Racketeering for Fun and Profit

By Wade Frazier

Revised July 2014

 

Racketeering for Fun and Profit

Footnotes

Racketeering for Fun and Profit        

One of this site's major contentions is that at least half of the human effort performed in the USA's economy is unproductive; they produce no net benefit to society.  They are either intrinsically worthless or they take on a greatly inflated "value" due to an industry or profession protecting its turf.  In several instances, it is much worse than that, because some worthless industries and professions are also hastening the demise of Earth’s inhabitability.  Virtually every group of people that ever came together did so to serve their mutual self-interest.

Exceptions to that dynamic can be argued for some groups, such as Peace Corps volunteers.  However, the organization itself has often proved disillusioning to its often-idealistic volunteers, when they realized that the native problem was not that they were ignorant farmers, but that the good land to raise crops on was taken away, or they were enslaved to a system that did not look after their needs.  The Peace Corps often did far more damage than good as it helped manipulate communities in Africa, for instance, to stop growing food for themselves and instead grow food for export to the USA.  When the volunteers figure that out, they are threatened into silence or otherwise dealt with.  During the 1990s, the Peace Corps served as a capitalistic vanguard in the rape of the former Soviet Union, where life expectancy collapsed.  It is sad to say, but the Peace Corps is really a tool of the American Empire.[1]  Self-confessed “economic hit man” John Perkins got his start working for the Peace Corps, as a way to test him.

Even an "untouchable" organization such as Mother Teresa's ministry is not above suspicion.  I am probably going straight to hell for writing it, but Christopher Hitchens's Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice presented convincing evidence that most of her image was the result of a public relations campaign.  As was the case with Junípero Serra and too many missionaries over the centuries, attention to the earthly comfort of their charges was seldom in evidence.  Similar to Serra, Mother Teresa's efforts seemed to be more directed toward her making sainthood than really helping her charges.  That is surely a bold claim, and Hitchens competently made his case, presenting photographs of Teresa having photo ops with a very disreputable gang of people, where her name was being used in fund-raising schemes.  Besides hanging out with dictators, Charles Keating, the S&L scandal's poster boy, generously funded her.  Keating did so to the tune of $1.25 million (using the public's money).  Mother Teresa interceded on Keating's behalf, writing a letter to the judge, asking for his mercy.  She stated that Keating "has always been kind and generous to God's poor."  The prosecutor wrote Mother Teresa back, telling her that the money that Keating gave her was stolen money, and asked her to give it back.  They never heard back from Mother Teresa.

Some fundraising schemes that Mother Teresa was involved with were garish.  Corporate magnate Robert Maxwell shamelessly used her image for a fundraising scheme, and pocketed the money that was raised.  In another instance, Mother Teresa posed almost like a cutout of the celebrity she was, with a California "guru" cult leader standing next to her.  The photo was taken as a condition of giving her the dough, in a studio setting.  Later a scene was inserted into the photo's background, showing Calcutta's poor. 

It could be argued that yes, she prostituted herself, but for a good cause.  How about those who received the benefits of that donated money?  The finances of Mother Teresa's ministry were somewhat of a mystery, with nobody really quite knowing how much money came in or where it went.  That was strange "charitable" activity.  No American charity could get away with that.  Hitchens openly wondered where it went; it was not evident in her ministry. 

It can be depressing to ask what "good works" she really performed.  Nobody can really explain what she did to earn the Nobel Peace Prize.  Her acceptance speech was about decrying the evil of abortion, and she remained a staunch opponent of birth control while she ran her houses for the poor and dying.  Her response to the Bhopal disaster, brought to India courtesy of Union Carbide, where she rushed to the scene, was little more than saying "forgive, forgive."  She said nothing about preventing such a disaster from happening again, or about Union Carbide mitigating its damage.

Many independent doctors and journalists visited Teresa's Calcutta Home for the Dying and other facilities, and a common response was how inhumane the environments were.  Although people there were dying and in great pain, painkiller was against Mother Teresa’s austere philosophy.  Dr. Robin Fox, the editor of Lancet, perhaps the world's leading medical journal, visited the Calcutta operation in 1994 and published his impressions.  He expected to be impressed, but after remarking on the philosophical approach there that was anti-medical, Fox stated:

 

"Finally, how competent are the sisters at managing pain?  On a short visit, I could not judge the power of their spiritual approach, but I was disturbed to learn that the formulary includes no strong analgesics [painkiller - Ed.].  Along with the neglect of diagnosis, the lack of good analgesia marks Mother Teresa's approach as clearly separate from the hospice movement.  I know which I prefer."

 

Mary Loudon, a Calcutta volunteer who has written extensively about the lives of nuns, said this about the atmosphere at Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying:

 

"My initial impression was of all the photographs and footage I've seen of (Bergen) Belsen and places like that, because all the patients have shaved heads.  No chairs anywhere, there were just these stretcher beds…There's no garden, no yard even." 

 

Loudon told a story of a young boy of fifteen who came there with a simple kidney problem that could have been easily remedied with antibiotics.  An American doctor there was trying to treat him, and was begging the sisters to let him be taken to a hospital.  It was against their philosophy, so the frustrated and resigned doctor watched the boy slowly dying.  As Hitchens stated, the situation there is purposeful:

 

"The neglect of what is commonly understood as proper medicine is not a superficial contradiction.  It is the essence of the endeavor, the same essence that is evident in a cheerful sign which has been filmed on the wall of Mother Teresa's morgue.  It reads 'I am going to heaven today.'" 

 

Mother Theresa’s Home for the Dying appears to be just that, a Christian death factory, where the people going there are supposed to die.  Getting better is not a part of the program.  Mother Teresa taught the sisters how to surreptitiously give baptisms to dying Hindus and Moslems in their care, secretly sending souls to the Christian Heaven, racking up their Christian tally.

Hitchens helped produce the British documentary Hell's Angel, screened in 1994.  In the documentary's wake, he was contacted many times, and by some who worked in Mother Teresa's homes. 

One of Hitchens's contacts was Susan Shields, a nun from Mother Teresa's order who worked in her homes in the Bronx, Rome and San Francisco for nearly ten years.  She left Mother Teresa's employ because she could not stand it anymore, and wrote In Mother's House, a seemingly fine manuscript that cannot find a publisher (her writing talent is evident here), seemingly because it frankly deals with her experiences of working in Mother Teresa's employ.  It was far from a hagiographic account.  The nuns working for Mother Teresa were pushed to the extremities of austerity.  Upon occupying a convent's premises in San Francisco, they immediately rid it of furniture, carpeting and any creature comforts, including heat in the wintertime.  Several nuns developed tuberculosis while Shields worked there.  Hitchens stated, "If her memoir reads like the testimony of a former cult member, it is because in many ways it is."  The nuns were all indoctrinated that Mother Teresa is divinely guided, and no questioning of her authority is thinkable.  The atmosphere cultivated was a total and mindless obedience to Teresa's divinely inspired authority. 

Hitchens’s assessment was frank:

 

"Bear in mind that Mother Teresa's global income is more than enough to outfit several first class medical clinics in Bengal.  The decision not to do so, and indeed to run instead a haphazard and cranky institution which would expose itself to litigation and protest were it run by any branch of the medical profession, is a deliberate one.  The point is not honest relief of suffering but the promulgation of a cult based on death and suffering and subjection." 

 

Mother Teresa herself flew around the world, receiving the finest medical care that money could buy in her last years.  This iconoclastic segment on Mother Teresa may come as a shock.  Her defenders are many.  Maybe she did some genuine good in the world, but there may be far more image than substance in Mother Teresa's legacy.  Michael Parenti has also written on Teresa’s dubious legacy, and in 2013, a paper by Canadian scholars arrived at the same conclusions that Hitchens did.[2]

If such "saintly" institutions such as the Peace Corps and Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying fail to impress upon further scrutiny, imagine how various industries and highly paid professions fare in the following analyses.

 

Footnotes

[1] For that challenging idea, see Charles MacMartin's "Peace Corps and Empire", Covert Action Information Bulletin (Now called Covert Action Quarterly), Winter 1991-1992.  Even internal U.S. government documents made part of the Pentagon Papers make the Peace Corps' role in foreign policy explicit.  Generally, whatever beleaguered nation the U.S. military, CIA and corporate world was focusing its attention on, the Peace Corps would soon flood their volunteers there.  The Peace Corps is part of a novel neocolonial strategy. 

[2] See Genevieve Chenard and Carole Sénéchal's "Les côtés ténébreux de Mère Teresa", which is unfortunately only available in French, Studies in Religion, volume 42, number 1, March 2013.  Fortunately, many articles in English accompanied publication of the paper (1, 2, 3, 4).

 

 

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