Friday, 4 June 2021

The greengrocer's slogan - updated for 2021

 Some five years ago I posted on St Charles Lwanga and companions, on the occasion of their feast day (3rd June): St Charles Lwanga and Companions: an opportunity to comment on recent events.That post included an explanation by Rocco Buttiglione of events which occurred when he was nominated as a commissioner for the European Union.

When we compare the experience of St Charles Lwanga and his companions to that of Rocco Buttiglione, what occurred for the former as a physical persecution has been replaced now by a discrimination at the level of culture. At root, what is at issue is the same - Catholic teaching on homosexuality, explained very clearly by Rocco Buttiglione in my earlier post. But the challenge experienced by Catholics now is in resisting a cultural imposition of an opposite teaching rather than in facing a direct threat to life. The timing of St Charles' feast is surprisingly pertinent, with the annual display of LGBT flags and banners that is currently under way just about everywhere. 

I am reminded of a passage from Vaclav Havel's famous essay The Power of the Powerless, in which the author reflects on the role of ideology in a post-totalitarian society such as that existing in Czechoslovakia (as it then was) during the Communist era. The passage begins at the bottom of page 5 of this post of the essay, and forms section III of the essay. Reading the whole of this section, but with "Pride" flags in mind rather than "Workers of the world unite!" slogans, prompts the thought as to how far Vaclav Havel's essay can be applied to the very different time and context that prevails now. Think about it, especially when you visit your supermarket during this month.

The manager of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!" Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moments thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean? 

I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life “in harmony with society,” as they say.

Do follow the link to read the rest of Vaclav Havel's analysis. 

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