The Vanishing Quaker

Monday, January 22, 2007

I hear whining again

I recently heard a talk by a member of yet another aggrieved group reminding us of our past, and often present, sins of discrimination, theft, and other horrible things that have been done to them. Even murder.

I have no argument with them about the facts of history-- they have been treated terribly. What I have a problem with is the tone of the talk. It was not reaching out for peace and understanding, but a list of demands. Things that they are "owed."

No where did I hear a word about what they are doing for themselves, and why we should help them help themselves. Just a list of "gimmes."

Historically, Quakers have considered community as fundamental, and it is now one of our cherished Testimonies. Charity and assisting those coming on hard times is unquestioned, as is our understanding that we should do what we can to avoid those hard times coming to ourselves and others. But, we ultimately consider ourselves to be the masters of our own fates-- we must first do what we can for ourselves, and then if we should fail for whatever reason, we have our community to fall back on. We do not beg for alms, but we work for our supper and only accept charity when the work fails.

So, as I listened to the hard list of demands, I asked myself just how hard these people were trying. I knew of certain legal and practical advantages they have in some areas, and wondered how they were using them to their advantage. I wondered how they were raising their children to value education and honest work. I have met many of these people, and they are as educated, hard working, and decent as anyone else, but they have built this wall of separation around from the years of suffering. I always feel that I am seen as the enemy, and must not be trusted until I once again prove myself.

There is a culture of victimization that is not limited to only a few groups. So many of us, even the highly privileged, can't help talking about what "they" are doing to us. It is so much easier to blame "them" than to look inside of ourselves and ask how we can do better ourselves. It is certainly easier than looking for ways to work together with "them" as a larger community.

That old saw about giving a man a fish/teaching a man to fish is as true as it has ever been. I will give you fish today because you are hungry, but tomorrow you must learn how to fish.



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