Of rich & poor

I try to avoid taking sides on this issue, defending the poor to the rich, and the rich to the poor, and leaving the “middle classes” — so puffed in North American political oratory, such as it is — under siege from both sides. One adjusts one’s position tactically against any pendulum of opinion, however.

As I recall, decades ago, some rather socialist and atheist Roman bishops in Canada met at Winnipeg to produce a statement expressing the Church’s “preferential option for the poor.” Their smug, bureaucratic tone did not appeal to me. Plus they were wrong on doctrine (God has not expressed a preference for one socio-economic group over another, and no government should, either), and wrong on everything else (“the facts,” for instance). So by way of compensation, though not yet a Catholic, and only just becoming a Christian, I’d go out of my own way to express a “preferential option for the rich.” But it was not entirely sincere.

The rich were often given to include the Princes of the Church (professing socialists always exempted), and the Church herself condemned even from her innards for being, in point of revenues, filthy stinking rich. True enough, I would allow, when you consider the worldly part of the institution whole, the Church takes in an awful lot of money, and not only through the Sunday baskets but from real estate, bankerly investments, and so forth, avoiding some taxes in the better jurisdictions.

But she has overheads, too. How would you, gentle reader, like to have the responsibility for maintaining — oh, I don’t know, a million? — buildings around the planet, a fair proportion more than a century old, and more than half the roofs leaking? And even if underpaid, the wages of choristers and minor clergy add up. And all for the glory of God, don’t you know: she can’t skimp on the decorations.

From ignorance, or native malice, people like to consider revenues and expenditures one at a time. The profundity of double-entry bookkeeping (which the world owes to mediaeval Italians, incidentally, not to Dutchmen as the Protestants imagine) is lost upon the hyperbolicks.

Poverty is good, you should try it some time. I have myself, and have not noticed any diminution in my zest for life. One learns to take pleasure in smaller things. With a bit of taste, one can arrange one’s hut “aesthetically” around a few choice objects — “found art” if necessary. And being small, it is easy to keep clean. And, everything one must do without, saves time to savour what remains. Even the food tastes better, when one has had the leisure to develop a bit of an appetite. No wonder poor people tend to be happier, and thus more helpful, too.

To this day, I feel sorrier for the rich than for the poor. They pay horrendous taxes. They have so much paperwork, they must hire help. They must endure many other obnoxious retainers, and those not even in their service who think they can be touched for cash. Their pleasures are much more expensive; the beggars don’t consider that, do they?