✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters

The cry for mercy in today’s world

In today’s world, mercy is a somewhat neglected concept. To show mercy in today’s cultural milieu is often taken to be a sign of weakness.…

In today’s world, mercy is a somewhat neglected concept. To show mercy in today’s cultural milieu is often taken to be a sign of weakness. Retaliation and vengeance seem to be the overriding policy of human relations across many frontiers. Our world of today has shown a remarkable descent into the materialisation and mechanisation of human life. Human beings are treated as objects for the satisfaction of other ends. Ultimate human loyalty has been given over to money, fame, drugs, and sex. We have inherited a capitalist culture that places high premium on stiff cutthroat competitiveness, run-away success and unbridled achievement, at whatever cost.

In his book, God Has a Dream, Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains how this capitalist culture works: “You must succeed. It matters little in what you succeed as long as you succeed. The unforgivable sin is to fail. Consequently, it is the survival of the fittest and devil takes the hindmost. It is a no-holds barred contest as we strive frenetically for success at all costs.” With this contemporary mentality, there is often no space for mercy. We have had to pay a high price for our disdain of human frailty. According to Tutu, “Our capitalist culture despises weakness, vulnerability and failure, but God knows that failure is an inevitable part of 0life and that weakness and vulnerability are part of creaturehood. They are part of what makes us human. It is through weakness and vulnerability that most of us learn empathy and compassion and discover our soul.” 

But the world does not think this way. We have tended to treat the weak, the poor, the unemployed, the failures with disdain because success and power have become the gods at whose altars we have burned incense and bowed the knee. We have tended to be embarrassed by compassion and caring as things that were inappropriate in the harsh, callous world of business. Despite the philanthropy that so many capitalists turn to late in life, we are told capitalism cannot easily tolerate compassion and caring. They reduce one’s competitiveness. This contempt for weakness was the essence of Nazism. It is the doctrine that the strong shall rule over the weak and that being weak is something to be despised and held in contempt. This ideology is still present in our world of today. We still live with this deep-rooted tendency to do away with weak and vulnerable people. Once people no longer satisfy our contemporary economic model of producing value, we discard them into the thrash can. 

Quoting Harald Ofstad’s book, Our Contempt for Weakness given to Nobel laureates, Desmond Tutu says: “We admire those who fight their way to the top, and are contemptuous of the loser. We consider ourselves rid of Nazism because we abhor the gas chambers. We forget that they were the ultimate product of a philosophy which despised the ‘weak’ and admired the ‘strong.’ The brutality of Nazism was not just the product of certain historical conditions in Germany. It was also the consequence of a certain philosophy of life, a given set of norms, values and perceptions of reality. We are not living in their situation but we practice many of the same norms and evaluations.”

 The century that lies behind us can be said to be a merciless and horrible century in many respects. It left a legacy of blood, anguish and tears, with two world wars, genocides and mass murders, which consumed millions of human lives. 

Writing in the 1960s, Henri Nouwen put into perspective the core challenges facing humanity: “We are confronted not only with the most elaborate and expensive attempts to save the life of one person by heart transplantation, but also with the powerlessness of the world to help when thousands of people die from lack of food. We are confronted not only with humanity’s ability to travel to another planet, but also with our hopeless impotence to end a senseless war on this planet. We are confronted not only with high-level discussions about human rights and Christian morality, but also with the torture chambers of Brazil, Greece, and Vietnam. We are confronted not only with incredible ingenuity that can build dams, change river-beds and create fertile new lands, but also with earthquakes, floods and tornadoes that can ruin in one hour more than human beings can build in a generation.”

Although the twenty first century is still relatively young, we are faced with threats of ruthless terrorism, violence, and bloodshed on a large scale. We live with the challenges of global poverty, hunger, misery, and outrageous injustice, which are affecting hundreds of millions of people. In some parts of the world, there is widespread persecution of religious minorities, denial of freedom of religion and other rights and freedoms. Every now and again, our television screens beam to our living rooms the devastating consequences of natural catastrophes like earthquake, volcanic eruption, tsunami, flood, and drought. These are consequences of our abuse of Mother Nature. We could say today that the earth our mother is groaning as a result of human recklessness and harmful use of her resources. These signs of our times cry out for mercy.

Peter Seewald, a German journalist, captures a perspective of today’s crisis in these terms: “We see in our time a world in danger, sliding into the abyss. We see an unrestrained economic system ready to mutate into a predatory capitalism that devours values on a huge scale; we see that life on the fast lane is not only beyond our means, but that it also robs us of our moral compass; we see the growth of a society that plunges ahead restlessly, and with no clear sense of direction, regarding today as wrong what yesterday was still considered right and regarding tomorrow as right what today is still considered wrong. We have illnesses such as burnout, now a mass phenomenon and new addictions to things such as video games and pornography. We have the almost unmanageable work-related stress produced by the mania of profit maximization that drives the business world. We have the precarious situation of children who suffer on account of the loss of family relations. We have the dominance of the media, which have developed a culture bent on breaking our taboos, dumping us down, and blunting our moral sense. We have the offerings of the electronic media, which have the potential to manipulate and destroy the qualities that make us human.”

In his encyclical Dives in Misericordia, Pope John Paul II drew attention to the fact that today’s world presents us with breathtaking and phenomenal transformations in different facets of human endeavour. These achievements, according to John Paul II, “give grounds for hope in a better future for man on earth, but also reveals a multitude of threats, far surpassing those known up till now” (DM 2). For instance, we are witnessing the steady and increasing transformation of everyday life by smartphones, email, Internet and personal computers. We have seen also how tectonic shifts in global finance and free market have elevated millions of people from the dunghill of poverty. Technology has made the movement of big money and the transfer of information easier, faster and more convenient. It has brought the world faster means of communication, such that we are now said to live in a global village. But this same technology also brought us the atomic bomb, which has conferred upon us immense power that could open a whole new phase of reciprocal annihilation.

How can Christians of today make this cry for mercy heard? We cannot close our eyes to the dire exclusion of mercy and compassion in human relations in the world. The predicaments of our time task our consciences. They call us to action. While it is easy to see how God is merciful through the witness of the Scriptures and the life of the Christian Church, it is sometimes challenging for us to apply it to our daily actions and in our social relations. How do we live out what Christ calls us to in Scripture?

Father Ojeifo is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Abuja. 


Are you currently earning in Naira but need salary/earnings in Dollars? You have an opportunity to earn as much as $10,000 (₦9.2 million naira) monthly. Click here to get evidence.

%d bloggers like this: