Mercy for Justice

Critical Considerations

A monthly series of in-depth, curated articles exploring Mercy's Critical Concerns and their intersection with current events and the work of justice.

May 2024

This month’s articles:

Degrowth is the Only Sane Survival Plan (Karen Donahue, RSM)

Argentina and the Government of Hate (Ana Siufi, RSM)

Listening to a Chorus of Voices (Mike Poulin, Mercy Justice Team)

Degrowth Is the Only Sane Survival Plan

Karen Donahue, RSM

Just last week, two articles published in the Guardian (a British newspaper) highlighted the climate crisis and the failure of the global community to respond in a manner commensurate with the seriousness of the situation. The first reported that CO2 levels have reached a new high (421 parts per million), while the second presented the results of a survey of the world’s top climate scientists. Almost 80 percent of the respondents expect global temperatures to rise by 2.5 degrees C or more by the end of this century. This is well above the Paris Climate Accord goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C.

In a recent article posted on the TomDispatch website, environmentalist Stan Cox raises some challenging questions about climate change, economic growth and consumption. He notes that as far back as1972, scientists were questioning the viability of an economic model predicated on unlimited growth. They observed that “the excessive consumption of resources… is depleting reserves to the point where the system is no longer sustainable.” Technological advances will not be enough, “the change needed to put us on a different trajectory will also require a change in belief systems, mindsets, and the way we organize our society.”

Stan Cox goes on to explore the concept of degrowth. Degrowth policies include “reducing less-necessary material production and energy consumption, converting to workers’ ownership, shortening working hours, improving and universalizing public services, redistributing economic power, and prioritizing grassroots social and political movements.” He recognizes that such measures may be impossible in our current political climate but holds out hope that more enlightened political leaders might be able to turn the tide and head off disaster.

Argentina and the Government of Hate

Ana Siufi, RSM

In Argentina, these are challenging times of pain and powerlessness for those of us who love our people, our country. When the ultra-right won the presidential elections in December 2023, Milei took office, flying the flag of inequality, violence, cruelty, contempt for the vulnerable, and the surrender of the homeland to powerful local interests and – above all – to the global corporate elite. The president says that he is advised by his dead dog, [and he] is photographed wrapped in the flag of Israel, travels continuously to the United States, and with false reasons makes decisions that go against national interests.

Milei refuses [to have] any dialogue [due to] a messianic and authoritarian attitude, defining himself as an “anarcho-capitalist”. He blindly believes in the free market and deregulation, in the benefits of destroying the state and privatizing everything, in the plundering of our natural resources for export, and the uncontrolled imports that will eliminate national industry. He is also reducing or eliminating taxes on the rich and large multinationals and increasing them on simple citizens. He rigorously pays the illegal foreign debt to the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and other agencies while denying essential funds for education, health, social spending, etc.

He declared war on all state institutions, which he considers unnecessary or inefficient. Throughout the territory, political, economic, educational, scientific, technological, sanitary, cultural, artistic, environmental, and communication institutions are being eliminated or their roles weakened. In the name of “freedom”, these “institutional disappearances” facilitate the dismemberment of the country, the denial of rights, chaos, and the loss of democracy, instituting an extractivist, neocolonial situation.

It becomes clear that the Executive Power – through decrees or new laws that annul hundreds of previous decrees or laws or contravene our Constitution – wants to concentrate in itself the powers of the legislature and manage the judiciary. This would ensure impunity to impose its anti-national policy, which is already causing the loss of thousands of jobs, the closure of businesses and industries, the paralysis of production and consumption, the destruction of ecosystems, and the unstoppable growth of hunger, poverty, and social inequality.

With the argument that it is the only way and that today’s sacrifice will produce prosperity in 30 years, this economic plan is brutally dynamiting the social fabric, aggravating the shortages and suffering of all vulnerable sectors. Unfortunately, many of his voters still trust his speeches and the measures taken, while another part of the citizenship – very angry – is seeing the damage and protesting the uncontrolled inflation, unemployment, and the low salaries and pensions. You can feel this question in the air: Are we heading towards a social explosion? The choruses in the marches sum it all up: “This is not freedom; this is hate!” “The homeland is not for sale, it is defended!”

