Sunday, May 19, 2019

415 ppm Carbon Dioxide will kill us.

Friends,

CO2 levels reached 415 parts per million in May 2019.  That's the highest levels humans have ever seen.  Read my op-ed in the Scranton times.  Read Pope Francis's Laudato Si.   Pray, and then act to save our planet.

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https://www.thetimes-tribune.com/opinion/city-native-first-to-warn-of-carbon-dioxide-danger-1.2484421


You’re from Scranton and you have never heard of Charles Keeling? Don’t feel bad. I’ve lived here for almost 10 years and never heard of him, either.
You might have missed the recent news that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has climbed to 415 parts per million. Not knowing that could cost your grandchildren’s lives.
Keeling and CO² are both things about which you really want to know.
Scranton-born Keeling (1928-2005) was a geochemist. After getting a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, he went to work on how the Earth “breathes.” Trees, with all their leaves, and billions of plants take in CO² in sunlight and exhale oxygen.
When too much CO² is around, it overwhelms the green lungs of our planet. Unable to inhale it all, CO² builds up in the bubble of air surrounding Earth. Our planet begins to get warmer — and not in a comfortable way.
Scranton’s superb geochemist is credited with being the first to find ways to measure how much CO² is in the air. Figuring out how to know levels of CO² “is one of the great underappreciated scientific accomplishments of our time.” Most of the credit goes to Scranton’s Charles Keeling.
In the 1950s, it was well known that CO² molecules trapped heat. What Keeling proved was that carbon dioxide levels were rising, dangerously. Much of that increase is due to us. The main culprit is our burning of fossil fuels, which produces greenhouse gases that everyone has heard about in school science classes for the past 50 years.
James Hansen, of NASA, notes Keeling “altered our perspectives about the degree to which the Earth can absorb the human assault.”
Keeling measured CO² levels on Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. His son, Ralph, continues the work.
Which brings us to 415 ppm. Recently, CO² levels reached their highest point in millions of years. Humans have never lived on a planet with 415 ppm.
In 1900, we were at 300 ppm. Environmental expert Bill McKibben has been preaching for years that we need to get CO² down to 350 ppm. We were at 383 ppm in 2007. Instead of cutting back, we headed in the wrong direction. The hockey stick- shaped “Keeling curve” is not some talking head’s opinion on cable news. It is fact. It is truth. It means your grandchildren are going to suffer weather like never before unless we make major changes now.
A recent New York Times article, “Time to panic,” said a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen.”
Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, teaches about climate change and more. He appeals “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
Pope Francis offers challenge and consolation, healing and hope: “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. … All is not lost. Human beings … are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start … and embarking on new paths to authentic freedom.”
In 1962, author and conservationist Rachel Carson asked in “Silent Spring,” “Have we fallen into a mesmerized state that makes us accept as inevitable that which is inferior or detrimental, as though having lost the will or the vision to demand that which is good?”
Let’s make America, and our world, good again. Check out 350.org and NASA’s website https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/. Learn about the fragile condition of planet Earth. Whether or not you like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old congresswoman from Queens, she’s right about the fact that we don’t have much time to stop disaster.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s Earth science. And we need to learn it and get it right. Or we, or our children and grandchildren, are going to die. If Earth is not fit for human habitation, it is over.

It’s a reality: No people-friendly planet, no people.

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

One Priest's Analysis of the Never Ending Crisis. Pedophile Priests, Bishops and the Sex Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church 1985-2018


 




The Never Ending Crisis of Sexual Abuse[i] 
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D. 
University Chaplain, The University of Scranton

To understand what happened in past decades in the Catholic Church, one must realize this: what previously had been considered a sin came to be understood as a crime.  What once was seen as a treatable, compulsive condition, understood as something to be handled quietly by an institution’s authorities, came to be seen as something best dealt with by the Criminal Justice System, with the full light of the mass media shinning on the proceedings.  Cultural mores shifted, obviously for the better.

