In the absence of a codified and enforced system of values that seeks to guarantee the basic rights of individuals and groups to shared space, and to fair access to the resources in that space, conflict thrives. Whenever the most basic of our human aspirations, the need and the right to survive, is threatened by a disregard for the most fundamental code... to be treated as fellow human beings... we have the most fundamental reason for, and a cause of the violence that is all too often a parent of the insecurity that then arms us for more violence. In the presence and operation of a system of behavior that violates the humanity of others, the us against them mentality thrives.
The code: Do unto others as you would have them do to you... must have universal application in order to be valid. It must not, and cannot make exceptions for skin color, class, national origin, religious belief, gender, physical disability or ability, sexual orientation, or idiosyncrasies of any kind or cause. The prejudices implicit in these various convenient classifications have been prime factors in the victimization of individuals and groups throughout history.
In their efforts to justify the claims that serve their unjust perceptions and behaviors, groups have articulated and appealed to less civilizing, and blatantly inferior statutes. But despite every attempt to sanitize these corruptions of civility, we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no law more complete in its distribution of justice than that which is outlined in the code above... there is a reason we agree that it is the golden rule. In fact this code has been the foundation of every viable system of justice predating the earliest recorded civilizations... prior to Hammurabi, and before Moses. The obvious moral validity of this rule stands out through the present day. It is the nail on which the protective coat called Justice hangs... and must hang.
The engendering and proliferation of the us against them mentality is in its very essence a dynamic that results when a group or individual perceives others as threats to their occupation of communal space, and to their access to the resources in that space. The culture that proceeds from this kind of mentality corrupts the very perception of what community should be, and consequently every single relationship in every unit that makes up community. This expression of a corrupted humanity is the dynamic at work in societies that foster racism, sexism and genderism, and every form of economic and social inequality.
The conflicts that inevitably result from the violations of one's humanity by another have tragic consequences. Us against them as an operating principle in any society leads to violence. It does so because the logical outcome of such a perception of life is a conclusion that declares: Us or them! The angst that this corruption of the possibilities of our human experience stirs is aptly expressed in a speech that then Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia delivered before the United Nations on October 6, 1963:
"... until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; ... "
The assertions of the late Emperor of Ethiopia are as true then as they are now. They are as applicable to the world in which we now live, a world beset by the threat of terrorism in its every nook and cranny, as they were then to nations facing the existential threat of fascism.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
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