Sunday, January 23, 2011

Founding a New Honduras

One of my professors in graduate school in the early seventies was Hannah Arendt, a brilliant political philosopher who fled Nazi Germany and taught for years in the US. She often brought new perspectives to help view life, politics, thinking, and the human condition in a new light.

Among her insights is that by acting we humans can make a new beginning, can – in a sense – rebirth the world. We humans have this capacity, to act anew, not totally dependent on the past, but opening up into new horizons.

Reflecting on Saint Augustine she noted, in The Human Condition, page 177, that “With the creation of man [sic], the principle of beginning came into the world itself, which, of course, is only another way of saying that the principle of freedom was created when man [sic] was created but not before.”

I thought of this last Saturday after attending a meeting at Caritas of coordinators of the schools for governability and participation that Caritas Santa Rosa is promoting throughout the diocese.

Caritas’ program for political participation has been facilitating these “schools” in nine areas in the deaneries of the diocese with participants from almost all the parishes. In each locale, up to twenty people have been meeting for two or three days in four sessions treating themes of the dignity of the person, democracy, governability, and political analysis in a style that encourages the development of a critical consciousness. A fifth session will begin soon, helping the participants move into action at the local level. It is, I believe, a real effort to promote grassroots democracy, but not only at the deanery level. Several parishes are setting up their own schools to reach more people at the grassroots.

The meeting was held to get the input of several coordinators at the deanery level for the final session. At a meeting last month about a hundred participants had gathered and shared their ideas. These coordinators had also asked people in their deaneries for their ideas.

But this was not just an exercise for the schools. The Caritas Santa Rosa schools have been asked to send two official representatives to the late February meeting of the People’s National Resistance Front where proposals for the re-founding of Honduras will be discussed.

At the meeting a Caritas staff person shared a synthesis of several proposals that had come out of the December meeting and the experience of the various sessions in the deaneries. The coordinators also brought their proposals.

Two people were elected as the representatives – a woman and a man. They will go to the meeting, with a letter of recognition from Santa Rosa’s bishop, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, and with the proposals from the region.

The presentation by the Caritas staff seemed a bit stiff to me but a sociologist from Tegucigalpa who will work with the staff for a few months shared a bit with the group, some of whom he already knew from his previous work in Intibucá and Lempira.

He impressed me first of all by his remark that here there are no “sabios” – sages, “wise guys.” He had come to learn with them.

He also shared the importance of moving from “consciencia ingenua” – naïve consciousness – to “consciencia crítica”- critical consciousness, a move that Paulo Freire has emphasized. But he added that there must be a move to another level, “consciencia organizativa” – organizing consciousness. The first move is essential for the second but the change must not remain in the mind, but be translated into organization. We talked a little about this after the meeting and he’ll share some background information on this with me.

But what impressed me, as so often happens here, were some remarks of the coordinators, people who live and work in aldeas (villages) and towns throughout the diocese, people who may not have a lot of formal education but have a lot of wisdom.

Toward the end of the meeting one of them – the young man who will go to the national meeting – shared his reflection on the whole process, referring to Micah 3’s condemnation of wicked rulers and Ezekiel 33:6’s warning of the necessity to speak out against injustice:
But if the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet so that the people are not warned, and the sword come and takes any of them, they are taken away in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at the sentinel’s hand.
I was impressed by his ability to bring the wisdom of the scriptures to this task and by his deep faith-based commitment. He later remarked that it is important that if changes are made they have a basis in faith.

The woman who will go to the national meeting was also outspoken. She was insistent on the necessity to get rid of the two party monopoly on politics – bipartidismo – and that the Resistance mustn’t be a political party.

She also noted that they would be going to the meeting with proposals from the grassroots – la base, in Spanish. She seemed to be concerned that some parts of the Resistance did not have the base, the grassroots support.

There is great hope among these people, as well as a deep wisdom, formed by suffering and by working with their communities and rooted in their faith.

What will come of this? As the woman told me, citing scripture, with faith like a grain of mustard we can move mountains. And so we can move this monster.


No comments: