Published on March 15, 2014
SEE-JUDGE-ACT There are three stages which should normally be followed in the reduction of social principles into practice. First, one reviews the concrete situation; secondly, one forms a judgment on it in the light of these same principles; thirdly, one decides what in the circumstances can and should be done to implement these principles. These are the three stages that are usually expressed in the three terms: observe, judge, act. Pope John XXIII in Mater et Magistra he disciple of Jesus is tasked of proclaiming the Gospel to all parts of the world in all ages. Throughout the centuries of the Church’s existence, Christian communities have sought to find a suitable way of following Jesus in their own milieu. They tried to proclaim faith in Jesus not by just handing down doctrines but more importantly, they tried to keep this faith dynamic by living it out in different milieus and cultures. This is why the true measure of faith can only be seen in living out its beliefs, values or truths. James has warned Christians that “faith without good works is dead” (Jas. 2:17). Jesus uses the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk. 10:30-37) to demonstrate how the idea of love can be made more concrete. The Catholic Social Teachings similarly challenge Christians to re- evaluate the quality of their discipleship by addressing the social question that has endured for centuries in light of Jesus’ commandment to love one another (cf. Jn. 13:34-35). T Pope John Paul II reminds Christians that “the social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all else a basis and a motivation for action. . . Christ's words ‘as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ (Mt 25:40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment. Today more than ever, the Church is aware that her social message will gain credibility more immediately from the witness of actions than as a result of its internal logic and consistency” (CA, 57). The Catholic Social Teachings sum up the teachings of the Church on social justice issues. It promotes a vision of a just society that is grounded in the Bible and in the wisdom gathered from experience by the Christian community as it has responded to social justice issues through history. (http://centerforsocialconcerns.nd.edu/mission/the Catholic Social Teachings/the Catholic Social Teachings4.shtml ) It is important to acknowledge that the Catholic Social Teachings do not purport to offer a ‘blueprint’ for an ideal type of society. Rather, the Catholic Social Teachings propose principles aimed at creating ‘right’ social, economic and political relationships and the construction of social structures and institutions based on justice and respect for human dignity. Inherent in the Catholic Social Teachings is the belief that the application of these principles to the structures and institutions of society, both nationally and globally, will enhance human dignity, overcome poverty and promote and ensure social justice. (http://sao.clriq.org.au/publications/the Catholic Social Teachings_and_prisons.pdf) Three Elements The social teachings are made up of three different elements: principles for reflection; criteria for judgement; and guidelines for action. The principles for reflection apply across many different times and places, but the guidelines for action can change for different societies or times. Uniform guidelines for action wouldn’t work because societies are so different from one another, and they are always changing over time creating new situations with different problems and possibilities. The criteria for judgement may be thought of as ‘middle axioms’ mediating between the highly authoritative but necessarily general and abstract principles for reflection, and the details of the concrete social reality. They are less authoritative than the principles for reflection but more so than the guidelines for action. Guidelines for action are always dependant on contingent judgements and the information available through human knowledge. There is frequently scope for legitimate differences of opinion among believers on a range of social justice issues. There exists a creative tension between the principles for reflection and the guidelines for action since the former have a certain universal applicability, but they can be impinged by the social context in which it is applied. Thus, in order to make relevant the Christian response to the social question, Christians are encouraged to read the “signs of the times” by making use of a method popularized by Cardinal Cardjin in workers’ and students’ movements. It asks people to work inductively, looking first at the social justice issues as they exist in their communities, before assessing what is happening, and what is at stake. Finally people need to discern Page | 1
what action to undertake in response. (http://www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au/Content/pdf/the Catholic Social Teachings_intro.pdf) Below are some guide questions taken from http://www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au to give a run through of the process itself, recommended by John XXIII in Mater et Magistra: Reflection /Action Process Here is a brief sketch of the key elements of the reflection-action process: 1. See/Observe – Seeing, hearing, and experiencing the lived reality of individuals and communities. Carefully and intentionally examining the primary data of the situation. What are the people in this situation doing, feeling, and saying? What is happening to them and how do they respond? 2. Judge – This is the heart of the process and it involves two key parts: a. Social Analysis -- Obtaining a more complete picture of the social situation by exploring its historical and structural relationships. In this step, we attempt to make sense of the reality that was observed in Step 1. Why are things this way? What are the root causes? b. Theological Reflection – Analyzing the experience in the light of scripture and the Catholic social tradition? How do biblical values and the principles of Catholic social teaching help us to see this reality in a different way? How do they serve as a measuring stick for this experience? (Obviously, the word "judge" is used here in a positive sense, meaning to analyze the situation. It does not imply that we judge other people or that we are judgmental in the pejorative sense.) 3. Act – Planning and carrying out actions aimed at transforming the social structures that contribute to suffering and injustice. It is important to remember that this is a process. It is a cycle that is continually repeated. That is, after completing Step Three, the participants return to Step One – observing new realities, making new judgments, and finding new ways to act. This process is intended for groups working collectively, rather than for single individuals. The group process allows for a richer reflection, a deeper analysis, and a more creative search for effective action. Importance of Social Analysis Social analysis is a key element of this reflection-action process. Since the concept may be new to some of us, it is worth exploring a bit further. First, note that social analysis is an essential part of our mission as believers and disciples. Our faith compels us to work for a more just world, and social analysis is a necessary element of carrying out that mission. In the words of Pope Paul VI, It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country, to shed on it the light of the Gospel's unalterable words and to draw principles of reflection, norms of judgment and directives for action from the social teaching of the Church. Pope Paul VI, 1971, A Call to Action, #4 Similarly, Pope John Paul II has urged us to go beyond the symptoms and effects of injustice and seek out the root causes: We should not limit ourselves to deploring the negative effects of the present situation of crisis and injustice. What we are really required to do is destroy the roots that cause these effects. Pope John Paul II, World Day of Peace Message, 1995 Benefits of Social Analysis Page | 2
1. It forces us to go beyond the interpersonal level and to think systemically. Systems are interrelated parts that form a whole, and social and economic systems act and react with other systems to produce the social conditions in which we live. By using social analysis, we begin to see the connections between social institutions and we begin to get a fuller picture of the social, economic, and political forces at work in our world. 2. It enables us to make a proper diagnosis of the social problem. In doing so we avoid spending time and energy on activities that will not really change the situation. In this way, social analysis is a tool that leads to effective action. 3. It helps us identify potential allies and opponents in the search for a just resolution of the situation. (http://www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au/Content/pdf/the Catholic Social Teachings_intro.pdf) HUMAN DIGNITY ““What should move us to action is human dignity: the inalienable dignity of the oppressed, but also the dignity of each of us. We lose dignity if we tolerate the intolerable.”.” Dominique de Menil n the midst of a dehumanizing condition spurred by the rise of capitalism, the Church, through Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, called attention to a nonnegotiable value which cannot be sacrificed in the name of economic progress: the inalienable and inviolable dignity of every human person.I A preliminary distinction needs to be made first on the bases used to define dignity. For one, dignity is sometimes equated with having, while another equates dignity with being. Which is the correct one? Dignity as having refers to looking at people’s worth depending on what they “have”. The more they have, the more dignified they feel they are. Self-worth is equated to material wealth. For example, some people of influence seem to have this great need to flaunt their superiority to other people by using sirens to weave through traffic or be exempted from traffic laws altogether, demanding special treatment from ordinary people or bullying people into submission at the fear of reprisal. The attitude of people of “having” is to accumulate material things to beef up their worth. Titles, wealth and powerful connections are some of the important ingredients of a dignified life. Consumerism, or buying things for reasons other than using them, is another example of preaching about one’s worth depending on an attitude of “having”. It “consists in an excessive availability of every kind of material goods for the benefit of certain social groups, easily making people slaves of "possession" and of immediate gratification, with no other horizon than the multiplication or continual replacement of the things already owned with others still better.” Such a consumeristic attitude involves so much "throwing-away" and "waste." For example, “an object already owned but now superseded by something better is discarded, with no thought of its possible lasting value in itself, nor of some other human being who is poorer” (SRS, 28). How does this behaviour affect those who have blindly submitted themselves to a materialistic doctrine? “In the first place there is a crass materialism, and at the same time a radical dissatisfaction, because one quickly learns - unless one is shielded from the flood of publicity and the ceaseless and tempting offers of products - that the more one possesses the more one wants, while deeper aspirations remain unsatisfied and perhaps even stifled (SRS, 28). Ultimately, the real worth of a person cannot be put on temporal, and often illusory, possessions. Beside from being fleeting, these possessions try to make people contented, but to no avail. To "have" objects and goods does not in itself perfect the human subject, unless it contributes to the maturing and enrichment of that subject's "being," that is to say unless it contributes to the realization of the human vocation as such (SRS, 28). Dignity that is based on being refers to discovering who the person is and affirming that knowledge. The more a person acts out his or her capacity or potential, the more he or she becomes Page | 3
dignified. This is where the true meaning of dignity falls under. The attitude is to develop one’s potentials because his or her ultimate goal is self-realization. Human dignity, therefore, refers to the natural worth of a person because he or she is created in the image and likeness of God. Being created in the image and likeness of God implies that: 1. People are created because this is a sign of God’s love. This love of God is an act of free will, thus, it can never be measured nor deserved since the point of reference is not the one being loved but the one doing the loving. That is why, no matter how much a person rejects God’s love, God will never stop loving that person because God’s act of free will is not dictated upon by the response of the beloved, but by God’s decision to love. 2. The act of love of God makes the person valuable or important. By looking back at one’s experience of being loved, such feeling gives one the sense of worth or importance. The poet Luis Cernuda writes: Tu justificas mi existencia: (You are the reason why I'm here, si no te conozco, no he vivido If I haven't known you, I won't live; si muero sin conocerte, no muero, If I die without having known you porque no he vivido. I won't have died, because I have never lived at all ) Life becomes worth living and meaningful because one has experienced being loved. A person who feels that nobody loves him or her can force the person to commit suicide because life is worthless anyway. 3. Like God, a person has rationality which gives forth the gift of free will. A person alone among all creation is capable of making decisions that are self-determining. However, since creation had been stained by sin, Christ redeemed it because he saw it worthy of being saved thereby restoring people to their original dignity as adopted children of God. This dignity becomes the basis for equality, irregardless of sex, gender, religion, age, or race. A positive appreciation of this idea is illustrated when many people express disgust and outrage at bigotry that betrays discrimination against other people. Such bigotry is unreasonable because all people share the same nature and potential for perfection. Three qualities can give a better understanding of human dignity: it is natural, inviolable, and inalienable. By affirming this worth as natural, it follows that it can neither be separated nor removed from the person since it would be tantamount to denying the person’s essence. For example, of what use is a vehicle that claims to be an airplane if it has no wings? The wings are essential for an airplane to serve its purpose, which is to fly. Similarly, a person is called to perfection, and removing one’s dignity prevents a person from actualizing his or her purpose or goal set by his or her Creator. Since dignity defines a person, it cannot be violated either because doing so would reduce the person to a mere thing, a means to an end. This is a sign of disrespect not only to the person but also to his or her Creator who had a particular end in mind for every human person he created. Using the airplane as an example again, it cannot be used to just run on the ground. For one, there is a specific vehicle for that purpose, and another, the people who conceived of the plane would feel insulted seeing their creation being used for another purpose. A person’s goal is to live a fully humanized life because it is his or her way of glorifying God. To violate a person’s dignity therefore is to prevent the person from achieving his or her own salvation or humanization. Human dignity is inalienable. No amount of maltreatment or degradation can deny the fact that he or she is still a human being because the basic condition that makes a person a person with dignity, i.e. created by God, loved by God, and gifted with rationality, is never taken away nor destroyed. Looking back at the case of the prostitute, although she never loses her dignity, her sense of self-worth is greatly diminished by the kind of life she lives. This diminution poses as a great obstacle to the realization of her personhood. If, however, the prostitute were to choose a more decent livelihood, say, a call center agent, she would be enhancing her self-worth because her new way of living helps in her pursuit of self-realization. So, is respect to people’s dignity something demanded from others or something earned? Page | 4
