Called to Create:  Building True Economic Justice

Today, much of the world’s attention is focused on the world financial crisis and the importance of avoiding a financial “meltdown”.  For those of us who live our lives connected to issues of poverty, injustice and violence, we have for a long time been concerned about financial crises and meltdowns, but we view the scenario with different eyes.  As CND we hold up liberating education as our guide.  Much of our work for justice, peace and integrity of creation has involved presenting the voice of the impoverished and the powerless to those who are in a position to make a difference in the lives of individuals and in the structures that foster inequality and injustice.  We engage everyone from political and corporate leaders to ourselves.  As individuals – and communities – we have influence through what we buy, how we use energy, and in other significant dimensions of our everyday lives.

We have not been alone in these endeavors.  Church leadership at the Vatican, and in many countries around the world through our Bishops, religious congregations, and others, have publicly called for a new way of doing economics.  In 1967, Pope Paul VI issued the prophetic Encyclical Populorum Progressio.  In it he says, “The world situation requires the concerted effort of everyone, a thorough examination of every facet of the problem – social, economic, cultural and spiritual.”  The latest Document issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (October 2011), “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority” begins with a reference to this Encyclical and goes on to state that: “The economic and financial crisis which the world is going through calls everyone, individuals and peoples, to examine in depth the principles and the cultural and moral values at the basis of social coexistence. What is more, the crisis engages private actors and competent public authorities on the national, regional and international level in serious reflection on both causes and solutions of a political, economic and technical nature.”  Towards Reforming makes a point of quoting what the G20 leaders themselves said in the Statement they adopted in Pittsburgh in 2009: “The economic crisis demonstrates the importance of ushering in a new era of sustainable global economic activity grounded in responsibility.”  There is also a growing ethical consensus among economists, environmentalists, and social scientists that we must “...move to a post-growth society where working life, the natural environment, our communities, and the public sector are no longer sacrificed merely for the sake of an increase in GDP.”  

We are not without principled words of vision or leadership for how we should consider the crises of today.  Nor are we without alternative economic models based on justice, equality and sustainability.  The challenge for us is to live what we believe we are called to by embracing such vision and principles, and calling for their implementation.
The recent Occupy Wall Street Movement, which quickly spread to many different countries as the “Occupy Movement”, has achieved in a few short months what we as educators have been working towards for decades.  Swelling numbers in the so-called ‘developed’ world, and many around the globe, are talking about the “99%” and the 1%, the gap between the rich and the poor, and the unwillingness of the protestors to tolerate the injustice any longer.  The challenge for the Occupy Movement has been how to translate this desire for change into concrete solutions.  Sue Wilson, CSJ, Co-Coordinator of her community’s justice office, visited the Occupy Toronto movement.  In her reflection on this experience she stated that she felt the Occupy group, although it may be weak in its expression of a specific action plan, has created a space of dialogue for those who do have concrete solutions.  The world is now waiting to hear the ideas that we are putting forth.
Many people believe that the Occupy Movement has created an opportunity to talk more openly about economic justice because it has changed the nature of the public conversation on these issues.  It has created a climate in which we can begin addressing the issues from a whole new starting point.

If we now have the audience, the challenge for us is what we can offer.  It is interesting to search for alternative economic models that are practiced in our regions.  Moving another step forward and reflecting on the impact of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, as well as other peoples’ movements that have taken to the streets calling for change, we propose to you four new questions for reflection and discussion.

Invitation to Reflection & Discussion:

  • Who is our audience today?  Is it different now because of the new wave of “peoples’ movements” in the streets calling for change?
  • What is our message for economic justice today?
  • What are the concrete ways that we can be a living model for our message?
  • How can we best use Church teachings in the work for economic justice?

Resources:
Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority”. 

James Gustave Speth in Moral Ground:  Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril.

Check your local Bishops’ Conference for Statements on economic justice and the current fiscal crisis.