Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socioeconomic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good and evil.
John Paul was a unique combination of personality and experience. This Polish pope lived through the worst abuses of government in the last century - Nazism and communism. He saw firsthand the human suffering that resulted from government and politics becoming religion itself.
This encyclical, however, does not point to excessive government and politics as the exclusive source of evil.
The individual today is often suffocated between two poles represented by the state and the marketplace. At times it seems as though he exists only as a producer and consumer of goods, or as an object of state administration.
The images of rap music that offend us so are the product of kids digesting a message, delivered by our popular culture, of a materialistic society devoid of meaning. If our ultimate values are acquisition and power, then it doesn't matter how we behave or how we acquire these things. Dealing drugs is as reasonable a means to this end as getting an MBA.
People lose sight of the fact that life in society has neither the market nor the state as its final purpose, since life itself has a unique value which the state and the market must serve. Man remains above all a being who seeks truth and strives to live in that truth, deepening his understanding of it through a dialogue which involves past and future generations.
This is a message for all Americans. However, African-Americans, in particular, need to focus on this. Government cannot and should not provide our answers. On the other hand, freedom without values is not freedom at all. We need to digest this critical message and pass it on to our children.
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