Book Review: “Resisting Throwaway Culture”
by Mary Lou Bennett
Resisting Throwaway Culture: How a Consistent Life Ethic Can United a Fractured People, by Charles C. Camosy.
Anyone living in the United States today is acutely aware of the pain and decay that permeate society as a result of contemporary moral issues. With such awareness, feelings of sadness, despair, and disbelief can become paramount. Hence, Charles C. Camosy’s book, Resisting Throwaway Culture, becomes a very important read.
Camosy not only writes with a profound understanding of what plagues society, but he also offers hope and a clear approach for setting the foundation for a better tomorrow. With knowledge and a straightforward approach that’s easy to read, Camosy explains that the American tendency has become to solve problems with violence. This, in turn, has resulted in what Pope Francis calls our “throwaway culture.”
Such a culture is enabled (if not fueled by) constant consumerism, and has resulted in humans becoming increasingly ignored, rejected, and disposed of. Camosy urges individuals to put aside political debates and reflect intently on their deepest values, while also embracing a Consistent Life Ethic (CLE). In doing so, people who have found themselves in a polarized culture war can finally begin to unite.
Camosy discusses the contemporary hook-up culture, reproductive technology, abortion, euthanasia, poverty, immigration, and mass incarceration. I was pleased to see he even goes a step further to also address the CLE’s concern that non-human beings are also being treated with cruelty and extensive violence. The CLE acknowledges that such brutal treatment of animals, like all violence, speaks to the fact that the world revolves around consumerism, diminishing the value of all life, human and otherwise, to “mere things” in order to generate a profit.
As I read Comosy’s theories and arguments, there were many eye-opening moments for me. For example, though I know of various state laws about the death penalty, I didn’t realize that more than 170 countries have abolished the death penalty, but the U.S., and a handful of other countries (including Iran and Saudi Arabia) continue to keep it.
I was also disturbed by some of Camosy’s information relating to reproductive biotechnology. He explained that, in the near future, embryos created through in vitro fertilization will have some chosen, while the “excess” will be thrown away. The embryos will then be edited to eliminate what those in power have decided are genetic diseases.
In each chapter, there’s a discussion on consumerism and autonomy, and how each, coupled with the use of language, serves to marginalize the sanctity of life, making it easy to discard the vulnerable. Indeed, each chapter is a reminder of how lost our country, the United States, has become.
At times I teared up, thinking about the countless loss of life, particularly that of the most innocent and helpless,the unborn. Other times, I became frustrated and enraged by what I learned. To discover that there’s a pervasiveness of abortion in many African American communities, and then read that abortion clinic owners often target communities with large percentages of racial minorities when deciding where to build their facilities, is truly infuriating.
Additionally, reading that abortion is promoted in some cities through billboard campaigns with slogans like, “Abortion is Necessary” is unnerving to say the least. Prior to reading Resisting Throwaway Culture, perhaps I could have said I found such information unfathomable, but now I understand that consumerism and autonomy apparently drive all aspects of existence, and some people have no shame. How utterly sad
This certainly all sounds bleak and disturbing. So, where is the hope that I spoke of earlier? According to Camosy, it can be found within the values of the Consistent Life Ethic itself. These values are: the inherent dignity of every person, nonviolence, hospitality, encounter, mercy, conservation of the ecological world, and offering priority to those in society who are the most vulnerable.
Beyond reminding us of these important values, Camosy reminds us that we must act–all of us. We cannot simply expect change, we must work to implement it, by first changing the way we live.
At the end of his book, Camosy’s appendix serves to highlight all the issues he discusses throughout. These issues are presented in a chart form, along with the various principles that serve to fuel them.
Though you may not agree with everything that Camosy has to say, you’ll certainly find that he has coherent arguments that get you thinking about the sanctity of life. He responds with compassion to the cultural fracturing that currently exists, while also providing a unifying framework, the Consistent Life Ethic, to protect the most vulnerable members of society.
Hopefully, Camosy’s book will be successful in its call to challenge each of us to create a culture of encounter capable of resisting what Pope Francis calls a “globalization of indifference.” If so, our society will undoubtedly become a better place for all to live.
For more of our posts from Mary Lou Bennett, see:
The Tragedy of Carrie Buck: A Review of Imbeciles / Mary Lou Bennett (book by Adam Cohen)
Mothers and Daughters / Mary Bennett (movie)