“ELECTING COMPASSION WHILE FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE”
My life situations and identities – most of them afford me power and privilege, increasing my sense of agency, or self-efficacy, and also my perceived moral integrity or moral superiority. So I have to be honest and critical and humble with myself, when I say such things as: “In any situation or experience there is an element of choice”. This implies that freedom is available at all times.
Obviously I am inclined to feel more sense of freedom and choice in my situations, because of all of the seemingly-good fortune I have been given. But, as the wise one, Dr. Cornel West said, ‘The most respectable and valuable and honorable position is that of the marginalized, oppressed, and silenced people who choose to have mercy, compassion, and love through all hardships, despite feeling isolated, undervalued, and under-respected.’ (Powerful Dr. West videos: Success vs. Greatness or @ Brown University)
These models of our time show love, value and respect to others, including those both currently committing and those capable of various forms of oppression.
Oppression, based on perceived superiority = Aggression.
Aggression dehumanizes both others and the self.
Aggression increases the violence in our world.
To refrain from increasing aggression is revolutionary.
This type of aggression is learned somehow. It is counterproductive to believe that humans are born with so much hate based on arbitrary social constructs and categories such as race, class, gender, ability, sexuality, etc. As children we learn it, as empowered, critical thinking adults we can begin to unlearn the prejudice set deep in the crevices of our brains. We can unlearn the hate that darkens our vision.
Why not head off the problem where it starts, in the “education” or “miseducation” of children? It seems all children are capable, indeed, of thriving in any culture, thriving in any language environment, especially multilingual environments. As a language educator, I want to help young people maintain their natural curiosities about the world. I want to facilitate the use of all of their inborn capacities for language learning, for respect, for compassion and empathy, before the current hegemony of our world ingrains itself too deep into the minds of our future and current young leaders. (See Manufacturing Consent, by Noam Chomsky)
In this world, dominated by so many unaccountable leaders and obfuscated beauracracies, it is easy to feel powerless. The systems of control and the institutions of our world that maintain the status quo so effectively seem so permanent and impenetrable, yet we need not give up or give in. If anything, we live in the generation of change. If anything, it is our responsibility to get the ‘social justice ball’ rolling for the next generation. With enough inertia, multiple universal and personal revolutions will surely ensue. The biggest challenge is building inertia.
If we don’t start to stand up for humankind and justice and equality right now, we risk losing our freedoms and our sense of agency in the world. The first step is to keep learning; we must educate ourselves to become more passionate and get fired up. The second step is to share our passions, and to care more and more about the state of the world. Finally, community-building and activism begin, with constant reflection and commitment to our values of course.
We must swear to fight injustice, no matter who it is directed at. We all need allies and we all need supportive communities; no man is an island. But what can we change as pacifists, you may ask? To be compassionate and merciful is not to act as a door mat and get kicked around. We can both reduce aggression and maintain our own human rights and human dignities simultaneously. With our non-violent and enlightened activism, we will model to others, and especially to young people, how to create positive, lasting change.
The young have great potential and energy, and many forms of passion, many ways of being exceptional. In valuing the exceptionalities of all young people, in learning to value all ways of being, we model to them how to be good role models and accountable leaders. We are all leaders and we are all educators just as soon as we realize it.
Education, compassion, and accountable leadership are all vocations, callings that we can choose to take on for our entire lives. This is what all of us should strive for if we want to create change. We must be the change we wish to see in the world.
I have heard it said that only when the love of power is overtaken by the power of love will we all be free, but even with the injustice and the severely restricted freedom that we may now be experiencing, we always seem to have the choice to show compassion, mercy, and love.
Let’s empower each other to struggle with love. Let’s empower the youth. Let’s get the ball rolling, sustainability, compassionately, and courageously!