Monday, April 11, 2005

The Death of Pope John Paul II: A Collective Outpouring of Grief That Misfocuses His Life

For the past three days, I kept a right watch on the developments at the Vatican, on how soon the Pontiff would pass away. Left-wing as I am, the man was part of my childhood as he seemed so strong-willed a person, despite his illnesses and jet-setting ventures. As a kid, he was the only Pope I ever knew that made me reaffirm the traditional faith that I had, before being seduced into the progressive world of liberation theology. Although he fought stringently against the revisionists in Eastern Europe, hell, he was one great man of the world.

But the focus of this piece is not to focus on how great his life was, but on the manner Western propaganda perceives him as such. If one was not too critical about it, it can be safely assumed that the guy is a candidate for sainthood! The West is winning a propaganda war, even before the old man died. With comprehensive coverage by its top media running dog CNN, they are making the world believe that his death was so significant an event to permit a world in mourning, even in the world’s rogue states such as China and Cuba.

But they had a serious error yesterday, when they interviewed Daniel Alvares, a Latin American Professor teaching in a Florida University, regarding the Pope’s impact in Latin America as a whole. The CNN anchorwoman was dumbfounded at his recalcitrant remarks because the Pope was lambasted for failing to address the deeper issues which the Church should have focused on, especially in the Third World, such as social justice and social equity. He quipped that his impact in Latin America is ambivalent and mixed. The Pontiff criticized the United States for its embargo in Cuba but crushed the brewing liberation theology movements in Latin America during the early years of his Papacy. He assigned right-wing clergy from the likes of Opus Dei as leaders of the Latin American Church, in the name of Christ, to suppress the growing unrest in these underdeveloped nations. The Pope played silent as the Latin Americans were punished by extreme foreign debt and backbreaking neo-liberal globalization, and the Church even supported CIA-inspired dictatorships in the region such as Pinochet in Chile. As the professor talked further on, he was cut by CNN.

Most might say that the timing for his discourse was wrong, but what he simply did was to put into perspective the life of John Paul II which merely gave the faithful pipe dreams of liberation and lip service on being the Church of the Poor. I would like to believe that hew really was sincere in his live for the youth, but sincerity and love does not take people out of generations of poverty and injustice. He did criticize wars of aggression but his conservatism even on life issues such as contraception and abortion and clergy matters such as celibacy and the involvement of women alienated a lot of the faithful who longed for a more progressive Church doctrine, veering away from the centuries-old feudal and patriarchal dogma. Although I am not sure on how to feel that he toppled the revisionist regimes in Eastern Europe, I am saddened at the fact that he never understood what the communists sacrificed their lives for – that it was also for human dignity and human freedom, and not otherwise, that he even decimated doctrinally the left-of-center liberation theology movements in the Third World, to the delight of his CIA friends.

Saying things like such are enough for me to be thrown stones at, especially at this time of mourning as the propaganda machine blinds the whole world about the value of his life. He was a good man, yes, and he did give hope and moral leadership. He did make history in apologizing to the Jews and the Muslims for centuries of Christian chauvinism and discrimination. But forgive me for saying that he was only playing his part in the good-cop, bad-cop arrangement of world leaders who back the current world order, to make the capitulation of the world’s people to capitalism more bearable and consensual at face-value. Consciously or not, the things that he did for the world were things that he had to do to maintain the existing status quo. He called the people to sacrifice in the face of poverty and injustice but did little to concretely address the roots of it. Contraception should have been a key proposal rather than the idealistic call to fidelity and abstinence in dealing with rising Third World population rates and AIDS.

CNN is now hailing him as an infallible hero of the world. The local media internationally is now using that line too. His death is now being used as a much-needed breather for the powers-that-be to suppress reports of rising death tolls in Iraq, increasing world oil barrel prices and criticisms over Paul Wolfowitz’ ascension to the World Bank. The inspiration and charisma he leaves to the world is being exploited now to make people forget for a while how sorry their lives are, reaffirm their faith and shun the overwhelming contradictions of their condition. Events like these put an ebb on struggle as most people sink to grief and sympathy rather than be inspired to struggle further on. It gives a needed respite for the oligarchs of the world from the intensifying pressure of the world’s people. It reproduces the relations of production to endurable heights once again.

The Pope will be buried in a few days and he’ll perhaps be drinking beer with Christ in heaven. But the suffering people remains and will again remember how impoverished their lives are, and hopefully struggle on and triumph soon enough.

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