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the crisis is to deny a deeper social, societal, and spiritual malaise at work. I believe there are four dominant tenets in society today shaping the “Real, Cruel world” we must live in. They are: •

rampant consumerism;

unhinged individualism;

modern-day Darwinism;

a world-weariness.

Allow me to reflect briefly on each of these categories. I suspect you all can add much from the rich store house of your own life experiences. Today, consumerism is a force to be reckoned with, as media and marketers seek to sell us things we don’t need. The continual cross between entertainment and retailing (slickly called “E-tailing” by advertisers) creates a false sense of need and emptiness when the goods are gone. It often results in a desire for more, be it fancy clothes and cars for the middle class, or tobacco and alcohol for poor people in developing nations. The result? People chase after illusionary “things” to no end, create enormous debt, develop health and family problems, and eventually lose sight of what matters most in life. I titled the second term “unhinged individualism” deliberately, as I believe it is a byproduct of rampant consumerism: what I feel is good for me must come first. I define my world primarily in terms of what now benefits me or those in my little circle. In the last few decades, philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and theologians have written about a breakdown of community, of people no longer working toward a common goal. If life is defined solely in terms of “the self’, there is no common ground and little chance of success at creating or sustaining community, except in a superficial (recreational) or functional (political) manner. From this unhinged individualism comes a contemporary adaption of 19th century social Darwinism, a modern ‘survival of the fittest”. Life becomes an arena where only the strong survive, a consequence of a ‘natural selection’ process borne of economic, political, or social policies. The poor are faceless, huddled masses who must learn to fend for themselves. The immigrant is a tax burden and possibly a threat to security. The elderly and disabled are a drain on resources, and the unborn exist or perish at the wishes of their human incubator. This may sound raw and unfiltered. But given the political, social, and economic policies proffered and adopted by the public and private sectors the last few decades, I believe it has made for newer, more lethal forms of “modern-day Darwinism” that have taken hold of our social ethos. The end result of this unchecked consumerism, individualism, and breakdown of societal care and community results in what I call a ‘world-weariness’, a pervasive dissatisfaction with one’s life. It is more than boredom of a banal life. Left unchecked, it becomes a narrow, cynical world view, sustained by artificial means, usually drugs and alcohol to avoid life’s pain. One

Fr Gregory Gay talk to Vincentians in Partnership 2011  
Fr Gregory Gay talk to Vincentians in Partnership 2011  

Keynote address at AGM of Vincentians in Partnership