Given the revelations of priests’ sexual abuse of minors, all Catholics are challenged to try and comprehend the whole tragic morass surrounding clerical sex abuse that has been revealed in the past decades.  Let us pray for and support victims, try to understand all involved, and strive to construct a church wherein sexual abuse of children never happens again. 
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  Well, no one ever called me an angel.  And it may be foolish to try and say anything in the today’s context that simply doesn’t echo the endless charges of “cover-up,” “insensitive / incompetent / criminal bishops,” or “the church still doesn’t ‘get it.’ ”  Yet, I hope thinking through the crisis will be more helpful than self-righteously and loudly condemning the hierarchy.
First, know that I, and any sane and sensitive priest, hate and abhor what was done by priests to innocent children.  One child molested is one too many.  The pedophiles and ephebophiles in the church have caused incalculable harm to both the children they abused and violated, and all those torn apart by collateral damage.  SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests)[ii] and other organizations deserve our thanks for forcing all to deal with these realities.
In 1985, as the disturbing reports of serial child molester Fr. Gilbert Gauthe of Louisiana became known, due in large part to the courageous journalism of Jason Berry and the National Catholic Reporter, I was in theology studies.  Those were turbulent times for those preparing for ordination.  Liberation theology and questions like women’s ordination were being hotly debated.  Gauthe’s case raised even more questions.  Those of us who were given the grace to persevere to ordination knew we were in for a rough ride.  Little did we know.
After ordination in 1988, I was sent to our Jesuit parish in Camden, NJ.  Early in his tenure, Bishop McHugh called all the priests working in the Camden diocese to a mandatory meeting.  He let it be known in no uncertain terms: things were changing.  We were told if there was an accusation against any of us, we were on our own.  Prepare to get a lawyer.  Do not expect any preferential treatment from the diocese.  Civil authorities would be informed.  I was impressed.  I thought, “Good.  This is being handled.  Cases like Gauthe’s won’t happen again.”
Was I wrong.  The efforts of bishops like McHugh were too little, too late.  The 2002-2003 daily front page excoriations of the church burst the festering boil.  Under mounting pressure, the bishops authorized an independent study.  The John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that between 1950 and 2002, 4% of Catholic priests had been accused of sexual abuse.  10,667 people reported being sexually abused as children by 4,392 priests, about 4% of all 109,694 priests.[iii]  The study also found that the rate of pedophilia in the church was no higher than in other institutions in society.  The sad case of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State revealed that many other institutions and revered figures like Coach Joe Paterno acted much the way Catholic Bishops too often did.  And the church, far from covering up, had reams of documentation about these cases.  Many other institutions keep no records at all.  If someone complains to a public school district they may well hear, “You’re asking about Mr. Miller who taught 2nd grade in 1979?  Don’t know what happened to him.”
I don’t blame the media for focusing attention on the crimes, but when ABC Evening News reports (03/29/10), relying on www.bishopsaccountablitiy.org, that 5%-10% of priests “are abusers,” they contradict the most authoritative study done on the issue.  Still, the 96% of priests, the 99.9% of the sisters, and the vast majority of the laity, who never hurt a child also have had to confront what all this means.
Newsweek reported in April of 2010 that Catholic priests’ rate of abusing children is no more than other institutions: “…experts who study child abuse say they see little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue.  ‘We don't see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else,’ said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  ‘I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others’ ”[iv]
The problem is massive and extends far beyond the church’s walls.  25% of girls and 16% of boys will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday, and 20% of all children will suffer abuse before the age of eight.  There are 39 million in the USA today who have survived sexual abuse in their childhood.  30% to 40% suffer abuse at the hands of a family member, or an older child.  Only 10% are abused by strangers.[v]
