Tag Archives: Social Justice

Securing the Future for All

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At the time of writing, Pope Francis has been making the news for his visit to Egypt, a 90% Muslim country, and the message of peace he has made with Islamic leaders. But he has also just given a secular TED talk which is very worthy of our reflection.

Solidarity

His first message is about solidarity (which not only means unity, but in the register of Catholicism, also connotes the social aspect of morality as a whole):

“How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.”

So as Francis said elsewhere this week, we need to resist our cultural dichotomy that gives efficiency free reign over the economy and consigns solidarity to our social lives. But I love how he phrases this in this talk, bringing to my mind the idea of transposing what social work strives to do into all other contexts of human life. That is, the idea of the attention and care given to people in social work becoming the paradigm for how we relate to other persons generally. And as I’ve said before I think almost everyone should be involved in some kind of social work whether it’s with children, the elderly, or the disabled etc. (See related posts here.) But the important part is the spirit in which you connect with others, not whether you work with helping people directly. Francis continues by linking this to what have become the core messages of his papacy:

“Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the ‘culture of waste,’ which doesn’t concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realising it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.”

The challenges of our time, including but not limited to the environmental crisis, demand that we equip people with the skills and mindset to tackle them. Education –life-long education– must promote a ‘culture of care’ for all people, and prioritise the value of connecting with others on a personal level, as subjects rather than as objects. (See an article where I discuss this in more detail.) Fostering such a culture allows associations comprised of mutual assistance to evolve into fraternal communities comprised of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’.

Tenderness

Building on this theme, the Pope speaks about the need for a “revolution of tenderness”, not a political revolution, but a revolution in how we relate to one another. Tenderness he says, is giving attention to the other in a heartfelt way, but not only engaging and listening with one’s heart but through the senses, often including touch.

What tenderness means is “to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need” – including nature. Tenderness is “being on the same level as the other”, co-creating a shared space of communication, a space of relationship for souls to be touched.

Francis adds humility to tenderness as another ingredient we need for our works of solidarity to be a service to others, rather than power which we impose on them. Elsewhere he has said that solidarity with the poor and with our endangered environment requires the courage to live what, by comparison to worldly expectations, are lives of simplicity. To do this is the gift of humility.

Hope

Francis says that “the future does have a name, and its name is Hope.” Hopefulness is the virtue of focusing, not on the past -or even the present- but on a positive future. With this essential role, “hope is the humble, hidden seed of life” and it is a final ingredient for a solidarity that can secure a just future for all:

“Does hope begin when we have an ‘us?’ No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ [But] when there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution.” Therefore “the future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold enormous responsibility, but the future is most of all in the hands of those people who recognise the other as ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’.  We all need each other.”

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Watch the full talk here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=36zrJfAFcuc

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Papal Environmentalism’s “Ecological Debt”

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This article of mine was originally published on The Partially Examined Life

That the Pope refers to experts rather than his own scientific research does not nullify Rick Santorum's embarrassment here.

That the Pope cites experts rather than scientific research of his own does not nullify Rick Santorum’s embarrassment.

If you needed proof that Pope Francis’ recent encyclical letter on care for the environment, Laudato si’, was not only seminal but radical, it would be that it is now being published by Verso, a leading publisher of leftist continental philosophy. It is sad then, that rather than focusing on the ideas themselves, all of the attention being given to this event is to sensationalist reactions to the Pope among conservatives- not least of all when he visited the USA. Even the respected philosopher Robert P. George tried to downplay Francis’ ability to know that climate change is anthropogenic, presenting the consensus on the matter by 97% of scientists as if it were of equal weight to the opposite opinion. But as Francis says in the document, this consensus means that the burden of proof is on the proponents of a business as usual approach to demonstrate that it will not cause serious harms. (§186) In this piece I will engage with just a little of the criticism of Francis, as an aid to clarify the ideas as well as to examine their limitations. Read the rest of this entry

Papal Paupery

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Popemon

This month we saw a Democratic President of the United States seek an audience with the Pope, likely with the hopes he could regain his tarnished progressive image by having some of the Bishop of Rome’s credentials rub off on him. And if nothing else, this unusual state of affairs goes to show that the music of Prince, who, two decades ago sang “You can be the president, I’d rather be the Pope” is as relevant as ever.i

The following is an article I co-wrote with Sean Oakley; the original version appears in the American magazine The Daily Confidential.

By last month Pope Francis, or Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was a year in to his tenure as leader of the oldest and largest religious organisation on the planet. Bergoglio, formerly the archbishop of Buenos Aires, had taken charge of a church whose members believe him to be the final authority on all holy matters. And judging by recent media reaction it seems that some in the secular world are beginning to think the same.  Read the rest of this entry

Yucky Girly Nature

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Some robust points here which I fully agree with; click the link to view the full article. // My comment: In this age of soundbite tweets the term ‘ecofeminist’ is useful firstly just to save the effort of writing both environmentalist and feminist. Secondly, it marks out an environmentalism which, rather than being a single-issue concern with fixing climate change to save our own arses, is grounded in a consistent life ethic, a set of values that give us guidance across all moral questions. These values are feminine in the sense that they are the humanistic values that have been emphasised from the types of experiences that have historically tended to be those of women. No claim to gender essentialism is necessary, but it is important for women to challenge patriarchal ideology that domination, for example, is a much higher value than care.

lizmckinnell

This is one of those needing-to-get-something-off-my-chest posts, or to put it a more gendered way, one of those things-that-get-on-my-tits posts.

Something that I have come to notice in a few discussions lately (in academic articles, conference papers and on internet discussion forums – it gets everywhere) is a particular identification of women with nature. Of course, this is not a new thing – it has been around for thousands of years. I have been seeing it come up in order to make points supposedly in support of feminist ideas, and also in support of pretty silly anti-feminist ones that should have been consigned to the dustbin quite some time ago.

So let’s get something straight – as a woman I do not have privileged access to the secrets of life. Having a vagina, breasts and a womb does not put me in touch with the sacred feminine. I do not…

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Against Employment

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“Nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else.”  (Usually attributed to George Halas, but I'll bet he got it from this Snorlax–Mr. Lazy hybrid.)

“Nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else.”
(Usually attributed to George Halas, but I’ll bet he got it from this Snorlax–Mr. Lazy hybrid.)

In a previous post I argued that Western culture needs to make a dramatic shift away from devoting so many hours towards paid employment. This has become something of a hot topic in the USA right now, partly because some implications of the Affordable Care Act apparently involve forcing some employees to reduce their hours (why such a rich country must interfere with all employers just to ensure that sick children born to poor parents aren’t simply left to die is beyond me and thankfully also besides the point here), but mainly because The Partially Examined Life covered the topic of work in their most recent podcast. In the following guest post, my friend Joey Jones -in a section from his Philosophy MA thesis- takes a rather different view on work both to myself in that aforementioned post, and to the traditional socialist position represented by Karl Marx, whose views I have also written on.

Introduction

Governments always want to increase the amount of work being performed via employment levels, but is this a goal we should be seeking? This depends on whether doing so is in peoples’ best interests. Read the rest of this entry

Feminism is the answer to a lot more problems than women’s rights

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From my friend Benjamin Thomas, today with some socialist sense rather than liberal rubbish. Click through to his site to read the whole article. // I support affirmative action. Societal issues of justice must be viewed on a historical basis rather than just in the present tense.

Liberal Rubbish

So many problems in the world are caused or exacerbated by the way we’ve programmed men (who are the ones running things, in the main) to make decisions. We tell them from when they are children that conflict is good, that winning is everything, that talking and reasoning out our differences are for girls, that co-operation is only for the weak, that negotiation is tantamount to surrender, and that strength is the ultimate form of power. As a result, we have complex international issues such as the Syrian crisis reduced to pathetic dick-waving, as countless commentators, politicians, and voters peddle the ridiculous idea that anything other than BOMB THE BASTARDS is tantamount to appeasement. The same problems can be seen in our marketplace, where co-operation, long-term thinking, and sustainable methods are run over by short-term, high-risk, competitiveness. Our democratic process is shambles, with complex issues and problems reduced to macho…

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Three trends that will create demand for an Unconditional Basic Income

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A most superlatively excellent post about the welfare/economic policy concept of ‘Unconditional Basic Income’ (UBI) (popularised in Anglophone philosophy by the non-Anglophone-sounding Philip Van Parijs), click through to the site to view properly. //

Just this evening I contributed to a friend’s discussion on Facebook over whether universal benefits were preferable to means tested ones because the latter lead to claimants being disrespected with stigma and suspicion. I wrote an essay on this for my degree which I plan to adapt for this blog some time, and my view tonight is the same as it was there: that the positives of means testing outweigh the negatives of the disrespect, since claimants are going to have to deal with that from other sources anyway, and they should just learn to put up with it as one of the less serious disadvantages of being poor. This position, however, is dependent upon there being a welfare state similar to the one we have now, whereas my top preference is for a radically different establishment in which we have UBI instead. //

Funnily enough, I also mentioned this in the aforementioned university essay and the reason I haven’t posted it is that I want to split up the topic of progressive approaches to social justice from that of means testing’s disrespect. But I didn’t make the link that the author of the Simulacrum article I’m blogging does, that UBI solves the respect dilemma by apparently making means testing redundant (-probably why I didn’t get a 1st class grade for that one…). Heading in the same direction as my post on Working Less, he says: “If we stop stigmatizing the non-employed, we can stop pushing people into jobs that offer little collective benefit.” //

This is also apt because I am about to welcome a second guest blogger in the form of Joey Jones (like Toby Coe and myself a University of Reading graduate) to share his philosophical ruminations on work, and The Partially Examined Life are about to podcast on work too.

Simulacrum

The digitization of our economy will bring with it a new generation of radical economic ideologies, of which Bitcoin is arguably the first.  For those with assets, technological savvy, and a sense of adventure, the state is the enemy and a cryptographic currency is the solution.  But for those more focused on the decline of the middle classes, the collapse of the entry-level jobs market, and the rise of free culture, the state is an ally, and the solution might look something like an unconditional basic income. Before I explain why this concept is going to be creeping into the political debate across the developed world, let me spell out how a system like this would look:

  • Every single adult member receives a weekly payment from the state, which is enough to live comfortably on.  The only condition is citizenship and/or residency.

  • You get the basic income whether or not…

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