Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Threat of a Good Example

steve walker sent to j-lou... j-lou like... so j-lou post... peace

The Threat of a Good Example
By Tim Wise
Occasionally when I'm speaking to college students, attempting to inspire at least a few to commit themselves to social justice as a way of life and perhaps career, I'm asked the question for which there is no easy answer; the one that goes: "What's the point? Can you make a difference? Why fight against such incredible odds?" As disturbing as such fatalism is, particularly from persons so young, I appreciate the opportunity to confront it. It's one of those rare times during a lecture when the speaker has to drop all pretense, put aside academic theories, and actually connect with that one other human being, even if only for a moment. And it is in that brief span of time when one can actually move another to a different place-without statistics or applause lines-by standing in a figurative sense naked before those one hopes to inspire.
And it's a good question, after all. There is much to suggest that justice, peace and equity are pipe dreams; that even our best efforts aren't enough to prevent tragedy. The bombing of Yugoslavia; the embargo against the people of Iraq; the passage of welfare "reform"; the expansion of the prison-industrial-complex as education budgets are slashed. "Don't these ominous trends,' they ask, 'ever make you want to throw up your hands and quit?"
There was a time when I might have said yes to that question, but not anymore. Like everyone, I confront fatigue and need rest. But that's not the same as wanting to quit. And what made the difference was a letter I received many years ago from Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa; a letter he sent in 1988 to the anti-apartheid group I co-founded at Tulane University; a letter in which he thanked us for sending information on Tulane's investments in apartheid-complicit firms-information which convinced him to reject the school's offer of an honorary doctorate.
As if knowing that those of us involved in the divestment battle were doubting our relevance-after all, even if we succeeded would things really change in South Africa? -he offered what I consider an obvious, yet profound rationale for the work of any freedom fighter: "You do not do the things you do because others will necessarily join you in the doing of them, nor because they will ultimately prove successful. You do the things you do because the things you do are right."
There's much to be said for such simplicity, as it's usually a lack of complication which allows people to feel. Religion, after all, isn't terribly complex, but has inspired, for good and evil, millions around the world. Sometimes I think we both oversell and undersell the notion of fighting for social justice. Oversell in that we focus so much on "winning" the battle in which we're engaged, that we often create false hope, and if victory proves limited or fleeting, those in whom we nurtured the hope feel spent, unable to rise again to the challenge. And yet we undersell the work too, in that we often neglect to point out that there is redemption in struggle itself, and that "victory," although sought, is not the only point, and is never finally won anyway. Even when you succeed in obtaining a measure of justice, you must mobilize to defend that which you've won. There is no looming vacation. But there is redemption in struggle.
There is something to be said for confronting the choice one must make in this life-between collaborating with or resisting injustice-and choosing the latter. There is something to be said for knowing you did all you could to stop a war, eliminate racism, or improve your community. There is something to be said for a good night's sleep, and the ability to wake in the morning, look oneself in the mirror, and never doubt that if you died before lunch, you would have lived a life of integrity.
Now some may think such an answer would be of little import to college students, obsessed as they supposedly are with consumerism and six-figure jobs. But quite the opposite is true. Sure, some roll their eyes at such talk; but these are folks who didn't care about social justice careers to begin with; those for whom attendance at my speech was simply a classroom assignment. But for others, including those who posed the challenge, the answer is meaningful. These are folks desperate for lives of principle and substance; desperate for someone to assure them they can do it, and that it's worth it, win or lose. These are people in need of assurance that someone is there for them, to nurture their interest and allow their contribution. But unless we reach them before the "real world" begins to feel more like a burden than a challenge, and before they develop an interest, proprietary or otherwise in maintaining the status quo, they will likely drift, moved to action rarely if ever, having had to compromise so much so soon. And it's important to remind them that every now and then you really do make a difference; you really do improve people's lives; you really do force better working conditions; you really do stop people from being bombed, and tortured. And you never know when that will happen; when your efforts will break loose the dam and send forth waters of triumph. But you do know one thing. You know for certain-as certain as the sun rising and setting-what will happen if you don't do the work; if we don't. Nothing. And given that choice, between certainty and promise, in which territory lies the measure of our resolve and humanity, I will gladly opt for hope.
If a monster like Adolph Hitler can rise from a movement which started with roughly seven guys, sitting in a pub, then surely those who fight for his antithesis can make do with the raw material to be found in Generations X and Y. Surely we can inspire as well as he.
And all of us can play that role. A few years ago, I was approached by a student at San Francisco State who said he had seen me on television, and that in the five minutes I'd been given to explain why whites should challenge racism, I had changed his life. At first I thought he had the wrong guy. It never occurred to me that a few words between commercials could have such impact. But the look in his eyes indicated he was sincere, and it's a look I've seen elsewhere since. And who knows whom those inspired by me, may themselves inspire in the future? What great things might they do? All I know is, it's worth my entire being to be part of it. Recently, I spoke at the University of Oregon, and gave a workshop in the Ben Linder room of the student center; a room named for a man who, in April, 1987, in Nicaragua, was murdered by contra forces, armed by my government, and his; killed for helping bring running water to rural villagers.
And as I sat there reflecting on how I'd felt upon hearing of his assassination, I remembered why he, and the revolution of which he was a part had to be crushed. They both posed, as we used to say, the threat of a good example. And that's when I realized that Ben Linder's life and death sum up why I do what I do, and what's required of us. I can think of nothing more rewarding, after all, than to serve as the threat of a good example; and no higher calling than to be prepared to die for your principles if need be, but even more, to be unafraid to live for them.
Tim Wise is a Nashville-based writer and lecturer, and the Director of the newly-formed Association for White Anti-Racist Education (AWARE).

23 comments:

The Yepiz Zone said...

Tim Wise...The anti-ANY war, anti- Israel, and Anti-conservative guy.

I guess it's true when they say that "social justice" is anew word for communism.

J-Lou said...

if this is communist...
"These are people in need of assurance that someone is there for them, to nurture their interest and allow their contribution. But unless we reach them before the "real world" begins to feel more like a burden than a challenge, and before they develop an interest, proprietary or otherwise in maintaining the status quo, they will likely drift, moved to action rarely if ever, having had to compromise so much so soon. And it's important to remind them that every now and then you really do make a difference; you really do improve people's lives; you really do force better working conditions; you really do stop people from being bombed, and tortured. And you never know when that will happen; when your efforts will break loose the dam and send forth waters of triumph."
...sign j-lou up.

The Yepiz Zone said...

Those comments are rhetoric bro and you know it.

What's his methodology?

Look up his track record. He is for re-distibution of wealth = communism. He is for government controlled agencies with full power and authority = communism.

I believe in social justice...The Biblical one. Not the one that hides in a name that really means...communism.

If that is what you are signing up for...then go read a book on Stalin and see how that turned out for russia, Cuba, and the rest.

Peace

J-Lou said...

alex don't like... alex should not read... j-lou like article.. j-lou learned something that he would like to share:)

The Yepiz Zone said...

Again, it's not an issue of liking or disliking.

I agree with the rhetoric John. However, how will he implement those theories? That is just as important as the Theory.

If you read the communist manifesto or Mein Kempf, you can see how their rhetoric sounds good for "humanity." But their methods are extreme and murderous. We can't just say "it sounds godd," we need to say, "how will we live it, do it, or implement it.

Then and only then can we truly know people's true intentions.

steve w said...

Since I sent the article to John, perhaps I should say I was not recruiting for an organization (AWARE) or the author of the article.

He fought against South African apartheid. I'm glad it was finally defeated.

I think Christians must grasp the truth of these words: "You do not do the things you do because others will necessarily join you in the doing of them, nor because they will ultimately prove successful. You do the things you do because the things you do are right." -- even though they were spoken by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (I remind myself quite regularly that God spoke through a donkey. Balaam could have missed the point because of the speaker. Moreover, that God used a donkey gives me hope that he can use me.)

Tim Wise is clearly anti-Hitler. Yet if Hitler started with roughly 7 guys, why aren't we doing more to "fight for his antithesis" with our numbers?

My government made a mistake that led to Ben Linder's death. A man was "killed for helping bring running water to rural villagers." My government is fallible. My God is not.

I just don't see the communism in this article. If Tim Wise is a communist, then shame on us Christians for getting side-tracked and letting a "communist" be leading the charge against injustice in our world. It's easy to find fault with someone else.

As individuals and as a church, we have to ask ourselves, what are we doing? Are we doing better?

The Yepiz Zone said...

Steve, I am simply stating that I agree with the words and rehtoric and I hope that I can live them out. I question this article because nowhere does it say how it is to be done. I'm all in favor of justice, the poor, the needy. To not be so would make me a false Christian. But I always wonder what good it is to just give hand me downs one day only to see them become hungry again tommorrow.

Again, I acknowledge that you may not approve fo his "communist ties." But what I hope to get across here is that we need to not just look at words and rehtoric, but on how it will be implemented as well.

I know he is Anti-hitler, I was using those examples of how good sounding rhetoric can lead to dictatorships because of the lack of understanding the Way they implement rhetoric.

steve w said...