In 2007, the Associated Press reported that, “Sexual Misconduct Plagues US Schools.”  In a study that covered five years, there were over 2,500 cases “in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.”  Even though the vast majority of the over 3 million schools teacher are dedicated and devoted the children entrusted to their care, almost every day in our schools, there are three cases of an abusing teacher.  The “much larger problem [is] a system that is stacked against victims.  Most of the abuse never gets reported.  Those cases reported often end with no action. Cases investigated sometimes cannot be proven, and many abusers have several victims.  And no one – not the schools, not the courts, not the state or federal governments – has found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms.”[vi]
To understand what happened in past decades in the Catholic Church, one must realize this: what previously had been considered a sin came to be understood as a crime.  What once was seen as a treatable, compulsive condition, understood as something to be handled quietly by an institution’s authorities, came to be seen as something best dealt with by the Criminal Justice System, with the full light of the mass media shinning on the proceedings.  Cultural mores shifted, obviously for the better. 
Back when homosexual activity was considered a crime, pedophilia (Andrew Sullivan and others call it “child rape”) committed by a priest was a sin.  In the 1960s and 1970s, police were routinely sent out to try and catch homosexuals in the act and arrest them.  Today, homosexuality is accepted by large sectors of society.  Several years ago the military dropped their “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and several states soon allowed Gay marriage.  In 2015, the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled that marriage for homosexual persons is a constitutional right.  In contrast, priest pedophiles are those who can never be understood, nor forgiven, and any bishop that did not defrock a priest immediately after the first allegation is considered guilty of cover-up. 
Priests who abuse children are today justly treated as criminals.  Their pedophiliac condition, whether caused by their being molested as children themselves, or perversely freely chosen, results in arrest and jail time.  The children molested by priests can sue the Catholic church, a possibility denied many children molested by adults in other institutions.  Statute of limitation laws are overridden, and the criminal justice system yields to cries for vengeance or justice depending on your perspective.  The reason given: many so traumatized cannot come forward in the time allotted.  The Church has paid billions and the bills keep piling up.  Much of the money comes from people in the pews who did no wrong.  Millions go to lawyers who are not working pro bono.
The constantly repeated charge of cover-up masks the fact that many bishops and religious superiors were following the standard operating procedures of the times.  In 1961, John Kennedy, a Catholic, had to justify his right to run for President.  In that year, if a Bishop McGillicuddy had taken a Fr. Smith down to the local precinct and told the Police Sergeant to book him, and that Johnny the altar boy would soon be brought in by his parents to press charges, everyone would have said the bishop was crazy.  In 1952, 1966, 1974 or 1982, neither parents nor police were publicly decrying how bishops handled these matters.  In those times, if journalists knew about it, they were not saying any more than they did about John Kennedy’s multiple marital infidelities.  Often money was given to either pay for needed therapy for the victim, or in some small measure, to try and make amends.  Now such payments are categorized as “hush money.”  Rene Girard’s cogent analysis of scapegoating is applicable here.  We need someone to blame, someone to punish: bishops are the most convenient target.
Well into the late 1980s, church leaders were being told by therapists at rehab centers that priests with this “problem” had been “treated” and could be placed back in ministerial positions, sometimes with the caveat that the priest would have no contact with minors.   What seems so horrible now, the moving of priests from parish to parish, did not seem so crazy in 1978.  That was the year The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) was formed.  It is incredible that that organization still exists and has a website, but in 1978 it seems their views were worth at least being given a hearing.[vii]  To think or speak as if this problem exists in the Catholic Church alone is disingenuous.  Again, just google “Penn State, Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky.”  Experts opine that ten to twenty percent of males in the U.S. abuse sexually.[viii]
It was not the fact of the matter that bishops were sitting around conspiring to actively encourage priests to go and molest more children.  Bishops, parents, cops, and everyone else in the decades preceding the sexual revolution of the late 1960s, did not deal openly or forthrightly about sexual matters.  Bishops probably wanted to handle these matters quickly and quietly and get on to other concerns.  Does this indicate 1) a “cover-up” evidencing a callous disregard for the welfare of children, 2) a justifiable fear of gravely harming the church by being open about this issue, or 3) in hindsight, bewildering incompetency?  Probably a combination of the second (and in their defense, note how these revelations have hurt the church) and third (no one suggests the bishops did anything right).  Still, I hesitate to charge them with the first. 
