I wish to point out, before anyone accuses me of bias or political prejudice, that I am completely non-political, in the sense that I have equal respect (and therefore, by definition, equal contempt) for all politicians and all political parties.
I come from a Judeo-Christian background, and my benchmarks for passing judgement are the morals, ethics, values and principles enshrined in the Mosaic Code and the sermons of Rabbi Jesus.
Both of these are, of course, somewhat out-dated in terms of actual practice (I do not support the stoning of adulterous women and homosexuals for example, and would prefer to consider “a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye” as metaphorical; slavery too has had its day), but the core is nonetheless the core, and both Rabbi Hillel (the unwitting founder of Judaism) and Jesus (the unwitting founder of Christianity) summed it up to perfection in their paraphrases of Leviticus 19:18.
It can be found in quotation by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40: “‘You shall love the lord your god with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Rabbi Hillel paraphrased it slightly differently, interpreting the phrase on three separate occasions. On the first he offered: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; on the second: “Do not do unto others what would be objectionable to you”; and on the third: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
Complacency, you will notice, does not find a home in any of these phrases. Where the world now operates by the narcissistic one-sidedness of Bills and Charters of Human Rights (this is what I am entitled to; this is what I can expect to receive from society), Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Jesus both supported this first half, but also added the complementary second half, which the founding fathers of the USA, and the authors of the UN Charter on Human Rights, completely and foolishly forgot: the equivalent Bill and Charter of Human Responsibilities (this is what society is entitled to expect back from me, including my full respect for everybody else’s rights).
During the era of Hitler, Pastor Martin Niemöller offered a further exegesis of the phrase. He wrote (he was in a Nazi prison at the time): “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I am not a Palestinian refugee. I am not a Nigerian schoolgirl. I am not a Moslem woman. I am not a black citizen of Ferguson, Missouri. I am not an Eritrean seeking a ship to escape to Europe. I am not a Chinese migrant worker, nor a Mexican student who has disappeared, nor an Iranian volley-ball spectator, nor a Haitian living in squalor in the marshlands of the Dominican Republic, nor a 7-year-old child prostitute in Bangkok, nor an American CIA whistle-blower. I am merely an individual voice, living on a pleasant American street whose sidewalk is in good condition and whose palm trees are fruiting dates and coconuts right now; an individual, which is to say a single I, a single One, and therefore unlikely to be listened to, but singing very loud the words of Ezekiel chapter 33, verses 1-6:
“Man, say to your fellow-countrymen, When I set armies in motion against a land, its people must choose one from among themselves to be a watchman. When he sees the enemy approaching and blows his trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone does not heed the warning and is overtaken by the enemy, he is responsible for his own fate. He is responsible because, when he heard the alarm, he paid no heed to it; had he paid heed, he would have escaped. But if the watchman does not blow his trumpet to warn the people when he sees the enemy approaching, then any man who is killed is caught with all his sins upon him; but I will hold the watchman answerable for his death.”
One does not wish to be a watchman. But I is part of We, and One is a member of the human race. All of us bear the responsibility emburdened upon the watchman. What follows is what I have witnessed, looking through digital binoculars from my comfortable watchtower.
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