Here is what I consider an important message of concern from the new Pope: we have developed a disposable culture and are in danger of throwing away a generation of our own young, our children and grandchildren. This very concern has been building up like steam under pressure within me for years, as school children have become “units” and employees have become “human resources” and “human capital,” as the unemployed are written off as losers not to be hired and the retired fill even the low-level jobs that might at least keep the kids afloat for a while. Every time some restaurant or movie theater offers me a senior citizen discount, I recoil inside thinking, “I don’t need that! Why are you pandering to me? I have a pension and Social Security as well as personal savings, and I have supplemental coverage to Medicare. And my wife and I own a home (admittedly with a mortgage). And she has a pension, too.” Of course, I say none of this to the ticket seller (usually a kid) or the woman at the cash register who are doing only as they have been told.
Are we wealthy? No, we’re not. Well, compared to the more than 800 million people who live on less than the equivalent of 99 cents a day, then yes, we’re filthy rich people who can afford to waste what they’ll never even have or likely dream of having, but within our own immediate context, we are far from wealthy. In our little world, investment trollers want to talk with the person who has a portfolio of at least half a million.
The theologian Jürgen Moltmann warns of the consequences of our lack of generational responsibility (On Human Dignity), and now I’m happy to hear Pope Francis sharing the same kind of concern. If only we would listen before it’s too late.