The vast majority of bishops were good and decent men, and none of them had any training, nor much help, in dealing with sexual deviants.  Nor were they schooled in the intricacies of public relations in a world with a 24/7 news cycle.  A Jesuit would get appointed provincial and in a matter of weeks go from decades of scholarly pursuits to a six year term as an administrator of some 600 to 1000 men, without a day of management training.  They cared deeply about children, but what could we expect them to have done, given the times and cultural cues available to them?  They did not act any differently than the family who kept a close eye on Uncle Eddie at Thanksgiving or the school principal who kept Mr. Smith away from the first and second graders.  If the bishops and provincials had covered this up, there would not be hundreds of thousands of incriminating letters and other documents in church files.
Even parents were not always immediately outraged.  Even parents did not initially call for priests to be put in jail.  The first reaction to Gauthe was to get him “help.”  In 1972, Gauthe was caught after molesting three boys.  Parents confronted him.  In his deposition Gauthe stated, “They simply asked me if I had been involved with any of the children, and I said, ‘Yes.’ And I asked them if they would help me find a good psychiatrist.”  A lady made an appointment for him.  “And,” he said, “I simply kept it.”  Gauthe said the parents paid for these sessions, which lasted several months and that he did not report them to Church superiors.”[ix]
In the 1980s, a Jesuit in California moved to Los Angeles where he was able to more easily and often visit his brother and his family.  He was caught molesting his nieces by his brother, an LAPD police officer.  His brother, a cop, didn’t arrest him.  He told him he needed to get help.  “I threw him out of my house,” Larry Lindner said. He urged his brother to seek treatment but did not report him to authorities.  “I trusted him,” Larry Lindner said. “I told him, ‘I’m not going to ruin your life or ruin your career. Just go get help.’ ... I should have had him arrested right there. But he’s still my brother, and I did what I thought a brother should do.’ ”[x] 
Many bishops who acted like those parents in the Gauthe case or Officer Linder are being castigated for not acting as omniscient CEOs.  In reality, the relationship of bishop to priest ought to be more like brother to brother than boss to employee.  The bishops had to consider and care for all the church: the victims, the victimizers, and everyone else who would be affected by revelations of abuse.
In 1990, a good and balanced movie, Judgment, starring Keith Carradine and Blythe Danner presented the excruciatingly difficult choices bishops confronted.  In one scene, the bishop wants to reach out pastorally to the family of a child abused by a priest character based on the real life Gilbert Gauthe.  The lawyers tell the bishop if he meets with the family he will be admitting guilt.  The lawyers tell him that he can meet with the victim, or he can keep his diocese.  He can’t do both.
Even Spotlight, the Oscar winning movie dealing with the Boston Globe’s crusading campaign to uncover clerical sexual abuse in Boston in 2002, recognized that the Globe had had the information years before.  They had not printed the revelations in bold headlines on page one.
In the age before Oprah and reality TV’s constant self-revelation, the world and church felt that some things were not aired in public, much the way universities don’t place date rape info in their recruitment materials, nor do banks highlight the history of any embezzlers in their midst.
Bishops often had to respond to the needs of all involved.  Victims, victimizers, and the larger community and church.  Many people didn’t want victims’ suffering aired publicly.  Parents didn’t want their child’s rape known throughout the parish and neighborhood.  Today, with 24/7 news cycles, and unscrupulous news outlets, victims’ suffering can be compounded  For example, one of Jerry Sandusky’s victims was bullied so badly he had to leave school.[xi]
Today, some bishops are unjustly held to a standard neither they, nor anyone else at the time, expected them to meet.  Many of those bishops are dead.  Many who were bishops and provincials in the 1980s gradually began to realize a radically different approach was needed, thanks to their heeding courageous voices like Fr. Andrew Greeley’s and Fr. Tom Doyle’s.  But, frankly, the giving a position of authority and power to Bishop Law, who continued old practices well beyond the time that things had changed, is insane and disgraceful.
Since 2002, the church has had a policy of zero tolerance.  If anyone accuses a priest, the priest is immediately removed from ministry until the matter is resolved.  Although false accusations are rare, priests are completely vulnerable to whoever wants to make a baseless claim.  Priests must never engage in any kind of abuse.  The Church’s Essential Norms document states: “When even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants.”[xii]
