Monday, April 6, 2009

The Political is Personal

The following is excerpted from a letter I sent to my friend in response to his blog post about anger, specifically his bit on how differences in culture and background can create difficulties in communication.

As a peace and social justice activist, I struggle with the idea of cultural relativism. To a certain extent, I (as all people do, both ethically and practically) need to accept that there are things people do that may be abhorrent to me, but which work for them. It's not my place to tell people how to run their lives. At the same time, there are things people do that are just inexcusable on a human level - hence international documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And at that point, it's my duty as a human being to step in and say "that's not okay" - to engage in disruption. I have a very hard time drawing that line sometimes, especially when the kind of disruption that occurs generally on my behalf by my government is often military - which inherently perpetuates injustice and violence.

Also, an activist (and a human being!) must accept her/his own limitations. I had a very sad epiphany about two years ago, in which I realized that atrocities will probably still continue to occur after my lifetime ends, even if I dedicate every waking second to trying to make the world a more just place. While this realization stunned and saddened me, it also helped me to form a more realistic and sustainable vision for my lifelong social justice work.

I am not a religious person, but I do like this prayer:

"God, grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."

I don't want to be one of those activists who burns out due to frustration or disappointment. I have to allow my reward for what I do be the personal fulfillment I get from the work in that moment. All I can do is mitigate the injustice that inevitably exists in this moment and in the future. Therefore, as a citizen of the world who has been awakened to her own limitations, especially as one with lots of privilege - education, access to resources, etc. - I have two duties:

- Triage: to do what I can NOW to help reduce human suffering; and
- Society building: to work to build a world that sustains justice and rewards kindness.

And so, inspired by the great Frank Costanza, my meditation of the day is... "SERENITY NOW!" :)

1 comment:

  1. that's my personal favorite Seinfeld episode ever too. Let's talk about politics and non-religious spirituality next time we hang out.

    - scarbelly