Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wise words

Commenting on statements by Asad Abu Khalil - The Angry Arab - Chris Floyd has this to say:
These are wise words. One sees many angry comments directed at "The Jews" for what is happening in Gaza. But The Jews are not bombing anyone in Gaza; the Israeli government is. That does not make every Jew in the world somehow complicit in these war crimes. Or should every American be placed in the dock at The Hague with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all the other perpetrators of the even larger and more savage war crime carried out in Iraq [not to mention the torture regime and other evils]? To rail against The Jews en masse for the actions of some Jews is as pig-ignorant as, say, condemning every person with black skin for the crimes of one ghetto gang, or every Muslim for the act of a single extremist group, or indeed, condemning every white person for the crimes of the Gangster-in-Chief, George Bush.

The structures of power make these crimes possible -- structures inhabited [and supported] at all times by specific human beings, individuals responsible for their actions, operating of their own free will. [For much more on this theme, see the excellent new essay by Arthur Silber here.] They are not possessed by some kind of racial or ethnic ectoplasm or in-built evil that directs their activities. All structures of power must be monitored with fierce diligence, and denounced and opposed when the individuals directing the particular structure commit evil acts. This applies across the board, in all societies, all ideologies, all countries, all historical eras. AbuKhalil's words are worth repeating: "Political anger is justified but that has to be articulated in a rational and humane manner. We can't, or shouldn't, allow Israel and its crimes to make us worse as human beings."
and from the Arthur Silber essay:
This is not because the human race is innately evil, but rather because each generation determinedly teaches the next how to hate, and how to kill. The unending procession of oppression, barbarity and widescale murder throughout human history is not inevitable. There have always been those rare individuals who, when confronted with the horrors of their time and asked to render support for them in any form and to any degree, will declare, simply and with no claim to heroism: No. Such individuals teach us that another mode of consciousness and a radically different manner of conduct exist and can be ours. The overwhelming majority of people are cowards; they consistently refuse to learn the lesson. Cowardice, too, is not inevitable or "natural": people are taught to be cowards. Most people learn that lesson very well indeed.
The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh in one of his lectures on mindfulness talks about the human consciousness as containing all kinds of seeds - seeds of anger, seeds of hatred, seeds of love, seeds of compassion - and we have some control over which seeds we water and which seeds we deprive of nutrition. When faced with feelings of helplessness it is easy to water the seeds of anger and I think the seeds of hate must lie close by. We need to be mindful of what we grow in our garden.

No comments: