The American media shows little interest in Bernie Sanders’ weekend meeting with Pope Francis, having predicted that it was not included in Sanders’ invitation to speak at a Vatican conference. Similarly, Joseph Stalin is known to have responded to Western advice to consider the Vatican’s attitude with outright contempt: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”
Stalin’s quip unlined what was at the time the crucial factor in world affairs: the role of brute force. Military might has still not taken a backseat to negotiation, however, what has ‘come around’ is a growing conviction across the world, and even across political lines, of the crucial role of morality in public life. Or better said, the lack of ethical standards in both public and private behavior.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin is not the only public figure to lament ‘The degeneracy of Western morality’, he is almost alone in being targeted. Yet notwithstanding Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent posturing at the Hiroshima monument to the victims of America’s nuclear attack, the US continues to stockpile and even update weapons many times more lethal than necessary to decimate the human population.
In terms of man’s ability to erase himself from the living world, there is nowhere to go but down. If there is any hope of maintaining a human presence on earth, it can only come from a psychological turnaround. The movement known as the counter-culture has been advocating a spiritual transformation since the nineteen-sixties. That’s ‘yesterday’ in terms of evolution, but while relatively few leaders are willing to admit it, people across the globe know instinctively that it’s crunch time.
Fidel Castro was one of the first prominent leaders to call climate change the greatest threat to humanity, at least five years ago to my knowledge. Yet it wasn’t until last November that economically significant leaders got down to serious business at the Cop 21 in Paris, after half a dozen useless international climate change conferences. Meanwhile, several other global threats had arisen, from ISIS to the Zika virus - with no progress at all on limiting the world’s nuclear stockpiles.
It may not be an exaggeration to suggest that the ‘degeneracy of Western culture’, in which anything goes, and the same female body that is free to enjoy sex serves to illustrate the fact that everything is monetized, plays an unrecognized role. Energy companies blast the last drops of shale oil or gas from far beneath the earth’s surface, knowing full well they are aiding and abetting catastrophic climate change: a few days ago there were two major earthquakes in Japan, followed by one on the other side of the Pacific, in Ecuador. I expect science will eventually link them together and both to the pursuit of ‘more’.
During the second world war, it was said that Pope Pius XII was not doing all he could to save Europe’s Jews, and his successors continued the Church’s long tradition of support for the ruling elites. At last, following upon the austere Benedict XVIth, Francis has arrived, positioning himself beside reformers across the globe: from the Castro brothers in Cuba, to the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church Pope Kyrill in Moscow to….Bernie Sanders, the first prominent socialist candidate for the US presidency since Eugene Debs in the nineteenth century. For decades, Europe’s Christian Democratic parties, with their close ties to the Vatican, helped Washington steer the continent, but today President Putin’s close advisor, Sergei Glaziev, advocates a political/ecoNomic system based on Russia’s traditional Orthodox church and Tolstoy’s blend of religion and socialism — while China builds its own version of ‘capitalist socialism’.
Whether or not Bernie Sanders succeeds in de-throning Hillary Clinton as Wall Street’s presidential nominee, he stands beside the world’s most influential progressives, who agree on the priority of replacing military divisions with ethics.