Why, in the midst of massive poverty, do poor people vote for and follow politicians whose loyalty is to their bank accounts and narrow interests?
Why do the poor let themselves be lured by promises of prosperity and by gifts from political parties and government officials?
Why do people continue their allegiance to political parties that seek to consolidate power?
There are questions mostly for here in Honduras – though they may have relevance elsewhere.
I see people who line up for hours to get a few pittances from a government that spends thousands and millions on projects for “tourism.”
I see people who applaud those who bring in medical brigades when the clinics lack basic medicines almost all year.
I see people who hold on to their political allegiances more than to their faith.
Why don’t they rebel? Why don’t they see what is and is not in their interest and then get together and do something?
I came across one possible answer this morning as I read the Old Testament reading in Vigils in Benedictine Daily Prayer, Exodus 6: 1-13.
God tells Moses what he is going to do to liberate the people of Israel from slavery and give them a land flowing with milk and honey. But what happens?
Moses told this to the Israelites; but they would not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and cruel slavery.
Or, as the Jerusalem Bible puts it:
…so crushed was their spirit and so cruel their slavery.
I see and feel, at times, how crushed people are in their slavery, in their lives of seeking how to survive, to subsist in the face of poverty and injustice. I feel at times that people’s spirits have been destroyed in many ways, not least of all in the way that the society as a whole (and especially some parts of political institutions) despises the poor.
And so I can begin to understand why things continue this way.
But what can we do?
I see our efforts in the parish to open the faithful to a vision of the Gospel through the base communities as one way of doing this – giving them a sense of their dignity, but also encouraging them to develop a spirit of solidarity and community.
I saw it the last few days as I participated in a workshop on Alternatives to Violence in Gracias, Lempira, prison – the third of my experiences in workshops there. I saw how people crushed by the economic and social system could open up spaces of dialogue and listening.
And so, in the midst of this, I see that we must offer hope, by being signs of hope, people who listen to the cries of the poor, people who accompany the outcast, people who try to be sings of God’s presence by our love.
It’s not easy, but maybe we can become what the Catholic Worker has often urged us to be – a new society in the shell of the old.