The great psychotherapist, Carl Jung wrote: “You always become the thing you fight the most”. And Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister reputedly said, “Even if we lose, we shall win, for our ideals will have penetrated the hearts of our enemies”. Yes, it is true, we can become what we hate. Two grim examples this past week prove this to be so…
1] The thuggish attack by the Deputy President’s security unit on the side of a highway is reminiscent of our Apartheid past. A past that was “never, never, and never again” to be repeated. Brazen bullies in broad daylight kicking and stomping people on the ground. As if they were the ground. Gratuitous violence caught on camera making us wonder how much happens that is never filmed. It was a sickening disregard for the humanity of another. This extreme misuse of position and power was followed by bland and generic condemnations. The Deputy President’s office spoke of the “unfortunate incident”. Bringing to mind Rev William Barber’s words, “Too many people in power were too comfortable with other people’s deaths”. It is not a random case. We witnessed this kind of thuggery when the military and cops were deployed during the COVID-19 lock down. Violence without restraint. Violence without fear of accountability. A law unto themselves. A police force with no sense of service. All this reminds us how deeply broken and brutalised we are as a South African people.
2] The past week we witnessed Apartheid-Israel’s violent occupation become full-scale warfare as they attacked Jenin in the north of the occupied West Bank. Cynically called Operation Home and Garden – which is just sick! The largest onslaught in 20 years. With drone strikes and up to 2 000 ground troops plus the dreaded demolishing bulldozers. Leaving an aftermath of death and destruction.
Apartheid-Israel has become what they hate. They have so internalised being victims that they are unable to see themselves as perpetrators. But perpetrators they are. They do to the Palestinians what others had done to them.
What silences many on this matter of oppression is the fear of being labelled an anti-Semite. We are right to be sensitive about this but not silenced. No nation gets a free pass on oppression. We stand in solidarity with Jews all over the world who say: “Not in my name”. We also stand in solidarity with people everywhere who say: “Not in God’s name”.
As God spoke directly to the people of Israel through the prophets of biblical times, God speaks again through those same prophets: Hear, O Apartheid-Israel, “Your works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in your hands. Your feet run to evil, and you rush to shed innocent blood … the way of peace you do not know and there is no justice in your paths.” [Isaiah 59:7-8].
For persons, systems, and nations it is a recurring challenge to resist becoming what we hate. The world is desperate – literally groaning in pangs of childbirth – for these resisters to be revealed. Jesus, the great resister, not only shows us it is possible he invites us to practice his way. The first step of his way is to pray for those who persecute us. In other words, to pray for those who we are most likely to hate. What does prayer do? Prayer keeps our enemies’ humanity alive to us. All other steps will flow from this step. Only when the humanity of our enemy is alive to us, can we both regard and resist our enemy at the same time. Regard for our enemies’ humanity prevents us from dehumanising them. Resistance of our enemy refuses to allow them to dehumanise us.
In grappling with the same stuff, Paul will later remind his fellow resisters that their struggle is not against flesh and blood … making Ephesians 6:10-20 further reading for our practice.
In grace, Alan