Whenever the political climate becomes racist, totalitarian or based on the notion of unity through community, the role of democrats everywhere is no longer to support the preferences of the majority but to see that the rights of the oppressed are respected, if necessary in the face of numerical superiority.
What is sacred in democracy is not mechanisms but values. What must be respected, absolutely and without concession, is the dignity of human beings – all human beings, men, women and children, whatever their beliefs or their colour, and whether they are many or few.
Amin Maalouf, On Identity
I have found Walter Wink’s brief little book on non-violence a thought-provoking read. He makes it quite clear that non-violence does not imply passive acceptance of an inhumane situation. Here’s an example of what non-violence does not mean:
How many a battered wife has been counseled, on the strength of a legalistic reading of [Matthew 5:38-41], to ‘turn the other cheek,’ when what she needs, according to the spirit of Jesus’ words, is to find a way to restore her own dignity and end the vicious circle of humiliation, guilt, and bruising. She needs to assert some sort of control in the situation and force her husband to regard her as an equal, or get out of the relationship altogether. The victim needs to recover her self-worth and seize the initiative from her oppressor. And he needs to be helped to overcome his violence.
(From Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way)
The last point ties in with Margaret Mead’s comment that ‘every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man’ (quoted in Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach [eds], Fifty Shades of Feminism). How true!