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August 9, 2022

Person and ideology

Pope Francis has visited Cuba, a country still ruled by Communists. A downhill Communism, obviously, if the Head of the State himself attended the Catholic Mass officiated by the Pope and if old Fidel, once a persecutor of Catholics, insisted to meet Pope Francis. Nothing would be more predictable, some people might say, as we are referring to a Communism – supportive Pope, as some prestigious intellectuals in Romania described him. The Pope has made several statements on this occasion in Cuba; one of them even advised not to sacrifice concrete persons for the sake of ideology. The critical reference to Communism was obvious. Actually, the argument was not new at all, as it belonged to the arsenal of an entire trend of thought, based on the philosophical trend of personalism. John Paul II had even written books in the spirit of personalism, a trend that frequently stood out the Catholic world. The influence of this trend was major during the last century, so that there even was a state, South Vietnam, that had turned at a certain moment personalistic principles into an official ideology. The Vietnamese case is significant though mostly as a contradiction of terms. Ngo Dinh Diem’s personalistic dictatorship (he was the President of the country during 1955- 1963), has caused major social discrimination, especially against Buddhists, and showed how a beautiful idea, that appeared out of the refusal of totalitarian ideologies, may degenerate itself into an ideological system.
Personalism appeared as a form of humanism. It was the redemption of human dignity in front of Nazi immorality. Confrontation with Communism was delayed though, due to the latter’s false rhetoric, that, unlike Hitler’s arrogant racism, promoted a seductive humanitarianism. This “falsification of the Good” operated by Communism with diabolic ability, imposed a difficult effort of perception, so that one could distinguish the truth from the lies. The real Communist world was dominated by unbelievable slavery, that dominated humans by manners specific to barbarian eras. “Person” was a concept chosen in order to leave behind two perspectives seen as degrading for the human being.
On one hand, the person is considered more important than any collectivity, and thus, it is a means to combat the Fascist and Communist pretences of controlling, in the name of an ideal group, concrete human beings, demanding them to give up their own priorities in the name of imperatives deemed as “superior”.
Using a Christian language, it is similar to not replacing “loving thy neighbour” with an elusive concern for “loving a stranger” which means committing to far more abstract causes. In this direction, we must understand the alternative of “person” and “ideology”.
The ultimate moral criterion should be the interest of the real human being, and ideas, as well as their world should remain a mere attachment, a useful, yet well defined one.
Ideology remains a decisive dimension of political strategies, and the issue does not rely so much on the ideas’ excessive force of radiation, as on their substance. The term “ideology” is actually used in two major meanings: on one hand, it refers to a system that is more or less coherent, while pretending to explain the evolution of complex phenomena; and on the other hand, it aims a devious amplification of this role of guide of political action, and, in such case, it becomes a powerful instrument of social control. In the latter case, its impact on consciences is paralyzing, allowing increasingly shocking manipulation.
Yet, the fact that any ideology can deviate horrendously – as we already noted, personalism itself was able to generate a condemnable regime – should not make us forget that certain ideas have a much greater pathological potential than others. Not every idea can degenerate into ideologic cancer.
Personalism has fought not just against collectivism but also against individualism. The distinction between individual and person may seem as mere scholastic refinement to many, yet the stake was on refusing the quintessential egotism of the human being in the name of a humanity elevated by caring for other people.
In this approach, the individual is a being focused on itself, while the person can only get fulfilled by privileged relationships with other persons. Behind these distinctions, there was also criticism on capitalism, considered as a system that grants priority to satisfying one’s own needs and wishes. It is precisely this aspect that makes some people see Pope Francis’ rhetoric as supporting Communism. Unfortunately, today’s Anti-Communism risked progressive loss of legitimacy under the circumstances that it is excessively politicized.
Local Anti-Communists, by example, behave as if the political culture of today’s Europe would not be fundamentally marked by the values promoted by Social – Democracy for so much time. And the truth is that, frequently, this non-Communist democratic left wing was often more interested by “person” than the right wing, that was mostly tempted by ideology. Anti-Communism itself easily becomes devious ideology. Combating Communism just to attain circumstantial, political and prestige-related advantages can only devoid of legitimacy, on the long run, such approaches.

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