Liberation Ethics: Sources, Models, and Norms

Liberation Ethics: Sources, Models, and Norms

Liberation Ethics: Sources, Models, and Norms

Liberation Ethics: Sources, Models, and Norms


"Thoroughly researched, critically reasoned, and well written, Schubeck's book is a model of caring and careful discernment."--Arthur McGovern University of Detroit


As the country priest made the rounds in his parish, he peered at the miserable little houses crowded together under a bleak November sky in a poor French village. a thought struck him as he trod along the muddy road under a steady drizzle: “My parish is bored stiff.” Like dust, the boredom is sifted fine. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it coats the faces, hands, and lungs of the villagers. the priest wondered whether human beings have ever before experienced this contagion of boredom where people languish in apathy and loneliness. the disease has also infected the priest, who anguishes over his own incapacity to act. Later that night he recorded in his diary: “My parish, yes, but what could I do?”

In France in the 1930s, boredom gripped the people. For centuries in Latin America, fatalism and political despair imprisoned its inhabitants. Boredom would almost be a luxury for these downtrodden. Fatalism oppressed both young and old, men and women, Afro-Americans and Amerindians. These indigenous and black Latin Americans, unlike the French villagers, inherited from their enslaved and colonized ancestors an alien religion and political-economic conditions that continue to prey upon them. the patterns of exploitation from the early sixteenth century to the present have engraved on the people a servile consciousness paralyzing body and soul. the marks are visible: backs bent in defeat, eyes lowered before the landlord’s gaze, and speech hesitant and muffled.

Nonetheless, the people demonstrate resiliency and courage. Many today survive by selling pottery, beads, or blankets on the village streets. Women wash clothes in the river. Teenage girls work as domestics in the homes of the affluent. Farm workers labor long hours planting, watering, and harvesting crops on vast wealthy estates for 60 cents a day. Children shine shoes or beg

1. Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest (Garden City, N.Y.: Image Books, 1954), 1–2.

2. United Nations Children’s Fund, The State of the World’s Children 1989 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 94–95. Many of these poor do not survive. in Peru in 1987, 89 infants (under 1 year) died for every 10,000 live births, and 126 children (under 5 years) died for every 10,000 live births. in the United States in the same year, infant mortality and under-five mortality rates were 13 and 10 per 10,000 live births, approximately one-tenth of Peru’s rate.

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