In Graham Greene’s “The Power and the Glory” the fugitive priest gives mass in an impoverished Mexican village. Trying to ease their pain, he teaches that God makes them suffer so Heavenly rewards will be all the sweeter. We might call this the “Hellraiser” view of poverty – a grotesque horror movie where demons torture the damned to teach that true pleasure only comes after immense suffering. Or, that the greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure? I don’t know for sure, I can’t stand watching those movies. It seems arbitrary to me, though. Don’t we have enough trouble in life as it is, without having to be Mexicans (or tortured in Hell) to appreciate the treasures of Heaven?
I’ve never experienced poverty until recently. Whatever its mysterious, esoteric virtues, for me at least, it’s brought depressing clarity. For example: when you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from, charges of white “genocide” seem a lot less important. Oh, we might get away with defining biased news coverage, anti-white affirmative action, and the occasional murder of distant strangers, as “genocide” without trivializing the word, but what does all that matter to a guy who’s hungry? The majority of white people hate me anyway. They don’t want me on their plantation and I certainly don’t want to be their slave.
“Ah HA!” My enemies think they have me here. “You publicly advocated for slavery and now the sandal-wearing Christ-of-the-rainbow-flag is rubbing your nose in your own filth. You want slavery? Well, now you have to be a slave!”
To that: I’ve long conceded that owing to my mediocre intelligence, looks, and abilities, I’d be most suited to cleaning the stables of old Europe. Give me the life of a serf or peasant in merry old England! I’d bow, nod, and offer deference with more humility than any of the fortunate born at the time. And I’d do it proudly: proud of my humility, if that makes sense. So, no, dear enemies, I’m not at all averse to servitude nor too proud to slop pigs. But doing it in service to Satan? Work on a plantation where infants are slaughtered daily? Where the worst sort of sexual perversion is being taught to children through forced indoctrination?
Most of my enemies are also atheists, so here they think they have me again: “We can see how you’d view America this way, but isn’t it funny how you pray and pray and God simply refuses to deliver you from it? Ha! Curse Him and die!”
Die, I might, but curse Him? Never.
God knows I’m not smart enough to grasp whatever meaning lies in gross poverty. And I don’t know why He ignores all my prayers about it. But I can’t ever reject Him in favor of the sniveling effeminacy of pop-Atheism.
I have a final depressing point of clarity that may shed light on the mystery?
Americans define themselves by what they do in life. This isn’t unique. Vocational names crossed the Atlantic with our ancestors: Smith, Miller, Thatcher, and so on. I don’t know if it’s the case with everyone who’s in poverty, but for me, I’m spiraling into an identity crisis. What am I?
Cue the Aristotelian notion of place and the importance of society for defining one’s character and purpose, and for giving meaning to life. A seed planted in good soil grows a healthy plant.
…and I’m still on the shelf.