Sunday, September 19, 2010

banners_4_the_paradox

Let's start with risk... we are all conscripts in one sense or another...for all of us, it is hard to break ranks, to incur the disapproval, the censure, the violence of an offended majority with a different idea of loyalty. We shelter under banner words like justice, peace and reconciliation that enroll us in new, if much smaller and relatively powerless, communities of the like-minded...to fall out of step with one's tribe; to step beyond one's tribe into a world that is larger mentally but smaller numerically--if alienation or dissidence is not your habitual or gratifying posture, this is a complex, difficult process. It is hard to defy the wisdom of the tribe, the wisdom that values the lives of members of the tribe above all others. It will always be unpopular--it will always be deemed unpatriotic--to say that the lives of the members of the other tribe are as valuable as one's own. It is easier to give one's allegiance to those we know, to those we see, to those with whom we are embedded, to those with whom we share--as we may--a community of fear...let’s not underestimate the retaliation that may be visited on those who dare to dissent from the brutalities and repressions thought justified by the fears of the majority...we are flesh. we can be punctured by a bayonet, torn apart by a suicide bomber...fear binds people together...and fear disperses them...courage inspires communities: the courage of an example for courage is as contagious as fear.... but courage, certain kinds of courage, can also isolate the brave.



The perennial destiny of principles: While everyone professes to have them, they are likely to be sacrificed when they become inconveniencing.

Generally a moral principle is something that puts one at variance with accepted practice. And that variance has consequences, sometimes unpleasant consequences, as the community takes its revenge on those who challenge its contradictions--who want a society actually to uphold the principles it professes to defend. 

The standard that a society should actually embody its own professed principles is a utopian one, in the sense that moral principles contradict the way things really are--and always will be. How things really are--and always will be--is neither all evil nor all good but deficient, inconsistent, inferior. Principles invite us to do something about the morass of contradictions in which we function morally. Principles invite us to clean up our act, to become intolerant of moral laxity and compromise and cowardice and the turning away from what is up-setting: that secret gnawing of the heart that tells us that what we are doing is not right, and so counsels us that we'd be better off just not thinking about it. 

Again: There is nothing inherently superior about resistance. All our claims for the righteousness of resistance rest on the rightness of the claim that the resisters are acting in the name of justice. And the justice of the cause does not depend on, and is not enhanced by, the virtue of those who make the assertion. It depends first and last on the truth of a description of a state of affairs that is, truly, unjust and unnecessary. 


1 comment:

  1. Susan Sontag, the Oscar Romero Award Keynote Address

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