we are getting deeper into the muck of politics in this general election year. i was thinking about the more subtle problems that undergird some of the more easily seen clashes in our society. in the goal of addressing racial inequities, we are often hearing about the desire for systemic change. indeed systemic change is needed in all organizations, not only politics, and i know that this foundational changes are very difficult to address.
in the usa, the legal means to influence decision makers that exists is lobbying. by definition, lobbyists represent the specific interests of those who hire them. whether it is for amazon, boeing, immigrants, anti-abortion, guns, the environment, each lobbyist represents a specific perspective for the good of that group/business/interest. everyone is fighting for what benefits them– usually with a disregard to how it may affect others. if there is coordination/cooperation of efforts, it generally involves a quid pro quo. with united voices, there is more influence for that special interest(s).
in the area of political influence, we all know that money talks– the more money involved, the more influence it has. financial donations is the primary way that lobbies can sway elected officials toward a special interest. money is needed to campaign for office. the pull of $$$ is powerful everywhere– politics is no different
in our catholic faith, there is a social teaching principle called the common good. to my mind, it is a way of loving/serving the good of all our brothers and sisters. this is a good summary:
maybe i can talk about subsidiarity another time because of its importance
it does not take a genius to see the systematic incongruity between the common good and lobbyists. the reason that lobbying exists is for the good of a specific, narrow, special interest. the common good takes into consideration the good of ALL. with the above definition, special attention needs to be given to those who are exploited by the unscrupulous in the system. in our current system, what is the motivation for legislators to act in the direction of ALL? when lobbyists give so much for the campaigns of elected officials, how difficult is it for lawmakers to go against those narrow interests that put them in office? who lobbies for people on the margins– those who are being exploited?
the common good might need certain groups to “sacrifice” their own specific special interest. for example, clean air is something we all want and need. oil and coal companies’ lobbying efforts strive to keep those industries as profitable as possible. they will not easily give up $$$$ for the environment. this is a systemic clash of special interest with the common good for all.
these systematic problems that affect both political parties in a variety of ways. most of those who benefit from the exchange of money in this system of lobbying do not want to change the system.
the greed that grows under the influence of money in special interest lobbying leads to many other sins. can we societally repent?
peter maurin, the cofounder of the catholic worker movement with dorothy day, said that “We must make the kind of society where it is easier for people to be good.” to my mind, this is a good way to look at the need for systemic change. i believe that people generally want to do the good. but we are often shackled by evil within the systems in which we live. again, it is not just in politics but all groups: educational, public safety, business, health care, military– and yes churches. there are good people in all organizations that want to do the good/justice/right/compassionate act but cannot because of the systematic constraints. what can we do to make it easier for people to be good?
loving our neighbor in this framework of the common good is not for the weak kneed. it is difficult to shine light on the darkness of OUR collective sins. there is constant resistence from those who do not understand or who benefit from the system as it is: change is hard.
but i believe in grace and power of the Holy Spirit. as with all things, we participate in God’s actions in faith. because of this, we can carry these systemic crosses not by our power, but walking in the love of God. it is God’s love that enables us toward the common good, even in our own personal sinfulness. we pray for the Spirit’s ongoing wisdom and courage as we strive to love our brothers and sisters through the common good