21 March 2011

An Unmerciful Steward

For some reason I'm getting really tired of hearing the phrase social injustice. There's something about the mere wording itself that I don't like. To me, the expression seems all but guaranteed to ensure that whatever social result we achieve by invoking it is going to be very different from - if not the opposite of - the aim we first intended. In other words, it's a phrase almost sure to come back and bite us in the end.

I wonder, too, if much of what modern liberals decry as social injustice, at least in the wealthier countries, is not in fact something altogether different. It may be nothing more than a certain very familiar process: a kind of sifting or winnowing, if you will, whereby those who are deemed ruthless, exacting and enterprising enough to be worthy of a society's lion's share of wealth, power and influence get exactly what they deserve. And then some. So that, by those particular standards of social worthiness, what really is going on is the most precise and accurate social justice.

But I think I've found another phrase, which perhaps much better serves the purpose liberals may be intending. The purpose of my phrase is to describe a certain other familiar practice, or process: the one by which organizations compete with each other to use the people they depend on to the point of sickness, if not unto death - and then deny that they ever needed them. Or in some cases even deny, Peter-like, that they ever knew them. And so naturally, for this pattern - this process by which people don't so much get what they deserve as they are given what we all know they don't - I prefer the term social unmercy. And while no doubt I may be over-reacting, I seem to find evidence of it almost everywhere. And what amazes me, in particular, is that such an abundance of social unmercy as we enjoy today is somehow deemed compatible with our present, upgraded version of American culture. In other words, with our Christianly-upgraded American culture.

One might reasonably have expected just the opposite. Given our current hearty levels of profession of sound Christian faith, one might have hoped something more on the order of social mercy would have come naturally to us. And all the more so given our current numbers and strength. For my part I can't think of a time when Christians were more thoroughly marbled through each and every layer and segment of American society. Including the ownership or management of God knows how many key - or soon-to-be key? - American businesses, foundations, etc. For the umpteenth time we Christians have proven we know how to get things done. And even to kick ass. Indeed I'm sure at times it must seem - at least to those on the receiving end - as if we were competing with the most remorseless Chinese sweatshop-owners to prove who can make dependable and trustworthy human creatures feel more expendable. Really, what is this Thing anyway, that we Christian Americans feel we must sacrifice to the mainland Chinese, that we shouldn't be working twice as hard to make an acceptable sacrifice to our Maker? Ah, but what am I thinking . . .

Behold, O blessed children of Locke, these our mighty, modern, ironclad Laws of Economics, that were even the prophets Amos and Micah alive to see their glorious work, they could but mutter Thomistically: "Everything I have written is straw."

On the other hand, assuming it truly is mercy, and mercy Divinely poured out, that we rich and influential Christians have received, is it asking so much that we should humanly pass it on?

No comments:

Post a Comment