Saturday, July 6, 2013

Building a Healthy Community

The Catholic Forum recently met with experts and activists to discuss  the reasons for the weakening of community and to find solutions. Among the problems discussed: increasing polarization between those that have and those that don't, the large number of suicides, and the gradual breakup of communal society--all side effects of rapid economic development.

One of the participants, the mayor of Seoul, said that one of the principles behind the market is its omnipotence (though we have seen its failures); we need to change this thinking, he said, and go from competition to cooperation, from an emphasis on quantity to an emphasis on quality. A professor agreed with this assessment and  said that although our material prosperity puts us among the developed countries, little of it has to do with the happiness of our people. Going along with neo-liberalism has increased the country's financial growth, he said, but many of us are having difficulty overcoming poverty, and the increasing number of suicides is showing us that something is seriously wrong with our society.

The mayor suggested several alternative ways of  changing society: more emphasis on fostering a social economy, working for the common good,  creating autonomous operations and a person-centered economic environment which we have seen, he said, being implemented already in developed countries, in an attempt to fill the gaps made by  capitalism. There are many already with the financial means to back work cooperatives and social businesses, the mayor said, and he promised to assist in any way he can.

Another professor said we have to get rid of the idea that the welfare policies of the government are free, and even if it were possible, it would not continue for long. A priest mentioned that the wealthier we become the more need for an increase in  our spiritual values. Cardinal Kim was a good example of this, as he continually searched for the transcendent in life, always being thankful  for what life had to offer, living detached and willing to take up the cross.
The active motivating  force  for society, said another, should be love. The value of love, in contrast to law and ethics, is its dynamic staying power to move us with mutual respect,  forgiveness,  reconciliation--always moving us toward unity and cooperation.

The article ends with the words of one who works with cooperatives. "Cooperatives are now being talked about as another alternative, but there are voices of concern. To see them continue and develop without any protection and security within society  is just talk. A realistic goal must be spelled out, and there has to be a relationship  of solidarity among them, were his words of advice.

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