Thursday, July 2, 2015

Moral Courage

Recent events have me rethinking my stance, rethinking even my views on how I react to certain moods of my fellow world citizens, especially when geopolitics arises, and rethink how I view myself with regard to courage and knowledge.



Now, I'm not speaking of the kind of courage which led me to sign up for 7 years in the Army. That is certainly one kind of courage, but not the courage of which I speak. No, the courage I speak of is that of the individual standing up to the crowd [1] and to a greater power for a good that requires sacrifice not only in the physical sense but in a moral one as well, for going after power means destruction in a physical sense, certainly, as well as in an a less physical and more complete one; usually this takes the form of destroying the person's name (note this: for whenever those in power go after someone, they go after their reputations, since idea-wise, they have nothing).

Also note that no single peoples or nation hold a monopoly on this reserve of courage. It merely arises when people suffer and someone with empathy or one of the suffered rises up [2]. Whether it's a man in Tiananmen Square in front of tanks, or Thomas Paine during the French Revolution.

Now back to me. I am working on that individual kind. You see, when I got out of the Army I was completely against the Empire and yet I thought that remaining silent would be the best recourse. Not because I was entirely unsure [3] but because I then took silence to be the "serious" route, the route of the polite and thinking man and the route through which peace could be attained. In fact, when my liberal and conservative friends would plaster m Facebook with their tribal chants, I looked at silence as some kind of "proper" action, or one that wasn't political [4]. I now know this to be untrue.

Whatever silence is, it isn't apolitical. In fact, it is only the approval of the status quo and whatever power is doing. It can be nothing else, unless we're talking about cowardice. And so I set off to write, not to give the pre-approved literary tripe, but to peak truth to a nation and peoples I loved  (as James Baldwin says, the relationship between an artist and society, at least when one considers the artist's view, is one of love; the society itself is filled with hate for the artist—if that artist is worth his/her salt).

Nevertheless, this was filled with an inherently inbred silence that didn't allow me to speak. I'm talking about, of course, the ways in which one learns to act, and in my case I'm speaking of a specifically suburban ideology.

Now this isn't to only blame my being raised in Michigan and having been a trained to speak quietly on matters of power, though that upbringing certainly further pounded in that idea. No, this idea was beat into me at a very young age, before I was near American shores. In that sense I'm using the word "suburban" in a necessarily provocative manner, for it is a specifically middle class and even technocratic affliction that we sing silent odes to power, no matter how cruel and genocidal that power may be.

After all, it benefits us, and nothing more matters. And that doesn't happen in American alone, but in the middle class upbringing I had in commonwealth countries (though my mother's side with its Brahmin roots also speaks to this). So I'm fighting against a lot in fighting these afflictions, a lot of self-inflicted handicaps. So I'm writing this as a promise to myself to never stand silent because the group/tribe claims to require it. No, I will write and I will speak out. Even when with a group of pacifists I shall do so, though instinct beckons me to be silent. For I know one thing, that there is injustice in the world, that we must fight it and that one need to fight for the truth. Silence does not do that, suburban ideologies do. I shall shed this skin soon.

[1] It's no wonder that some people like to portray themselves as such, as standing against overwhelming odds, even if they're doing work for the dominant power in the land.

[2] The violence of the dispossessed, which I see all too often today, is a whole other matter.

[3] Though going against the grain, against the powers that be, no matter the evidence, always creates some level of uncertainty.

[4] There is no such thing as not being political. Even silence is a vote for the status quo. And when it comes to the fight between the powerful and powerless, one should certainly think on siding with the powerless—I know as a writer I do—but one should also know that you are siding with the powerful if you are silent.

Complete aside: as a writer, I've seen that most of the advice for writers is to stay away from all sorts of politics. Perhaps become like the plethora of 'a-political' writers out there in the literary genre that I see. Not sure when this came about. I suppose it's part of the current fear of offending anyone. Though when one stays silent, again, it's a tacit approval of the status quo and anything that power does. I'm not sure how one avoids this and hopes to be a writer that's even decent. Perhaps someone out there can let me know.


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