Before answering this question, a contrast must be made between two kinds of dignity. Dignity can either be passive or active. Passive dignity refers solely to the natural worth of a person, and by extension to all of creation, because they are all created by God. The first creation story affirms the goodness of creation, thereby giving it value. It is this same creation that Jesus, the New Adam, redeemed when he sacrificed himself on the cross (cf. Rom. 5: 12-21). However, among all creation, the person alone has the other kind of dignity, which is active dignity. Gifted with rationality and freedom, the person’s life is like a project that he or she is supposed to bring to a fruitful completion. To be created in the image of God also means the person shares in the creative work of God. When people were given the order to subdue the earth, it carried with it a responsibility to use creation in attaining their final destination. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were given the choice of any fruit except one, they were given the freedom to select the best one which will enhance their being persons, albeit with some limitations. One can therefore claim that respect is both demanded and earned. Respect is demanded because dignity is part of being human so it is but proper that people get the respect that is due them. Respect is also earned because when people engage in meaningful activities, it adds value to their being that makes them more worthy of respect than others. Consider how students tend to look up to some of their professors or look down on some. Many students use as a basis if these professors treated them with respect as students to determine which professors earned their respect or not. This distinction with regards respect to dignity is helpful to clarify that respect is not always demanded, especially because of one’s social status. One has to prove worthy of respect before it is given. Respect is also not always earned, especially again because of one’s social status. Even if people belong to a lowly status, they can always demand for respect when they are being abused or used. To be respected is to be first aware both of one’s potential (passive) and one’s acting upon this potential (active). THE DIGNITY OF HUMAN WORK AND ALIENATION Human work is probably the key to the whole social question. John Paul II in Laborem Exercens ne of the traits that people share with God is creativity. This creativity is manifested when people work. Work is proper to human beings because people are gifted with rationality. Through this rationality, people keep in mind the purpose as to why they work. It is also through work that people can imprint their own uniqueness on the product of their work. "People have to subdue the earth and dominate it, because as the 'image of God' they are people. . . capable of deciding about themselves, and with a tendency to self-realization" (LE, 73). O In the book of Genesis, when God designated man and woman as stewards of creation, it contained an implicit command to transform it to something better. Work can be simply understood as the act in which the person exercises creative powers and produces and distributes the good necessary for human flourishing. However, in working, people also get the opportunity to do something better to themselves. It is by working that people get to enhance their dignity because through work they get to utilize their potentials and bring it to perfection. The more people work, the better people turn out because they improve their worth. Work, therefore, has dignity because the people doing it have dignity and at the same time work develops the dignity of the ones doing it. This is similar to the stewards left with money. If God were a businessman, he would be seeking to profit from his investments, which are people because he invested them with some of his own traits. God will measure his profit by asking his stewards whether they were able to realize themselves by working for it (Mt. 25:14-30). How then is work a valuable activity for people? Three reasons can be given as to what makes work essential to people’s achieving their self-actualization. The first reason expresses people's creativity while the remaining two affirms the social nature of people. First, through work, people get to transform nature to meet their basic needs (cf. CSD, 287). As said before, people also need to have in order to be. Farmers, for instance, work the land to provide people with food. Food, which is a product of many natural components, is important to make people continue to live. Page | 5
Second, by working, people become productive contributors to society and are linked to other members of society as well. For example, working as a security officer contributes to the safety of the CSB community. The community members then become interdependent to them, and the security officers to the community. A simplistic explanation would be the community needs to be protected while the security officers need to protect somebody to fulfill their purpose; otherwise, they have no reason to work in the school. Lastly, people can found families if they have work. For many people, starting a family gives them a sense of purpose or meaning in life because they get to act on their being loving and relational persons, and at the same time, they become part of their children’s striving for living a better life. If a taxi driver has a good income, he would be confident to send his children through college. Seeing his children graduate would be a great achievement not only for the graduate but more so for the parents because their efforts have been rewarded. Therefore, when people work, they are able to utilize what creation has to offer which in turn contributes to the enhancement of people’s worth, including those around them. “Work remains a good thing, not only because it is useful and enjoyable, but also because it expresses and increases the worker's dignity. Through work we not only transform the world, we are transformed ourselves, becoming "more a human being" (LE, 9). How does one become more a human being by working? It would be instructive to distinguish the two dimensions of work, as mentioned by John Paul II in Laborem Exercens. The first is called the objective dimension while the second is called subjective dimension. The objective dimension of work refers to "the sum of activities, resources, instruments and technologies used by people to produce things, to exercise dominion over the earth" (CSD, 270). The objective dimension includes both the things used in exercising creativity and the product of such activity. On the one hand, technology makes work more convenient and more efficient. On the other hand, workers earn their wages, but these are external manifestations that people have achieved something thus far while doing their work. It would be very difficult to equate the people’s contribution with their wage because the former is ambiguous when put side-by-side with the latter. The objective dimension of work is but "the contingent aspect of human activity, constantly varying in its expressions according to the changing technological, cultural, social and political conditions" (CSD, 270). Therefore, the objective dimension cannot be used to qualify work because this dimension is very superficial since it is primarily dependent on something material and evolving. The subjective dimension, meanwhile, refers to "the activity of the human person as a dynamic being capable of performing a variety of actions that are part of the work process and that correspond to his or her personal vocation" (CSD, 270). This tries to seek what is happening to the people doing the work. Do they experience humanization or alienation in the work that they do? One can just wonder what those employees working as casuals experience every time their five months are up. This is where the experience of alienation can occur, that is, if the subjective dimension is neglected. Take the case of a young girl working as a Guest Relations Officer (GRO) in an entertainment club for men. She may be earning much but in no way does she become proud of what she does or what her work does to her self-worth. This makes it easier to understand why some people would quit their jobs, even if it were high-paying. It’s just that they never experienced being actualized in what they do. Conversely, this is also what makes some teachers persist teaching in the public school and some doctors practice their profession in far-flung barrios: their work provides meaning to their lives and the monetary gain becomes less relevant to their over-all purpose in life. Hence, "the basis for determining the value of human work is not primarily the kind of work being done but the fact that the one who is doing it is a person. The sources of the dignity of work are to be sought primarily in the subjective dimension, not in the objective one" (LE, 6). This distinction is critical, both for understanding what the ultimate foundation of the value and dignity of work is, and with regard to the difficulties of organizing economic and social systems that respect human rights (more on this in the topic on authentic human development and common good). When work goes against its very purpose, this results in the experience of alienation. Alienation Page | 6
Understanding the complexities of human work should lead to a comprehensive synopsis of the human nature and the productive activity. In the order of nature’s existence authored by God, not only is creation an out-of-nothing event, but also a “creation-for-something” that characterizes the universe as a consistently purposeful experience. At a persistent vanguard in the person’s existence, in view of the person’s dignity being created in the image and likeness of the Creator, and thus being co-creator himself or herself, is the quest for reason why he or she exists, i.e., the propensity to create. As a rational being, which is the person’s most fundamental nature, one is disposed to understand the essence of this act of creativity, which is two-fold. First, the person is to create himself or herself which is the very act of self-actualization. Every individual exists with inherent faculties, abilities, and capacities. Acting upon these inherent features shapes up the uniqueness of each individual that, also by nature, is directed towards the intrinsically satisfying experience of mutuality in self-determination; therefore, in the creative process, an individual experiences his or her own subjectivity. Second, the person manipulates the environment around him or her. In the creative process of self-actualization, an individual acts upon his inherent faculties, ability, and capacity, and yet also “upon something”. The world, at first, is merely an object before him or her. Once an individual places his or her creative hands on this particular world, the product is transformed into something that reflects one’s self. Meaning, one’s creative humanity is externalized that eventually humanizes the world. Therefore, the world is not merely an external object totally distinct from one’s being. Rather, it is the very objectivity of one’s self. Within the two-fold essence of creative process lies the key features of human life’s productive activity that integrates the world, the humane, and the social relationships into one order of existence. In general, productive activity should always take a vantage point as essentially laborious expression of human life which constantly aims at the transformation of both the way how people live and what human life should necessarily be. Productive activity is an experience that encompasses the most basic form of survival and the intrinsically satisfying world transformation that suits humanity’s purposes in the realms of experiential subjectivity as actualized beings and the well-affirmed objectivity of beings as concrete phenomena. As organic species, human beings exert effort in order to live. People work for food, water, shelter, and clothing to withstand the elements of man’s material nature and the external environment. These basic needs are the primary material objects of human consciousness for survival. They need to be satisfied. As free and conscious beings, people produce goods not only for themselves but for others too. Primarily, a person works freely on something he or she needs. Free in a sense that he or she works at will in whatever fashion he or she enjoys. As everyone is endowed with unique abilities and capacities by nature, each one expresses his or her being through the work he or she can masterfully do and eventually get better yields. Recognition and acting upon individual uniqueness builds up a common understanding that no one can satisfy all needs by oneself alone. Thus, directly or indirectly, all individuals “work-with” and “work-for” a common disposition. Notwithstanding, the collective process of human activities within a social group magnifies every person who freely delivers products out of his own creativity. Individually, a person freely and consciously works on something that completely reflects his or her needs or creative powers, whether the product is made to satisfy his or her basic needs or a display of his or her inherent ability. A sack yield of rice, for instance, reflects one’s ability to grow rice (“palay”) and the need for food. Or a wooden statue is indeed a reflection of one’s appreciation for aesthetics. In whatever manner of expression, every produce of human work has on it an imprint of the “self” of a person who at the same time also recognizes others’ needs and acknowledgement, i.e., in one way or the other, all share common disposition. Here, the collective dimension is also visible as social active responses. Moreover, human intelligence does not limit people to simply meet the demands for survival through the most imaginable rustic means. People invent tools in their quest for even the most unimaginable means to deliver goods for the satisfaction of human needs and further attain a more comfortable living. As the needs grow, and so does the need to produce. However, it is maintained that mass production through sophisticated means is only directed towards enriching the lives of the people, i.e., to further reach the universal display of human creativity and satisfaction. People who work for theirs and others’ needs. People who are free to live decently as actualized human beings. Any form of productive activity that detaches from the essential elements of creative process is in itself an alienating experience. Alienation here refers to the separation of the very essence of creative process away from the manifestation of what is expressed. The object of expression in the creative process is the personal identity of the subject himself or herself--the dignity of the worker. The product Page | 7
