On balance, most of us in the US and elsewhere have a binary view of conflict: if you win, I lose, and vice versa. And we are completely immersed in the consciousness of scarcity, resource conflict, and fear of the other. Clearly, Gandhi, Mandela and King operated from a different level of consciousness, where abundance, peacemaking, and trust were the qualities seen first, and were part of each leader's basic operating system. Developmental psychologists call this level of consciousness integral, and tell us that less than 5% of the world has attained this consciousness level. Obama, I believe, is part of this small percentage of people who see things whole...I want to credit Jim with helping me understand that some people literally cannot "see" what is happening. Yesterday I ran across a perfect example of this in commentary about the life of Nelson Mandela. It came from something written by Ted Rall, the cartoonist that was accused at Daily Kos of depicting President Obama as a gorilla/monkey. I'll warn you...its probably going to make you angry. Go ahead and let yourself react. But then take a moment to think about what he literally can't see.
...none of this makes sense to our pundits - that operational mode doesn't compute - power is everything; the powerful are always the winners; never let your guard down; he who has the gold rules, etc, - so folks just cannot see it when something like what has just happened, occurs.
Many black South Africans are disillusioned by Mandela and his ANC government. Residents of the townships are suffering horribly, yet this “black” “democratic” government hasn’t done much more for them than the old apartheid regime. This was due to two terrible decisions by Mandela in 1994. First, he decided against seeking justice against the apartheid-era criminal whites. Obviously this was the result of pressure from the USA and the West. The ANC called it “reconciliation.” Others called it a sellout. These horrible murderers got away with murder. The lesson to the murderers of the future is, don’t worry, you won’t pay for your crimes.You have to wonder if Rall even saw the outpouring of love for Madiba from black South Africans over the last few days when he suggests that they are "disillusioned" by him. For an entirely different take on all that, please go read how Ta-Nehisi Coates addresses these same arguments when they come from conservatives. But I'll let that one go for now.
Second, Mandela and the ANC decided not to implement the communist programme of their socialist and communist allies. Income and wealth redistribution were left on the table. The result is a South Africa that looks the same as before: rich whites, poor blacks. Heckuva job, Nelson.
It is clear that Rall has absolutely ZERO ability to understand Ubuntu...the African concept that President Obama described this way:
...his [Mandela's] recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.It got me to thinking about Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Here's how I'd break it down:
Ted Rall : Stage Four - "A central ideal or ideals often prescribe what is right and wrong, such as in the case of fundamentalism. If one person violates a law, perhaps everyone would—thus there is an obligation and a duty to uphold laws and rules. When someone does violate a law, it is morally wrong; culpability is thus a significant factor in this stage as it separates the bad domains from the good ones."
Nelson Mandela: Stage Six - "moral reasoning is based on abstract reasoning using universal ethical principles. Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws...This involves an individual imagining what they would do in another’s shoes, if they believed what that other person imagines to be true. The resulting consensus is the action taken. In this way action is never a means but always an end in itself; the individual acts because it is right, and not because it avoids punishment, is in their best interest, expected, legal, or previously agreed upon."
Al Giordano made a similar argument when discussing how liberals who are entrenched in stage four moral development made the argument that President Obama MUST prosecute Bush/Cheney for torture.
There are times when “The Law” is dressed up in liberal language in a way that masquerades the bloodlust behind witch hunts and impulses to scapegoat individuals for crimes or taboos that, in a democracy, we’re all responsible for having enabled.Giordano makes the case that ultimately it is in the spirit of Ubuntu that we will effectively dismantle the structures that support atrocities like torture. And that is exactly the approach Madiba took when seeking reconciliation with those who committed similar atrocities under the apartheid regime.
The same tendencies that have always placed me squarely against McCarthyism and Red Scares put me on the opposite side of some liberal and progressive colleagues today when they demand the prosecution of Bush, or of Cheney, or of some of their underlings...
In the end, preventing torture is a political struggle and also a power struggle, so much more than a matter of "The Law." It’s about changing society and its presumptions, and changing institutions, like the military and police agencies, where the culture is so prone to that kind of abuse.
What I've come to see from all this is that there is a reason we come to loggerheads when trying to discuss these issues. Gawd knows that I have tried and failed more times than I'd like to remember. I'm thinking that it sounds patronizing to posit that those who don't understand are operating from a lower stage of moral development. It goes against the grain of humility that I've been talking about lately.
But the truth is, those stages of moral development - while not a perfect theory (no system that attempts to capture human behavior is perfect) - are based on tested scientific observation. In other words, they at least begin to describe the human condition. There doesn't have to be prejudice in applying them to human behavior. So as long as we come to a conversation like this with a good dose of humility in our own limitations, understanding the conflicts in this way actually releases us from the attachment to win/lose, either/or and allows us to understand. That's what I'm working on "seeing"... in the spirit of Ubuntu.