Wednesday 20 June 2012

How Much Does it Cost?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

June has been quite an interesting month for China. In addition to the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on June 4th, there was also the death of the Chinese dissident, Li Wangyang, which the local government officials hastily labelled a “suicide”. The case of Li, however, leaves behind so many suspicious traces that media outlets in Hong Kong have cheekily reported that Li did not commit suicide, but rather, he was “suicided”. Although China's economical boom in recent years have allowed her to flex her muscles on the international scene and to have a similar calling power as the United States, social critics are now asking the question: at what cost is this economic prosperity is taking place, especially highlighted by the case of Li.

While this is a question that involves so many different factors that it falls outside of the scope of my blog entry, it remains a question that must be asked. Does prosperity come with a cost? If so, how high is the cost, and how do we evaluate it? More importantly, it comes down to the key question: are there certain things that are without cost, that are not free but rather priceless? It is not a matter of ripping off the price tag; there is no price tag in the first place.

If the case of Li – that is, the possible murdering and silencing of a dissident – is too extreme for those of us who reside in the comforts of North America, other scenarios present themselves for further reflection. For instance, the oil sands projects that wreak irreversible havoc to the ecosystem, or the killing of the voiceless that are the unborn. In both cases, something priceless is being squashed: for the former, nature; for the latter, human life. This is also applicable to our everyday lives as well. Are we sacrificing something priceless for the sake of our personal progress or advancement? Friends, time spent with families, health, a sense of right and wrong, one's faith?

While one can make a list of these priceless items according to one's personal preference, I believe a general outline has already been sketched for us Christians. We are made in the image of God, and are called to be in communion with him while having stewardship over the rest of creation. This does not spell out specifics, but it certainly provides enough material for one to understand what is priceless in the eyes of God. When we look at the “cost”, it is not just another cost-benefit analysis; it is to see whether paying the “cost” would translate into the undoing or unbecoming of ourselves.

This will provide, I hope, some much-needed perspective as we – both as individuals or as a society – advance forward into the future. Are we progressing and prospering while commodifying or destroying priceless things in the process? This is more than just slowing down, take notes and keep running; it is a call to slow down, reclaim what is priceless, and run accordingly with it.

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