of work is a manifestation of one’s creativity and that which expresses one’s being. It is the one kind of creativity that builds individual subjectivity and is objectified within the social active responses. John Paul II emphasizes that “the person who works desires not only due remuneration for his or her work but also wishes that, within the production process, provision be made for him or her to be able to know that in his or her work, even on something that is owned in common, he or she is working ‘for himself or herself’” (LE, 15). The most visible kind of alienation in the productive activity is estrangement of a worker from the product of his or her effort. In a rapidly changing world, the current system of production has been successful in fostering an alienating environment in the production process. A worker does not work anymore in order to express his or her creative powers by yielding his or her own produce. Rather, a worker is only measured by a value paid to him or her which is more often much less than the value he or she creates. He or she creates goods which he or she does not own. He or she drains sweat and blood for something that is at the disposal of another. This is one painful experience of exploitation. Farmers toil land for great harvests and yet they remain malnourish. Miners dig deep into the earth for precious metals more valuable than their lives. A sales lady stands all day selling clothes but finds her children naked when she gets home. At the end of the day, a worker leaves a workplace without anything in his or her hand but sheer exchange value. This is what alienation from the product is all about: the loss of self-worth by losing his or her creative product. It is said to be a “creative product” in the sense that the product is an end in itself that reflects the creator’s details in creating his or her personal identity, which is lost within a system of production. In the current system of production, when a worker applies for a job, he or she embarks on an organization which is heavily structured in terms of a proper delivery of pre-imposed and prescribed work details, called job description. Here, the productive process is measured by what kind of work is to be done, how well a worker performs his or her job, and when the job is to be rendered. Under the watchful eyes of superiors and bosses, a worker is rather concerned with these structured measures. Therefore, the entire productive process is reduced to only aiming at the satisfaction of people in control in order to keep one’s job. While the essence of productive activity includes the productive process itself as natural occurrence in the one’s effort to freely create and actualize his or her own being, a rigidly controlled work environment shuns this freedom. To work is to work at will, to work on what is desired, and to work in a fashion deemed by the creative agent himself. In any case where actual industrial or corporate experience stands in opposition to a free and purposeful event of the productive process, a worker is alienated from the productive activity itself. Moreover, alienation from the productive process visibly manifests in breaking down of work process into smaller component parts. Especially in assembly lines, a worker is assigned to one specific task which is only part of one particular product within a well structured mechanical system. A worker is simply reduced into a mere mechanical part. Here, the essential aspect of one’s creativity and the objectification process of his or her personal identity are dissolved within the mechanical system and, thus, the worker is estranged from his or her product beyond recognition. It is a dissolution of supposedly integrated experience of the worker and the product itself within the productive process. “Productive process”, which is “creative” by nature, is hereby only taken as “production process” which concern is solely focused on producing more goods and raising profits to the interest of the owners/managers but to the disinterest of the workers. Embedded in the alienations from the product and the productive process is the most disenchanting experience: alienation from oneself, i.e., estrangement from one’s own being. While one’s faculties, abilities, and capacities remain active and utilized, they are not directed towards the personal growth and development. Rather, human effort becomes conversant only with some external control that manipulates the very being of an individual. A creative agent loses his or her self-worth when he or she is deprived of the very product of his or her work. One’s work product is his or her own self-worth and not just an exchange value. In his or her self-worth lies the objectification of his or her personal identity, his or her being as his or her own subjectivity. In a productive process dominated by external control, his or her being is altered by some imposed activities that do not reflect his or her interior motive to create himself or herself as a self-actualized being. Alteration of being is most exemplified by one’s creative ability and capacity reduced as mechanical part within a mechanical system of production. Merely used as a material component, a person loses his or her freedom for self- determination and the opportunity to become oneself. (A high turn-over ratio in an organization can be an indication of this type of alienation). As mentioned above, the essence of creative process includes a form of human activity as “working-with” and “working-for” social experience. It is a social experience in which the collective activity magnifies every individual who freely delivers goods and services out of his or her creative powers. “Working-with“ is a social experience that allows everyone to work with each one in as much as everyone works for the satisfaction of various societal needs. After all, this particular social Page | 8
experience is directed towards the satisfaction of individuals. However, where there is an alienating socio-economic structure, there also is the presence of alienation from other human beings. The “working-with” social experience is transformed into working with the technical means of production. One does not socialize with fellow human beings but with the mechanical system. While the working-for social experience is transformed into working for the pre-imposed and pre-scribed job description and working for the claimers of a worker’s produce. The alienating socio-economic structure builds up tensions between the workers and the co-workers as one competes for promotion or simply for sake of keeping the job, between the capitalists and the workers as there are various forms of exploitation, and between the products and the consumers as certain products foster stereotyping of people in different economic brackets – whereas there are those who can only afford the most basic commodities while others can enjoy the luxuries of life. That is why the primacy of labor over capital has been emphasized by John Paul II (cf. LE, 12) because labor is just seen as an “instrumental cause” for the worker. Capital, or the resources, on its own has no value unless the person exercises productive creativity over it. These resources are but means for the worker to achieve the goal of self-actualization. The product of human effort cannot stand on its own apart from its author. For example, a painting like the Mona Lisa is not appreciated for its beauty but the creative genius of its painter, i.e. da Vinci. A good point to reflect on is the implications of sweatshops. Sweatshop is “a shop or factory in which employees work for long hours at low wages and under unhealthy conditions.” (sweatshop, 2009 In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary). Nike is one of the companies that employs sweatshops to keep the profit margin high and pay their celebrity endorsers by keeping costs, especially labor, low. Some people would defend sweatshops because these provide income for people who otherwise would starve to death with no employment. However,” the obligation to earn one's bread by the sweat of one's brow presumes the right to do so. A society in which this right is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace” (CA, 43). What makes the existence of sweatshops scandalous is many people are being exploited for the benefit of a few people. People, in this case, desperate and powerless, are being used as means to an end, which is profit. The Catholic Social Teachings insist that work is for man (and woman), not man (or woman) for work (LE, 6). To emphasize what has been said earlier, people are the subjects, not the objects, of work, subjects seeking to achieve their purpose through working. Sweatshops devalue the worth of people, and to patronize products from sweatshops, like Nike, is to abet the denigration of hapless workers. The great challenge arising from this situation is how people will change their consumer behavior so that it would promote the welfare not only of the consumers, but also the workers who are responsible for the creation of these goods. After all, human work cannot be reduced to its external manifestations (e.g. products) but finds its fuller meaning in understanding its effect on the one who does the work, the person-subject. To consider the repercussions of one’s actions is a form of solidarity, the next principle for discussion. SOLIDARITY “I believe in the essential unity of all people and for that matter of all lives. Therefore, I believe that if one person gains spiritually, the whole world gains, and if one person falls, the whole world falls to that extent.” Mohandas K. Gandhi y emphasizing that a person has dignity, it follows that there must also be recognition of other people’s dignity. Similar to the individual, other people too have the same goal of actualizing themselves. They have the right to develop themselves like any other person, unimpeded but rather aided to determine the life that fits them best. In those cases where dehumanization occurs, the individual is tasked to join the struggle to unburden victims of injustice because they too have dignity rooted in God’s image. This characterizes the virtue of solidarity. B The person is essentially a social being because “God did not create man as a ‘solitary being’ but wished him to be a ‘social being’. Social life therefore is not exterior to man: he can only grow and Page | 9
realize his vocation in relation with others” (CDF, Instruction Libertatis Conscientia, 32). Solidarity highlights in a particular way the intrinsic social nature of the human person, the equality of all in dignity and rights, and the common path of individuals and peoples towards an ever more committed unity (CSD, 192). Thus, solidarity is seen as a social principle. Solidarity is also an authentic moral virtue, not a “feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. That is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all”. Solidarity rises to the rank of fundamental social virtue since it places itself in the sphere of justice. It is a virtue directed par excellence to the common good, and is found in “a commitment to the good of one's neighbour with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to ‘lose oneself' for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to ‘serve him' instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage (cf. Mt 10:40-42, 20:25; Mk 10:42-45; Lk 22:25-27) (CSD, 193). The following story sheds light on the importance of solidarity. In a farm fair, there’s a farmer who always wins the contest for best corn. This farmer was interviewed by the host of the event and was asked about his secret. The farmer narrates that he distributes the seeds of his best corn to his neighbors for them to plant it. The host asks whether this is not a case of being too generous to his competitors. The farmer replies that if his neighbor-farmers did not have excellent corn, during pollination, his corn will be pollinated by lesser quality pollens, thus lowering the quality of his corn. But if his corns will be surrounded by corns of high quality like his corn, the produce will be far better, thus his secret to winning the best corn contest. Solidarity can be likened to the farmer’s act of distributing corn seeds to his neighbors. While it is true that a person has the goal and the desire for self-actualization, it is also equally true that other people have the same goal and desire. However, it would be very difficult to achieve self-actualization if the environment one operates in has limited opportunities. By helping others be humanized by acting out of solidarity, these people get to improve and at the same time contribute well to the common good, which ultimately would raise the level of human existence of those around. As the saying goes, “every action has a social repercussion.” Solidarity creates a ripple effect that brings about positive change to one’s environment, thereby being more able to develop one’s potentials and to pursue the best course of action in line with his or her dignity. There can be no progress towards the complete development of the human person without the simultaneous development of all humanity in the spirit of solidarity (PP, 43). The virtue of solidarity is but a response to incarnate the compassion and concern Jesus showed to his fellowmen and women. The crucifixion of Jesus is a powerful testament to Jesus’ life-long commitment to solidarity with the poor and the suffering. It is a concrete and courageous way of loving, particularly the weak and defenceless in society’s midst. “Whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do no more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury (GS, 27). Solidarity dispels the attitude of apathy or indifference by becoming-one-with other people in their quest for humanization. This is mirroring Jesus, Emmanuel (God-with-us), especially to those who are victims of oppression and marginalization. The persistence of evil is blamed on this tendency of many people to remain indifferent even in the midst of potential harm, or even death. Some people think that as long as they are not doing something wrong, they are good already. Thus, apathy is the opposite of solidarity. On the Last Judgement, Jesus will ask those who stand before him whether they have lived up to their dignity as children of God by being compassionate to their neighbors. Such simple loving actions earned for them the ultimate reward of a fully dignified life: the companionship of God. In the words of St. Irenaeus, “Gloria Dei vivens homo. Gloria hominis visio Dei.” (The glory of God is the person fully alive. And the glory of the person is the vision of God). The work of solidarity aims to help and to guarantee that people will achieve their ultimate end. This can only be done if human rights are protected, the next chapter for discussion. Page | 10 Photo taken from: http://l.yimg.com/g/images/spaceball.gif
HUMAN RIGHTS AND RACISM “Be as beneficent as the sun or the sea, but if your rights as a rational being are trenched on, die on the first inch of your territory.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet he virtue of solidarity has emphasized the need to translate interdependence among people into something that will both enhance and respect the individual dignity of each member of society. This can be done by recognizing the person’s inherent rights and acting in their best interest. Human rights are “moral claims by a person to some good of the physical or spiritual order which is necessary for proper human development and dignity.” (McBrien, 1999) These moral claims stem from the basic existential condition of a person, namely, a being endowed with dignity. Such rights serve as a protection so that the person will not be treated like an object, serving not as an instrument but as an end. It also guarantees that people will be free from any obstacle towards developing themselves into something that manifests their full capacity. T The natural rights are inseparably connected, in the very person who is their subject, with just as many respective duties; and rights as well as duties find their source, their sustenance and their inviolability in the natural law which grants or enjoins them (PT, 28). It is but fitting that something that has value be provided a guarantee that it will neither be diminished nor taken away. In this instance, it is the inherent worth of a person that needs to be preserved and enhanced. The person has a nature, that is, endowed with intelligence and free will (rationality). As such, one has rights and duties, which together flow as a direct consequence from his or her nature. These rights and duties are universal and inviolable, and therefore altogether inalienable. The encyclical Pacem in Terris enumerates these rights (nn. 8-27) and they bear a close resemblance to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In his "Address to the 34th General Assembly of the United Nations," John Paul II provided an updated roster of “some of the most important” human rights which the church endorses: the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right to food, clothing, housing, sufficient health care, rest, and leisure; the right to freedom of expression, education and culture; the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; the right to manifest one’s religion either individually or in community, in public or in private; the right to choose a state of life, to found a family and to enjoy all conditions necessary for family life; the right to property and work, to adequate working conditions and a just wage; the right of assembly and association; the right to freedom of movement, to internal and external migration; the right to nationality and residence; the right to political participation and the right to participate in the free choice of the political system of the people to which one belongs. One issue that attacks others’ rights is called racial discrimination. Simply put, such attitude views people on different levels, using different standards based on one’s ethnicity or race. This is a clear example of bias or prejudice that offers no reasonable ground to justify its claim of truth but relies mainly on subjective standards. But it would be good to note that people also discriminate when it comes to ideas, actions, products or pursuits. For instance, between a good action and a bad action, a person first makes a distinction based on the purpose he or she wants to achieve and then shows preference towards a particular action that would contribute to the realization of that purpose. Such discrimination is considered justifiable because the two actions are essentially different. There is a reasonable ground to validate this claim. Now, to use the same process in treating people, one as inferior, the other superior, is totally unreasonable because by nature, people are essentially the same. The race, gender, age and abilities are but the superficialities visible to others but in no way express the totality of an individual. The Nazi regime, for example, used propaganda to extol the Aryan race, making the lesser people subservient to their whims and caprices. Thus, many Jews, disabled, old people, and even homosexuals were put in concentration camps where they were experimented on, forced into manual labor, and even massacred in gas chambers. Today, the Germans include the Holocaust as part of their curriculum so that this crime will never be repeated. Page | 11
For today, the victory of Barack Obama as president of the United States of America is hailed as a triumph over racial discrimination. People voted based on the candidates’ qualifications for the job rather than on their ethnicity. It would be helpful to revisit the story of an ordinary woman who caused quite a stir during her time, whose effects became widespread. Her name was Rosa Parks, a simple working woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus. (see worksheet on Rosa Parks) Nelson Mandela, a South African reformist, viewed her as his inspiration during his years in incarceration. He too was instrumental in abolishing apartheid in South Africa. However, it is good to remember that when people claim their own rights, yet altogether forget or neglect to carry out their respective duties, “these are people who build with one hand and destroy with the other. Since men are social by nature they are meant to live with others and to work for one another's welfare” (PT, 30). Every right has a corresponding duty because the latter guarantees that one’s rights will also be respected. For example, if inside a classroom, everybody exercises their right to speak at the same time, altogether ignoring their duty to listen, will their right to speak be heard? For some people, duties can be cumbersome but, ironically, it is these duties which enhance rights. One’s rights cannot be claimed to be absolute. It ends where the rights of others begin. “A well-ordered human society requires that people recognize and observe their mutual rights and duties. It also demands that each contribute generously to the establishment of a civic order in which rights and duties are more sincerely and effectively acknowledged and fulfilled” (PT, 31). That portion of one’s rights that is surrendered for the sake of the common good is contained in one’s duties as a member of society. To apply this in the previous topic about work, people who work have a right to the fruit of their labors. This becomes their private property. But such right to private property cannot be claimed at the expense of other people’s welfare. Such right is tempered or moderated by the duty to preserve the common good. One cannot just continue accumulating property without taking into consideration whether other people can have the opportunity to provide for themselves. Such discrepancy in standards of living or gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” can prove to be scandalous. “One of the greatest injustices in the contemporary world consists precisely in this: that the ones who possess much are relatively few and those who possess almost nothing are many. It is the injustice of the poor distribution of the goods and services originally intended for all” (SRS, 28). The promotion of the collective rights sets out to build societal structure which has at its heart the general welfare of people. John XXIII wrote: “in our time the common good is chiefly guaranteed when personal rights and duties are maintained” (PT, 60). Thus, the preservation and improvement of human rights are pre-requisites to achieving the common good. COMMON GOOD AND SOCIAL SIN “The fundamental defect of Christian ethics consists in the fact that it labels certain classes of acts 'sins' and others 'virtue' on grounds that have nothing to do with their social consequences” Bertrand Russell (English Logician and Philosopher 1872-1970) he constant theme that has been running throughout the body of Catholic Social Teachings is the protection and enhancement of the dignity of the human person that reaches its apex in the person's humanization. This truth about the person cannot be fully understood apart from the relational aspect of being human. It is only through interaction with other people that a person can grow in self-knowledge and also find affirmation of his or her true value and realize his or her interconnectivity in working for self-realization. This social nature of the person "makes it evident that the progress of the human person and the advance of society itself hinge on one another. For the beginning, the subject and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person which for its part and by its very nature stands completely in need of social life. Since this social life is not something added on to man, through his dealings with others, through reciprocal duties, and through fraternal dialogue he develops all his gifts and is able to rise to his destiny" (GS, 25). T Such socialization among people is beneficial in combining resources and providing opportunities for aiding the development of individuals and guaranteeing their rights. Therefore, equal Page | 12
emphasis must be given both to the individual and the group or society of which the individual is a member. This is expressed in the principle of the common good. “Common” may either refer to the shared dignity of every member of society or to the communal goal which they are striving for. “Good” pertains to a value that is instrumental in achieving a purpose. "First of all and principally, therefore, a being capable of perfecting another after the manner of an end is called good; but secondarily something is called good which leads to an end . . ." If something is desired, it is desired for an end, as a final cause. Every desire has a direction, a purpose: the joy of friendship or the pleasure of good food. Every motion is for a purpose, its actualization, the rest of the moving object (Blankenhorn, 2002). The common good, therefore, "embraces the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families, and organizations to achieve complete and effective fulfillment (MM, #74). This is a recognition that a person is not the only one who has a right to self-actualization, but it includes other people who also have a right to reach the same destiny. Thus, because the person is by nature relational, he or she is “required to fulfill obligations of justice and love to contribute to the common good according to one's means and the needs of others, and also to promote and help public and private organizations devoted to bettering the conditions of life" (GS, 30). The principle of common good tries to balance individualism (e.g. liberal capitalism) on the one hand, and collectivism (e.g. socialism) on the other hand. The former tends to consider only individual needs at the expense of the rights of many, while the latter tends to absolutize the welfare of the group by sacrificing or ignoring the rights of individuals. The promotion of the common good cannot be achieved by individual persons alone. There is also the State which exists precisely because it has to promote the common good. To a certain extent, people surrender a portion of their rights to the state in order to “create, effectively and for the well- being of all, the conditions required for attaining humanity's true and complete good” (OA, 46). A good example is the color-coding scheme. On a given day, motorists forego of their right to drive their vehicles to help in managing the traffic. In so doing, they are also able to enjoy better traffic (at least in theory) when others forego of their right to drive their vehicles for their sake. Such traffic rules are created and implemented by representatives of the state, which in this case is the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), to ensure the welfare of all road users. The socialization among peoples, though helpful in achieving their destiny, can also be a restriction of sorts because of the influence of their sinful situation. This is referred to as Original Sin, a doctrine rooted in the Fall of Adam and Eve that reminds about the harm of misusing human freedom. This distorted freedom causes people to be "often diverted from doing good and spurred toward and by the social circumstances in which they live and are immersed from their birth. To be sure the disturbances which so frequently occur in the social order result in part from the natural tensions of economic, political and social forms. But at a deeper level they flow from man's pride and selfishness, which contaminate even the social sphere. When the structure of affairs is flawed by the consequences of sin, man, already born with a bent toward evil, finds there new inducements to sin, which cannot be overcome without strenuous efforts and the assistance of grace” (GS, 25). This is called structural sin or social sin. The law of ascent that states that “every soul that rises above itself, raises up the world,” can also hold true with regards its opposite law of descent. The social aspect of sin acknowledges that each individual’s sin in some way affects other” (RP, 16). A negative action can work against another person’s exercise of freedom and in the quest for establishing a just society. While common good tries to create an environment conducive for achieving perfection, social sin denies people the opportunity to reach this goal. Thus, social sin is “the sum total of the negative factors working against a true awareness of the universal common good, and the need to further it, gives the impression of creating, in persons and institutions, an obstacle which is difficult to overcome” (SRS, 36). Social sin can refer to “situations or structures of society which cause or support evil, or which cause people to fail to correct evils and injustices when it is possible to do so (Gorospe, 1997). Father Gorospe distinguishes three types of social sin (Gorospe, 1997), namely (1) “structures” which systematically oppress human dignity and violate human rights, stifle human freedom, and imposes gross inequality between the rich and the poor; examples are Martial Law, racial segregation, or the gap between the rich and the poor (2) “situations” which promote and facilitate greed and human selfishness; examples are the endemic corruption in the government and businesses, and oil price hikes Page | 13
dictated by cartels, and (3) “attitude” of persons who do not take responsibility for evil being done or who silently allow oppression and injustice. Refusing to testify to crimes one has witnessed or buying products from sweatshops are examples of this. Social sin applies to every sin against justice in interpersonal relationships, committed either by the individual against the community or by the community against the individual. By limiting or depriving opportunities for people, social sin offends freedom because people cannot act upon the choice that would determine themselves but rather are forced to accept a situation which does not promote their development. People can be held accountable for allowing this negative situation to persist, although the greater fault lies on the shoulders of those individuals who are the cause of this. “This social sin is rooted in the personal sin committed by individuals who cause or support evil or who exploit it; of those who are in a position to avoid, eliminate or at least limit certain social evils but who fail to do so out of laziness, fear or the conspiracy of silence, through secret complicity or indifference; of those who take refuge in the supposed impossibility of changing the world and also of those who sidestep the effort and sacrifice required, producing specious reasons of higher order” (RP, 16). To tolerate its existence has a price, for as Plato said, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Corruption in government has proven to be endemic. (Read the article about pork barrel) It affects almost everyone, from bottom to top, from outsiders to insiders. This is one of the greatest impediments to dismantling the structural defect of the socio-economic classes. Through it, people become indifferent to the evil existing amongst them, accepting it as the status quo. Those on top tend to be solipsistic and self-absorbed, rejecting the social dimension of their humanity. It has become the sine qua non of their role as leaders. Is there anything that is ultimately achieved in dealing with an individualistic morality (cf. GS, 30)? Such action offends society as a whole of which the person is an individual. As John Paul II says, “With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family” (RP, 16). In the final analysis, even the perpetrators of evil will also be a victim of their own actions. Common good therefore is the goal towards which the social order orients itself. The subsequent principles will elucidate how the principle of common good is advanced in terms of the measure of development (authentic human development), the utility of resources (stewardship) and the distribution of these resources (universal destination of goods). The principle of subsidiarity, m
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