Taking a political stance
by Hilarie Roseman
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Taking a political stance – written by Hilarie Roseman, 30 Metung Road,Metung, Victoria 3904 Australia
I have since, 2007, been studying forgiveness. In cinema, in Jewish, Muslim and Christian writings forgiveness is taking a place of priority. As I have studied, many things have happened to me requiring forgiveness. Once upon a time I would have just turned my back and left the person, the scene, the people. But now I am following what the psychologists say, and contaminating my judgment with compassionate thoughts about those who cause me pain.
This is not an easy thing to do. Deep inside us there seems to be a reaction that if there is an act or series of acts that you think are wrong, then you must hit back immediately. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth is always there, hovering around. In fact, even in our legal system, when someone is injured or killed, there is the system of compensation to pay a sum of money to the relatives remaining.
Derrida, the late Jewish philosopher, is a person who saw clearly that our day is the day of forgiving the unforgivable. And he also sees clearly that the sacredness of the human person comes from the language of the three Abrahamic religions, and that among those, it is the Christians who hold the key to the interpretation of God and neighbor.
Firstly Derrida shows the beginning of the awareness of forgiveness:
“In all the scenes of repentance, confession, pardon or apologies, of which there have been more and more on the geopolitical stage since the last war and which have been enacted more and more often these last few years, we have witnessed not only individuals but entire communities, professional bodies, representatives of ecclesiastical hierarchies, sovereigns and heads of state asking for "forgiveness." In so doing they employ an Abrahamic language that is not (in the case of Japan or Korea, for instance) that of their society's dominant religion but which has already become, by that very fact, the common language of law, politics, economics or diplomacy: at once the agent and the symptom of that internationalization. “
He then begins to tie in forgiveness with something that we all have, and use every day, our memory. I myself am in my 78th year, and my earliest memories are of the Holocaust in Europe and the Changi concentration camps in the Pacific. Derrida continues:
“The proliferation of these scenes of repentance and of "forgiveness" sought no doubt signifies, among other things, a universal urgency of memory: there must be a turning back toward the past; and this act of memory, of self-indictment, of "repentance" and of being brought to justice must be carried beyond both the level of the courts and that of the nation-state. The question thus arises as to what happens on this level. There are many trails that might be followed. One of these regularly leads back to a series of extraordinary events which, before and during the Second World War, made possible or at least "authorized," with the Nuremberg Tribunal, the international establishment of a legal concept such as that of "crime against humanity."
That event was itself produced and authorized by an international community at a particular moment in its history and in a particular historically determined form, intermingled with but not merging with the history of a reaffirmation of human rights and of a new Declaration of Human Rights. “
Here we have Derrida taking us on a journey – a painful journey, by which the Declaration of Human Rights was born. But what about blaming everyone else, and not yourself for the state of affairs that the world finds itself in. Derrida continues
“This sort of profound change has structured the theater in which, sincerely or otherwise, the great forgiveness, the great scene of repentance with which we are concerned, is played out. It often takes on the characteristics, by virtue of its theatrical nature itself, of a great convulsion. Dare one say that this convulsion also sometimes resembles a frantic compulsion? Here we have the whole of humanity stirred by a purportedly unanimous impulse, a human race setting out all of a sudden to charge itself, in public and in spectacular fashion, with all the crimes it has indeed committed against itself, "against humanity." Indeed, if we start charging ourselves, while seeking forgiveness for them, with all of the past crimes against humanity, not a single innocent person would be left on earth, and hence there would be no one left to sit in judgment or to arbitrate. We are all heirs, at least, of persons or events tainted by crimes against humanity. These events, these cruel, organized mass murders, which may have been revolutions, great canonical and supposedly "legitimate" Revolutions, were sometimes those very same events that enabled concepts such as those of human rights or crime against humanity to emerge and make headway.
Such a convulsion would today, however, take the form or shape of a conversion, a de facto conversion tending toward the universal, on the way to becoming globalized. If, as I believe, the concept of crime against humanity is the count to be answered in this self-indictment, this repentance, and this forgiveness-seeking; if, ultimately, the only justification for this concept lies in the sacral nature of the human (from this point of view, there is nothing worse than a crime against the humanity of the human being and against his or her rights); if the principal—if not indeed the only—resource of the meaning of that sacral nature is to be found in the Abrahamic memories of the faiths of the book and in a Jewish, but above all Christian, interpretation of the terms "neighbor" and "fellow man"; and if, accordingly, a crime against humanity is a crime against that which is most sacred in the living world and hence against the divine in humankind, in God-made-man or man-made-God-by-God (the death of man and the death of God would in that case result from the same crime), then the "globalization" of forgiveness resembles an immense scene of ongoing confession, and hence of a virtually Christian convulsion-conversion-confession, a process of Christianization that no longer has need of the Christian church. It may sometimes also (not that it makes any difference) take on the appearance of atheism, humanism, or triumphant secularization: The whole of humanity would be prepared to charge itself with crime against humanity, to indict itself, to testify against itself, in other words to indict itself as if it were another: itself as the other.
Whether one regards this as a huge step forward, a historic change, and/or a concept still unclear in its limits and unsure in its foundations (one can take both positions at the same time, as I am inclined to do myself), the undeniable fact is that the concept of "crime against humanity" remains on the horizon of any geopolitics of forgiveness, providing it with its discourse and its legitimation. To take the striking case of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which remains unique in spite of the analogies—analogies only—with certain South American precedents, in Chile in particular: What gave the commission its ultimate justification, its declared legitimacy, is the definition, by the international community as represented by the United Nations, of apartheid as a "crime against humanity." We could take a hundred other examples; there are very many of them and they are all similarly underwritten.” (Derrida, J. “The Global Theatre of Forgiveness” 26th May, 2005)
My PhD in International Communication focuses on the theory of conflict and forgiveness, in both the religious and secular sense, and the response of those who serve their God in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim way to the authorative word of God to love God and neighbor. My political stance is my belief that the One God will act through his people in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities if they Love God and neighbor. My own statement, as a Christian, is that the Word of God become flesh and dwelt among us, and His name was Jesus, and He died so that we may be able to forgive the unforgiveable.
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