I. Towards a new lifestyle [203 – 208]

I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora 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.

203. Since the market tends to promote extreme
consumerism in an effort to sell its
products, people can easily get caught up in a
whirlwind of needless buying and spending.
Compulsive consumerism is one example of
how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals.
Romano Guardini had already foreseen
this: “The gadgets and technics forced upon him
by the patterns of machine production and of
abstract planning mass man accepts quite simply;
they are the forms of life itself. To either a greater
or lesser degree mass man is convinced that
his conformity is both reasonable and just”.144
This paradigm leads people to believe that they
are free as long as they have the supposed freedom
to consume. But those really free are the minority
who wield economic and financial power.
Amid this confusion, postmodern humanity has
not yet achieved a new self-awareness capable of
offering guidance and direction, and this lack of
identity is a source of anxiety. We have too many
means and only a few insubstantial ends.

204. The current global situation engenders a
feeling of instability and uncertainty, which in
turn becomes “a seedbed for collective selfishness”.
145 When people become self-centred and
self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier
a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs
things to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost
impossible to accept the limits imposed by
reality. In this horizon, a genuine sense of the
common good also disappears. As these attitudes
become more widespread, social norms are respected
only to the extent that they do not clash
with personal needs. So our concern cannot be
limited merely to the threat of extreme weather
events, but must also extend to the catastrophic
consequences of social unrest. Obsession with a

144 Romano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 9th edition,
Würzburg, 1965, 66-67 (English: The End of the Modern World,
Wilmington, 1998, 60).
145 John Paul II, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 1:
AAS 82 (1990), 147.

consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people
are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to
violence and mutual destruction.

205. Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while
capable of the worst, are also capable of rising
above themselves, choosing again what is good,
and making a new start, despite their mental and
social conditioning. We are able to take an honest
look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep
dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to
authentic freedom. No system can completely
suppress our openness to what is good, true and
beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to
his grace at work deep in our hearts. I appeal to
everyone throughout the world not to forget this
dignity which is ours. No one has the right to
take it from us.

206. A change in lifestyle could bring healthy
pressure to bear on those who wield political,
economic and social power. This is what consumer
movements accomplish by boycotting certain
products. They prove successful in changing the
way businesses operate, forcing them to consider
their environmental footprint and their patterns
of production. When social pressure affects their
earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to
produce differently. This shows us the great need
for a sense of social responsibility on the part
of consumers. “Purchasing is always a moral –
and not simply economic – act”.146 Today, in a
word, “the issue of environmental degradation
challenges us to examine our lifestyle”.147

207. The Earth Charter asked us to leave behind
a period of self-destruction and make a new
start, but we have not as yet developed a universal
awareness needed to achieve this. Here, I would
echo that courageous challenge: “As never before
in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a
new beginning… Let ours be a time remembered
for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the
firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening
of the struggle for justice and peace, and
the joyful celebration of life”.148

208. We are always capable of going out of
ourselves towards the other. Unless we do this,
other creatures will not be recognized for their
true worth; we are unconcerned about caring for
things for the sake of others; we fail to set limits
on ourselves in order to avoid the suffering
of others or the deterioration of our surroundings.
Disinterested concern for others, and the
rejection of every form of self-centeredness and
self-absorption, are essential if we truly wish to
care for our brothers and sisters and for the natural

146 Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate
(29 June 2009), 66: AAS 101 (2009), 699.

147 Id., Message for the 2010 World Day of Peace, 11: AAS
102 (2010), 48.

148 Earth Charter, The Hague (29 June 2000).

environment. These attitudes also attune us
to the moral imperative of assessing the impact
of our every action and personal decision on the
world around us. If we can overcome individualism,
we will truly be able to develop a different
lifestyle and bring about significant changes in
society.

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