Merton on “Corrupt Social Systems”

I was the product of my times, my society and my class. I was something that had been spawned by the selfishness and irresponsibility of the materialistic century in which I lived. However, what I did not see was that my own age and class only had an accidental part to play in this. They gave my egoism and pride and my other sins an peculiar character of weak and supercilious flippancy proper to this particular century; but that was only on the surface. Underneath, it was the same old story of greed and lust and self-love, of the three concupiscences bred in the rich, rotted undergrowth of what is technically called ‘the world,’ in every age, in every class.

…I don’t know how anybody who pretends to know anything about history can be so naive as to suppose that after all these centuries of corrupt and imperfect social systems, there is eventually to evolve something perfect and pure out of them – the good out of the evil, the unchanging and stable and eternal out of the variable and mutable, the just out of the unjust… [it is] naive to suppose that members of the same human species, without having changed anything but their minds, should suddenly turn around and produce a perfect society, when they have never been able, in the past, to produce anything but imperfection and, at best, the barest shadow of justice.

– Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, 1948

1 Comment

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply