A Lesson for the Privileged

“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

Paulo Freire


4 thoughts on “A Lesson for the Privileged

  1. If I accept that anybody is truly powerless, that is true, but deserves the corollary that the powerful aren’t always unjust and the powerless aren’t always being wronged*.

    A murderer in a high security prison is about as powerless as people get. The warden has immense power over his life. Yet I don’t want the warden to share his power with the inmates. I’m not neutral there.

    Even if we simplify the issue by pretending there is only one giant arena where people can be powerful or not**, it seems clear that people sometimes become powerful or minimally so for reasons that are completely unjust, but I don’t think that’s usually the case and I don’t think that the power or the lack thereof should be viewed outside of this context.


    *Indeed, people who feel themselves powerless to the degree that the have nothing to lose are some of the most dangerous people out there.

    **Thus denying, say, that a sexy woman or a physically strong man or a popular person or a brilliant artist all have a certain amount of power no matter what their other circumstances.

  2. And it brings us back to one of those basic lessons that UUs in particular seem to struggle with: not all “power over” is bad.

    That said, Paolo Freire is amazing, and I love this quote. Basically, apathy does not ever equal neutrality.

  3. A single quote is necessarily a blunt instrument.

    That said, this appealed to me because of a couple of recent events.

    First, the Prop 8 decision that subjected the rights of the minority to a vote of the majority.

    Second, the beating of a mentally ill man by a police officer for “wandering while black.”

    Third, my own realization that creating processes where everyone is treated exactly the same does not equal justice.

    So, the quote appealed to me and made me think. And it made you think. Epic Success! 🙂

  4. Great quote. A corollary of “Evil Happens When Good Men Do Nothing.”

    In our faith, I would posit that too often too many UU’s when faced with a true call to concrete action reflexively argue over the peripherals so they do not have to act. An infinite digression over the words of a call to action or a pseudo intellectual yak attack over some ultimately irrelevent point are trademarks of our isolationist UU’s, I’m sad to say.

    The “good men who do nothing” too often are our “conservative” UU brothers and sisters who consider our faith more a dodge from spiritual responsibility than a faith that inspires action.

    In the end it is a shame, because just based on what a few committed UU’s can do just thing what those Libertarian Theologicals could do if they used just a part of the energy they spend in avoiding action, and starting empty digressive discussions.

    Maybe that’s why they fear increased minority representation within the UU. Maybe they fear that more minorities would be more voices demanding real action instead of endless empty debate.

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