June 8, 2012

Metropolitan Kallistos of Diocleia on the Economic Crisis

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diocleia recently spoke with Pemptousia regarding the financial crisis in Greece, which is relevant for other parts of the world as well. A partial transcript of the talk is below:

First of all, to me the problem arises from the problem that we do not distinguish between "what I want" and "what I need." I want many things, but do I need them all? The assumption in our western society has been that we should have a continuing rise in the level of our economic well-being, that people should have more and more material goods. Now perhaps we have to change our mind on that point. There are so many things that we expect to have, and that we demand, but that we do not really need. So the first thing is to distinguish between what I want and what I need.

Now people certainly need food, clothing, a home; they need also more than that to give them hope and joy in their daily life. But we cannot go on expecting, year by year, that we shall always have more material goods. We need to learn that to say, "Enough. I do not need all these extra things. I can do without them."

The resources of the world are not unlimited. But the problem is, they are very unjustly distributed. So many people have luxuries that they do not really require, and this means that other people are going hungry. So let us make that distinction. We have to stop saying, "I wish to have more," and to say, "I have enough." And we need, I think, to share far more, not only inside each country, but between different countries. In Britain certainly the gap between the rich and the poor is growing greater. This is something that we should take seriously. Something is very wrong in our society if more and more goods and benefits are being accumulated in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

So without wishing to seem too theological, I have to say what is required is repentance, metanoia, in the literal sense of the word. The Greek word means "change of mind." We need to have a new way of looking at ourselves and other people, a new way of looking at our society. We need in this way a kind of social repentance, which would also be for each of us a personal repentance; an ecological repentance, because one aspect of the present crisis is that we have lost a proper human relationship with the environment around us. We need to start again and to think once more.

Our Lord said, "Man will not live by bread alone," but man cannot live without bread. The Russian philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev said, "Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual question." So that is that spirit that I would like to look at our crisis in, that we need to appreciate our responsibility to those who are in need, who do not have enough bread to eat, who are going hungry. And we need to change our own outlook, and to start again, distinguishing between our want and our need.