Monday, March 30, 2020

Cardinal Robert Sarah on globalism

This is an excerpt from the book The Day Is Now Far Spent by Cardinal Robert Sarah. It criticises the reduction of men to a function within a capitalist society (consumers). This doesn't mean that a Soviet type command economy is superior, but rather that there has to be a way to place limits on the logic of the market, so that society (and the concept of man) is not shaped so entirely around it:
Interviewer: What connection is there between the consumer society, mass culture, and the standardization of ways of life?

Capitalism tends to reduce humanity to one central figure: the consumer. All economic forces attempt to create a buyer who can be the same anywhere on the globe. The Australian consumer must resemble the Spanish or the Romanian consumer exactly. Cultural and national identities must not be a hindrance to the building of this interchangeable man.

The standardization of consumer products is the perfect reflection of the aridity of this soulless civilization. The consumer society encourages ever-increasing production, the ever-greater accumulation and consumption of material goods. It presents to man an unimaginable abundance of material goods to consume and attempts to stimulate human greed more and more. The abundance of material goods is almost frightening. A human being seems obliged to consume what happens to be within his reach.

Materialism seeks to provoke an unlimited need for enjoyment. It totally misunderstands the needs of the interior life. In order to flourish, each person must be recognized in his uniqueness. The essence of capitalism imprisons man within himself, isolates him and makes him dependent.

Mass consumption leads to a dangerous, sterile form of gregariousness. The standardization of ways of life is the cancer of the postmodern world. Men become unwitting members of a great planetary herd that does not think, does not protest, and allows itself to be guided toward a future that does not belong to it.

Individual isolation and the degradation of persons, who are doomed to be no more than elements lost in the mass of consumers, are the two most horrible children of capitalism.

God's creature is deadened. He places his heart as a burnt offering on the altar of artificial happiness. He no longer knows the taste of true joys. He is an animal that eats, drinks, revels, and enjoys. The critical sense has become a ghost from the past.

Globalized humanity, without borders, is a hell.

This raises a question for traditionalists. If part of the problem is the logic of the market that seeks to make us into interchangeable units of production and consumption, how can we try to organise society to avoid this outcome?

I won't attempt a complete answer to this. I do think we need to have a bias toward smaller scale local production, so that the interests of these businesses are better aligned with the cohesion of local communities. It might be possible to harness modern technology to help make such local "micro industry" more competitive.

Maybe too there are ways to open up more space for people outside of the market (i.e. a better work/life balance so that people can pursue non-market interests or lead less hectic lives). For instance, we could find ways to make housing more affordable, to avoid spending decades paying off a mortgage. Better family stability would allow for greater financial independence. Where possible, rein in the creeping trend for people to be on call for work after hours.

The domestic sphere was also once better protected from the business world. Women, as mothers, once played a key role not only in making the home a haven from the corporate world, but also in giving life to local communities. Perhaps we could honour this role better than we do now.

The point is to harness the market and to encourage men to build up the financial resources to do good for their families and communities but without reducing the function or purpose of man to his role as a consumer.


  1. Back in the 70s there was a lot of talk about "quality of life". There was the idea that material standards of living were not everything. If you had a high material standard of living but you had to endure overcrowding, traffic congestion, outrageously long commuting times and air pollution, if you had to work excessively long hours in soulless jobs and lived under constant stress, then your quality of life might in fact be quite low.

    Nobody talks about quality of life any more.

    1. I do remember an expectation that the working week would, and should, gradually become shorter.