"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
There aren't two sides to the story of a real rape. One side has all the technological might on its side, the other has nothing but its suffering to offer. How can the RN continue its "equality" coverage? Can't it see through the illusion?
How many news reports inform the audience that Hamas was the democratically elected government of Gaza? No one disputes that this government was the result of a free and fair election. How often do we hear this on the RN?
By running the report on Sderot, the RN is supporting the Israeli line that its butchery is saving lives of its citizens from rocket attacks.
"That is not its aim. If that were its aim, Israel would achieve it immediately by embracing the solution to the Palestinian problem, in no way complex. It would give up neo-Zionism. It would withdraw, without negotiation, from the remaining homeland of another people." - Ted Honderich, "The First Casualty of Israel's War", CounterPunch, Dec. 31, 2008.
This is not war. For a war you need two sides comparable in power. What is happening in Gaza is the slaughter of the innocents. From a Christian perspective this is what Herod was doing in Bethlehem, murdering those whose existence was inconvenient to his imperial ambitions.
The Israelis hate the Palestinians because they represent Israel's "shadow", the dark side of their noble Zionist cause. It is not Palestinian rockets that Israel fears, it is the abhorrent, inconvenient existence of a people who originally lived in what Israel wants to claim as its own.
It is the Palestinians who have a moral right to defend themselves since they are being attacked by unjust force.
Let them learn well the lesson of the Palestinians of the United States, known as Native Americans, or Indians. They believed in treaties, they accepted the white man's hand in friendship. Today, they are a tiny remnant of a once great people. But they didn't believe in the right of ethnic cleansing. They were decent human beings. So are the Palestinians.
like unto him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in
his own conceit."
- Prov. 26:5-6
Why does the dominant elite seem to consider the prospect of global warming to be a minor nuisance rather than the threat of overwhelming catastrophe as scientists portray it?
Could it be that the dominant elite has become the victim of its own propaganda system, the most effective and scientifically designed system of illusion the world has ever known?
Sunday, December 28, 2008
"Beyond the pyrotechnics, however, there has been another kind of conflagration: what started as concentrated rage at the police has assumed the dimensions of a social rebellion, moving beyond the actions of a 'violent fringe' to involve large numbers of young people." - "Greek fire: from riot to social rebellion - Collective Reinventions", Dec. 20, 2008
What the corporate owned media portrays as a chaotic "youth rebellion", fueled by economic frustration is forming into a conscious social rebellion with a specific program. Though their action springs from the outrage of the moment, the growing movement is guided by intuitions of human commodification, as when they wore large bar codes to symbolize their rejection of being treated as commodities. The awareness of objectification is the first step to the renewal of humanity.
If what the mainstream media were saying about the rebellion were true, then it would have burned itself out after a few days. If it were only nihilistic youth and "criminals" as they portray it, then it would not have resonated with larger Greek society, as it clearly has.
First, the leaders of the rebellion have framed the murder of the 15 year old boy as an act of social repression, class warfare: "It was the choice of the state to violently impose submission and order to the milieus and movements that resist its decisions. A choice that meant to threaten everybody who wants to resist the new arrangements made by the bosses in work, social security, public health, education, etc" Indeed, one can see it in a more inclusive sense as the opening in the new wave of repression that the financial crisis has made necessary.
"The bullet that pierces Alexis’s heart was a bullet to the heart of exploitation and repression for an important part of this society who knows that it has nothing to lose apart from the illusion that things might get better."
War, poverty, crime, famine and environmental destruction - these are all signs that capitalism is working perfectly - because these are what the market needs to maximize profit. Let us cry out in our imperfect humanity to break that perfection.
Friday, December 26, 2008
What the ruling elite most fears is the conscious human being. The one conscious of the great inner power which each person possesses as soon as he or she becomes aware of the constant molding to which we are compelled to submit. Every media transmission converges to reinforce the message that we are powerless, that our actions are meaningless, that only the experts have the knowledge required to guide our lives. On the contrary, we grow as human beings by changing ourselves through our own conscious and self-directed activity.
