an alternative story

[Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren have written a children’s story and companion book of essays on the need for a new story. This is quoted at the outset]:

Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society. Rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story … one so inclusive that it gathers
all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into the future so that we can take the next step…. If you want to change a society, then you have to tell an alternative story.

-Ivan Illich, as quoted in the introduction to The Seventh Story: Us, Them and the End of Violence.

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)

seeing hidden violence

[SSU alumnus, Matt Balcarras, recently completed a book on peacemaking with a special emphasis on revealing our complicity in hidden violence. In it he writes:]

There is violence hidden in all our stories. This is one of the uncomfortable truths that is necessary to acknowledge in the pursuit of peace. We live our lives in a context that has often been shaped by hidden violence….

The unseen violence in our story is this: we directly benefit from the actions others have taken in exploiting the lands and resources of First Nations people.

The unseen violence in our story is this: we directly benefit from the actions others have taken using military force against other nations and people, including civilians.

The unseen violence in our story is this: we directly benefit from the modern slavery created by the exploitation of people in the developing world who produce our cheap consumer products.

The unseen violence in our story is this: we directly benefit from the wanton destruction of the world created by God to be our home.

  • Matt Balcarras, from Peacemaking: A Community Workbook available here.