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Pope Francis reminds me of Gorbachev

12:41 pm in Uncategorized by David Seaton

General Audience with Pope FrancisSome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Pope Francis – Washington Post

Pope Francis is beginning to remind me of Mikhail Gorbachev. the same noble intention to open up a very old, very secret, very bureaucratic, very vertical organization, and make it more transparent (Glasnost) and reform it (Perestroika).

When Gorbachev touched his organization it disintegrated like a termite-ridden, antique chest of drawers and everyone, everywhere thought it was wonderful … except the people that lived in it. Everyone, everywhere loves Gorbachev except the Russians, who hate and despise him. Francis will be fortunate indeed to escape the same fate as Gorby’s

I don’t think the Church’s fussvolk, the ones who really live there: the sour old ladies that take communion every day, the Opus Dei bankers, the Paul Ryans, the Antonin Scalias, the Pat Buchanans and the Rick Santorums are going to be very enthusiastic about Francis’ intentions … it will those of us on the outside, lapsed and otherwise, that will be applauding the most.

Now His Holiness in his own efforts toward Glasnost and Perestroika has hired the world renowned auditing firm of Ernst &Young to lift up all the rocks in the Vatican and see what scurries out from under them after centuries in the dark, and (literally) God only knows what they will find.

It can be said greatly in the Pope’s favor and without any irony intended, that only someone with a truly deep faith in divine grace and the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit would take such chances.

And shifting the paradigm a bit, the Church reminds me a lot of Kodak, another rich, near monopoly, which was bankrupted by a disruptive technology that they could neither absorb nor defeat. In the Church’s case I don’t think it will ever be able to adapt itself to the new role of women in developed societies: working, educated, with their own money and in control of their own bodies.

The contradictions abound. For example,  if the Church is really serious about the gravity of abortion, which I think they are, perhaps they should consider making the ingestion of the birth control pill a sacrament, as it is probably the only effective form of preventing the “murder” of fetuses. That such a tradeoff seems absurd is just an example of the mental sclerosis that Francis will be confronting in his Perestroika.

Like Gorbachev, I find Pope Francis admirable for the truth he speaks and I hope he does not have to live Gorbachev’s tragedy of watching those truths destroy the very thing that he loves the most.

Cross posted from:

Could a Nobel Peace Prize injure the sphincter muscle?

12:03 pm in Uncategorized by David Seaton

“None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.” – Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2006

It is getting harder and harder to write about all of this stuff nowadays, every time I start, the old gag reflex kicks in.



This would all be simpler if we conceded that gradually after WWII and picking up speed dramatically after 9-11, the United States has evolved into a corporate-military-security state… in short a “regime”.

And like our fellow old Cold Warriors, the Soviet Union, (which also was a corporate-military-security state-regime), we need to wrap our realpolitik in millenarian ideology… “We are building global democratic capitalism comrades“.

The “end of history” and all that… while we force-feed political prisoners in our Guantanamo gulag, kill American citizens without trial, etc, etc.

The present news cycle: with the absurd “where’s Wally?” of the Snowden affair… and the Egyptian coup d’etat that is not a coup d’etat, where an army that literally lives off American aid (in exchange for not troubling Israel) massacres the supporters of a legitimate, democratically elected government that they have overthrown manu militari, without the White House even giving them a sharp tug on their leash… impossible for anyone, anywhere to believe that the USA has not colluded in all of this… all of this brings us face to face with our hypocrisy… rubs our noses in it really.

Perhaps hypocrisy is to be preferred to cynicism, because as La Rochefoucauld famously said, “Hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue“,  which means that if good didn’t exist, bad people wouldn’t have to pretend to be good… Which is probably the best you can say about America’s present performance on the world stage.

America’s post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently. Who is deciding what spying projects matter most and why? The New Yorker

These days, President Obama reminds me a bit of Mikhail Gorbachev, more by the hopes that so many people around the world misplaced in both men and their Nobel Peace Prizes, rather than any personal resemblance between them.

Gorbachev, when he was in power, was infinitely more experienced, not only politically, but though his life trajectory and with a much deeper understanding of the system he wanted to reform and also a much more sincere commitment to reforming that system and not just making beautiful speeches filled with “soaring rhetoric” about how nice “change” and “hope” were.

Gorbachev, unlike Obama, didn’t just “talk  the talk”,  he “walked the walk” and in so doing proved that intervening in huge, complex and corrupted systems, is likely to end in disaster. Obama has proved that talking is much more personally productive than walking. But like a great African American said, many years ago, “he can run, but he can’t hide”.

Another wise old fellow once said something to the effect that the present cannot judge itself anymore than we can judge a person by what he thinks of himself, that time alone will be the judge of our present affairs, but that old man also said that the present is always pregnant with the future and in time it will be clear that everything that is to come tomorrow was present in some form today, right now, under our noses waiting to come to fruition. Sobering thought that… nu?

Cross posted from: