Down a different road…

‘But how can it be I am guilty before anyone?’ each of them would say, laughing in my face [even good naturedly]. ‘Well, how can I be guilty before you, for example?’ ‘Oh,’ I replied to them, ‘how can you hope to understand that,  when the whole world has long been progressing along another road, and when downright falsehood is considered by us as truth, and when we expect and demand similar falsehood from others.’ 

– The Elder Zosima (The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky)

Democracy

“This is not group therapy! It is to continue democratic structures.” -Naomi Klien

Speaking to the protesters at the Occupy Wall Street site in Zuccotti Park.

Regardless of whether I agree with their politics or economics or anything, this is thrilling because it is democracy in action. One never really knows what changes are afoot or what kind of movement this may become until after the fact.

We are privileged in this country where this kind of thing can happen and not descend into the violence experienced in Iran or Syria or Tunisia or Egypt.

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Control

We are rarely as in control as we would like to think.  It seems to me that we always attempt to persuade everyone else and fool ourselves – whether as individuals, groups, churches, assemblies, governments, dictators, et.el. – that we are the masters of our own destiny.  We put forth with much bravado our grand plans and schemes which we believe will secure our security, our affluence, our prestige, and our power.  Yet, nature and world events so often thwart our best laid plans.  Unexpected situations arise so quickly that we can’t respond soon enough, and if we finally do we generally respond with violence of word or deed.

The events these past couple of weeks in Tunisia and now in Egypt have the potential to change everything having to do with world affairs.  If the Arab world is to realize freedom, a measure of prosperity, human dignity, justice and the rule of law, even peace, well, all these things will have to be won by the people themselves – against their own oppressors whomever they may be.  The reality is that the U.S. has come to be seen not as the defenders of liberty, but the supporters of dictators and corruption.  The world is not rejecting the ideals of our Founding Fathers, but of the increasingly bankrupt nature of our culture.

The problem the U.S. faces, which we should have known before the little warrior (whether it was actually him or his adviser manipulators) sent off our troops to invade Iraq, is that we cannot impose something like freedom, democracy, the rule of law, or security unless the people themselves both buy into it and are the vanguard in seeing it through.  If the people believe they don’t have a stake in the whole affair, I don’t see how it will honestly work. 

True revolutionary movements are not planned, they happen.  We can plan for eventualities; we can even attempt to cause the “revolution,” but we are rarely as in control as we would like to think.  The fall of the Soviet empire, the shedding of dictators across the globe – the throwing off of oppression has to be the work of the local people.  We can aid the effort; and if we live up to the best of our ideals we will aid, not cause, the profoundly disruptive and often horribly violent events that are often necessary to throw off tyranny, but the aspirations of local peoples for freedom, dignity, the rule of law, and peace have to be precede and be the under-girding for the aid to actually help and not hinder.  

From an international affairs perspective, what is happening right now in the Middle East is striking.  We shall see whether it is the right time for the people to rise up and demand something better of their governments and their rulers.  Once again, for politically expedient reasons (which, sometimes, is justifiable) we have supported a more-brutal-than-not dictator.  The people are rising up against the corrupt dictator and his government.  We are, once again, on the wrong side because our concern is not for the freedom and dignity of the Egyptian people, but for our political interests in the area. 

The people know this, despite the billions we give to Egypt in foreign aid. Where that aid goes might be a wise question to ask, but only if we
really want to know the answers and if we might truly do something about
the problem. The people know this and so do not
see the U.S. as the defenders of freedom and dignity, but as the
supporters of their oppressors.

So, our embassy is attacked.  We wonder why.  We make the excuse in order to absolve us of any guilt in contributing to the oppressive regime that these are just enemies of the U.S., jealous of our prosperity, enemies of freedom-loving peoples everywhere, but the people in the streets want freedom and security and so they simply attack the symbol and the power behind the corrupt government that rules over them.  We bare the unintended consequences of our actions, our neglect, our profound hubris.

There is just the sense in me that we are on the cusp of significant
change in our political, social, and economic structures, world-wide. 
We like to think we have things under control, but suddenly everything
changes.  We are in such times and heading more deeply into a
fundamental shift.  I’m not sure where the shift will takes us, but it
has begun.  

To be given confidence

I am about finished with a very good book by the new author, Thomas Chatterton Williams, entitled, “Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture.”  For the past several years, I have bought an autobiography as one of my summer books.  This is that kind of book for this summer… Williams writing about his life, and I’m finishing it too quickly. 

In his acknowledgments, Williams quotes Truman Capote, “Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”  A good statement, a good sentiment, a good thing to remember.

I hated when in school we were told to write about a favorite hero, and everyone seemed to jump right to it.  I couldn’t.  I never really had any heroes, and wondered whether something was wrong with me.

But what about those who gave me confidence?  If I am honest, and I have to ask myself if I am truly remembering correctly, I have encountered more that broke down my confidence than raised it up.  I really have had to be my own motivator for much of my life. 

The person that came to mind most quickly is Dr. Terry Kuhn.  He is retired now, but while at Kent State he was the Vice-Provost and Dean of the new academic unit in which I worked.  He was my boss.  There is much to admire in Dr. Kuhn.  He had enough confidence in me to allow me to branch into areas of interest and person development that never would have been possible, otherwise.  He allowed me to develop the whole technology department for our unit, when I was a student development specialist and hardly a technology guy.

This may be strange way of conveying such a thing, but one of the greatest compliments I remember receiving came from Dr. Kuhn.  I asked him to write a letter of recommendation for me as a perspective student to The General Theological Seminary.  He wrote in the letter that he thought this turn in my life would result in a tremendous waste of talent, but he highly recommended me nevertheless.  There you go. 

Then, of course, there is my mother!

Most Recent Troubles

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, issued a statement in his Pentecost letter to the Communion requesting the resignations from certain inter-Anglican bodies, such as the ecumenical relations committees, of representatives of those Provinces who will not abide by the moratoria agreed upon within the bodies that currently govern the affairs of the Anglican Communion (the Instruments of Unity).  The moratoria consisted of no sanctioning of official liturgies for same-sex unions, no consecration of partnered gay bishops, and no more crossing of diocesan or provincial boundaries by those who vehemently oppose homosexuality and feel they must extend their own ecclesiastical authority into provinces not their own.

Of course, no one is happy.  The liberals in the Episcopal Church howl that Williams is making the Communion into another authoritarian Roman Catholic Church by a different name, with his aping the Pope’s authority.  The conservatives howl that Williams is a weak-willed man who will not be a decisive leader in these crisis times and who cannot do what is necessary to save the Christian faith within Anglicanism from the liberal heretics.  The man can’t win!

From the more liberal side, this from Bishop Marcus Andrus of the Diocese of California via his blog, Bishop Marc:

When an Empire and its exponents can no longer
exercise control by might, an option is to feint, double-talk, and manipulate. Such tactics have been in the fore with Archbishop Rowan since the confirmation of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. The deployment of the Windsor Report and the manipulation of the Lambeth Conference, as cited above, are prime examples. The archbishop’s Pentecost letter is the most recent example.

In the Pentecost letter, it looks like he is disciplining errant provinces of the Communion, while only a little concentration shows that the underlying goal is to assert his power to be the disciplinarian. Archbishop Rowan is intent on a covenant with punitive measures built in.

IMHO, the belief that Williams is trying to be an authoritarian figure because his presumed “goal is to assert his power to be the disciplinarian” is absurd – not just absurd, but ludicrous!  If Williams has demonstrated anything over the past seven years, it is that he is not an authoritarian and will not come down with a hammer on those “others.”  Now, this is the problem. The Bishop Marc, I will presume, would have been fine if Williams came down with a hammer on the those bishops and provinces that acted in ways that Bishop Marc hated – like boarder crossings.