Monday, October 15, 2012

Solidarity - the real "power of we"

Today is Blog Action day with the theme “The Power of We.” I think it’s better to write about solidarity.

Who is the “we” that has power? Are they the press, the major corporations, the economic and political elites?

These “powers that be” are organized to conserve power. But how often the poor are kept powerless by their machinations and by the consumerism, individualism, and isolation that are found all too often promoted in a consumer, capitalist society.

Solidarity means that we are connected, that we share the joys and sorrows of others, that we are co-responsible. We are not isolated individuals. We are, by nature, communal and therefore we have responsibility for others.

It’s not about me, despite the shop in downtown Ames.

 It’s all about hanging in there together.

There is much more to say and to reflect on. And so I offer these quotes for our common meditation.

Pope John Paul II gave a moving explanation of solidarity in his 1987 encyclical On Social Concern:
 Solidarity is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all....
     Solidarity helps us to see the “other” — whether a person, people or nation — not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our “neighbor,” a “helper”, to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.
Pope John Paul II, On Social Concern, 28

Jon Sobrino, the Jesuit liberation theologian from El Salvador, further clarifies the nature of solidarity:

 This new way for Christians and the churches to be related (a matter of both fact and principle), which starts with the basics solidarity of the church with its poor and oppressed, is maintained as a process of mutual giving and receiving and is raised to the level of faith ... — this is what is called solidarity This is the way for Christians and churches to relate to one another in accordance with the well known Pauline admonition, “Bear with one another.” This is a conception for the Christian life and a way of practicing it in which reference to “the other” is essential, both in giving and in receiving, both on the human level and on ecclesial and Christian levels, and the level of relationship with God, both in seeing in the other the ethical demand of responsibility and in finding graciousness in that other. Solidarity is therefore the Christian way to overcome, in principle, individualism, whether personal or collective, both at the level of our involvement in history and on the level of faith.
Jon Sobrino, SJ, Theology of Christian Solidarity, 4-5

Martin Luther King, Jr., without using the word solidarity, expressed it succinctly:

This is to say that all life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars. as long as diseases are rampant and millions of people cannot expect to live more than twenty or thirty years, no man can be totally healthy, even if he just got a clean bill of health from the finest clinic in America. Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way the world is made. I didn’t make it that way, but this is the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne caught it a few centuries ago and could cry out, ‘No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . any man’s death diminishes me, because i am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ If we are to realize the American dream we must realize this world perspective.
                  Martin Luther King, Jr., “The American Dream” (June 6, 1961),
       in A Testament of Hope,  p. 210

Or as St. Paul put it so well in 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.

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