Someone needs to teach Republicans about Marx. I know reading Das Kapital is about as intellectually masochistic as it gets, just above anything by Noam Chomsky and below Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, but it has to be done. Yes, you’ll probably feel the urge to dress in olive drab Army Surplus with old Warsaw Pact country flags on the sleeves, Misfits patch over your heart, complete with a requisite Che Guevara t-shirt. You’ll probably annoy your friends by claiming professional team sports are really examples of class warfare, and drone on and on about the inequalities of “The System” but it’s not all bad! More than likely you’ll find a new appreciation for Black Flag frontman, Henry Rollins, understand the lyrics to all those Rage Against the Machine songs, and finally get what all the fuss is about with Naomi Klein. Plus, you can mock other far leftists when they misinterpret Marx. Isn’t condescension and superiority worth trudging through several thousand pages of a couple hundred sentences?
See, Republicans haven’t read Marx because they don’t buy it. In fact, they haven’t really read Adam Smith. Sure, they know enough about both men and their systems to use them as propaganda tools, but they selectively discount anything that doesn’t uphold American style Vulture Capitalism as the Most Greatest, Bestest, Awesomeest, Estest, Thing Ever created by God and Sean Hannity.
That’s why Head Concern Troll and Conservative Bellicose Bombast, Rush Limbaugh, felt the need to sound off after Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) spoke about the need for reforms in the Catholic Church and the inequalities inherent within modern capitalism. Rush called it “pure Marxism” and claimed that “it’s sad because this pope (Francis) makes it very clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth.” Not at all. It’s not as if Pope Francis is from a country like Argentina that’s dealt with far left socialist revolutionaries and extreme right wing militia groups. It’s not as if Argentina has struggled with good old US Dollar Diplomacy thanks to US Companies bringing pressure on the US Government to block the World Bank from lending Argentina any money because it defaulted back in 2001 because of rates that would make a loan shark head to confession.
There’s no context as to why Pope Francis, the first Pope from South America, a region of the world that has struggled with poverty, radicalized politics and violence for centuries, would claim that trickle-down economic theory, aka Voodoo Economics, “expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” He obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about unlike Rush Limbaugh whose frame of reference consists of travelling to the Dominican Republic with some Dudebros, a fistful of Viagra, and a yearning to educate the youth.
This isn’t the first time a Pope has dropped some knowledge about the failings of Capitalism. Even John Paul II, who supported Capitalism over Marxism during the Cold War, spoke about the problems contained within an ideologically rigid, purely capitalistic system.
“The Marxist solution has failed, but the realities of marginalization and exploitation remain in the world, especially the Third World, as does the reality of human alienation, especially in the more advanced countries. Against these phenomena, the Church strongly raises her voice. Vast multitudes are still living in conditions of great material and moral poverty. The collapse of the Communist system in so many countries certainly removes an obstacle to facing these problems in an appropriate and realistic way, but it is not enough to bring about their solution. Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems, in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces.” (Centesimus Annus, 42.)
Doesn’t sound like Pope Francis is all that radical. In fact, when you consider wide-spread poverty in the favelas of São Paulo, or extreme rates of unemployment in heavy Catholic countries like Italy, 40 percent, and Spain, 56 percent, combined with increasing numbers of people turning away from religion to seek their answers on life’s big questions, it doesn’t take a leap of faith to understand why Pope Francis was elected pope. If institutions don’t address the needs of society, or speak to the majority of the people in that society, they’ll be swept away. That’s why the Catholic Church needs a pontiff to say the things Pope Francis is saying if they want to survive the 21st century. Of course, they could listen to a bloviating pseudo-intellectual that pontificates into a golden phallus. Then again, I’m pretty sure there’s something about not giving praise to false idols in the Old Testament.
(Author’s note: For a right-on-time, real world example about the very hypocrisy unfettered American Conservative Capitalism preaches vs. ‘What Jesus Actually Said’ check out this story about Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.)