The topic of today’s class was, well, the class itself.
First, we began by thinking about the terms “peace,” “law” and “justice” and what their opposites might be. We generated a list of terms: peace/chaos, ruckus, discord; law/anarchy; justice/oppression, injustice.
Next I asked you all to think about the images that came to mind when you thought of these terms, think about the feelings or gut reactions you had, and then to use those feelings as a starting place to think about what you want out of the class.
Here is what came up:
> war-zone: what is a “just-war”?
> cultural colonialism: when one group or society imposes a way of life upon another.
> urban violence (specifically, Chicago)
> the way those in power condemn violence but do not seem to have the courage to change it.
> anarchy: three different senses of the term came up – 1. anarchy as “holistic experience,” as “positive movement beyond law”; 2. as organizing communities to be self-reliant, without looking to higher governmental powers; 3. as lack of centralized government at any scale — i.e., there could be government of nation states, but not a world government ruling over them all.
> Question raised: “Does peace necessitate law? Does law necessitate justice?”
> Peace, law, and justice as different kinds of “balance” in human life.
> There can be “peace with oppression, justice through breaking the law, and the law doesn’t guarantee peace.”
We ended with a very short discussion of “The Witch’s Child.” There were a couple questions raised: 1. who is the “we” that the author is speaking of?; 2. the author seems to make generalizations about Christianity that don’t apply to all Christians; 3. the author seems to single out Christianity regarding violence against and oppression of women, while other religious also have engaged in such oppression.
One person mentioned that the pamphlet was an attempt to “invent a history” for those who don’t have one. I think this is generally right. I said I think this is written for a specific audience: “alienated white kids.” By “alienated” I meant those who don’t have a sense of their place in the world and feel disconnected from the past (though there are many related meanings to that term). “It is the tragedy of some in this world to be uprooted, of others, to be rootless.” The aim is to provide a working myth, a story that one can fit themselves into, that makes sense of deep feelings that we sometimes don’t have words to express. To place the lives of many people today in a context that can give them a sense of how the world ought to be.
Now it may seem strange to give out a text that, as I say, seems to be written for “white” people. It seems to me that a text like this is important largely for that reason. The story that is being told is one that sees the great mass of human beings, whether they are from African or European or Native American descent, as being oppressed. But oppressed by whom? First, it describes the “Romans,” those who came to make war, colonize, and force people into a history of constant warfare. But is careful to point out that “already, before the Southerners [the Romans] came, we had lost the first battle. We chose the War, and have been living it ever since.” It seems to suggest that the Ceasars and kings of the past are still with us, but in new forms: “over time, the kings fractured and multiplied into a whole array of technicians. They made us accessories to production. They turned our bodies into machines.” We might even add: they turned our lives into “jobs.”
The pamphlet is also arguing that “we” have lost the connection with a certain aspect of existence, “the spring,” and that the feeling of alienation [“it seems you ave everything, but you feel you have nothing”] is the rage that comes from this loss.
I don’t expect many people to agree or even understand this strange little pamphlet, but I think it may be a good idea to keep it in mind as we go through. It articulates a perspective that may make more sense as we go along.
On Friday we’ll have one more day of thinking about what we want out of the class, and I’ll assign a reading about the origin of money.