The Greek anarchists represent conscious human life, life that wants to seize hold of itself and the temples of consumption where our humanity has been incarcerated, "The destruction of the temples of consumption, the reappropriation of goods, the ‘looting’ that is, of all these things that are taken from us, while they bombard us with advertisements, is the deep realization that all this wealth is ours, because we produce it. ‘We’ in this case means all working people as a whole. This wealth does not belong to the shop-owners, or the bankers, this wealth is our sweat and blood. It is the time that bosses steal from us every day. It is our sickness when we start our pension. It is the arguments inside the bedroom and the inability to meet a couple of friends on a weekend night. It is the boredom and loneliness of Sunday afternoon and the choking feeling every Monday morning. As exploited and oppressed, immigrants or greek, as working people, as jobless, students or pupils, we are called now to answer back to the false dilemma posed by the media and the state: are we with the ‘hoodies’ or are we with the shop-owners. This is dilemma is only a decoy." - "Nothing will ever be the same again", The Movements for the Generalisation of Revolt, Greece, December, 2008
"We are the ‘hoodies'. Not because we want to hide our face, but because we want to make ourselves visible. We exist. We wear hoods not for the love of destruction but for the desire to take our life in our hands. To build upon the grave of commodities and powers a different society. A society where everybody will decide collectively in general meetings of schools, universities, workplaces and neighbourhoods, about everything that concerns us, without the need of political representatives, leaders or comissars. A society where we will all together guide our fortunes and where our needs and desires will be in our hands, and not those of every MP, mayor, boss, priest or cop."
"The hope for this life was put back on the table by the barricades that were set up everywhere in Greece and in solidarity abroad. It remains to make this hope a reality. The possibility of such a life is now put to the test by public assemblies in occupied municipal buildings, trade union buildings and universities in Athens and elsewhere in Greece, where everybody can freely express her opinions and shape her action collectively, based on her desires and needs. The dream of this life has started taking shape....
Everything begins now. Everything is possible." - Nothing will ever be the same again", The Movements for the Generalisation of Revolt, Greece, December, 2008
Listen to the voice that is there for the moment for it will soon be drowned in the corrupting blare of the media.
Everything is possible, even freedom.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
"The Kingdom of Heaven is not a kingdom or life in the clouds. Either it exists here or else it exists nowhere," - Hugo Chávez
The Christ child was born on earth, poor and human, to fight to make this planet the kingdom of heaven. He fought for equality and justice, had no reverence for metaphysical poverty, but strove to eliminate real poverty, poverty of soul and body.
"Christ was born to call on us to create, here on earth, the Kingdom of Love," Chávez explained, adding that this kingdom has no other name than socialism." - Chávez: Capitalists Have Manipulated the Message of Christ to Exploit the Poor
"Socialism is the doctrine, science, of development of what is social. Capitalism is the immoral art, science, and technology of development of capital or growth of capital -- (for capitalism) what matters is that even while people die of hunger capitalists accumulate capital."
"The president stressed that therein lies the key to understanding the confrontation that began again, in which Venezuela has become the center of the battle between socialists and capitalists, 'between people becoming more politically conscious every day and those who exploited them forever.' He said that that is why the issue of the constitutional amendment is of vital importance as it will allow Venezuela to go farther on the socialist path, the truly human and democratic path, for the happiness of the Venezuelan people." - Chávez: Capitalists Have Manipulated the Message of Christ to Exploit the Poor
Christianity and Marxism are brothers of the same Father - Yahweh, the true God. The Christian message is that a new earth is achievable - the Kingdom of Heaven has blossomed among us. We have only to seize it by our faith and it will live in our hearts and in our societies because the God who guarantees it is trustworthy. The resurrection shows us the path beyond death. Christian faith is the missing key to socialist praxis. We can only achieve socialism through faith in God, not through economic determinism, which is an expression of the very dehumanization which socialism seeks to overcome.
"The Marxist critique of anti-Utopian Christianity remains completely relevant and the image of God to which Marxist analysis now leads is no longer that of the supreme being but rather the God of the Christian message. This is a God within the human praxis of liberation, one who can provide Utopian praxis with a justification that goes beyond what is humanly achievable. From this perspective, something that is not humanly achievable can be declared achievable: the realm of freedom. This does not mean, however, that it is to be achieved by human effort, but rather that the coming of the kingdom can be hastened. The praxis of advancing and overcoming obstacles is Christian praxis insofar as hope in a kingdom to come is part of that praxis and its successes are related to that kingdom. From this viewpoint, such praxis is not hindered by being unachievable: God is committed to it. The success of this praxis is linked to the hastening of the coming of the kingdom." - Franz Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death, p. 230.
The Christian God forms the missing link in socialist practice. If we deeply study the motivations and moral standards of the great Marxists, we find that the fire of justice burns within their theories and revolutionary practice. But Marxism in itself is not adequate to the justice toward which it points. Only by integrating the practice of Christian spirituality with revolutionary action can Marxism achieve the goal of human freedom.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
But like many other patients in Gaza he had been made to leave an overcrowded hospital to make way for the dying. Yesterday his house was a pile of rubble: collapsed walls and the occasional piece of furniture exposed to the sky. He spoke bitterly of his daughters' deaths. "We are civilians. I don't belong to any faction, I don't support Fatah or Hamas, I'm just a Palestinian. They are punishing us all, civilians and militants. What is the guilt of the civilian?" Like many men in Gaza, Anwar has no job, and like all in the camp he relies on food handouts from the UN and other charity support to survive. "If the dead here were Israelis, you would see the whole world condemning and responding. But why is no one condemning this action? Aren't we human beings?" he said. "We are living in our land, we didn't take it from the Israelis. We are fighting for our rights. One day we will get them back."
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The nature of capitalism was well-described by St. Thomas Aquinas, "The other kind of exchange is either that of money for money, or of any commodity for money, not on account of the necessities of life, but for profit, and this kind of exchange, properly speaking, regards tradesmen, according to the Philosopher (Polit. i, 3). The former kind of exchange is commendable because it supplies a natural need: but the latter is justly deserving of blame, because, considered in itself, it satisfies the greed for gain, which knows no limit and tends to infinity. Hence trading, considered in itself, has a certain debasement attaching thereto, in so far as, by its very nature, it does not imply a virtuous or necessary end." - St. Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, a. 77, a.4
Note first what Aquinas condemns - not greed in itself, an abstract tendency to sin independent of time, place or circumstance, but exchange for the sake of profit. He specifically condemns profit-making because "it is satisfies the greed for gain, which knows no limit and tends to infinity." Here the saint of wisdom sees and foresees something that we are experiencing the final fruits of.
More scientifically stated, this practice, which most people recognize as the foundation of our economic system, leads by necessity, not choice, to blind expansion of the use of the earth's resources. Capitalists pursue their own interests to maximize profit. If that maximization happens to coincide with another interest, such as eradicating disease, that is no more than a happy accident, to be brushed aside if it interferes with profits, as we see clearly in the case of big pharma denying AIDS medicines to Africans unless they pay the full price. In saying this I'm not morally condemning the individuals who run these companies. They are usually decent, even Christian, people, but the nature of the system in which they operate forces them to do things which are inherently immoral. Therefore a whole industry of justification has grown up to salve our consciences, in which the Church plays its role.
In our system, all natural and social relationships are subsumed under the drive to accumulate capital. To support this, natural processes must be subjected to the whims of the economic cycle. Natural ecologies are governed by complex relationships of interchange with cycles and rhythms that cannot be subsumed under the demands for maximum profit without destroying them. Thus, capitalism always tends to violate the natural conditions that ensure nature's vitality and ability to right itself, expelling the poisons which weaken it. Essentially, the demand for increasing growth and profit margins must collide with the interests of ecological balance and the winner of this struggle will always be capital.
More deeply, what is at stake is the nature of human happiness. which can never be found in the coercive relationships produced by money, but only in the free (utterly free) action of human beings living out the full potentialities of their nature. That is the positive side of the socialist revolution that must take place if humanity and the planet they depend on are to survive. The negative prod is the more than 2 billion people around the world live on less than $2 a day, while 6 million children starve to death or die from easily preventable diseases each year. That Holocaust should shock the Christian conscience as much as Hilter's, but due to its hidden nature, it does not.
Apologists for the current system ignore its systemic nature. The reason capital cannot solve the ecological crisis which it has caused is that it is propelled constantly to expand. This is not an accidental tendency which could be counteracted by firm management, but a feature without which the system would collapse. To understand why this is the case, we notice first that capitalism always privileges short term gains, often provided by technological fixes, over long term planning, even when such planning might lead to more sustainable profits in the long term. The capitalist cannot concern himself with such planning because his focus must be on the immediate opportunity. If the soil becomes depleted due to exploitative agricultural practices, the solution is not end those practices in favor of sustainable agriculture, but to genetically modify crops so that they can grow in depleted conditions. Thereby the rate of profit can be sustained, while ignoring the long term effects of genetically modified crops. Not to sustain the rate of profit is to be liquidated by the market. No other consideration can be allowed to interfere. The price for ignoring this principle is economic suicide.
