Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Amistad

Watched this movie for the first time a few days ago. It was a moving film that caused me to laugh often, cry a few times and to be in utter confusion for parts as well. The story of a group of slaves that effected a mutiny on their slave ship, and were then captured and put on trial, is based on a historical trial in the United States. This trial became a very tricky political game between the north and the south of the United States over slavery, as well as an international issue between the US and Spain.

What struck me particularly was the speach at the end of the movie by John Quincy Adams to the Supreme Court, where he reads a letter from one of the current US presidents high officials. This letter explains that for all of history people have taken slaves. That it was natural to have slaves, and was part of human nature that the strong would rule over the weak. That slavery was as much a part of the human condition as war. He then goes on to explain he has a different understanding of human nature, one that is based on Freedom.

But it does bring up the question, is it possible that the things we consider human nature now will someday be considered barbaric, and wrong?

I struggle to see how a society could ever tolerate the horrors of slavery, but not only did we, we still are in some cultures. But I can't understand how people accept war, and the death penalty either. Nor can I understand how we as a society can accept abortion as a legitmate medical precedure.

So where does this touch on my own personal message? Simply this, when we are willing to walk in the truth of the kingdom of God, then and only then can we truly hope for a day when the injustices of todays world are overturned, where the accepted wrongs of our day are found to be barbaric. If this world is to have a future worth staying alive for we must live in a way that protects our home planet, that seeks justice for even the least of us, that seeks to live a life that is sustainable, and to seek to live in the law of love.

I hope someday the world will be filled with people that look back on our day and don't understand how we could have justified the way we live.

rev

23 comments:

David said...

Did Jesus walk in the truth of the kingdom of God?

If so, what injustices of the world in his day were overturned as a result?

Did they stay overturned?

The Rev said...

Yes David, Jesus healed people allowing them to come back into the sociological life of the community. He confronted the unjust leadership of the temple, and the religious elite. He treated people with kindness and love regardless of thier social status.

These things his followers continued to do, and their followers, so that wherever they went things changed. At one point they were refered to as the people who have upset the whole world. And eventually this grass roots peasant movement was co-opting Rome. Until Constantine, in one of the most brilliant moves in all of history, realized you couldn't stop this group by keeping them out of power, but by giving it to them.

But yes, this movement Jesus started has overturned injustices, and continues to do so, as people are sold out to Jesus.

rev

David said...

You seem to suggest that this kingdom of God method is all that is required. However, many people do not seem to think the same, Rev. No need to list all the alternative organisations, faiths and religions that are working to achieve similar goals. Even the legal system occasionally delivers justice.

What I don't see is clear cut evidence that the extreme communal lifestyle aspect of the kingdom of God, is necessarily going to make the world a better place.

There needs to be a balance between private ownership and community space and belonging.

The Rev said...

then don't do it, you really can't anyways.

rev

David said...

It might remind some people of communism, although you might not like the association.

Now communism just led to an authoritarian system. Would communal living not also go down this track? Has it happened before (I'm thinking of Waco, and that kool-aid example)

The Rev said...

Waco and Jim Jones were already insanely top down leadership before they lived communally. And communism is not exactly what I am talking about, this has to be a non judgemental voluntary grass roots thing. Whenever a national identity is set up it is not an anarchistic socialist democracy.

The closest thing working on a large scale would most likely be Sweden, but I am not advocating a nationalist government.

The fact that other things are more efficient, doesn't mean they are right to me. Democratic Captialism works best for the most amount of people, because it assumes the worst of people. Communism assumes the best and often is disappointing and eventually winds up with coercion.

But again what I am advocating is small communities of Christian people voluntarily living simply, and communally effecting justice and mercy in their own neighborhoods. And Gandhi showed how a small thing can overwhelm a big one.

rev

David said...

So some people voluntarily live communally together. As the community grows, natural leaders emerge and required organisation develops. All the while, this community relies on the goods and services produced by the wider community that has developed over hundreds of years to the level of complexity and organisation required to deliver those services.

What do these small "grassroots" communities achieve? Aren't they just a bunch of friendly people who will eventually get on each other's nerves? When the community grows too large, it will either split off into smaller communities or start to resemble the rest of society.

The Rev said...

it is my opinion that the best thing is for them to become smaller communities. And there is a way to live without completely buying into the system. SOme of these communites have community gardens, and have veggie co-ops that buy their produce and meat from farmers markets. They buy their clothing from op shops. They drive biodiesels and bicycles. Some go even further and live in abandoned houses, and warehouses that are empty.

rev

David said...

Can't you see that is unrealistic idealism? It is obviously not sustainable, and you are only partially opting out of "the system". It also seems a backward step. If too many people opt out, how are the bicycles going to be manufactured? How long after all industrial activity ceases will the supply of abandoned warehouses run out?

Would you really like to live in a communal society without electricity, without mass produced goods cheaply produced, without access to a cheap form of energy? Why not try out North Korea - I'm sure you'll have plenty of kingdom work cut out for you there.

Seems like the harsh reality of the modern industrialised, problematic world is too complex to deal with. Better to opt out a little and help those on the margins - that way you'll get a sense of personal achievement, a lovey-dovey feeling of fellowship with others.

But aren't you just escaping into an idealist haven?

The Rev said...

Well David you are very brave to sit outside of all of the problems and take computer pot shots at those trying to seek for a better way to live.

Yes I am an idealist, but I do not live in a haven. It is hard work making sense of this post industrial world, and I am doing the best I can. In my experience it is the idealists that call us into a new era, the cynics say great things like, well if we abolished slavery everything would fall apart, and we wouldn't have the ability to continue our economy. Its human nature that the strong rule the weak, why do we think we can change things? No I will be a frustrated idealist over a self impressed cynic .

rev

David said...

How is abandoning the comforts of modern civilisation a better way to live?

Do you want to go back to a lifestyle of a previous era? The stone age?

Or is it the case that you would feel uncomfortable being surrounded by luxury while other people live on the margins?

Your "intentional community" approach has been tried before by many different groups. Have you studied past examples to what can be achieved in reality. Do you think you will achieve more?

By the way, do you think I have got the level of potshots about right, or too little or too much? Your feedback would be valuable for quality control purposes.

The Rev said...

If modern comforts are so great why do we have more depression, more suicide, more murder, more drug use ect. than at any time in history? What we find as modern comfort is often times just that much more stress for us.

We have the comfort of a car and struggle more with obesity than at any time in history.

When will the comforts of our modern life become so comforting that we stop killing ourselves and others?

I have lived in communities where these kinds of things happened Dave, and it was beautiful and amazing. It inspired me to be a better person, and to strive to live in these better ways. Though these communities can sometimes come with problems, the fact is, all community comes with problems. But if you think the gated suburban planned housing is the way to happiness more power to you.

rev

Rebecca said...

David, the issues you raise are really good ones, and I don't think they're ones that have any clear answer. I feel ok about that though, since the smartest political theorists in the world don't have any answer either. :)

I guess I see myself as something of a cosmopolitan, but also as a bioregionalist - in other words, I envisage a world that is a network of small communities, connected by technology, living within bioregions, which is only possible if you live more simply, and by its very nature would result in efforts of justice in their own neighbourhoods. I try to diminish my ecological footprint and my spending by buying less, buy locally, eat vego and living in an area where lots of other people from my church live. At the same time, however, I'm working for an international NGO and I work on issues of land in the South Pacific - as a result, it's inevitable that I use the internet and the phone an awful lot, and I fly (which is horrendous for my ecological footprint). Ideally, I'd see local people doing what I'm doing (both for reasons of empowerment and reducing my ecological footprint) but that's the goal of most aid agencies and aid projects anyway, and if it were already a reality then we wouldn't exist, and we wouldn't have as much support from local people.

I don't profess to know where the balance lies, but I do try to know the pros and cons of being part of a global society and economy, and those of a local society and economy, and I do my best to live in way that is socially just and ecologically sustainable. That's the best I can do.

David said...