Sisters Ana Siufi, Estela Gomez, & Moira Flynn protest in front of Congress in Buenos Aires

Faced with this process, the defeated opposition parties show divisions, disorientation, or complicit silences, and few politicians, trade unionists, social leaders, religious leaders, or independent journalists come out to denounce with force and conviction so much destruction, proposing alternative policies focused on the common good and real democracy. Those who do not submit but resist this misgovernment with denunciations, strikes, and street protests are threatened by police repression, outrageous judicial processes, and incessant smear campaigns in the media and social networks, including insults and mockery by the president.

More than ever, in these difficult times, we need our Martyrs – who have given their lives for a more just country – to inspire and sustain us; to be boldly present alongside the victims of this inhumane system, accompanying the struggle with hope, the strength of union, the love that seeks equity, and the power of non-violence; to defend the dignified life, rights, brotherhood, and sovereignty of our nation.

No longer shall violence be heard of in your land, or plunder and ruin within your boundaries… He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” (Is. 60:18; 61:1).

Listening to a chorus of voices

Mike Poulin, Mercy Justice Team

I had the privilege of accompanying Nelly Del Cid, a Honduran Mercy Associate, during the first two stops on her recent 10-day, U.S. speaking tour. I also hosted her webinar during that span. (Watch the webinar here.) Time with Nelly, and another recent experience, has me thinking about the voices we listen to.

The week after Nelly’s webinar, I was interviewed by a friend with whom I have engaged in local anti-racism work. A’Jamal was interested in talking to me about what it is like to address racism and racial equity as a white person. In the lead up to our discussion, I sent him a link to Nelly’s webinar, which he attended. Though I knew he had been present, I was still surprised when the first question A’Jamal posed to me was “why did you host a webinar and speaking tour with Nelly Del Cid?” There are a lot of answers to that question.

Nelly is a Mercy Associate. She engages with Sisters of Mercy in Honduras doing work that embodies the Mercy Charism, the spirit of Mercy. The efforts and the struggles of Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Associates in places like Honduras are of interest to the greater Mercy Community. From my experience, I believe Nelly to be a wise woman. Being a practitioner of nonviolence, a human rights advocate, and someone who works unceasingly for the empowerment of women, Nelly has a wide array of experiences to share, and she shares them through the lens of a native Honduran. Hers is a voice underrepresented in the chorus that most of us hear every day. As I have reflected on this time, I have realized that this type of underrepresentation is not unique.

During my conversation with A’Jamal, we talked about diversity: in workplaces, on campuses, in leadership groups and politics. We talked about the importance of diverse perspectives being raised up across all levels of society, not just among workers, student bodies, and constituencies, but also among directors, board members, elected officials, and other decision-makers. I recognize that the prevailing societal norms in the U.S. are typically those held by white people. As the demographic majority and the occupiers of most positions of power, white voices make the rules in this country. But our influence is not confined within our borders. Our U.S. wealth, military strength, and political standing are extensively used to influence and control the actions of other countries.

Over the course of her tour, Nelly addressed numerous topics. Among them was the 2009 coup in Honduras. Supported by military leaders trained at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, GA, the coup was not officially labeled as such by the Obama administration. As a result, our government continued to send military and police aid (i.e., weapons) to Honduras. Corruption following the coup led to increased activity by well-armed cartels and gangs and state violence against citizens, including internationally known environmental activist Berta Caceres.

Crime from gangs and cartels creates situations where some families have no place to go. Turning to migration, they end up at our border only to be treated as invaders when, in reality, they are fleeing from situations we have helped to create through our individual action and inaction and our U.S. policies.

Nelly also talked about the exploitation of Honduran resources by foreign companies. Mining and agricultural companies have been able to make deals with corrupt government officials and extract rich profits while native and indigenous citizens receive little benefit and must cope with environmental devastation and displacement. The fruit of this commerce often results in cheap products for people in countries like ours but results in the exploitation of workers and citizens who live elsewhere.

At the end of several of her presentations, more than one person asked Nelly how she maintains hope in the face of so many injustices. She told us that she found hope in the people who came to listen to her and in the efforts groups are making to be in solidarity with the people of Honduras. As she implored us to be hopeful, she asked us to consider who benefits if we lose hope. Hearing Nelly explain these issues from a Honduran perspective reminded me how insular daily life in the Midwestern United States can be. Her experience and perspective are gifts that enable me to reframe issues and fuel my work towards social justice. Not unlike my collaborations with A’Jamal and others who work for racial equity, Nelly’s voice helps to clarify for me the fact that so many people face realities much different than my own. Her stories can also help shift the popular narrative in the United States that blames immigrants for being victims of U.S. policies. We would do well to listen and understand.