"The constant drive to renew the capital accumulation process intensifies its destructive social metabolism, imposing the needs of capital on nature, regardless of the consequences to natural systems. Capitalism continues to play out the same failed strategy again and again. The solution to each environmental problem generates new environment problems( while of ten not curtailing the old ones). One crisis follows another, in an endless success of failure, stemming from the internal contradictions of the system. If we are to solve out environment crises, we need to go to the root of the problem: the social relation of capital itself, given that this social metabolic order undermines the "vital conditions of existence." - Brett Clark and Richard York, Rifts and Shifts: Getting to the Root of Environmental Crises, Monthly Review, November, 2008.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Capitalism is not an abstraction, it is a concrete fact that we live with every day. It has a nature that we can describe by observing what it actually acts like in the real world. That nature does not lend itself to increasing contributions to provide more and more of life's necessities first. It never has done that and it never will because the engine of capitalism is profit, not reasonable opportunities for self-actualization. As long as profit directs economic action, rather than the common good, then it will always tend to centralize wealth in the hands of the few. It does this not from malice, but because it's nature is to seek accumulation of exchange value - that is the engine that results in both its productivity and its destruction.
What I'm saying is that it is not a "neutral" economic system that has been tragically distorted by sin, but that it is the direct product of sin. I say this as a Catholic, basing my thought on the teachings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, especially St. Thomas Aquinas, and I would treasure a Catholic reply to my points which so far none has made to any of my postings.
It is self-evident that capitalism is based on avarice, on the lust for ever-expanding accumulation. St. Thomas Aquinas said the following about the motivating engine of capitalism, "Avarice gives rise to insensibility to compassion, because one's heart is not softened by compassion to assist the needy with one's riches...It also give rise to restlessness, by hindering one with excessive anxiety and care, for ' an avaricious man shall not be satisfied with money (Ecclesiastes 5:9)." - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 118, a. 6 ad. 1
Every Christian knows in his or her heart that "... spiritual sins are consummated in pleasures of the spirit without pleasure of the flesh. Such is covetousness: for the covetous man takes pleasure in the consideration of himself as a possessor of riches. Therefore covetousness is a spiritual sin." - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 118, a. 6
As we experience every day in the current economic crisis, inhumanity is the same as insensibility to compassion - indeed the capitalist mentality is a form of possession: "Chrysostom compares a covetous man to the man who was possessed by the devil, not that the former is troubled in the flesh in the same way as the latter, but by way of contrast, since while the possessed man, of whom we read in Mark 5, stripped himself, the covetous man loads himself with an excess of riches." - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 118, a. 6
The words of Sirach were the common coin of wisdom in St. Thomas' time: "'Nothing is more wicked than a covetous man,' and the text continues: 'There is not a more wicked thing than to love money: for such a one setteth even his own soul to sale.' Tully also says (De Offic. i, under the heading, 'True magnanimity is based chiefly on two things'): 'Nothing is so narrow or little minded as to love money.'" - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 118, a. 6
Apropos of the Bank of America scandal, "When someone lends money...on the understanding that he will receive his money back and in addition demands a charge for the use of it, it is clear that he is selling separately the substance of the money and the use of it. In consequence he is selling something that does not exist, or he is selling the same thing twice, which is manifestly against the notion of natural justice." - St. Thomas Aquinas, De Malo, 4.
The nature of capitalism has been well-described by St. Thomas: "The other kind of exchange is either that of money for money, or of any commodity for money, not on account of the necessities of life, but for profit, and this kind of exchange, properly speaking, regards tradesmen, according to the Philosopher (Polit. i, 3). The former kind of exchange is commendable because it supplies a natural need: but the latter is justly deserving of blame, because, considered in itself, it satisfies the greed for gain, which knows no limit and tends to infinity. Hence trading, considered in itself, has a certain debasement attaching thereto, in so far as, by its very nature, it does not imply a virtuous or necessary end." - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 77
The events at Republic Windows and Doors highlight the true nature of the current economic system, and the nature of De malo, which does not brutalize accidentally, distorted through avarice, but by its nature, which is derived from sin.
"It is so bad that people are only buying what they need." - The Betrayal of the Commons, Richard Thieme, Dec. 19, 2008. Thus ends the endless cultivation of depraved, inhuman, artificial needs so obsessively cultivated over so many decades, all ending with an ugly, swollen face in the mirror.
"The world that collapsed was built on people buying things they didn't need. Then throwing them away and buying more." - The Betrayal of the Commons, Richard Thieme, Dec. 19, 2008.
Throwing away and buying more. Throwing away and buying more. Thus do our dreams reach their final emptiness. Throwing away the earth, but alas, there is no more earth to buy.
The delusion of infinite wealth is shredded into tatters and blows away in the wind, but we are too befuddled to realize that it is lost. Mechanically, we continue our marketing campaigns, too hypnotized to realize we are speaking to black space.
Each of our frames has broken, but our minds have yet to encompass the fractures. The screen goes blank, but the reboot button is dead.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The next morning, he was found dead. The body had 'bloodshot' eyes, lacerations on his wrists from the plastic ties, unexplained bruises on his abdomen, and a fresh, bruised laceration on the back of his head. US Army investigators noted that the body did not have defensive bruises on his arms, an odd notation given that a man cannot raise bound arms in defense. No autopsy was performed. The death certificate lists the cause of death as unknown. It seems likely that Mr. Kenami died of positional asphyxia because of how he was restrained, hooded, and positioned. Positional asphyxia looks just like death by a natural heart attack except for those telltale conjunctival hemorrhages in his eyes." - Glenn Greenwald, "Senate Report Links Bush to Detainee Homicides; Media Yawns", Dec. 15, 2008.
As readers of this website already know all too well, we are living in a time when even the expectation of media outrage at such murders is dead as the idols that once haunted Israel. But we Christians still hold out hope that our bishops, pastors, and spiritual leaders might at last awaken to Jesus' message of
Sunday, December 14, 2008
As Catholics, our hearts swell in solidarity with the triumph of the Republic Windows and Doors workers. Thus the pregnant principle of John Paul II has come to fulfillment: “…the principle of the substantial and real priority of labor, of the subjectivity of human labor and its effective participation in the whole production process...” Laborem Exercens, 13.
In this encyclical, the moral opposition between being and having is established as the guiding principle between labor and capital. Labor becomes the value of “being-in-solidarity”, while capital embodies the anti-value of “having more” as the absolute value of human life. As the Catechism puts it, “The principle of solidarity … is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood.”, Catechism, 1939. It is in this encyclical, which should be studied in parishes to help guide our understanding and action as we are engulfed by economic crisis, that the priority of labor is definitively established.
The Christian principle of the priority of the human over the demands of capital can only be fulfilled by socializing the means of production, “We can speak of socializing only when the subject character of society is ensured, that is to say, when on the basis of his work each person is fully entitled to consider himself a part-owner of the great workbench at which he is working with everyone else. A way towards that goal could be found by associating labour with the ownership of capital, as far as possible, and by producing a wide range of intermediate bodies with economic, social and cultural purposes; they would be bodies enjoying real autonomy with regard to the public powers, pursuing their specific aims in honest collaboration with each other and in subordination to the demands of the common good, and they would be living communities both in form and in substance, in the sense that the members of each body would be looked upon and treated as persons and encouraged to take an active part in the life of the body.” Laborem Exercens, 14.
Each worker receives his Christian dignity at the great workbench of the kingdom of God where his place is assured because the human always takes priority over the “efficiency” of capital and the anti-value of endless accumulation. Capital represents the priority of having over the being embodied in labor. In the Pope’s vision, capital receives moral value only when it is held for the benefit of labor, thus establishing right relation in the hierarchy of values. The sole title that capital has to the possession of the means of production is for the service of labor, not the other way around, which is condemned by the priority of the person over the object.
St. Thomas Aquinas, quoted by John Paul II in this encyclical, illustrates the necessary distinctions in Summa Theologica II-II, q. 65, art. 2. Here he describes the relation between the practical value of possession and the social value of using property, which should be guided by the universal destination of goods. First, he brings out the fundamental principle of natural law that must guide Christians, “Objection 1. It would seem unlawful for a man to possess a thing as his own. For whatever is contrary to the natural law is unlawful. Now according to the natural law all things are common property: and the possession of property is contrary to this community of goods. Therefore it is unlawful for any man to appropriate any external thing to himself.” Though utterly forgotten by most modern Catholics, the principle he is referring to still stands at the forefront of Catholic teaching on the seventh commandment – the universal destination of goods, the idea that the goods of this earth are the property of all humanity in common, the truth lived openly in the Acts of the Apostles.
Next, he describes why property is necessary, “Two things are competent to man in respect of exterior things. One is the power to procure and dispense them, and in this regard it is lawful for man to possess property. Moreover this is necessary to human life for three reasons. First because every man is more careful to procure what is for himself alone than that which is common to many or to all: since each one would shirk the labor and leave to another that which concerns the community, as happens where there is a great number of servants. Secondly, because human affairs are conducted in more orderly fashion if each man is charged with taking care of some particular thing himself, whereas there would be confusion if everyone had to look after any one thing indeterminately. Thirdly, because a more peaceful state is ensured to man if each one is contented with his own. Hence it is to be observed that quarrels arise more frequently where there is no division of the things possessed. The second thing that is competent to man with regard to external things is their use. On this respect man ought to possess external things, not as his own, but as common, so that, to wit, he is ready to communicate them to others in their need. Hence the Apostle says (1 Timothy 6:17-18): "Charge the rich of this world . . . to give easily, to communicate to others," etc.” St. Thomas Aquinas, II-II, q. 65, a.2.
In the first part, St. Thomas is arguing for the need to institutionalize property, not establishing private property as an absolute value, as much so-called Catholic social teaching strives to propose. A careful reading demonstrates that St. Thomas is presenting the pragmatic value of a system of allocating property, not establishing the priority of private property. Clearly, Christian tradition has long established the universal destination of goods as the guiding principle for all decisions regarding economics. Note carefully the values which he promotes in this passage. First of all, care for the things of this world. We are more careful when we have responsibility for a particular object of value to the community than if the care is assigned to no one in particular. When no one is given charge over an item, that item is treated as of little value. Efficiency in the use of material things is next emphasized. These material values can be more efficiently protected if each one has his or her assigned tasks. The final value is the peace of the community. An effective division in the allocation of duties toward the material objects of community ownership leads to less struggle over possession. Thus, a system of property attains moral validity by mitigating greed and promoting the caring use of the natural world.
The basic attitude that St. Thomas advocates is care, evoked beautifully by Leonardo Boff in his recent book, Essential Care, An Ethics of Human Nature, “Through care, the relation is not subject-object, but subject-subject. We experience entities as subjects, as values, as symbols that bear a relationship to a foundational Reality… To take care of things implies having intimacy, feeling these things inside, welcoming and sheltering them, and giving these things rest and peace. To take care is to enter into synchronicity with them; it is to listen to their rhythm and to tune oneself into this rhythm. Analytic-instrumental reasoning gives way to cordial reasoning, to the esprit de finesse, the spirit of kindness.” Leonardo Boff, Essential Care, An Ethics of Human Nature, p. 63.
These are truly the values of labor, of workmanship, of creation, in opposition to the impersonal dominating, having mentality of the capitalist. After St. Thomas discusses the value of possession, he states that “The second thing that is competent to man with regard to external things is their use. On this respect man ought to possess external things, not as his own, but as common, so that, to wit, he is ready to communicate them to others in their need. Hence the Apostle says (1 Timothy 6:17-18): ‘Charge the rich of this world . . . to give easily, to communicate to others,’ etc.” In other words things must be used in such a way as to communicate with others in their need. While we possess, or more correctly, are allowed by the community to care for a specific set of the things of this world, that possession is only justified by service to common needs. Notice how clear St. Thomas is regarding what takes priority. While property is justified on pragmatic grounds, the use of material goods is always subject to the universal destination of goods. A system of property can only be justified if it can guarantee to all their right to the use of the goods of the earth.
The workers at Republic Windows and Doors have lived this principle by standing up for human dignity, asserting the rights of human beings, of workers, over the rights of capital. While taxpayers were forced to give Bank of America 25 billion that could have been used for desperately needed health care, the bank tried to withhold from the workers the money owed them by the company until they were forced into it by direct action and publicity. The dignity of the worker and the primacy of being over having is a glorious present to celebrate this Christmas.