Each morning as we drive a bunch of teenagers to high school and ourselves to work listening to our favorite Jazz station (91.1 Jazz FM) in the comfort of our cozy zero-emission SUV and heated seats, BBC news interjects with horrifying reports of violence and subversion of human rights around the world. Nearly unimaginable treachery and oppression of women is of course daily fare. Another terrifying theme on the rise again has been the re-criminalizing of homosexual relationships in several countries. Thinking people must be reminded of how similar trends of fear, hate and ignorance have repeatedly devolved into episodes of holocaust, waste and unnecessary suffering through time. And the thing is there are so many pressing, worthy issues facing all of humanity today like health, air, water, food, energy, education, poverty and waste. Its almost as though the big thinking is too daunting for most, so we fall back on preoccupation with difference and minutia like characters in a Dr. Seuss story.
It is tempting to assume humans are hopeless, or to turn the channel and tune it all out. But we truly do so at our own peril. This article from David Suzuki today reminds of how social evolution has been bravely won to date and why we must keep fighting and working for human progress lest we regress. Hard won improvements are never permanent. History reminds us that humans are always at risk of reversion when we succumb to complacency and ignorance of what has gone before:
Nelson Mandela, who died last month at age 95, was sentenced to life in prison in 1962 because he fought for justice, equality and democracy. He was finally released 27 years later, in 1990. South Africa’s racist apartheid system fell and Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999. The tributes after his death rightfully celebrated him as a forgiving, compassionate humanitarian and great leader.
Closer to home, on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white person. She was arrested for violating Alabama’s segregation law. It wasn’t the first challenge to U.S. racial policies and prejudice — it wasn’t even her first — and that act alone didn’t change laws and attitudes. But it catalyzed the civil rights movement that led to massive social change.
In Canada, in 1965, Everett George Klippert was sentenced to “indefinite” imprisonment for having sex with other men. Then-Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau later said, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” and sexual activity between same-sex, consenting adults was decriminalized in 1969 (although Klippert was imprisoned until 1971). Now, same-sex couples can get married in Canada.
We pride ourselves on our democratic traditions, but in Canada, women couldn’t vote until 1918, Asians until 1948 and First Nations people living on reserves until 1960.
We’ve come a long way. It’s hard to fathom that such widespread, often state-sanctioned discrimination occurred so recently — much of it in my lifetime.
…Change is never easy and it often creates discord, but when people come together for the good of humanity and the Earth, we can accomplish great things. Those are the lessons from Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and all those who refuse to give up in the face of adversity when the cause they pursue is just and necessary.
See the whole excellent article here: Out of darkness, the light