Saturday, May 07, 2011

Your happiness offends them

Cardinal Altamirano, calling 'em like he sees 'em
Quick digressionIf you have not seen The Mission, starring Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro (with a young Liam Neeson in a supporting role) by all means, rent it today!  The cinematography, the score (by Ennio Moricone, who also wrote the score for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), the acting, the direction, and most especially, the writing are superb.  A must see for movie lovers!
This seeking to create a paradise on earth... how easily it offends.
Your Holiness is offended... because it may distract from that paradise which comes hereafter.
The Spanish and Portuguese kings are offended... because a paradise of the poor is seldom pleasing to those who rule.
And the settlers here are offended for the same reason.  --Cardinal Altamirano, The Mission
Thus dictates Cardinal Altamirano, the Holy Father's personal envoy, in the opening scenes of the 1986 Roland Joffé classic, The Mission.

And don't those words ring true?

(The name Altamirano, of course, is a play on words in Spanish.  Roughly:  "far-seeing." )

Well, I've got a theory...

I believe that there are people who are unhappy with their stations in life.  This unhappiness seems to stem not so much from the conditions that surround such people --many of them are financially well-off and living in comfort --but more from some unhappiness deep within their psyches.

To these people, society is a ladder.  One's position higher or lower on the ladder determines the rights and privileges one should expect.  Kowtow to those higher on the ladder; spurn and scorn those who are lower.

So, for people who hold this mindset, stories of corporate corruption or financial scams are not overly troubling.  After all, the perpetrators of those crimes are "higher" on the ladder, and therefore not to be judged by those "below."

But it is offensive in the extreme when they see people "below" them who are content, who care not one wit about the all-important hierarchy, who have achieved some version of Cardinal Altamirano's "paradise of the poor." It vexes them to no end.  After all, they bitterly envy those whom they deem to be "above" them.  They bow and scrape on cue and readily.  Why are they not afforded the same deference and submission from those "below" them?

I think many (but certainly not all, let me hurry to stipulate) of the people who supported Junior Bush and conservative policy hold such views.  To them, programs that attempt to address the needs of those lower on the ladder blur distinctions, make the hierarchy less pronounced.  Universal health care, for example, diminishes their stature:  it removes one more advantage they have over the "lower" people.  It gives life to "paradises of the poor." 

As Cardinal Altamirano observes, it offends these people when they see others who are not caught up in their game and seem to be getting away with it.  By not sharing in their misery.  By daring to be happy.

Tough life, that.

1 comment:

Heather Ann said...

LOVE the movie The Mission, and I had the privilage of visiting Iguazu Falls where it was filmed. Beautiful place!

On the other point you make, I did have one clear example of this about 10 years ago. My husband asked a pastor at our church at the time what we should do if we noticed improprieties commited by a pastor or other leader in the church. He, very curtly, replied, "You have nothing to say about it. You are lay members, the are leadership, it's not your place."

This obviously goes against the Bible itself, and I have known many wonderful pastors who would never agree with him. But it is an example, I believe, of the feeling of heirarchy you mention.