Matt Tiabbi on why the Pope’s environmental message is making many conservatives angry:
That the pope’s letter inspires such hysterical stupidities speaks to how deeply upsetting it must be to our guardians of mainstream opinion. But what exactly has all of these people so upset?
To me, all of this speaks to the weirdly cultist, neo-Randian, Road to Serfdom vibe that is increasingly swallowing up the American cultural and intellectual mainstream.
Capitalism and competition aren’t merely thought of as utilitarian systems for delivering goods and services to people anymore. To people like Brooks and Rand Paul and Charles Murray (also known as Jeb Bush’s favorite author), the free market is also a sort of religion that can address every important human question.
We used to think of wealth and spirituality as being two completely separate things. But in the minds of some in modern America, they’re becoming fused. The way Brooks and others clearly imagine it, one achieves wealth first, then dignity follows behind. We’re losing the ability to imagine a dignified life without money. Which is pretty messed up.
In the past, it was completely natural for a religious leader like a pope to suggest that our economic system leaves important spiritual questions unanswered. After all, that’s what religion was supposed to be for, addressing the non-material parts of our lives. But in modern times, this idea offends many people.
Hence this bizarre wave of criticism directed against an elderly cleric in a funny hat who is being blasted for being impractical, unrealistic and insufficiently appreciative of the material, despite the fact that it’s precisely a pope’s job to be all of these things.
I’m not religious, and I’m not particularly a Luddite or an anti-capitalist. But I’m open to the idea that there should be something else in life beyond money, or that we may be losing something important when we communicate by clicks and drags instead of face-to-face meetings. Is that really such revolutionary thinking, especially coming from a pope? It seems like such a strange thing to get angry about.