The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Social Justice or Personal Salvation?

How often do we hear a conversation where one person claims that personal salvation is the road to happiness and social change, and the other suggests that we must obtain social justice before anyone can be free?  Less often than we might think I would suggest.  Mainly because those on a personal salvation course more often than not do not interact with those seeking social justice.  Thankfully, however, this is changing, and the two ideologies are talking together more often.

Of course, the distinction between the two approaches is an illusory one.  Both are necessary, and neither can work without the other. 

Since the 1960s and 70s there has been a greater awareness growing of the connection between our inner and outer worlds.  We are understanding more and more that everything is intimately connected with everything else.  We are not separate beings.  our lives are connected with the lives of those around us, not only those in our families or living in our street, but also those living in other parts of the world.  Furthermore, we are connected with the flora and fauna of this planet – we are connected with the planet itself.  What happens to another happens to us.  The way we treat the planet affects how the planet treats us.

So it is with social justice and personal salvation work.  They are connected.  We cannot attain personal salvation without seeking social justice.  We cannot work towards social justice without transforming ourselves.

Compassion and Empathy

When we work for social justice we often do so from a sense of compassion or empathy with those (humans, animals, plants) who are distressed or oppressed.  When we seek personal salvation we inevitably arrive at a place of compassion for all sentient beings.  Compassion and empathy, then, may be the point at which the two paths converge, and we see the wisdom of both approaches.

Without compassion in our social justice work we can easily perpetuate the very structures and injustices that we are wanting to overcome.  Think of what happened following the French Revolution – we got Napoleon.  Think of what happened after the overthrow of the Tsar – we got Stalinism.  More latterly we can see similar examples in the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, and ISIS.

Ends and Means

There once was a saying that the “ends justifies the means,” fortunately now largely discredited (at least within grass-roots social justice organisations).  The means by which we work for social justice or seek personal must be in harmony with our ends.  Joanna Macy notes that “means are ends in the making,” and Thich Nhat Hanh advises us that “peace is every step.”

In a complex, inter-connected, world seeking personal salvation can only go so far before we need to study and understand the roots of cultural, psychological and historical oppression and privilege.  In that same world, working for social justice can only go so far before we are faced with the limitations of our personal transformation.  Social justice is as much a means towards the end of personal salvation as personal salvation is the means towards the end of social justice. 

No Separation

Just as there is no completely independent and self-sufficient self, there is no separation between working for social change and seeking personal salvation.

If we focus our attention on systemic change at the expense of our personal transformation then we will perpetuate the harmful relationships between each other and the planet.

If we focus our attention on personal salvation at the expense of systemic change then we will perpetuate our individual sense of a disconnected self.

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