“Laudato Si” is not anti-capitalist, as some claim
The story goes like this: An Investment banker is vacationing in Mexico when he sees a fisherman pulling his boat onto shore in the late morning. “You fish for a living?” he asks. “Tell me, what’s your typical day like?”
“I wake up late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs,” he says.
The investment banker scoffs and offers him some advice: “You should start by fishing longer every day. Catch and sell extra fish, and buy a bigger boat. That means more fish and more money and you can keep adding trawlers until you have a fleet. Forget selling to the merchants in town. Get a contract with the processing plants in the city. Then you can leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York. In 10 to 20 years you can take your company public and make millions.”
“And after that?” asks the fisherman.
“After that you’ll be able to retire and live the good life. You can live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings playing guitar and drinking with your friends!”
Which man’s world do we live in? Which would we rather live in?
To fill out the story, you can imagine the “throwaway culture” the banker or the fisher-CEO would have to embrace to live his lifestyle: The international trips, the hotel stays, eating on the run, the damage to his family relationships and the relentless search for solace in entertainment.
As Pope Francis put it, “a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption” (No. 50).
Pope Francis does not reject capitalism—but he does reject the current system where some get rich off of speculation, while the rest of us live, rest and recreate in order to be better wage slaves for our god Mammon while suffering epidemic levels of anxiety-related disorders—or line up in government offices as de facto wards of the state.
I, for one, agree with Pope Francis.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
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