Most people if asked which personality on the world stage brings out a deep admiration in them, President Obama would probably top the list. A unique man, who against all odds became the first African-American President of the US. This meant for some people that miracles do come true.
Mr. Obama comes across as a man who had good things in his heart for people. But some critics who supported him emotionally when he first ran, like his Harvard professor, Roberto Unger, and some well placed African-American are claiming that he is yet to attempt to unleash the fundamental changes to the American society as he promised.
Two weeks ago, some incredibly innovative, progressive thinking came from a quarter that was unexpected – the Pope. Never has there been a Pope that has been so outspoken and downright condemnatory of capitalist creed and inequalities in wealthy countries as Pope Francis.
The Pope took a huge swipe at an economic theory popularized by President Ronald Reagan and which today has taken over large sections of political society in the US and which President Jagdeo unashamedly brought to Guyana – trickle down economics. Briefly, it means let big businesses invest and give them tax breaks. The resulting creation of wealth will trickle down to the lower and middle classes.
It is a discredited theory that has caused the Republican Party in the US to lose two successive presidential elections and they will lose more if they continue to advocate this Reaganite flaw. In Guyana, it took over the mentality of President Jagdeo.
In Guyana we have seen its failure over the past twelve years, including the present administration of Mr. Ramotar. The most graphic example of this failure is the admission by President Jagdeo that his Government does not have the resources to pay public servants more for than five percent increase for 1013. Where is the trickle down under Mr. Jagdeo?
Pope Francis has said it in the most theatrical way. Directly referring to the theory, he said that the lower classes are still waiting for it to trickle down to them. It was the most dynamic criticism of the excesses of capitalism that no other Pope in the modern world has dared to utter. Not satisfied with his critique of the accumulation of wealth, the Pope went on to discredit the love of money.
Interestingly, just days after the Pope issued his warning, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson glorified the concept of capitalist creed drawing sharp rebuke from the leader of the Labour opposition, Ed Milband, whose father’s seminal work, “The State in a Capitalist Society,” remains a required text for university students studying political philosophy.
This is a Pope whose uniqueness in religion corresponds to Obama’s uniqueness in politics. He has shunned the majestic residential quarters of the Vatican and lives in a simple room. While the Archbishop of Argentina, he rode on public transport. For many analysts, this Pope is going to shake up the Catholic Church in fundamental ways that have never been seen before.
In politics, Mr. Obama has done what previous Presidents failed courageously to do despite arduous attempts – offer heath coverage to every American. President Harry Truman said if he ever had any regrets as president of the US was his failure to get his national health plan passed. Since then, more than sixty years after Truman, many American Presidents have had their health care plans rejected by Congress including an impressive Bill personally attended to by President Bill Clinton and his wife. This will be Mr. Obama’s legacy maybe among others.
Could this Pope’s legacy be the way he turned the Catholic Church away from its traditional, conservative moorings and put it in service of the poor and needy? From all the speeches he makes, it looks like this is the direction he is heading in. In an 84-page document titled, “the Joy of the Gospel,” the Pope referred to the Catholic Church as “poor, hurting and dirty.”
The internationally respect Guardian of London (my favourite newspaper), said of this Pope, “Francis could replace Obama as the pin up on every liberal and leftist wall. He is now the world’s clearest voice for change.”
Could Pope Francis’s iconoclastic doctrine help the situation in Guyana? Anyone familiar with the Burnham regime would know that the Catholic Church in this country played no small role in opposing his authoritarian policies. Since 1992, the Catholic Church has gone out of the business of speaking out against atrocities occurring now that are far worse than any violation of Mr. Burnham. I guess we will have to wait and see.
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