The priests named in the PA Grand Jury report who were accused post 2002 were often immediately removed from ministry.  And the PA Grand Jury Report has said there were 301 predatory priests.  But the report doesn't say how many priest served in PA in the past 70 years.  301 is what percentage of total priests?  Higher or lower than the 4% reported by the John Jay Report of 2004? And again, one child abused is one too many.  No abuse is acceptable.  But were all 301 priests in the report equally horrific?  Several of the 301 contest the allegations.  Some offenses, though sick, sad, sinful, shameful and criminal, were less harmful than the completely heinous examples.  Still, no one can judge the depth or degree of a victim's pains except the victim.
The problem isn’t zero tolerance.  The problem isn’t celibacy.  96% of the priests were not pedophiles, while many married men are.  The problem isn’t homosexuality.  The investigators from the second John Jay College of Criminal Justice report on the causes and contexts of the crisis, told the bishops in 2011 that there is no connection between homosexual priests and pedophilia.[xiii]  The high incidence of boys being molested by priests was due to the fact that priests had easier access to boys.  Fr. Bill taking the altar boys on a camping trip was considered wonderful for the boys and he was considered a “great guy.”  If Fr. Bill had suggested taking the fifth and sixth grade girls on a camping trip, people would have thought that weird.  The problem isn’t callous and insensitive bishops or incompetent provincials.  Most of them did the best they could with the resources and within the cultural mores available at the time.  The problem is what do we do now and in the future? 
The amazing reality is that so many Catholics are sticking with the church.  Several years ago, in the 2000s, I presided at a first communion celebration.  A packed church accompanying some 40 second graders; the boys looking cool in blue suits and the girls in an array of white dresses, the parents hovering as they walk up with their child to receive the Lord in the Eucharist, the grandparents, brothers and sisters, the teachers and the school’s big kids in the choir and acting as altar servers: the church continues. 
We need new Catherines of Siena, Francises of Assisi, Ignatiuses of Loyola, Dorothy Days, Thomas Mertons, Oscar Romeros and Dan Berrigans to reinvigorate and renew the church.  We especially need new St. Mary Mackillops, the courageous Josephite sister who stood up for abused children in 1870s Australia.  She was excommunicated for standing against a priest who was sexually abusing children in Australia.  The priest was removed, but a priest friend of his carried out a vendetta against St. Mary MacKillop and her sister Josephites.  Eventually, she was exonerated, but the stain of an intrinsically disordered patriarchal, clerical system remains.[xiv]
The Catholic Church is the largest private provider of social services in the United States.  We cannot allow catholic schools, soup kitchens, nursing homes, hospitals, social outreach, family service organizations, immigration services, prison ministries, AIDS ministries, and myriad other local, national and global charitable institution to fall victim to the present crisis. 
The thousands of children harmed can never be forgotten or ignored.  But let’s not compound the crimes of a small percentage of priests by letting their actions destroy not just the souls and lives of too many children, but also the mission and ministries of the whole church.
In 1975 the Society of Jesus defined the Jesuit mission as “The service of faith of which the promotion of Justice is an absolute requirement.  For reconciliation with God demands the reconciliation of people with one another” (32nd General Congregation, 1975).  Many quickly picked up on the phrase “faith and justice” or the “faith that does justice.”  But the reconciliation theme dropped out and received much less attention.  The Good News is that by 2008 the 36th General Congregation defined the Jesuit mission as being “Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice.”[xv]
Today, and at all times, we need to do justice and work toward reconciliation.  How to reconcile over the issues of how the sexual abuse of children was addressed by the church as an institution, how to find some way to get to forgiveness… these are huge challenges for us as the pilgrim people of God, as the Body of Christ.  Yet, these are challenges we must meet.  Issues like abortion, the use of artificial means of birth control, homosexuality and same sex marriage, on and on, call us to be agents of reconciliation.  Genocides, economic inequality and pollution of the planet call us to be agents of reconciliation.  Pedro Arrupe once said that ours is, “A Planet to heal.”  May we courageously and generously embrace the needed work of repenting, recreating and rebuilding.  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18).


