Friday, July 17, 2015

On the Courage to Care

It's snowing in Australia and Alaska is on fire, but what really worries me is some police overstepping the bounds of their authority. Just on my facebook feed today, they've punched a kid with autism, barged in on a naked woman illegally, and provoked or directly caused suicides in jail, and that's on top of all the shootings, chokings, and other unnecessary uses of violence against citizens we've been hearing about over and over.

First of all, Hedges talks about the pivotally necessary moment in revolutions when the guards of the upper class refuse to protect them anymore and, instead, turn around to join the people en masse. I don't see us moving in that direction any time soon. We need the population to be educated on how the current system works against most people, but, more importantly, we need the police (and the army) to be educated as well on their part in this bigger picture.  Hedges tells a story of being arrested at a demonstration and an officer quietly encouraging him to keep fighting as he's taking him away. Always a glimmer of hope somewhere I suppose.

But secondly, we are very likely to experience many crises in the years to come, and we have to maintain an attitude of fearless compassion through to the end.  It all makes me think of Tolstoy's story, The Godson:

In a nutshell, this guy meets his mystical godfather, kills a guy in order to save his own mother, then has to atone for his sins as well as the sins of the man he murdered. The bulk of the story is about this godson trying to figure out how to stop evil in the world, and he discovers he can't stop it by chasing it or using force against it because that just adds more evil to the world in the end. Evil spreads evil. He has to be still and stand firm and make sure his heart is pure and full of compassion, and then offer only love to anyone he meets. And this is all an enormous act of courage (from the word 'heart') because it's hard to stop following the rules we've been trained by, and, once we can do that, it's hard to stop being afraid of one another and to stop acting defensively or aggressively.

It takes great courage to think for ourselves and to care about everyone else.

In class once I was discussing all the different aspects of environmental and labour injustices in the clothing industry to try to clarify the complexity of these types of issues, and I illustrated it on the board with stick figures as I spoke. Then I solicited any solutions for each of the problems no matter how idealistic. And when I got to "get a PM who will stand firm against child slavery and sweatshops," I drew an androgynous figure with giant balls of steel.

In my classroom, I have an 8 by 10 glossy of Harper, which his staff sent to me after I sent numerous letters. It's like he's Justin Bieber, and a fan wrote to complain about a song lyric - all he sees and cares about is that someone listened to him. We need leaders who listen to the people, and have the courage to be principled even if it means lasting one-term only.

And when the leaders fail us, we need more of that First Nations spirit that refuses to tippy-toe around issues and flat-out demands justice, and we need to do it without resorting to attacking one another.

Of course we can ensure there are strict consequences against each individual officer who chooses to overstep his/er rights while serving and protecting us (just like we can shut down the tar sands and ban water bottles). This is all possible if we have the courage to demand it relentlessly.


The Mound of Sound said...

"if we have the courage to demand it" - true enough. The problem is defining "we." There's a critical mass quality to "we." As I mentioned recently, I'm buoyed by the mass support that has been generated to oppose supertanker traffic on this coast. Recent polls suggest it's even putting in jeopardy some otherwise safe Tory ridings in the coastal belt. When that began to build we started hearing people like Christy Clark and Justin talk about "social licence" and how Enbridge could not expect approval for the Northern Gateway until it had won the support of British Columbians.

Defending the coast is an obvious and powerful draw. Most of us out here really feel it is "our" coast and it's ours to defend against drylanders who would imperil our coast and our people.

How do we generate that same magnitude of appeal for action to rein in our cops or so many other things in urgent need of redress? I don't have a clue.

Marie Snyder said...

I think groups are forming everywhere to stop everything that's crappy with this world. Masses gathered in Ferguson and similar places after they experienced horrible injustices. It would be nice if masses could gather before the injustices - preventatively - but it sometimes feels like things are starting in the right direction. So long as we can all keep our heads.