Contributed by Kent Busse
(reserving right also to publish elsewhere)
1. Long ago, somewhere else, a child was born in a place that did not really have room to welcome another child; resources stretched very thin.
2. Not so very long ago, that child reached manhood and migrated to a place that seemed to offer more resources. Lacking certain official papers, he was never offered the earning capacity of the local natives, but he had more resources than he had left behind.
3. Quite recently, the new place also saturated its consumption of resources. The man was considered excessive and burdensome, not welcome to the local opportunities and resources of the new place.
4. Suddenly the government of the new place imposed harsh state measures to make the man doubly unwelcome.
5. Finally, individuals and governments surrounding the new place withdrew their commerce and further reduced the resources in the new place. The new place contemplated retaliatory measures of withholding exports from its neighbors.
In every step, everybody suffered.
1. Did the parents freely choose to bring the child into the world?
2. Did the local natives of the new place understand the humanity of the immigrant man? Did they offer equality?
3. Did the society in the new place attempt to share its burdens among all present?
4. Did the government of the new place search for solutions and provide leadership in organizing the sharing?
5. Did the boycotters put themselves in the shoes of the new place long enough to understand why its residents did what they did?
If my daughters were young enough to play in a sports tournament in Arizona, I would hope first of all that they would not go with an attitude of superiority. If they entertained any thought of teaching, I would expect them to avoid giving offense or patronizing. Finally, I would send them with the assignment of learning.
Even as I ask the boycotters to temper their judgment, I require myself to temper my judgment of the boycotters. Perhaps the government of the new place would temper its judgment of the immigrant, and the immigrant would temper his judgment of the place he left.
This little story is to give immediacy to the masterfully crafted paragraph of the Peace Resources Committee 2010 annual report that ends with the passage
“The tendency to conflict is part of the human condition. This tendency must be forever tended to as one tends a garden. It requires continual study, testing and reexamination.”
The story is a thread of situations that require being “forever tended to.” It is told to encourage the reader to find a purpose–to do something–relating to some individual step of the sequence. In doing so, may we recall the motto of the Oxfam America mailings:
Go to the people.
Live with them.
Learn from them…
Start with what they know;
Build with what they have.
But with the best leaders,
When the work is done,
The task accomplished,
The people will say,
We have done this ourselves!
Lau Tzu (700 BC)