Letters: 27 December 2015

Remembering the Christmas spirit

It was good of Pope Francis to denounce the culture of consumerism in his Christmas homily. For if he doesn’t, who will? Some have taken the liberty of commenting that a man wearing gold and sitting on a gold throne should not be pontificating about the evils of capitalism. 

But I ask you, how is this even the point? The fact that such sneering individuals – who I’m sure must be feeling very clever in their cocoon of cynicism – feel the need to make such superficial comments, says a lot about the society we live in. 

Remembering all that’s most important for our society to thrive is crucial during Christmas time. Not just for the obvious reasons, and not just for practising Catholics. It is because Christmastime is when we all get together and pay attention to our loved ones. So it shouldn’t be too difficult for most of us to expand that circle of compassion a little bit wider and think of all the people in the world as well. 

But this is not possible if all we’re concerned about are material goods. The worst part of all this is that consumerism always makes you think you need more of it – that there is never a point when it’s enough. We justify our pursuit of money in various ways. We will tell ourselves that we deserve it, or that we are shoring the funds up for the sake of our families and our future. But if we were to really take a long hard look at ourselves and our way of life, I’m sure that most of us will realise that we have more than we need to live comfortably enough, and if we find it difficult to make some necessary adjustments it’s simply because we’re not ready to part with some excessive comforts. 

Another reason why I believe Pope Francis’s focus on consumerism is positive, is because it’s something we can agree on (or disagree on!) without too much ideological fuss. Various non-religious people – and all due respect to them – may not be in line with the Church’s teachings on same-sex marriage or contraception, for example. But to lessen our annual quota of greed should be a message that transcends all such barriers and looks forward to the hope of a better and more equal world. 

I would also hate it if the Pope’s message is misinterpreted as being some kind of ‘lefty’ propaganda: that the socialism of the Pope’s upbringing is somehow influencing him in a negative – or as one Statesman may put it, ‘absolutist’ – way. This is because the facts speak for themselves: everyday we are inundated with images of and stories about communities who are impoverished due to industralisation – and it doesn’t take much to imagine such a setting to be conducive to other forms of “extremist” behaviour – and the facts behind the global recession in recent years bears out just how mistaken it is to “place our bets” on such a morally bankrupt system. 

Of course the economy is important, and of course money makes the world go round. But we cannot forget that human beings deserve to be treated as more than just numbers, and that the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of wealth do not necessarily go hand in hand. 

Pope Francis’s message is ultimately a reminder of the challenges that we will continue to face as a society. No matter your race or creed, the reliance on money affects us all somehow. And it is during this time of genuine emotion and solidarity that we should remember this most clearly. 

Damien Sant, St Paul’s Bay