploiters. It all sounds naive, but we should dream of that day when we may drink the wine of youth!

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6 Responses to Espèce d’âne rouge!

  1. It does seem that when priests blog about politics, they have a tendency to paint the existing political and economic system in the worst possible terms and to demand the most unrealisable ideals.

    Is it that hard for you clergy to accept that no political or economic system is going to work perfectly and that maybe politicians are doing their best to do a difficult job? Or perhaps I am missing the point. Perhaps it is the job of priests to call us to impossible ideals (?).

    • I am a priest but am also an anarchist by conviction, for anarchy of the spirit in those who see through the charade of politics and materialism. I do see modern politics by the logical conclusion of where things are going. Unrealisable ideals? Probably, yea certainly.

      No political system can or will work, especially those working on a large scale like modern states. Certainly there are politicians who would like to do a better job for the common good. Others are in it for the power and money.

      Yes, perhaps a priest should call to impossible ideals, or at least the highest attainable ones.

      • Patricius says:

        Tolkien said he was an anarchist, by which he meant the abolition of control. I wish I could say the same. These days I am so convinced of the intrinsic evil of humanity that I am not sure what to think. A benign dictatorship, ordered to the correction of humanity, for its own good, must surely be evil and frustrated in the end by corruption and resentment. What is the alternative? A permissive society? Roy Jenkins triumphed that in the ’60s, and look where we’ve ended up; a society (if you can call it that) in which young people are not only not discouraged from promiscuity but encouraged thereto by social custom and propaganda. Not to mention so many other evils. Even the hypocrisy of the ’50s doesn’t come close to the new dark age we seem ineluctably to be setting up.

        The Christian Church seems the only institution that can feasibly carry on the semblance of a higher mental civilisation, no doubt in some changed and diminished form. But the key to that is the right balance of orthodoxy and compassion. I am queer, for example, but I am unique in that I openly seek pardon for this cross that I carry. I am open about it solely to the end that people might see that it is not a lifestyle choice but that we exist and that we live life and contribute to society in the ways that we can. You cannot force me to marry a woman and sire children, in other words, but so that we are not seen to be fifth columns I endeavour to uphold the revealed Christian doctrines that do not change and, insofar as I am able, to live life by the same.

        I suppose what I don’t understand is the kind of arbitrary taxonomy that seems so rife to-day. Years ago we called thieves dishonest; now we call them kleptomaniacs. It’s like homosexuals, why don’t we just call them queer? If more queers, like me, acknowledged that they lived in a dream world in which true fulfillment and true love were unattainable we’d all be better off, in my opinion.

      • Correcting humanity for its own good? See John Gielgud as the Grand Inquisitor or read it. I see humanity as consisting of about 5% of psychopaths (not necessarily murderers but people without conscience or care for others who get into positions of power and wealth) and the rest of us who would do better by being left alone to live our lives. The regulation of psychopaths is automatic in history. You get things like the Reformation or the French Revolution. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see politicians and bankers hanging from lamp posts and trees before long. When the world was rid of Hitler and before the Soviet screws tightened, we had the 1950’s when people could work and live comfortably whilst being completely honest.

        Be careful about calling yourself “queer”. It no longer means what it did in the 1970’s. It now seems to be a category in the gender identity world. See Queer Theory. It doesn’t seem to be your scene!

      • ed pacht says:

        Typically the psychopath does not get “automatically corrected” before causing disproportionate harm. Merely waiting for the inevitable “correction” doesn’t really seem to be a very practical answer for that reason. How to improve the situation without imposing an equally horrendous oppression — now that IS a big question in itself.

        As for “queer” — my observation, from more-or-less-within, is that it still means pretty much what it long has meant: someone whose ‘sexuality’ does not match current societal norms. Some radical activists have tried to appropriate it for other meanings, and some ‘liberal’ scholars are assuming that these meanings are appropriate, but outside these rarified realms the word simply will not bear those definitions. I am celibate and firmly hold traditional Christian morality, but will sometimes refer to myself as ‘queer’, as none of the other terms adequately represent the emotional place in which society still places those of my ‘orientation’. Homosexual is altogether too clinical.

      • Not the psychopath, but society. When the psychopaths have had their way for a certain time, ordinary folk rise up against them or get someone to do the killing. Revolutions and world wars seem to be the only way to exorcise that particular demon.

        You are American. Patrick and I are English. “Queer” means about the same thing, but it was pejorative in England in the 1970’s and before. Now it means something else, with “queer” people using the word to describe themselves. The more we can avoid labels to describe ourselves, the better. We need our private and secret garden and appear “normal” to the rest of the world. You are you, and you don’t need to reveal your private life to the world.

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