You describe a possible future, Rebecca. But one that seems less and less likely to be achievable, if the theory that global oil production has peaked. The world may have missed the chance to create these types of communities.

Keith Lowell Jensen said...

Looking to the past to see what modern traits may have harmed us is a part of progress. It's not going to another era to let go of some "advances" if these advances have, when tested, proven to be detrimental to our well being. In fact one of the greatest advancements we've made is the ability to record our history so that we can look to it and our view of it will change with the new perspectives we gain. We will take new lessons from the past and how to and not to live. Of course it is always theoretical until we make changes, applying the lessons we've learned, and then gleaning more information from the results.

You don't need believe that utopia is achievable to progress towards it. Re; the reverend's small communities, nations whose individuals have a strong sense of community, often found in their local communities, tend to have a lower crime rate and a higher quality of life. Even as large entities like nations and the U.N. exist we can foster our smaller communities and benefit from them.

These small communities are disintigrating in Western culture and we're paying a heavy price.

Any form of rule is easier to manage in a smaller group: communism, democracy, etc. My households have always been democratic in rule and socialistic in division of labor and resources. It's worked pretty well, admittedly because folks who couldn't handle it were able to move on to a different household, harder to achieve with nations.

David, you've become less angry in your posts which is nice, but it does sometimes feel like you argue just to argue and your arguments are often pretty trite. What motivates you to respond in this way? I don't mean this to be insulting, I just find your behavior a bit odd, especially after you said goodbye. I wonder if you maybe getting your needs filled by the Reverend here. :)
Good job Rev.

My favorite idealists: Ghandi, MLK Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Charlie Chaplin

Rebecca said...

I agree David...but that won't stop me for trying! I guess this is where I find spirituality helpful - it gives me a sense of being a part of something bigger, of something I can't quite grasp or understand. I know that can seem like a cop-out, but I don't mean it in that sense - I just mean that my spirituality sustains me and enables me to continue hoping when objectively it can seem foolish to do so. I don't think that's peculiar to Christianity - I think one can be a humanist and still have that sense of hope that seems to defy what's in front of you at a given moment (I certainly see this in my friends who are committed communists or socialists)

Rebecca said...

KLJ...you said "nations whose individuals have a strong sense of community, often found in their local communities, tend to have a lower crime rate and a higher quality of life"

Really? Can you point to some examples? I'm trying to think of ones, and the Pacific nations are the best examples I can think of, but I'm not sure you'd say that they have lower crime rates and higher quality of life!

Keith Lowell Jensen said...

The information came from an NPR report. I'll try to find it and post a link.
I know that part of the story was on how we measure quality of life.

They found that economics and peoples rating of their own satisfaction with life and their own happiness are not linked in the way we'd think once you get above the poverty level. That is to say: when people have their basic needs met, more money did not mean more satisfaction or happiness.

Two factors that did increase this rating were sense of community and and a sense of National Identity (this worried me, as I'm no fan of nationalism).

This is not the standard way to measure Quality of Living, and like I said the story was concerned with the portions of society above the poverty level. Below it, you're too pressed to eat and drink and survive to worry about trivialities like happiness.

I'll see if I can find the story. Google save me from myself.

David said...

That all sounds nice. I think the future is much bleaker.

It seems almost certain that global resources wars are just around the corner. That state, to quote Thomas Hobbes

"And in that state of nature, no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

"A war of all against all"

Rebecca said...

KLJ - surely you don't mean that report that found that the people in Vanuatu were the happiest on earth?

Rebecca said...

here we go...I think this is it...and it's not a UN report: http://www.happyplanetindex.org/

Keith Lowell Jensen said...

Rebecca,
I think that's something quite different actually, but interesting regardless.

David,
Study your history you'll find people have ALWAYS seen a bleak future, and they've only been right 57.3% of the time.
The potential for the hideous future you describe is real, but there is potential for an amazing future as well. That there are large part of the world that live in relative peace is amazing and a visible, attractive goal that people will hopefully see want to strive for, for themselves and each other, or we just keep killing each other. I can see it going either way. I know what influence, however small, I want to have.

Anonymous said...

how much money did this movie make?