Tag Archives: values

Retrospective On Liberty

Retrospective

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Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1863) Β “Liberty Leading The People” and my favourite Delacroix painting.

The louvre will host a retrospective of his most famous and also his scandalous works in July this year. It is billed as a once in a generation tribute to Delacroix, consisting of 180 works. Alexandre Dumas wrote that:Β “The genius of Delacxroix is not debatable, it is not demonstrable, it is something one feels.” Delacroix was acknowledged in his lifetime as the leading painter of the Romantic school, but not one who was idealistic, instead he was noted as being passionate about passion. Clearly his paintings are from the heart.

This painting is significant in France because it depicts the the 1830 revolution against Charles X. Liberty leads the people under the Tricolour – liberty, equality, and fraternity, over the dead bodies of struggle. Liberty is a type, a depiction of liberty goddesses. Liberty became a symbol of France and the Republic known as Marianne. Liberty has a long history and was early represented by the Roman goddess Libertas. Ever since there have been various representations, none so grand as the gift of France to the US which we all know as the Statue of Liberty. Latvia has the Freedom Monument in Riga, which is quite impressive to view.

The most poignant for me was the short lived Goddess of Democracy errected by the Democracy Movement during the protest in Tiananmen Square, the hastily constructed statue re-ignited the focus of the waning passion of the movement, only to be crushed by the Peoples Liberation Army (an oxy moron if ever there was one), as the protesters were dispersed, the statue was destroyed, but working from footage of the protest replicas appeared in – Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada, and several in the US.

The statues, the painting, show how symbols can work to unite, galvanise, enthuse and encourage peopel to a cause. Delacroix shows how the principle of liberty is noble while the destruction of the Goddess of Democracy shows how little liberty is valued by those who hold power. This of course, was the irony of the first French Republic which degenerated into infighting, murder, and the macabre spectacle of the overworked guilotine. True liberty is hard won, and even harder to keep.

What I like most about the painting is the sense that liberty, equality and fraternity are important, and history shows we are drawn to these values to the point that we will gather and fight for them even if we have little chance of winning. The Goddess of Liberty, in whichever form she appears, is a torch, a beacon of hope to rally around. But I don’t see one at the moment! Perhaps this time around we won’t have a singular unifying symbol, but rather, many symbols.

In a more personal sense it raises the question as to what matters most in our lives. In daily practical application will I practice these values on public transport and in public spaces, at home, and in my work? Will I speak justice into the public space? Will I hold more than just my liberty as precious? Will I stand with others? If the WordPress community is any example, then my hope is well founded that I/we can hold and live those values.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under art, community, history, life, mindfulness, Mythology, Philosophy/Theology, politics, quote

Core Values

via Daily Prompt: Core

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Are there any angels in Politics? Gandhi, but so few others. No one is perfect, as the saying goes, and perception is probably 9/10 of the problem.

There are a number of political biographies that I read in my teens and twenties, and which have haunted me ever since. Martin Luther King Jnr., Sukarno, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandella, Steve Biko, And Patrice Lumumba (photo above). My blood still boils at the injustices they have suffered.

It was the early 1960s, African nationalist movements were in full swing, independence was coming. The Cold War was the context, and African minerals were the agenda, especially uranium, and the West would do anything to preserve their access. If you then place a leader who is a strong nationalist in power and who then pursues independence and who rails against the old colonial powers, you have the risk of losing those minerals. What to do? Kill that leader of course. But first make sure that his country, and then the world, see that leader as deeply flawed, incompetent, corrupt, a communist, an extremist, anti-western, and so on. Then shoot them.

Lumumba was a Pan-African, he wanted to see an interdependent cooperative Africa, and to be free of colonial control. He believed that african nations could be great nations under their own people. He was intensely critical of the colonial powers, in particular, Belgium, who had ruled his own country Congo and had a murky record in governance of Congo. He was for nonalignment – the stance of not choosing sides between the US and the Soviet Union. His main principle of governance was “National Unity.”

No sooner had independence been grudgingly and conditionally granted to Congo by Belgium, that Lumumba had won government with his party Mouvemnet National Congolais (MNC). But then a crisis developed over political direction and dependence on Belgium. Lumumba began to extract Congo from colonial trade and patterns, this caused anxiety in the US, UK, and Belgium, all who were worried that this young primeminister would turn to the Soviet Union for trade and support. The western nations are implicated in wanting to remove Lumumba, but none have been directly connected to the firing squad that murdered him.

Lumumba was deposed, arrested and imprisoned by the military, tortured and later shot. The man who was behind this was Colonel Mobutu Sese Seko (with western suport), who installed a government under his own control, and later in 1965, he overturned that government and became direct military ruler of the Congo until 1997. The only real winners in all of this were the western powers, notably, Congo has never thrived, it has given western nations its minerals at great cost to itself.

Patrice Lumumba had strong core vlaues, his was a selfless desire to lead Congo into a strong independent nation, he wanted his people to have access to health and education, he had hopes to provide modernization, and decolonialisation. He wanted Congo to benefit from its own natural wealth. He talked of an egalitarian community where everyone was valued. For this he was painted as a communist and as a dangerous leader. For these values he was murdered.

