We Really Need To Think Things Through Before It Is Too Late

We Really Need To Think Things Through Before It Is Too Late December 28, 2011

One of the problems of the modern capitalistic society is that capitalism is, at best, a-moral, and at worse, immoral, and those who use capitalist ideology as a hermeneutic for life are incapable of understanding the pursuit for virtue. Money is turned into the end one must seek, so that money becomes identified with the good. Clearly this is idolatry, because only God is the good. But even if we do not engage in the religious significance of identifying money as the good, we can see how identifying money as the good invalidates all traditional morality – for the pursuit of virtue shows that such virtues are self-validating in their good but capitalistic hermeneutics only validates that which has an economic value as worthwhile. Virtues, because they often prevent the accumulation of wealth, and indeed, because they often require one to abandon wealth, become seen as something negative and to be abandoned for the continued success of a capitalistic society. Is it any wonder that when vices, such as lust, can be used to make money, they are embraced by a capitalistic society, while the virtues are slowly seen as outdated and worthless for the world of today? If capitalism and its ideals are what one embraces, the virtues hinder the progress of those virtues, and so the sooner one moves on to the accumulation of one’s real “good,” wealth, the better and more praiseworthy and “modern” they will be.

If this is not bad enough, the capitalistic ideology, when combined with a drastically increased “working class,” due to the fact that most families feel as if both parents need careers in order to just have enough financial success to live, means children are going to gravitate more and more to consumerism and its lack of any sense of virtue. Children not only will have no guidance from their parents because their parents are working, they will find themselves, as they grow up, having to fight an ever-increasing population for the limited economic resources available to them. Again, when money is the end, when money is turned into the good, then the question of means is easily dismissed: money becomes the means and the end, therefore guaranteeing everything done through money is “good” according to the new way society looks at the world. Over-population and a capitalistic ideology lead only to social self-destruction. Those who scream the most about “culture wars” often do not understand their support of capitalistic ideology without any kind of regulation or restriction to that ideology is what is making for those culture wars and the neglect of morality.

Interestingly enough, voluntary celibacy – such as for priests or for religious life –  was often seen as helping to deal with overpopulation. That is, overpopulation was recognized as a problem and celibacy was one way the problem could be overcome. Matteo Ricci had to explain to Confucians why celibates are not to be discouraged. Confucians believed that children had the duty to their parents to have children of their own. It was a part of their obligation to their parents. Ricci suggests that those who pursue virtue, such as himself, over children are doing society great good, for they can promote virtue in others.  By helping the common good, they are still fulfilling their obligation to their parents:

A father cannot avoid thinking about trade and commerce. Since in these day there are many fathers and sons the number engaged in acquiring wealth is also considerable. As the number of those who seek to acquire wealth grow, it become increasingly difficult for each man to obtain what he wants. If I were to allow myself to be involved in secular affairs I would be unable to detach myself from the mundane, and would be bound to count myself fortunate if I were merely able to remain alive. How could I carry out my ambition to encourage people to live a righteous life? The most important thing in the cultivation of virtue is to despise wealth and goods. How can I persuade others not to concern themselves with wealth and goods if I pay serious attention to, and have an inordinate affection for, such things?[1]

The promotion of life is not the same thing as the promotion of large populations – the promotion of life is the promotion of the dignity of life, which requires the promotion for the common good and the virtues required for social harmony. When populations are low, and in need of more workers to sustain themselves, increasing population sizes can be good. The ancients, because they lived in smaller communities, did not face the problems of over-population and the moral decay which comes from it. “The troubles of today are not due to the smallness of the population, but to the fact that the population has grown large without a corresponding growth in virtue.”[2] Without having a plan to promote the virtue of a growing population, they become like animals.

Again, the so-called culture warrior needs to understand this if they want to get to the root problem in society. As long as they keep promoting an increase in population as if it were in itself always a good and an increase in capitalistic ideology with its inability to see any value to the virtues, the same ones decrying the state of society today are a part of the problem.[3] They must stop, look and think. If they want to be a part of the solution, the real solution, they must stop promoting those things which help cause the problems they detest. Without it, all their hard work, all their screaming and shouting to the world, does no one any good.

[1] Matteo Ricci, S.J., The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven. Trans. Douglas Lancashire and Peter Hu Kuo-chen, S.J. (St Louis, Missouri: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1985), 419.

[2] Ibid., 415.

[3] Clearly, the way one deals with overpopulation is a different issue. It must be done through just means. This is why Ricci’s suggestion of having celibates (priests or religious) as an honored part of society is a good suggestion, while forced abortions on women with too many children would be a bad one.

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