Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Brush with Communism

Okay, dear friends and family. Sit back. Pop some popcorn. Heat up some hot chocolate and sit back for a story. Well two actually.

I started taking piano lessons when I was ten from the lady down the street (well it was in the cul-de-sac between our street and the next). After a year, she decided to move and retire from the piano lesson business. She recommended a Russian lady on the other side of town who was supposed to be very good. She had heard her over the phone.

My parents contacted the lady and I begin lessons with her until after my first year in highschool when I decided I wanted another teacher.

She was actually very nice and I learned a lot from her besides piano. She had left Russia right before the fall of communism. She left with her husband and her two daughters, her son-in-law, and grandson. She told me that in the move she was not allowed to take any furniture. She said she felt lucky to be able to take her piano because it was considered to be an instrument, but she had to leave the piano bench. Yeah, odd I know. She couldn't take dishes either. Basically, it was clothes, family photos, and Russian momentos.

On coming to the US, she had a lot to learn. For one thing, in communist Russia, you could not practice religion. So she never even thought about God at all. After a few years in the US, she started exploring religion especially since she knew her ancestry was Jewish. She actively sought out the very small Jewish community in Mississippi and converted.

Also in Russia your life is basically dictated to you. She told me that in Russia as a piano teacher everything was taught in small groups. There were no private lessons or individual lessons. Music lessons were set up like in the public schools. Worse though, was that children had to take an exam in order to be eligible for the program. I'm not talking like the exams where children are examined before entering band after having general music. No these children had no previous musical experience and were required to follow everything she did including how to touch the piano. She said it was the hardest thing to do. She had to turn children away and parents would plead and cry. To be a musician in communist Russia gave you the ability to move around and go to other countries. But she had to keep a stiff upper lip and follow the rules.

I'm sure given that my musical talent at piano is abysmal, I would not have qualified to be in the music program under the USSR.

My second brush with communism came in highschool. I was in the Mississippi Youth Symphony Orchestra and the conductor was from China. (okay, you can roll your eyes if you want to, but hear me out). Dad used to go to the orchestra rehearsals with me and he often talked to the conductor.

The conductor had a family: a wife, one daughter in college, and two younger daughters in elementary school. Why? Dad said it was the Chinese one child program. The older daughter was born in China. The younger daughters were born here after he and his wife immigrated to the United States.

Also Dad said when the conductor was younger, government officials came to his school and looked at his hands and declared that he would be a cellist. He wasn't given a choice. They didn't care if he liked the cello or music for that matter. No, he was going to be a cellist and that would be that.

His wife, a concert pianist, was told one day that she was going out to work hard labor. She was ordered by the government to dig ditches. Yeah, not cool when you are a concert pianist. Bad for your hands.

Now, maybe there are some good stories out there about communist countries, but I haven't come across any. As you can tell, not being able to have children, worship God, or discover your vocation with God, is totally against Catholic morals. Hubby tells me he has heard that some of the Chinese students like communism because it supports the elderly and disabled, which are a part of Catholic social teaching. But as I pointed out to Hubby that's socialism not communism. For those of you who haven't had a government class in a while, communism is a form of socialism. Socialism is not a form of communism. (Like all toads are frogs but not all frogs are toads.) You can have a socialist democracy and still uphold the basics of the poor and elderly. Our own government has it's own form of socialism; it's called welfare aka food stamps and medicare.

Communism isn't a good thing. Pope John Paul II had his own struggles with communism since after WWII Poland was under the communist regime in Russia. Later it was allowed to be an independent communist state. People thought that it was ironic that here he was elected Pope when his own country placed such heavy restrictions on how he practiced religion. Talk about following God's call.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states (2425): The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with "communism" or "socialism." She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of "capitalism," individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for "there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market." Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.

So there you have it. Catholics are called not to support communism but to reject it for it's atheistic views. Likewise, we are called to have regulation of our own capitalistic economies so that the poor are taken care of.

So I ask you, as Catholics, should we be buying Chinese made goods and participating in trade relations with China? How do you feel about hearing these two stories? Did you put yourself in their shoes? Could you imagine moving to another country where you don't speak the language? Could you imagine having to give up your most valued possessions just live a free life? Could you start over like that; in other words could you go from being middle class to totally poor (which is what happened to the Russian lady)? I leave you to make a comment.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!