Thomas Cahill on “Bill Moyers”


Monday, December 30, 2013              1:44 AM

On Bill Moyers tonight a guy said, ‘There’s really only two sides: kindness and cruelty.’ And I agree. When all detail is scraped away, a kind person will do what they can, and a cruel person will do what they can get away with. The main obstacle to that clarity is human history. We start focusing on debts, borderlines, dogmas, politics, and whose dad could beat the other guy’s dad. The cruel side uses all this ‘white-noise’ to tap-dance endlessly around the simple issue of ensuring that no one starves to death.


My South African friend became quite exercised about we Americans always bringing up Apartheid. (On Bill Moyers they also talked about Mandela’s turning away from revenge or bitterness towards his oppressors—and how that was as rare a thing as a thing can be.) I think South Africans have a false sense of how easy it is to end bigotry—their miraculous, overnight switch from apartheid to equality, as an entire nation, could have gone in many different, less peaceful, directions after Mandela’s release from prison.


But the funniest thing on TV today was mentioned on both Bill Moyers and Religion & Ethics Newsweekly—The new Pope, Francis, is throwing a huge monkey-wrench into the neo-con evangelists’ secularizing of Christianity. He reminds the world that ending poverty and hunger must be a Christian’s highest priority, Catholic or otherwise—this flies in the face of pious Republicans whose decidedly selfish narrative ‘explains’ cutting food stamps for poor families and refusing to raise taxes on the wealthy.

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The Roman Catholic Church, prior to Francis, was a major banking institution and the single biggest holder of real estate around the globe—an institution soaked in power and property—and was thus reliably on the side of big business and high finance. Pope Francis’s new thrust seems to be a sharp break with expectations. He wants Christians to live their faith: mercy, charity, and love—and he’s not inclined to spiral off into some distraction that allows the status to stay quo. Recently, the Pope even mentioned the existence of atheists like myself—and not as damned souls doomed to perdition, either!


This pleases me more than I can say. I was happy enough to hear that the Catholic Church had finally seen the light, vis-à-vis pederasty and general corruption amongst the priesthood, and would no longer consider buggery an ‘old tradition’, but rather as the crime it was always (quietly) known to be. But now—O, to have a Pope stand up and tell the world that we don’t know what Christianity is. If Christians want to be worthy of their faith they have to act like Christians. They have to believe in mercy towards, charity for, and love of our fellow men and women.


You know, people talk about the Jews having to avoid the flesh of scavengers, like pigs and shellfish; or the Muslims having to pray four times a day (or is i


t 5?). But Christians get a pass. To believe in Christ is to want to follow his teachings—which say plenty about the poor and the outcast, but nothing at all about mortgage derivatives or early foreclosures. There was a story about J. K. Rowling in the news this week—she was a billionaire, but now she’s given away so much to charities that she’s become a mere multi-millionaire. I was shaking my head at the thought that this was news—it was news because no one else had ever f*#king done the same.


But between her, Bill and Melinda Gates, billions of US $s in foreign aid, and the Catholic Church, we still have starving kids and homeless victims of a global system that says, ‘not my problem.’ Just within the USA alone, we have erosion in our beautiful Capitalist sand-castle—Detroit declared bankruptcy a while ago—the whole city. Of course, rich people can move. But what does civil bankruptcy mean to the Detroit denizens that were already broke before the crisis? It means that what little support the poor were getting there will become no support at all. A major city in the USA!—O how the mighty have f*#ked up.


And often we hear about the churches of all denominations being the major source of soup kitchens, charities and volunteer work. There’s only one problem with that—nobody goes to church much anymore. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger—but there are definitely a lot of people besides just me, all staying home from church—some just lazy, yeah, but a lot that just don’t have religion in their lives now. A lot of Catholics are staying away because of the betrayal of sexual misconduct committed by their once most-trusted and respected civic leaders, their local priests. And don’t even ask about the number of young men deciding to enter the priesthood–who in their right mind would jump into that abyss?

I don’t want to go into that cesspool of a subject, but my point is—the church is no longer the core of a town or a neighborhood. And without the collections funds, the charities have no cash to operate. It is time we stopped looking to church charities and began implementing something more secular. We could call it “The Centers For People We’ve Finally Stopped Pretending Weren’t Suffering” (“…and stuff”, as Derek Zoolander might say).

Well, I Googled, so now I know the guy on “Bill Moyers” was Thomas Cahill—and he was right: ‘There’s really only two sides: kindness and cruelty.’

4 responses to “Thomas Cahill on “Bill Moyers”

  1. I think the Americans have a misguided idea of apartheid… a good friend of mine (a coloured man) who became very rich in the apartheid years once told me “I don’t want to live in a house next to you, I merely want to own my own piece of ground whee I can stay amid people of my own standing” He by the way was a house friend, and him and I had many a long discussion on how he saw apartheid… today now after 1994 we live in a totally integrated country, with colour having very little meaning, and friendships developed many years ago, can now openly happen…
    I’m not saying the country is void of racialism, God you can’t even say that in the USA… what with the KKK and our AWB we will always have the “diehards” that cannot see beyond colour, but it is wonderful to see a sports arena fulled to the brim of a totally mix crowd supporting our national teams in all sports… or for that matter to see international bands playing to fields full of mixed crowds that are there just to have fun…
    The bigots are now in the minority and this I can say with all honesty…
    There is one thing to remember and I’ve said this all my life… you can push the Afrikaner just so far and then he reacts .. and this has been proven in history.. and should the push come to shove they will once again stand up and deliver… the beauty is we don’t see this happening and the country is going through the reconciliation stage in a happy manner, we don’t need to have foreign countries that do not really know what is going on continually reminding all that there was apartheid 20 years ago…
    But Chris, I say this with all respect, when America is squeaky clean in their bigotry, then one can shout the odds.
    We are not devoid of news here and know all the goings on in America, by no means any better than here, and I have discussed this with African Americans who I’ve met visiting here… they seem to think we are doing more than the USA is… and that I take to the bank when I say, we are progressing beautifully and sure still have a long way to go, not anywhere near the amount of years the Americans have been doing there bit…
    Just my opinion, my friend…

    • My friend, I hope you didn’t think I referenced you critically–I was only saying that your country dealt with racism far better than we in the US–I was being wistfully envious. The southern-most of the USA have had a strange culture, resenting having been forced to end slavery by losing our civil war. Also, Lincoln being shot ruined any chance of an orderly Reconstruction–imagine if an Afrikaner had shot Mandela as he walked out of prison. That resentment became civil unrest throughout the deep south in the sixties (and in the big cities’ slums).
      So, you see, there has been a ‘home’ for racism in the USA until fairly recent history. If you have been pestered by Americans who think to look down their nose at your country, please refer them to me–I’ll set them straight.
      Happy New Year, Rob, to you and Linda, and all!

      • No critical reference was perceived, my friend, I just think for both countries to end racialism one needs to forget the past and never to refer to it again. Like a pain in the Butt, if one is continually reminded you have one it never leaves the mind.. if everyone stops asking about it in the end the mind forgets it… I love it when you write such fantastic posts that makes my mind work and see things I like to comment back to… I kind of miss Street Articles for that very reason, comments sometimes meant more than the article itself and anything written that demands a comment is a good post… yours are always good posts… I have a wish to one day sit down with you and just discuss life, you have a magnificent mind that needs delving into by the Bulldog… keep on posting these magnificent posts… Have a good New Year my friend and may 2014 bring many more posts like this…

  2. Thanks for your kind comments, Rob. But I must disagree about the silence over our past. The Jewish people have a slogan, “never forget”–which refers to the holocaust. And I must agree with them. The old saw about ‘those who forget the past’ is also, I think, applicable. I’m made especially aware of this by what we call the Tea Party–these are reactionary devolutionists who wish to re-raise subjects long past put to rest. They want to undo a women’s right to her own body, they want to undo the pluralism that allows acceptance of the LGBTs, and they want religion to take precedence over scientific evidence.

    But they give short shrift to the values of free-speech and the separation of government and religion–they forget that their own religion is protected by the same rules protecting their detractors–and they forget that the only way their jingoism would be legal is with total Freedom of Speech, which guarantees their critics’ right to be heard as well as their own.

    One of their most common stratagems is to spout revisionist histories that happened only in their dreams. We have to talk about the bad things. Yes, it perpetuates the memory of things best laid to rest, but it also protects against the surprisingly constant pressure of the mean and small-minded.

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