a weak and tender thing

[Wondering about the contemporary relevance of these words by Alan Paton, spoken in 1949 in the context of South African apartheid…]

But one must not imagine that this white settler is motivated solely by fear. He, too, is a human creature. He has not lived upon the earth without being influenced by the great human ideas, notably by the ideas of Christianity. Therefore, he too is a divided creature, torn between his fears  for his own safety and his desire for his own survival on the one hand, and on the other, by those ideas of justice and love which are at the very heart of his religion. We are witnessing today a struggle in the hearts of men, white men, between the claims of justice and of survival, of conscience and of fear.

It is my own belief that the only power which can resist the power of fear is the power of love. It’s a weak thing and a tender thing; men despise and deride it. But I look for the day when in South Africa we shall realise that the only lasting and worthwhile solution of our grave and profound problems lies not in the use of power, but in that understanding and compassion without which human life is an intolerable bondage, condemning us all to an existence of violence, misery and fear.

  • Alan Paton (from a speech quoted by Lewis Gannett in his introduction to Paton’s famous novel, Cry, the Beloved Country)

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