Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"We live in a beautiful world..."

So says Coldplay, and I happen to agree. Yes, for all the horrible stuff that happens in this world, especially in places that have been either forgotten or specifically ignored because we may not agree with their elected officials, or places and people that continue to suffer simply because no one can truly help, there is still hope. I can't stress that word enough, mostly because I feel it has been glossed over or said so frequently that it has become a dead word to most people. (Kind of like "I love you", if said too often.)

I bring up the optimism and promise of 'hope' because, quite frankly, I need it. After our second LVC retreat, I need to know that the things for which we work are not fruitless or meaningless. That for those of us who have grown up in relative prosperity and privilege, our pleas for more humane treatment of the poor, sick, marginalized, and prisoners of the world are not merely vain or in vain.

We discussed classism this time around, including its connections to racism (of course, everything is connected to racism), and after two days, I was left with a sick taste in my mouth, like the one you have after you've eaten too much ice cream - thick, sticky, and just plain gross. Yes, classism is bad. But where do we go from here? At least with racism, sexism, and heterosexism, we can all agree (at the retreat, at least) that we want these things to end, and we can work - albeit in small, real ways - to collectively end the suffering and persecution of such peoples.

But, honestly. When is classism ever going to end? We will never have a classless society, and to try and work for one seems to border on fantasy. My roommate Cole said he had become a 'pessimist' after six months in LVC, and then switched that word to 'realist'. I agree with him, and I note the interesting relationship between the two words. If we look at the world in real ways, we are - in general - being more pessimistic. There's not a lot of hope if you take a snapshot of most places and lives in this world.

But there still must be hope. I have to bank on that. Otherwise, what's the point? And, there are stories, beautiful stories, of communities working together, of people dedicating their talents, resources, and very lives to the eradication of hate and evil and oppression and suffering. (Now, if only entire governments and countries did that more often...)

I would have to say I've become a realist, too. A realist touched by an optimistic hope mixed with an unabashed idealism. Things can get better, and - in many cases - they are. It's up to us, and - in the words of my organization, Lutherans Concerned - we change the world one conversation, one heart, at a time. Ben made that wonderful point that must be made time and time again: Abstract love is easier than the real relationships and people that are in our midst.

I think we can do both. I think we must. But our passion for the world and injustice must be grounded in a fundamental love for our neighbor, especially the ones right next to us. When you love small, you automatically love big. Hope is inescapable. The slogan 'Think globally, act locally' is, I think, a great illustration of that idea.

I started with Coldplay, and I'll end with them. "Everything's not lost." We have to believe that. Our survival as a people depends on it.


At 4:21 PM , Anonymous Cat said...

Ok, so I know it makes no sense to think that we can eliminate all the things we wish we could eliminate in the world... but if we don't try, we SURELY never will. Obviously. So if being a realist means that we won't let our failures to overachieve disenchant us, then by all means, let us be realists.

Secondly, I think that perceiving the goal of our classism discussion to be "the elimination of classes ie the creation of a classless society" creates a both impossible and unfair goal. What I think we should strive for is a more or less equal distribution of POWER among people of different backgrounds. It's really power that matters in society- the power to be heard, to be perceived as a human person, to make decisions concerning oneself for oneself. Just as comments are much more horrible if made by a dominant party about an oppressed party (as opposed to vice versa), classism is horrible because it deals with the fact that people on top have the misconception that they have gotten there by their own merit and they believe that they deserve the unequal share of power they have been dealt. I don't think that ensuring that everyone has the same amount of money, the same education, eats the same food, goes on the same vacations, etc. is an end worth directing our means toward. I think that ensuring that people of all types and from all sectors of our society have the CHOICE to be who they feel it is best to be is the hoped for end. And they can only have this choice if power is spread more evenly among the currently existing social classes.

At 4:31 PM , Anonymous Cat said...

... and we'll know we've gotten there when different groups in society no longer look down upon other groups who had no choice to begin with... Everyone should have the opportunity to be praised for being who she wants to be. Celebrate our differences. People want different things... hopefully they can enjoy them with no unfair cost to others.

At 11:53 AM , Blogger Jason said...




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