Changing ourselves

Last week I talked about changes we would like to see in public servants if we are to move to a life for us all. What about changes we need to see in us, the public?

I wonder what happened to the ideals of the youth of the 1960s and 1970s. If you are old enough, and especially if you were one of them, you will remember the mottoes and slogans that used to decorate the cover of nearly every school exercise book. One I remember well was a quotation from the eighteenth-century British liberal parliamentarian Edmund Burke:

“All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

If you are a christian, you probably believe that human nature has fallen from the goodness in which it was created. That means, as St. Paul said, “I do not do the good I seek, but I do the evil I detest”. Unfortunately for Edmund Burke, there are no unconditionally good people, just a lot of people who are varying mixtures of good and bad, with a tendency, if we are not vigilant, for the bad to get active as soon as the good takes a rest.

If you are a scientist, you probably believe in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which at least agrees with the practical result of the Fall of Adam; things tend towards disorder, but if we give up, they will get there faster. If we fight it, we might win. That sounds to me like a gamble worth taking.

Another wise person said you have to run fast to get anywhere, implying that if you are content to stand still, you will actually slide backwards. A motto I remember, but I think it was used less, was that of the famous Three Musketeers:

“All for one and one for all”

I’d like to see that one revived in our present world where the chief motto seems to be:

“Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost” which is what a lot of people mean when they try to sound a bit more pious by changing the ending to: “ . .and God for us all.”

Pardon me, but I don’t find that a bit pious. In fact I think it’s blasphemous.

It puts the blame on God for our lack of care for each other. There are ominous biblical echoes there, echoes of Cain’s “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – a cop-out

If we’re not moved by God’s reaction to that as recorded in the book of Genesis, I would hope that Jesus’ parable about the Last Judgement (Matthew 25) might stir something. He says that we will be judged by how we treated our neighbours, especially the neediest of them. Whatever we do to them, we are doing to Him, whether we feed the hungry or tell them to go and find a job (where, in today’s ruined Zimbabwe?), whether we clothe the naked or just tell them to go and cover themselves, whether we sheltered victims of Murambavanhu or walked by on the other side of the road, whatever we did, we did it to Him.

If that thought doesn’t work, maybe the simple practical thought that “If we don’t stick together, we’ll all hang separately” might stir us. Or what about the words of that famous resister against Nazi oppression in Hitler’s Germany, Pastor Niemoeller:

“First they came for the communists, but I’m not a communist, so I stayed quiet.

Then they came for the trade unionists but I don’t belong to a union, so I stayed quiet.

Then they came for the Jews but I’m a christian so I stayed quiet.

Then they came for the Catholics, but I’m a Protestant so I stayed quiet.

Then they came for me and there was nobody left to speak up for me.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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