Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On Popes and Presidents

Last week Pope Benedict gave a whack to the P.C. beehive when he used the environment as an analogy for our approach to sexuality. A quick perusal of Google News shows the media's balanced response:

One would think that the whole world had gone gay. The stories, of course, focus idiosyncratically on the Pope's analogy while failing to engage any of the issues that the Pope highlighted in his talk. It is, after all, a lot easier to jump, yell, and call names than to seriously exchange ideas. But we (especially the media) all know that anyone opposed to homosexual behavior is simply psychologically disordered and not worth the trouble of dialogue. Especially the Pope.

I found the Pope's message to be articulate and interesting. It contained an idea that was novel, to me anyways. His Holiness made a comparison to the well-intentioned efforts of many ecologists to preserve natural environments in their "pristine" and original conditions. If we look at nature as "good" in the form it is handed to us, why do we not have the same criteria when it comes to human nature? Why do we expend so much energy forcing modern constructs onto the forms of man and woman? Why not take them naturally, as they come to us?

Perhaps I am as psychologically deformed as the Pope. That would explain my appreciation. That's probably it.

Another, somewhat unrelated, idea that has been on my mind lately is the condition of our culture as it is handed over to President Obama. I heard a reference recently to the United States "spending its spiritual capital". The comparison was between those who create capital and those who spend it. It is not hard to envision the United States as a nation of consumers, sucking up more than they create. Such a situation creates a false and temporary security, where an apparent abundance is taken for granted until it is spent. For me, the analogy is apt for both the material and the spiritual elements of our culture.

In fact, the current financial crisis, it seems to me is a result of the disconnect between what we are consuming and what we are producing. I wonder if the current financial crisis is going to be a bit worse than many think. Perhaps that is just paranoia on my part. But healthy economies are the provenance of healthy cultures. Just as an individual needs to earn more than he spends, just so with a culture. It is fairly common for Americans to believe that they are entitled to 7-8% returns on the stock market in exchange for... nothing. Just because we are Americans and we deserve it.

Here's an idea - what if all of the progressive social programs that Obama would like to implement come to nothing because the nation is plunging headlong into the shitter? I'll tell you what, gay marriage will fall off people's radar pretty quickly if unemployment hits 15%. Social and economic hardship tend to push a culture towards conservatism. The family, the neighborhood, and even the state become very organic things when there's no paycheck coming in. You learn who you depend on.

It's a strange hope. But as I've referred to in other posts, I believe hardship is healthy in a lot of ways. Like a trust-fund baby whose withdrawls exhaust their legacy, we may wake up to a chastening reality. Second place (or third, or fourth) may not sound too bad, but when you're used to being number one...

Ave crux, spes unica.

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