This is my fifth and final response to an email that I received from Tony, who questioned an article I had written about Amazon.com and its founder, Jeff Bezos. Tony provided the following reasons why I (and other Catholics) should refuse to buy products from Amazon:
1. “Amazon.com is basically the distribution arm for the People’s Republic of China, a communist dictatorship.”
2. “Amazon distributes pornography.”
3. The concept of “inverted totalitarianism” applies to Bezos and Amazon.
4. “You cannot serve God and mammon” and “it’s fairly apparent which one Mr. Bezos is serving.”
5. It appears as though what is supposed to be “The Church Militant” has become “The Church Mesmerized.”
In my first two articles, I discussed the pornography issue and how the “principle of double effect” applies to consumers who purchase goods from Amazon. Since there was an angry tone to some of Tony’s comments, my third article focused on my own personal experiences in dealing with anger and the foolishness of repeatedly getting angry over the same issue. In my fourth article, I wrote about how the process of “creative destruction” is causing a lot of anxiety and pain for people who have lost their jobs because of new technologies that have been discovered and put into place.
Here are my thoughts concerning the remaining issues that were raised by Tony:
1. Distribution Arm of China – If the statement that Amazon.com is basically the distribution arm for the People’s Republic of China is correct, then every retail store in America that sells smart phones, computers, televisions, hardware, garden supplies, and clothing is a distribution arm for the People’s Republic of China.
I stop at Nena’s hardware store in Peoria about once every other month to buy one or more items. Nena’s sells the same products that I can buy on Amazon.com. Most of the clothes and products that are available for purchase at Kohl’s, Target, and Wal-Mart can also be purchased on Amazon. There are thousands of American companies that sell their products on Amazon. When I get around to publishing my first book, like every other author in America, I will offer the book for sale on Amazon.
I’m not happy about the fact that our politicians opened the floodgates to global competition by allowing American companies to ship our jobs overseas and foreign companies to sell their cheaper, government-subsidized products in our country. I could, however, easily argue that God permitted this to happen so that hundreds of millions of people in China, India, Japan, and other countries throughout the world would be able to raise their standard of living to one-tenth of the standard of living that we Americans take for granted.
Consider this: It was in the 1970s that Japanese companies began flooding our country with their smaller, cheaper, gas-efficient cars — only a few years after our Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand. Could it be that in the eyes of God we were no longer deserving of the standard of living we had become accustomed to and it was time for other members of His creation to benefit from a global economy?
2. Inverted Totalitarianism – I didn’t spend much time reading about inverted totalitarianism, but it appears as though it can be summed up as being an advanced form of fascism. One definition of “fascism” is that it is “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation over the individual … that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
Inverted totalitarianism adds the additional component of corporatists who are in charge of multinational corporations colluding with a centralized government to further the goals of fascism. I could name some corporatists who are currently colluding with our government, but in my opinion, the founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, is not one of them. He is an entrepreneur who has used technology and innovation to create a superior way for customers to research and shop for products online.
3. God and Mammon – Tony’s statement in his email about this topic was, “You cannot serve God and mammon. I think it’s fairly apparent which one Mr. Bezos is serving.”
The acquisition of money through risk taking, hard work, and innovation is not in and of itself evil or sinful. What is actually “fairly apparent” is that Bezos figured out a way to provide a service to his customers that is far superior to the type of service that his competitors were providing.
We devout Catholics tend to make assumptions and judgments about people who, in our opinion, are rich or have otherwise acquired “too much money.” We do this without ever coming up with an agreement as to what “rich” means. To the hundreds of millions of people in the world who live in true poverty, you and I are considered rich. Would it be okay for them to assume that we are serving mammon because we have accumulated far more than they could ever hope for?
4. Church Mesmerized – Tony’s statement in his email about this topic was, “But the equation, in your article, of the minutiae of the ‘consumer experience’ with the minutiae of our faith response (in what is supposed to be ‘The Church Militant’), frankly, worries me. I blame myself first and foremost for it, but I believe we have all become ‘The Church Mesmerized.’”
I’m not sure what Tony meant by this statement, so I’m not going to take a stab at it. I will, however, say this: A large number of devout Catholics seem to believe that they should live the better part of their lives in the sorrowful mysteries. While we cannot avoid the suffering and sorrow that come our way, we need to also work at living our lives in the joyful, luminous, and glorious mysteries. The sorrowful mysteries are only one-fourth of the twenty mysteries of the rosary.
This coming Friday (August 15) is the feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. That’s reason enough to work toward making this a glorious week for ourselves and the people who are important to us.