Solidarity as outlook and activity
Solidarity, then, is primarily an attitude, an outlook, a way of viewing the world; an outlook motivated by the quest for the Common Good; an outlook that is realistic, hard-edged, unromantic; an outlook which engages directly with injustice and wrong-doing, seeing it for what it is and actively opposing it. Solidarity probes the very core of our being, for it is: “a commitment to the good of one’s neighbour with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to ‘lose oneself’ for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to ‘serve him’ instead of oppressing him for one’s own advantage. (cf. Mt 10.40-42; 20.25; Mk 10.42-45; Lk 22.25-27)” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis -“Social Concern” (1987) paragraph 38)
For John Paul it is the human person who is the focus of all rights and duties and the measure of all things, but not as an isolated individual. Pace Margaret Thatcher, for the late Pope society does exist: we are essentially social beings. Solidarity is the living out of this fundamental truth: that we are born for community, created to be members of a network of mutual care and mutual obligation. Solidarity is an act of recognition of the inalienable dignity of the ‘other’ (be that ‘other’ a person, a group of people or a nation). It sees them “not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our ‘neighbour’, a ‘helper’ (cf. Gen 2.18-20), to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, paragraph 39) These words should be inscribed above the entrance to all those sweat-shop-dependent fashion, toy and sportswear chains – or at least on our parish newsletters and noticeboards. And we need – I suggest – look no further than the high street for topics which might animate discussion with young people of the call to solidarity.