Thursday, October 28, 2004

Victimship

When the black people of America who changed the world -- the ones who won the most significant victory for racial equality in the history of human society -- were preparing for their demonstrations, here's what they did:
  • They took the tallest men out of the demonstration pool, because they might seem intimidating.
  • They practiced demonstrating by parading the demonstrators by a practice crowd, who would verbally and physically abuse the demonstrators -- to the point of throwing lit cigarettes in their hair. Anyone who reacted would be removed from the demonstration.

Is it any wonder that they succeeded? Is it any wonder that we stand in awe, a mere generation later, that there was legal grounds for discrimination on the basis of skin colour? It was our parents' generation. It was yesterday. And a relatively small minority of smart, strong people changed everything.

What I'm interested in, though, is this current idea of victimship. If you want to get anywhere these days, you need only to demonstrate that you're a victim -- of racial, cultural, or class discrimination, preferably. If you can do that, you will at least gain fame and attention. And for some people, that's plenty.

But I doubt that any long-lasting benefit will be gained that way. I do not deny that there are victims of racial discrimination today (numerous Muslim travellers would probably agree with me), but I do not see the people who are willing to take ownership of the problem, the people who are willing to lead with dignity rather than cower behind their complaints.

Show me a person who says, "I will take your abuse, and by taking it I will show you your error;" I will show you a leader. Gandhi knew it; Martin Luther King knew it. We are subjected to Moore-ish screed and hyperbole, when true leadership asks so much more -- and promises so much more.

5 Comments:

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Simon said...

Wow. I don't really have anything to add, but just wanted to say, wow. I so agree. If you get a chance to read about Parihaka, do so. This Maori religious movement in the 1870s put the principles of non-violent civil disobedience into practice before either Ghandi or King.

 
At 5:19 PM, Blogger Borscht said...

Simon -- I consider that fascinating in light of the fact that it's so not in keeping with the traditional approach, especially the utu -- which you mentioned is rarely practiced these days -- but in those days it still might have been a consideration.

Matt -- way to go in compiling that one -- we'd been chatting about this in one form or another, and I'm proud to see that you managed to design this one so well. Impressive. Now I completely understand where you're coming from. I think the previous drawback was that I was getting excerpts from what should have been this really long one, and it's a beautiful thing how it all comes together in one nice whole.

I second Simon's motion.

Sorry for being so out of it gents -- got stuck into a new screenplay here, and got a little sidetracked.

Off to L.A. for the weekend -- but it's time to catch up on all of this before I go...

-- AM

 
At 5:33 PM, Blogger Simon said...

Adam - the reason the people of Parihaka didn't practice Utu was that they were working on Christian principles. They were a good early example of an indigenous Christian movement, where changing your faith doesn't necessarily involve changing your culture.

Also - something interesting from Michael King's NZ History book - Utu is more properly described as 'reciprocity' as 'revenge'. Just as you return injury for injury, you also return good for good. Otherwise you will be considered short in your accounts... you have utu 'owing'. Interesting eh!

Again, kudos to Matt for the original post. I'm noticing how we are unlike many blogs in that posts do appear to be more carefully 'designed' as Adam said.

 
At 7:20 PM, Blogger Borscht said...

S -- thanks for this. I didn't think about it like that -- and you gave me a really interesting idea.

In any event -- I don't know about this notion -- the question which is really sparked inside me -- why is it that certain Pacific communities -- I know for a fact that Cook Islanders are like this -- whereby Christianity is practised with such a fervour -- can it be because the communities in which is traditionally took root were so insular and protective -- thus the devotion "factor" was so much more pronounced. Are islands in the Pacific like rural communities everywhere?

Another question: is the sea visible from all angles anywhere in New Zealand -- I mean, if you get high enough, you can see practically both sides of the country -- I'd been wondering.

About the nature of our posts: Yes, I think our blogs are tremendously more reminiscent of political blogs - where the commentary is more planned and considered -- I don't think it'd last long if we didn't have solid fundamentals and a good raison d'etre.

-- AM

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger Simon said...

To answer your questions:

1. Are Pacific Islands like rural areas? Yes, that's probably got a lot to do with it, but I also think the strict adherence to religion in the Islands has to do with the fact they never went through the reformation and renaissance, so devotion, particularly to outward forms at the expense of the heart, is more natural to the national psyche. That's been my experience of Samoa, anyway. It's a devotion of habit in many cases rather than a devotion of the heart.

2. No, there are quite a few places in NZ where you can't see the ocean at all, even in narrow Auckland. But most of Auckland's dormant volcanoes are high enough so you can see the sea in one direction or other. When you come here make sure to take a trip up to Cape Reinga - the northernmost tip of NZ - where you'll see the Tasman Ocean and Pacific Ocean combine... awesome!

 

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