Alex, I think if we point people to Christ, and they will truly follow him, the "how to's" will work themselves out.

A couple of weeks ago in a sermon, I used the Tutu quote because I think those two sentences are spot on. I closed with the last paragraph because I think there are people in this world that are willing to both live and die for their "principles" more so than many professing Christians--not only willing to do so, but eager to do so.

It is because I am ready to give my life, if need be, for the cause of eternal hope, and eternal life, and eternal justice that I have eagerly gone into the den of the jihadists with the Good News of Christ, and will do so again very, very soon, Lord willing. It is because I am eager to live for, and die for if need be, the Kingdom of Christ that I transplanted my family here to LA, to start a church, and to give my body as a living sacrifice.

If we will be diligent and intentional every day to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God", others will not shame us, in comparison, by what they have done for their brand of justice.

The Yepiz Zone said...

Yes Steve I agree. But the reason I bring this up is because "Christian good intentions" have also lead to, um, let's say, the crusades. Where many people were murdered or killed in the name of Christ. Though Christians may not be killed per se by communism, oh, my mistake, they were.

This is what I am saying. Many people follow what "sounds Good" to their own failure to live for God's purposes. I respect what yo are saying and agree. But I still hold that we need to look at it in all ways.

And if I gave the impression that "my principles" override my Faith and allegience to Jesus, then forgive me and be comforted in knowing that that is not the case. I am a Christian first, then a conservative.

pableezy said...

i dig the article too. from another point of view, people need to be encouraged that their contributions are not in vain. sometimes, doing good and laboring to help people yields no tangible and measurable results. yet we should do it anyways. sometimes a selfless action seems like a small thing with no future significance. but you know what? they were fed NOW. they were clothed NOW. their immediate needs were met IMMEDIATELY.

the world needs both sides of the coin. it needs those that are willing to develop programs or structures or whatever that help people to fend for themselves. but it also needs those that are willing to fill in the gaps right now so that people can get to that point.

-- pablofsky the communist

The Yepiz Zone said...

Great "Im not taking either side" comment,

Pablofsky.

While their immedaite need may be met now as you say, it still does not help the person. And that is what we are all aiming at right? I'm in no way saying that we should not feed, clothe, or whatever when in need. I just want to help them FOR REAL. And unlike you, just giving them a hot dog and "wishing them well" so you can feel good about YOU as opposed to really helping them is not what i think Jesus was trying to say when he said "feed my sheep."

Alex, The Christian.

pableezy said...
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The Yepiz Zone said...

Seriously Alex, you need to stop picking fights and just discuss. The constant negativity is getting old.

I am discussing this and with all due respect, maybe you should consider growing some... nevermind...I don't want to "bring negativity" and actually stand up for something instead of playing people pleaser. Cause that gets old... errr...nowhere.

pableezy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Yepiz Zone said...

Who's questioning who's cahracter now?

pableezy said...
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pableezy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Yepiz Zone said...

Don't expect an answer. i didn't make big fuss about you calling me a terrorist, but this one eats the cake.

pableezy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Yepiz Zone said...

My last comment to you. You have insulted me in "a public forum before" as well. I've sent you an e-mail explaining myself. Other than that, I won't answer. I'm done!

urBenLA said...

Alex, consider these quotes when requoting that "social justice is a new word for communism" (and I've heard you mention this in a few forums). BTW, who is "they", who else has said this?

thoughts on Social Justice

I just think comments like throwing the word "Communism" in with "Social Justice" need a strong backing. I think common folk back in Communist Russia would not have thought their situation just, but I do appreciate your right to an opinion (and reading your opinion) and for the love of John (the apparent communist), I would like to see it posted/commented on within your own blog.

The Yepiz Zone said...

Ben, Thanks for the site. I really agree with some, not all, that is said there. I agree with the concept of biblical social justice (helping the poor, helping the opressed, et al.). Not the one that has replaced it in the Church and by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (their methodology of implenting those needs). Unfortunately, because of the lack of leadership in Churches, many Christians are taking the Jackson/Sharpton route to social justice. Which is another form of communism and socialism. Even a tad bit of Fascism. This includes Tim Wise (Of whom wrote the said article).

The Yepiz Zone said...

Also, I'm not saying that John is a communist. I was simply saying that Tim Wise is. He has lobbyed congress to implement communistic methodologies for "socail justice" etc. I know John's heart. And I can see how this article could inspire him. And again, I agree with Tim Wise's rhetoric. I disagree in how he wants to implement them. If he were to say the CHURCH should do it. Fine. But when he gets government involved, that's where I draw the line.