Jonathan Swift wrote the essay, “A Modest Proposal” in 1729. The essay expresses another way to keep Ireland’s economic head above the water. Swift satirically proposes that those who are poor should sell and/or eat their children. This was during the time that England ruled over Ireland, and were oppressed into an economic depression. Ireland was not allowed to trade with any other country, but more than that, much of the land was owned by those in England having the Irish people rent from them. The money then exited Ireland and poured into England. Jonathan Swift noticing all of these injustices around him spoke out against them. Luis Landa wrote in an essay titled “Swift’s Economic Views and Mercantilism,”
“One of his few sermons to come down to us, On the Causes of the Wretched Condition of Ireland, is devoted to an analysis of Ireland’s economic difficulties, in which he complains bitterly that ” The first cause of our misery is the intolerable hardships we lie under in every branch of trade, by which we are become as hewers of wood, and drawers of water, to our rigorous neighbors” (ELH, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Dec., 1943))
During Swift’s time, Ireland was losing money from their economy to assist the growing English Empire. This is a tragedy. Today, as a world population we are dealing with something much larger. The Empire instead of being a concrete country like England, it is liberal capitalism. In liberal capitalism, the State is the global market that all pay into. This Empire is not something that we can see, but is a virtual island full of mostly wealthy white men. Our money that we pay into goes not towards the worker, but to the company’s overhead.
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.” (6:24-25 NRSV)
The idea here is to say that if you have an excess amount riches then that’s all that your worth. God’s kin-dom* and thus God’s justice is about distributive justice, unlike U.S. society which focuses on retributive justice. Therefore, those who have excess amounts are not participating in the vision that Jesus declared about the kin-dom of God. Fighting against these kinds of injustices and educating the masses of how the system works should be our top goals. We must always remember the wisdom of Paulo Freire that taught, “Critical and liberation dialogue, which presupposes action, must be carried on with the oppressed at whatever the stage of their struggle for liberation…But to substitute monologue, slogans, and communiques for dialogues is to attempt to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects which must be saved from a burning building” (52). Dialogue gives us a good middle way for liberation of the oppressed and the oppressors. The first step we must take then is to become friends with those whom we believe to be oppressed.
*I prefer to use kin-dom over kingdom because the later has been used in patriarchal hierarchical structures that have oppressed citizens. I believe that God’s kin-dom does not represent that reality, but a kin-dom where all are the family of God.