FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Poverty, Squalor and Nuns

by DAVID MACARAY

As both a non-Catholic and atheist, I have all the creds I need when it comes to doing a number on the granddaddy of organized religions.  As a non-Catholic, I can mock their rituals, I can deplore their history, I can wail in indignation at their sexual molestation scandals, and I can snicker at the Pope’s hat.

And as an atheist I could fly to the moon on the gas created by Catholicism’s medieval hocus-pocus.  People may smirk all they like at Scientology (a religion invented by a pulp fiction writer), but I think the case can be made that if the Pope and L. Ron Hubbard had a pissing contest over which theology was more outlandish, the Pope would win.

But as a former Peace Corps volunteer in Northern India, who saw firsthand the humanitarian contributions made by the Catholic Church, I shall neither mock nor criticize them.  Indeed, the extent to which Catholic nuns were helping needy Indians was awe-inspiring.

Back then, the big, institutional relief agencies in India—the ones whose motorized vehicles constituted practically the only traffic on India’s rural, one-lane highways—were CARE, UNICEF, the Red Cross, OxFam, and the CRS (Catholic Relief Services).  The Peace Corps had a few, scattered outposts in the region, but their missions were more “project-oriented” (e.g. rural manpower, water wells, poultry, etc.) than “relief-oriented.”

Prior to India I had no experience with any of this stuff.  I was 22 years old.  Although I had heard of CARE, UNICEF, OxFam, et al, I had no idea how they operated.  It took me a while to figure out that, despite being dedicated to their jobs, the thing these guys cared most about was career advancement.

And the more I hung out with them, the more obvious this became.  Mind you, I’m not knocking them.  In their position, I would’ve behaved the same way.  These were educated, youngish Americans and Brits.  They were compassionate.  They were honest, diligent workers.  Most of them were working in fairly hostile environments.  And to their credit, they had chosen a career in charity rather than in high finance.

But they were fanatics when it came to promotions.  When you met them socially, say in a hotel bar in New Delhi, all they did was gossip about who was being transferred, who had left, who had moved up, who was hot, who was cold, and which job openings were considered the plums.  It’s doubtful these same topics were being discussed by Indian nuns.

Two impressive things about the nuns.  First, their mission was located in one of the most remote hell-holes you could imagine.  How they even found this spot was a mystery.  The way I found it was completely by chance.  One morning, with an urge to explore, I drove my Suzuki motor-bike deep into the rural scrub brush, miles from the nearest paved road.  What I found was poverty and squalor.  And nuns.

Second, these women were the happiest, most self-fulfilled people I had ever met.  They were doing God’s work—caring for children, feeding the hungry, ministering to the sick.  Speaking perfect English (they spoke Hindi as well), they told me that they’d been at the mission for many years, but couldn’t recall exactly how many.  And how long do you expect to stay here? I asked (Why on earth would I ask that??).  Until we are called back, they answered serenely.

Oddly, when I returned home, the only people who appreciated my nun stories were other Catholics.  While the Protestants grudgingly credited the nuns with helping the poor, they were quick to point out that these ladies were on a recruiting mission—sent to India to convert Hindus into Catholics.  So before we start handing out accolades, they said, we need to remember that these sharp-eyed nuns had a hidden agenda.

I can still recall how proud this display of inter-denominational bullshit and pettiness made me feel about being a Godless atheist.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd Edition), was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail