Monday, January 16, 2006

Audacious faith

Brian Lehr just wrapped a one hour call for people to share readings on social struggle, or justice, or hope.

Lehr read King's remarkable Nobel acceptance speech . The call-ins were the usual mixed bag of strongly felt, much-thumbed pieces.

I wanted to call-in but spent too long listening, and missed.

Here are the pieces I'd have read. Since I have more than a minute in this on-line forum, I quote in full.

I lead with one run through with hope, and follow with one that's a scathing condemnation of the powers that be. Between:
You have a voice, that is enough for one voice to record.
We're pawns of governments whose natural inclination is towards greed, war.

I'll try to find my own middle path.

From A Journey in Ladakh, by Andrew Harvey

"'You can help us.'
'You can write about us.'
'How can that help? Everything that I write will be false in some way.
Everything I write will appropriate you in some way, falsify in some sense what you are.
The more I come to know and love
Ladakh, the less I feel I can say anything of what I have found here without betraying it.
And if I do write a book on Ladakh, who do you imagine would read it? Professors, poets, travelers ...not the people you would need to read it if anything was to be changed for Ladakh and for the Ladaki people. Not the politicians. Not the heads of government.'

'You are right,' Nawang said. 'But our situation is even more desperate than you imagine. I think that it is almost certain that we will be destroyed as a culture, and that nothing, now, can save us from that destruction.
Our only chance of being remembered at all may be through being "appropriated" and "consumed", as you say, by the West, by some Westerners who have come to visit our country and have been moved by what they found here.
I am not asking for rescue, or for the sudden political and spiritual transformation of my people. It is too late to ask for that.
I am asking that something of us be saved from oblivion. You must write about us.

You will get many things wrong, and you will only be able to give a limited and subjective picture of us; but if you can do that with craft and love, you will have helped us a little, and you will have given those of us, like me, who are fighting to preserve something of our culture against probably impossible odds, a sense that we are not living our lives in vain; that we have friends in the world who recognize what it is we stand for.''"

And from Martha Gellhorn's 1986 introduction to her collection of war-essays, The Face of War.

"After a lifetime of war-wtaching, I see war as an endemic human disease, and governments are the carriers....The vital intersts of the state, which are always about power, have nothing to do with the vital intersts of the citizens, which are private and simple and are always about a better life for themselves and their children. Yo udo not kill for such interests, you work for them...We live in an overarmed, underfed world.

To get a war started, you need an aggressor, a government so ambitious, so greedy that the vital interests of its state require foreign conquest. But an aggressor government sells its people the project of war as a defensive measure: they are being threatened, encircled, pushed around; enemies are poised to attack them. It is sadly easy to make people believe any lies; people are pitifully gullible, subject to instant flag-waving and misguided patriotism.

And once a war has started, the government is in total control: the people must obey the orders of their government even if their earlier induced enthusiasm has waned. They also see that however needlessly the war started, it would be better not to lose it. The nation or nations that are attacked have no choice but to fight the aggressor..."

Remembering Martin Luther King in a small, blog, way today.


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