Wednesday, 22 December 2021

The Catholic Worker Movement

As facts and figures float across our consciousness through the various news media that technology has made available to us, it is very difficult to focus our minds on what is happening in order to judge what appropriate action we might take. One silly example could quite possibly assist in bringing present events into the wider context of historical events.

Apparently 90% of the world's physical trading freight is carried by sea. This has given rise to the addled notion that removal of those freight ships from the sea would, according to the Archimedes principle, cause sea levels to fall, mitigating the effects of rising sea levels due to global warming. The nonsensical thought leads to a vastly more interesting one. If 90% of the world's physical trade did indeed cease forthwith, all our Households would be dramatically affected. There would be no bananas in our fruit bowls. Many of the items presently in stock in our fridges, freezers and kitchen cupboards, bedrooms, wardrobes, sitting rooms, garages and offices would simply not be there. As the world's ecological, political and economic systems stand on the brink of collapse, it is high time we explored some fundamental questions about our present lifestyle priorities. Fortunately, we do not have to start from scratch. In the mid-twentieth century the Catholic Worker movement blazed a trail for us to follow.

Led by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, the Catholic Worker movement embraced people of all faiths and none, including people from all walks of life, of all ages, rich and poor, highly educated and totally unschooled, people with homes to go to and people with nowhere to lay their heads but the pavement. The term 'catholic' means universal, embracing all. But it has the further connotation of being based upon the moral and ethical social teachings of the universal church. Those values pervade and inform the writings of the authors of universally-read books that were household names throughout the English speaking world and beyond. They were read and discussed by homeless down-and-outs like Peter Maurin, who was said to be the best read man in America. His Easy Essays are full of references to the names of key social philosophers, whose relevance continues to the present day. Many of those names appeared in Commonweal, the influential journal on social issues that is still in publication. Contrast these writings with the political psychology and mass manipulation through fear that is driving the world population into totalitarianism. (See UK Column News for sources)

Contrast also the term 'worker' as used in 'Catholic Worker. In producing the Catholic Worker newspaper, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin took on board the battles of the urban, industrial workers with their low wages, strikes, lock-downs, unemployment, inadequate living accommodation and homelessness. However, they also promoted the dignity of labour and the love of good work that is to be found in peasant farming communities the world over. All work on homes and communities, including the art and architecture of churches, cathedrals and community infrastructures, brings respect to the worker. Above all, work on the land brings the physical and spiritual well-being that is so sadly absent from waged and salaried employment and many an urban household divorced entirely from the land and nature.

The history of the Catholic Worker movement has been documented in various ways, often alongside records of similar movements seeking to create communities based on a living relationship with the land and the natural world. (See Dan McKanan's work.) It is becoming increasingly apparent that self-organisation based upon self-education will become central to creating a viable social order based upon a just relationships between humanity and the land. In this, the Catholic Worker movement has a great deal to teach us.

In writing the following, Peter Maurin took a leaf out of the writings of Arthur Penty and other guild socialist writers.

Outdoor Universities

The machine

is not an improvement

on man's skill;

it is an imitation

of man's skill.

Read Post-Industrialism

by Arthur Penty.

The best means

are the pure means

and the pure means

are the heroic means.

Read Freedom in the Modern World

by Jacques Maritain.

The future of the Church

is on the land,

not in the city;

for a child

is an asset

on the land

and a liability

in the city.

Read The Church and the Land

by Father Vincent McNabb, 0.P.

See also earlier blogs, including An Agricultural Act (12 December) Voluntary Poverty (18 November)

No comments:

Post a Comment