Re: Transparency and Paradigms
Tue, 21 May 1996 22:57:36 +0000

Responding to a mailing by Hemant Desai, I wrote:

>> 3. If the constructs of "justice and freedom" are to be eschewed as absolutes
>> (which we all try to construe in our own, relativistic way, of course),
>> what alternatives would Hemant offer instead of them?

Hemant responded:

>BTW, Devi, I would recommend (as the alternatives that you request in
>number three above): "compassion and understanding".

And at this point Hemant throws me into a turmoil which I'd hope will be
constructive and creative.

You see, while my heart accepts "compassion and understanding", my head
persists in valuing a construct of "justice and freedom" as of absolute
value, _as well as_ that of "compassion and understanding". "Justice and
freedom" is a construct on which people (whose attempts to express and
request "compassion and understanding" have not been reciprocated by their
oppressors), might have ultimately to rely.

As a white, English-speaking male, I generally have the normality, comfort,
and reliability which arise from living in a world in which I can practice
"compassion and understanding" and expect this practice to bear fruit.

But as someone with a Polish family background, my sense of history
suggests that sometimes one has, reluctantly, to put aside "compassion and
understanding" in order to search for, and indeed fight bloody wars for,
"justice and freedom".

Of course, half the world's terrorists, from the IRA in Ireland, the
various Arab groups who oppress Israel, and yes! the Israelis with their
repeated acts of state terrorism, (to name but a few) would advance the
same argument, and that is where I must concede to Hemant's heartfelt
preference for "compassion and understanding".

But that wasn't quite Hemant's position (his heart was there, as is mine,
but our heads part company!); his intellectual position would be to eschew
all usage of the constructs of "justice and freedom". I'd rather try to
develop an understanding of their epistemology, as it were: i.e., bearing
my counter-example in mind, when are they legitimate and when are they
simply an excuse for further injustice and enslavement?

Who was it who once said that "the problem with people who have never lost
their freedom is that they forget its value"?

(And, on the contrary, there is Ibsen's _An Enemy of the People_: "You
should never have your best trousers on when you turn out to fight for
freedom and truth".)

Tricky, isn't it?

Kindest regards,