Monday, January 22, 2007

Keep on praying for the protesters...

...it becomes more and more difficult to estimate the morality of an act leading to war because it is more and more difficult to know precisely what is going on. Not only is war increasingly a matter for pure specialists operating with fantastically complex machinery, but above all there is the question of absolute secrecy regarding everything that seriously affects defense policy. We may amuse ourselves by reading the reports in mass media and imagine that these "facts" provide sufficient basis for moral judgments for and against war. But in reality, we are simply elaborating moral fantasies in a vacuum. Whatever we may decide, we remain completely at the mercy of the governmental power, or rather the anonymous power of managers and generals who stand behind the façade of government. We have no way of directly influencing the decisions and policies taken by these people. In practice, we must fall back on a blinder and blinder faith which more and more resigns itself to trusting the "legitimately constituted authority" without having the vaguest notion what that authority is liable to do next. This condition of irresponsibility and passivity is extremely dangerous. It is hardly conducive to genuine morality.
From: Thomas Merton - Passion for Peace: The Social Essays. William H. Shannon, ed. New York: Crossroad, 1995: 113-114.

It seems to me that this question, more than 40 years on, is at least as acute as it was when Merton tackled it. The fact that we are in no position adequately to judge, let alone influence, the morality of our countries' policies scares me. Democracy is so illusory in these areas. If the only two parties with the slightest chance of actually being elected both support war as a means of expressing foreign policy, and I don't accept that, what can I do about it? Very little, except protest.

That brings me back to a point I made some time ago here: we need to pray for the protesters. Of course we need especially to pray for the ones who are attempting to express our own point of view; but we need also to pray for the ones we think are wrong. We need to pray for anyone who keeps open the possibility of effective - or even ineffective - communication in the face of "the anonymous power of managers and generals who stand behind the façade of government..." and is prepared to risk life, limb or liberty to do so. Really. I can't say how important I think this is.

Pray, and keep on praying, for those who are prepared to risk what, often, we ourselves would not dare to risk, in order that justice and morality - even their own sometimes unusual concepts of justice and morality - might not slip unnoticed from our lands.

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