[i]  Much of this reflection on the Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis appeared in Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Being on Fire: The Top Ten essentials of Catholic Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014), 77-86.
[iii]  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  “The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002.”  A Research Study Conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the City University of New York.  February 2004.  P. 8.  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload/The-Nature-and-Scope-of-Sexual-Abuse-of-Minors-by-Catholic-Priests-and-Deacons-in-the-United-States-1950-2002.pdf (accessed August 2018).
[iv]  Pat Wingert, “Priests Commit No More Abuse than Other Males, Newsweek, April 4, 2010.  https://www.newsweek.com/priests-commit-no-more-abuse-other-males-70625 (accessed August 2018).
[v]  Darkness to Light: End child sexual abuse.  https://www.d2l.org/ (accessed August 2018).
[vi]  Martha Irvine and Robert Tanner.  “AP Sexual Conduct Plagues US Schools.”  The Associated Press. Sunday, October 21, 2007.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/21/AR2007102100144.html (accessed August 2018).
[vii]  NAMBLA.  https://www.nambla.org/ (accessed August 2018).
[viii]  Pat Wingert, “Priests Commit No More Abuse than Other Males, Newsweek, April 4, 2010.  https://www.newsweek.com/priests-commit-no-more-abuse-other-males-70625 (accessed August 2018).
[ix]  Jason Berry, “The Tragedy of Gilbert Gauthe.” May 23, 1985.  http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news/1985_05_23_Berry_TheTragedy.htm (accessed August 2018).
[x]   Glen F. Bunting, “L.A. Priest Blamed for Legacy of Pain.” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2002.  http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2002_12_14_Bunting_LAPriest.htm (accessed August 2018).
[xi]  Sara Ganim,   “Alleged Jerry Sandusky victim leaves school because of Bullying, counselor says.”  The Patriot News.  Nov 21,2011  https://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/11/alleged_jerry_sandusky_victim.html  (accessed August 2018)
[xii]   USCCB, “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” (2006.  2nd revision June 2011).  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload/Charter-for-the-Protection-of-Children-and-Young-People-revised-2011.pdf (accessed August 2018).
[xiii]   Thomas G. Plante, “The New John Jay Report on Clergy Abuse in the Catholic Chuch.  May 18, 2011.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/do-the-right-thing/201105/the-new-john-jay-report-clergy-abuse-in-the-catholic-church
[xiv]  Mary MacKillop.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_MacKillop (accessed August 2018).
[xv]  36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.  “Decree 1: Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice.”  http://jesuits.org/Assets/Publications/File/GC36-Decree_1_Reconciliation_and_Justice_ENGLISH1.pdf (accessed August 2018).

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Thursday, August 02, 2018

Einstein advocates Socialism! Smart Guy!


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Why Socialism? 
By Albert Einstein    May 1949.    (May 01, 2009)  Topics: Marxism , Socialism    Places: Global




Albert Einstein is the world-famous physicist. This article was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949). It was subsequently published in May 1998 to commemorate the first issue of MR‘s fiftieth year.  —  The Editors

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.
Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.
But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.
Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.
For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.
Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”
I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?
It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.
Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept “society” means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”
It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.
Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.
If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.
I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.
For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.
Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.
This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?
Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

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