Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Be Resolute and Strong, but also Kind and Fair

Anger is a motivating initial response when the sheer meanness or short-sightedness of a policy or appointment really hits home. And in our action and reaction it is right and just to speak the truth plainly, when we see fear exploited - to gut a noble program; or wage a war; or excuse inhumane behavior. But if our compassion is limited to only those who agree with us, then we will stand alone and be marginalized. Only when we demonstrate our caring for those whose fear is being exploited successfully, and even for those who are exploiting it, can we reach out and in time have the truth we see so clearly be seen more broadly, and eventually accepted as obvious in the mainstream culture.

Nelson Mandela after years in prison tells us in his essay, The Dark Years,
I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else's freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.

When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. ... For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
From The Impossible Will Take a Little While, edited by Paul Loeb.


-epm said...

Another great post.

I know, for one, can let my passions get the better of me when it comes to corrupt and unjust leaders and their policies. That passion, while motivating, can turn to rage, and from there it's only a short walk to meanness and shortsightedness of my own.

One thing the great peacemakers of history have shown us -- from Jesus to Gandhi -- is that patience wins the day. That compassion and truth will triumph over lies and oppression. That justice is eternal and not always immediate. That winning hearts and minds is much more powerful than winning battles and wars.

I've often noticed the more we hate our enemy, the more we become like them. In the name of liberty, we curtail liberties. In the name of freedom we suppress dissent.. I would do well to practice what I (and you) preach.

nadezhda said...

Many thanks for the Mandela reminder -- the principle of recognizing the other's humanity, not just his otherness, isn't just a bunch of words, as Mandela shows.

We could use some Mandelas at home. But, oh, for a Mandela in the Middle East!

chez Nadezhda