"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

False Consciousness

"The fact exists; but both the fact and what may result from it may be prejudicial to the person. Thus it becomes necessary, not precisely to deny the fact, but to 'see it differently.' This rationalization as a defense mechanism coincides in the end with subjectivism. A fact which is not denied but whose truths are rationalized loses its objective base. It ceases to be concrete and becomes a myth created in defense of the class of the perceiver." Paolo Friere, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

This is practically all the commentary that is necessary on Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq. Defending the class interests of the occupiers requires a different perception of the war - once the production sharing agreements for the oil wealth of the country are in place, then perceptions will shift once again.

As Christians, when we see a fact such as an unjust war and fail to respond to that knowledge through acts of resistance, then we implant the seeds of false consciousness that ripen into the fruits of self-deception. We have joined hands with the liberator, the representative of the liberation movements of people who work to free themselves by God's power, which is not the power of domination, but of the free gift of self. To fail to act is to betray the gift, to diminish and ultimately to despise it. The gift is the strength he gives us to free ourselves by our actions, for without such action there can be no liberation, which is not an hypnotic state, but a concrete act of freedom.

This is the reality we have imposed on the Iraqi people: "Baghdad is dying, we are all just waiting in line." Khaled -- not his real name to protect his life -- one of our Iraqi employees, said the words softy, his eyes glossing over.

"It's so hard for me Arwa. This skull won¹t absorb English," he said, smacking both palms against his head. "I just have too much on my mind. I'm supporting three families, most of them women, each time my phone rings my heart sinks thinking that one of them was killed."

Khaled is a well-built man, proud and softly spoken. But like too many others, utterly broken by the hardship of life in the capital. Helpless in the face of the violence. Moving mechanically through each day, just hoping to reach tomorrow.

There absolutely nothing to say. Reassuring words ring hollow. And so I just said "I know." And his eyes glossed over even more.

Iraqis are strong and proud. You won't often see their suffering in their actions or in their voices. You see it in their eyes. Baghdad is dying."

In the face of such facts, we reach for the maneuvers of power politics, but somehow we must resist this as well. To use the tactics of our enemies is to be defeated by those tactics. To use them is to succumb to the logic of power. We must embrace another set of logics, those used by "the powerless Christ who was independent of authority, who has nothing but his love with which to win and save us. His powerlessness is an inner authority: we are not his because he has begotten, created, or made us, but because his weaponless power is love, which is stronger than death." Dorothee Soelle.

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