In his famous speech before independence, a speech highly criticized by western leaders, Lumumba said:Β “The colonialists care nothing for Africa for her own sake. They are attracted by African riches and their actions are guided by the desire to preserve their interests in Africa against the wishes of the African people. For the colonialists all means are good if they help them to possess these riches.”

How prophetic! He was absolutely right. He is still right.

Patrice Lumumba’s life ended in tragedy, but it wasn’t completely in vain. He inspired his people to seek the best for Congo. Many of his political ideals have been picked up across Africa, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, his thinking has been embraced on a number of fronts.

For me, Lumumba’s story is a reminder that there is a cost for integrity in political leadership. Β For Lumumba there was no other way, there would have been a cost for him personally had he caved in to Mobutu and the West. He was true to his vision and core values. He was far from perfect, but he died for his vision for the future of Congo, and that vision lives on.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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A Captivating Dream

via Daily Prompt: Captivating

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It is not slender, it is not pretty (to some), it is not straight or elegant or young. It is in fact old, gnarled and mishapen. It has obviously survived fires, storms, wind damage, dry spells and more. Yet it is captivating for the real life it offers. As with any tree it offers me the Co2 – O2 exchange that is vital to my very breath. It provides shade for the understory and any creature that passes by. Many living things exist in its bark, or depend on its leaves, transpiration, or shed detritus that helps form the humous at its base. Its blossom is a source of nectar for indigenous bees as well as European honey bees, and for a variety of insects. Its seed provides new life and is a food source too. Probably the fact that it is so gnarly has saved it from the tree fellers over the past four decades, so it is a survivor. Which just goes to show that looks aren’t everything. I was captivated by it. It is striking by comparison, and stands out in the forest of straight and elegant comapnions.

Back in 1980, the story of Joseph Merrick resurfaced through a movie made by David Lynch, called the “Elephant Man.” It had little chance of being uplifting, it was in fact, deeply saddening. Merrick died at 27 due to compications of his body weight to head weight ratio. I left the movie feeling quite heavy, mostly because of the lack of knowledge then to help him adapt to a better to life, and also because of how some in society treated him. Merrick was a real person, but not everyone treated him as such.

Scroll forward to another movie in 2001, “Shallow Hal” by the Farrelly Brothers. It was a comedy, but a very real look into the real potential for humanity to be superficial and shallow in regard to relationships. It had a manufactured ending, it was after all a work of fiction, so it ended well. But it resonated for me in my experiences of people who only see the surface of anything or anyone. But in reality, as we develop in life, we are all faced with the moment of choice – are relationships merely about taking, or are they mutual? The latter, of course, relies on our wholeness and our ability to see beyond self.

I am captivated by the life force and life giving capacity of the gnarled old tree. I was captivated by the story of Joseph Merrick and his struggle in the sea of human indifference, a short life that, perhaps, only pointed to the need for a better way, but that was something. And I was captivated by the desire of the makers of Shallow Hal to make the movie resolve in favour of true love, honesty, and integrity (but then, it is a hollywood production) in a world where, sometimes, the complete opposite is true in relationships.

My hope, dream, is that we will all be captivated by the real self in relation to other real selves, that we are not blindly becoming consumers of other people, that we’re not just in some symbiotic dependency, but rather in mutual and interdependent relationships that share values and dreams, love, compassion, and hope ….

In a time when our fellow life forms need advocacy, when sexual identity has become a battle ground, when class remains and economic injustice, and where wealth remains an obscenity, and where leadership has become a vacuous celebrity circus, we need the real.

I’m captivated by the potential of all forms of life, in particular, by the potential of humanity to excell and rise above shallow and look deeply inside to see the true beauty of all living things. Imagine.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Trill of my Life – Or, how science fiction saves the world.

via Daily Prompt: Trill

 

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Trilling? Well not quite, Nicole De Boer as Ezri Dax a Trill, as seen on Star Trek. And no I’m not a true Trekkie, but I did enjoy the show. In general I enjoy science fiction, it is another world, and yet it isn’t. All fiction is, in some way, related to real life, where it differs is that fiction can abstract, take licence, and allow fantasy. Fiction can be quite potent in confronting social justice issues. Take any of HG Wells’ works, Orwell’s 1984. Look at District 9, a movie that speaks to racism; Ursula LeGuin’s (who, sadly, died this week) The Dispossessed, a book about racial inequality; or Samuel Delaney’s Neveryon, a series about power, race, sexuality and aids, or Octavia’s Brood an edited collection by writers inspired by Octavia Butler, essays that speak to injustice and inequality. Star Trek was doing it very early with racial creations that confronted our constructs of race, it addressed class, wealth, inequality, power, race and sexuality.

Science fiction enables us to question our values, especially our inherited values, while enjoying being entertained, we are encouraged to look at difference, and to question power relationships, and to seek justice, in some cases restorative justice.

A basic musical Trill consists of a rapid alternation between two notes. A Star Trek Trill was a humanoid native to the planet Trill and who were inhabited by a symbiont, thus two lives in one body alternating. Science fiction enables us to trill inwardly, to look at different sides of an issue – of what might appear to be singular, but is in fact complex. Perhaps to trill is to possess a 20/20 vision in emotional intelligence?

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under community, nature, politics, Science, Space, Spirituality