IV. Decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society [43-47]

I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora & Newsvine and will add my comments over time. Pappa francescos 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do.

43. Human beings too are creatures of this
world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and
endowed with unique dignity. So we cannot fail
to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental
deterioration, current models of development
and the throwaway culture.

44. Nowadays, for example, we are conscious
of the disproportionate and unruly growth of
many cities, which have become unhealthy to
live in, not only because of pollution caused
by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban
chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution
and noise. Many cities are huge, inefficient structures,
excessively wasteful of energy and water.
Neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are
congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green
space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement,
asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of
physical contact with nature.

45. In some places, rural and urban alike, the
privatization of certain spaces has restricted
people’s access to places of particular beauty. In
others, “ecological” neighbourhoods have been
created which are closed to outsiders in order
to ensure an artificial tranquillity. Frequently,
we find beautiful and carefully manicured green
spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities, but not
in the more hidden areas where the disposable of
society live.

46. The social dimensions of global change
include the effects of technological innovations
on employment, social exclusion, an inequitable
distribution and consumption of energy and
other services, social breakdown, increased violence
and a rise in new forms of social aggression,
drug trafficking, growing drug use by young
people, and the loss of identity. These are signs
that the growth of the past two centuries has not
always led to an integral development and an improvement
in the quality of life. Some of these
signs are also symptomatic of real social decline,
the silent rupture of the bonds of integration
and social cohesion.

47. Furthermore, when media and the digital
world become omnipresent, their influence can
stop people from learning how to live wisely, to
think deeply and to love generously. In this context,
the great sages of the past run the risk of
going unheard amid the noise and distractions
of an information overload. Efforts need to be
made to help these media become sources of
new cultural progress for humanity and not a
threat to our deepest riches. True wisdom, as the
fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous
encounter between persons, is not acquired
by a mere accumulation of data which eventually
leads to overload and confusion, a sort of
mental pollution. Real relationships with others,
with all the challenges they entail, now tend to
be replaced by a type of internet communication
which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships
at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of
contrived emotion which has more to do with
devices and displays than with other people and
with nature. Today’s media do enable us to communicate
and to share our knowledge and affections.
Yet at times they also shield us from direct
contact with the pain, the fears and the joys
of others and the complexity of their personal
experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned
that, alongside the exciting possibilities
offered by these media, a deep and melancholic
dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a
harmful sense of isolation, can also arise.


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