I’ve come to the conclusion, that, while equality is a noble and necessary pursuit, it is also one that is fraught with danger and susceptible to the temptations of despotism. Because activism is as much a faith as it is a political activity or social movement. It has its own dogmatics, its own evangelists, and a penchant toward extremism that any recognized religion might have shown throughout history. The pursuit of a broad and ill defined concept of equality is as exclusive in its imposition as the gospel. In the same way that Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life and no one can come to the father except through him, social activism places any who will not submit to whatever particular notion of what equality is that prevails onto the wrong side of the moral divide.
Activism inhibits the practice of evidence based social care, putting roadblocks in the way of the practice of loving your neighbor as both individuals and a community. It requires the diminishment of difference and a commitment to coercive pogroms to flatten the topographical nature of a multi-cultural society in order to achieve a “civilization of equality.”
When one realizes that the pursuit of equality that is not tempered by an overriding commitment to the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of both communities and the individuals that make up them that we ostensibly built our society on, much of our demands for special treatment couched as equality can turn to bitterness in our mouths.
A few thoughts that ran through my mind last night…
We never adjust for the humiliating reality that the money spent on military actions on foreign soil neglect and starve the needs of those in our own country. Because we don’t like to think about “those” people, the homeless, the poor, the mentally ill, the downtrodden of society of every color.
But war? War makes for one hell of a voyeuristic trip. But the point should be this, that anytime we use the methodology of the killing to ascribe more value to the lost, voyeuristically disassociating our collective conscience and moral responsibility from our carefully segregated homegrown tragedies—which in turn creates a bigger draw upon our will to act or intervene—we undermine any normative value for life and flat out deny that humanity has any inherent, constant and equitable value. Human life becomes the currency on the global market of power and politics.
Another year slips away…they’re not really anything after a while, you know. Nothing more than a notch on the hilt while we slip further into a voyeuristic embrace of bestial instinct. We are the watchers, gathering ourselves around a glowing cube to satiate our hunger for meaning with fictionalized realities designed for our consumption and docility. Truth is much too bright, we’d rather it have commercials and give us a sneak peek of next weeks episode. And the nearness of you…and you…and you…and you; strange and unsettling. We live our lives around devouring, consuming; to sell or buy is all that we have left, culture dismissed with the efficiency and triteness of a jingle. This, this is our legacy, a mechanized and industrial collective that has no use for humanity. This then, is civilization and civilization dehumanizes…
The bread which you withhold belongs to the hungry; the clothing you shut away, to the naked: and the money you bury in the earth is the redemption and freedom of the penniless. ― Decretum Gratiani 12th Century
If we suppose, that in the realm of rights that are inalienable to humanity, there stands at the forefront the right to life, taking precedence over liberty and happiness, than the illusion of the rugged individual is dispelled with a whisper. Because, if the right to life takes primacy, than it negates any requirement that might be set in order to provision the realization of that right. In plain terms, neither goodness nor labor does the distribution of sustenance require. It is the need that demands fulfillment, it is the need that shows us that our excess, if it exists, rightly belongs to those whose lives have slipped below the line of human dignity. I would go further, echoing the words of the early Church Fathers, in that the warehousing of our excess is a crime in itself, it is thievery, for it rightly belongs to those who are most in need of it.
The poor, the destitute, they have a right to food and shelter and safety that has no relation to the wages they earn, whether or not they pay taxes, whether or not they are even citizens. It is their condition, their very existence which demands a response from our humanity. In the least, their lives must be witnessed, that the quiet and lost dignity that lays underneath the paved and concrete lives of those who take and never give back is not forgotten. And at the most, well, we should raise up our brother, raise up our sister and join them in both joy and sorrow, in want and plenty.
The difference between representation and personification is the difference between realism and artistic license.
The reproduction of events in visual and aural mediums denigrate the significance of the event if the pursuit a repristinated representation. If instead, personification is the goal, the accusation of historical distortion falls to pieces. Yet the critique remains, that the commodification of historical and artistic events and creations by capitalist ideology (more specifically, Neo-liberalism as it is understood and practiced today) and market constructs dehumanize the very members of the society and events that they are supposed to represent. It leaves a question in its wake as well. Can the self and the other be successfully de-commodified without exploding the free market system in its entirety? Continue reading “The Irony of the Critique”→
In 1961, on September the 25th President John F. Kennedy addressed the United Nations General Assembly. There is no doubt in my mind, that if ever was required a day to celebrate the dignity of a United States President, as we do for Presidents Washington and Lincoln, it should be President Kennedy. Here is a small selection of my favorite parts,
Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer concern the great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by wind and water and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war–or war will put an end to mankind.
Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
Men no longer debate whether armaments are a symptom or a cause of tension. The mere existence of modern weapons–ten million times more powerful than any that the world has ever seen, and only minutes away from any target on earth–is a source of horror, and discord and distrust. Men no longer maintain that disarmament must await the settlement of all disputes–for disarmament must be a part of any permanent settlement. And men may no longer pretend that the quest for disarmament is a sign of weakness–for in a spiraling arms race, a nation’s security may well be shrinking even as its arms increase.
But I come here today to look across this world of threats to a world of peace. In that search we cannot expect any final triumph–for new problems will always arise. We cannot expect that all nations will adopt like systems–for conformity is the jailor of freedom, and the enemy of growth. Nor can we expect to reach our goal by contrivance, by fiat or even by the wishes of all.
But however close we sometimes seem to that dark and final abyss, let no man of peace and freedom despair. For he does not stand alone. If we all can persevere, if we can in every land and office look beyond our own shores and ambitions, then surely the age will dawn in which the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
Ladies and gentlemen of this Assembly, the decision is ours. Never have the nations of the world had so much to lose, or so much to gain. Together we shall save our planet, or together we shall perish in its flames. Save it we can–and save it we must–and then shall we earn the eternal thanks of mankind and, as peacemakers, the eternal blessing of God.
I hate those moments when once again I’m confronted with cowardice and ignorance that masquerades as humility and wisdom. It utterly diminishes me. I just swell up with a surging maelstrom of anger, sadness, defeat, despair and shame for my fellow man who lives by facsimiles of virtues. A life filled with nothing but moral circumspection without any cognitive direction. To believe anything without allowing its discussion or challenge is a fanaticism which abdicates something of what it is to be human, to be made in the image of God. It sacrifices our ability to doubt and reason upon the altar of assurance. And it is a sacrifice that I could never make.