Build on and learn from history… don’t ignore it or destroy it

Pope Francis released a new encyclical this weekend and it’s going to be pulled apart so the “divisive” stuff gets highlighted. Early news articles focus on his statements regarding the death penalty. But, there is a lot of other reading to take in and not miss.

One paragraph early on is about our desire to reconstruct our own existence without reflection on history. I’ve noticed this across the board, and it’s not just about tearing down Confederate statues. It’s about ignoring history and its lesson altogether. All ideological struggles are doing this currently.

As a result, there is a growing loss of the sense of history, which leads to even further breakup. A kind of “deconstructionism”, whereby human freedom claims to create everything starting from zero, is making headway in today’s culture. The one thing it leaves in its wake is the drive to limitless consumption and expressions of empty individualism. Concern about this led me to offer the young some advice. “If someone tells young people to ignore their history, to reject the experiences of their elders, to look down on the past and to look forward to a future that he himself holds out, doesn’t it then become easy to draw them along so that they only do what he tells them? He needs the young to be shallow, uprooted and distrustful, so that they can trust only in his promises and act according to his plans. That is how various ideologies operate: they destroy (or deconstruct) all differences so that they can reign unopposed. To do so, however, they need young people who have no use for history, who spurn the spiritual and human riches inherited from past generations, and are ignorant of everything that came before them”

When we ignore history (and when we try to reduce history to a statue) we lose meaning. Definitions are restructured and then they become individualistic.

These are the new forms of cultural colonization. Let us not forget that “peoples that abandon their tradition and, either from a craze to mimic others or to foment violence, or from unpardonable negligence or apathy, allow others to rob their very soul, end up losing not only their spiritual identity but also their moral consistency and, in the end, their intellectual, economic and political independence”. One effective way to weaken historical consciousness, critical thinking, the struggle for justice and the processes of integration is to empty great words of their meaning or to manipulate them. Nowadays, what do certain words like democracy, freedom, justice or unity really mean? They have been bent and shaped to serve as tools for domination, as meaningless tags that can be used to justify any action.

Go HERE to read the full encyclical and walk away from the snippets you’ll see over the next few days, even snippets I may post on my blog. There is certainly plenty to digest.

Pope Francis signs his new encyclical, "Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship" after celebrating Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis Oct. 3 in Assisi, Italy. (CNS/Vatican Media)

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