Two major stories dominated the news agenda last week. On the domestic front, it was the decision by Canada Post to phase out door-to-door deliveries, raise prices for stamps and services and dismiss thousands of employees due to the losses the organization has been incurring.
On the international front, it was the announcement that the Time magazine had declared Pope Francis as the Man of the Year.
Do these two developments have anything remotely connecting them?
Canada Post has come a long way since the Act for the Regulation of the Postal Service of April 1, 1868 officially created Canada’s uniform postal system.
Reading the history of central Alberta, and in a broader context, the whole country, one would come to know a lot about how important postal services were in the 19th and 20th century as a key public function and how postmasters were so important in their communities in the early days that they were often looked up to as de facto mayors and performed administrative duties, including taking steps to ensure the safety and security of the public.
Last week’s announcement means that Canada Post, our secular Santa that always brings us letters and goodies, no longer sees itself as the undertaker of a service that is still vital to so many communities around the country, but just a company that has to keep its books in black, turn a profit and stay away from losses.
It is highly unlikely that the wide-ranging reaction against the decision coming from Canadian Human Rights Commission to seniors’ associations to labor organizations will make any impact on the implementation. In these new times, profits take priority over the social value of the services provided.
Turning to the selection of Pope Francis as the Man of The Year by the Time magazine, it has generated a lot of discussion around the world with both positive and negative reactions coming from an array of sources.
As a religious leader who has managed to become an aspiration to even devout atheists through his benevolent message, Pope Francis has put human beings before their religious alignment in every step of the way.
His message of frugality and modesty, his statement that “every bite left on the plate is stolen from those who need it” seems in stark contrast with the dominant trends of exuberance and profusion of our times.
The rise of Pope Francis to his throne has come at a time when world economy had severely suffered from the financial crisis that erupted in 2008, the inequalities not only among nations but also among various strata within nations had risen dramatically and the greed of the bankers and financiers had caused millions of wage earners to lose their life savings, pensions and material possessions.
The Catholic church wields huge influence in the world of Christianity. It might be interesting to remember that the Soviet Union was so worried by the election of Polish-born Pope John Paul II to lead the Vatican that it had retained the services of the Bulgarian intelligence to contract a deranged Turkish gunman to assassinate him. Moscow was hoping that silencing the Pope would prevent his influence on the people Poland, the weakest link in the then-Soviet bloc, from rising up against the totalitarian system. But it did not work.
The first year of his papacy has clearly shown that Pope Francis will remain a powerful voice to be heard against excesses of capitalism and in favor of a more humane, less materialistic society. His message will probably not have as immediate an effect as to reverse commercialization of social/public services like Canada Post, but in this season of hope and faith, one should still be able to find the courage to dream of a better world.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it!