Dorothy Day Caucus of the American Solidarity Party A Revolution of the Heart
by Kyle Herrington
Though considered the developed world, we seem to have stopped developing new ideas to our problems, relying instead on old tropes to solve the problems our world faces. Case in point: children in the age of climate change. In my endless hours of scrolling through Facebook (trying to change this nasty habit), I have found many stories concerning children and global warming. As this NPR headline proclaims Want To Slow Global Warming? Researchers Look To Family Planning. According to the Lund University study the NPR story covers, children are a huge producer of CO2; thus, having less children would reduce future CO2 emissions.
It turns out children are not just potential CO2 emitters, but cause poverty as well. In recent controversial comments, President Emmanuel Macron of France appeared to cite “seven or eight children per woman” population growth as a challenge in stabilizing the African continent. Now, I do not speak French. The President could argue his comments were taken out of context, but the optics of a former colonial power giving such an answer cannot be avoided. Additionally, Macron is not the only one seeing African children as a problem. Watch this stunning interview between Nigerian-born pro-life activist Obianuju Ekeocha and a BBC reporter for another example of how post-colonial powers still manifest imperialist attitudes.
The most recent iteration of the "zero-growth" trope has also touched the English Royal Family. An organization called Having Kids sent a letter to the Royal Family after Duchess Kate made a comment about possibly wanting more children. The letter urged the family to be models of a sustainable family: “All of us – especially public figures – should plan our families with the future environment in mind, producing a smaller and more resilient populace capable of thriving in that environment.” The letter also pointed out the Royal Family’s children would be raised with many opportunities and excellent care, while other children are deprived of those things (their lives thus being worthless? Or the Royal's thus obliged to make sure there are less children who have received excellent care? The letter-writers seem confused )The organization believes Prince William and Duchess Kate would be better role models simply by having less children to model for.
Do I dispute the research about children and emissions? No, not necessarily. Do I think Prince William and Duchess Kate should be role models? No. What I dispute is the overriding attitude about children and life that are baked into the above instances. I think we have a problem with Western thinkers, policy makers, and citizens getting “stuck ‘n the rut” of status quo thinking. We dredge out lazy proposals to solve problems that our lifestyles have created. Besides being elitist, this attitude demonstrates a troubling mindset of the West and its governance: people are pawns to be manipulated to serve policy objectives instead of people to be respected and cherished.
Take for example the story about the Royal Family and their family size. The webpage included not only the story about the letter but also a short snippet about Duchess Kate’s dress and fashion (see the screenshots). The callout box gushed over the looks of the tour wardrobe of the Duchess. It was an interesting juxtaposition. The contemporary fashion industry relies upon constant turn-over in trends. Many want cheap imitations, which is where industries like Forever XXI thrive: they provide a constantly steady stream of throwaway garments. In addition, these clothes are usually made in factories with awful working conditions, and often contractors are used as a defense for the brand to hide behind when the inevitable charges of employee maltreatment arise. At the same time, online shopping has exploded. Shopping that requires massive amount of product being made at cheap prices to be shipped to customers. Just think about how much emissions, money, time, etc. that costs. But instead of talking about what it is we are doing in our daily lives that affects the climate, less children is considered the polite solution. Well, maybe it is actually our lifestyles that are the problem.
A focus on living locally, living simply, not having to have the latest technological innovation might solve many problems and could even make us happier and more fulfilled. After all, a slow, home-made home-grown meal is infinitely more satisfying than fast food. Yet, these ideas often don’t even enter our minds because we are too comfortable in our present lifestyle to think “outside the box”. Easy solutions that inevitable position individuals as pawns in a global market are more "convenient" and have the added benefit of not requiring much sacrifice on anyone's part.
Pope Francis’s warning about the technological paradigm gives a name to this disease. In his encyclical Laudato Si’, the Holy Father wrote that the technological paradigm “exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object.” He points out how this paradigm is dominant in all areas of life, whether political, cultural, economic, ecological, etc. Yet, the Holy Father points out we should not become despondent. Instead, we can rise to the opportunity and challenge the over-arching paradigm, challenging it locally and on a global level. In a key passage he says:
"Yet we can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people’s concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?" (112)
This challenge is why I have joined and encourage you to join the Dorothy Day Caucus of the American Solidarity Party. This caucus will advocate for this radical re-evaluation of our current problems, proposing ideas and policies that take into account our human nature and articulating solutions that respect our nature and the natural world. Dorothy Day, the inspiration for this group, once said “We must talk about poverty, because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it.” This caucus will talk about poverty, the role of the family, just distribution of economic goods, the place of government, etc. because we have become too comfortable. Our current political discourse has blinded us to human life and our place in this world while compounding the world’s problem. We can make this an opportunity to articulate a holistic view of life. Will you join us?
Tara Ann Thieke