‘It is darkest before the dawn’

There is an old saying, “It is always darkest before the dawn.” And God knows we are going through dark times, when the dawn just refuses to come.

Jul 23, 2021

By Anil Netto

There is an old saying, “It is always darkest before the dawn.” And God knows we are going through dark times, when the dawn just refuses to come.

Many have lost their jobs, while others are dipping into their retirement savings, if they are fortunate enough to have any. Still others are surviving on meagre rations.

Amid these trying conditions, leaders are jostling for positions of power and influence. It is the rare leader who really has the people’s interests at heart, as opposed to self-interest and greed.

Many years ago, my colleagues and I discussed what it would take for the nation to change for the better.

Someone suggested that perhaps the people would have to go through a period of suffering and despair for the scales to come off their eyes, so that they could see things as they are – the corruption, the race-based politics, the bigotry, the exclusion.

On the other hand, it is not only about the negativity surrounding us. If the scales were to fall during this time of suffering, we would also see all the heart-warming things we share in common … our common humanity in this world, our natural heritage, our common home. Perhaps we may even realise we are all sisters and brothers who, in the distant past, shared common ancestors, making us what … distant cousins in various degrees? At any rate, we share a common bond, and not only with our fellow humans, but with the entire ecosystem, of which we are a part.

Without such awareness and realisation, how do we know what to discard, what to change, and what really matters – how to rise above our differences to embrace what we have in common, “so that we may all be one”?

It has become clear that #kitajagakita is the way forward. We have to strengthen the bonds of social solidarity, the bonds that neoliberal policies have eroded since the 1980s.

The hallmark of strengthened social solidarity would be a more robust public healthcare system, a better quality public education system, genuinely affordable housing, improved food security (especially fruit and vegetables, preferably organically grown) and a welfare system that truly protects the vulnerable in society – irrespective of ethnicity, religion, gender, social class and nationality.

No one should be excluded from the banquet of life!

In the Beatitudes, Jesus refers to various groups as “blessed”: the poor (and the poor in spirit), those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (justice), the merciful, and the pure in heart.

These groups seem more passive in their disposition, though they may also be longing for change.

Jesus then goes on to list other more ‘active’ groups: the peacemakers, those who are persecuted because of (their pursuit of?) righteousness (justice), those who are insulted and persecuted and subjected to false testimony because of Jesus (and his Kingdom).

We cannot expect change to come by itself. We are called to pursue the path of peace, justice (righteousness), and the Kingdom.

If we are serious about this, inevitably, we will encounter resistance from those who have much to lose. After all, even John the Baptist, Jesus and many of his followers experienced this.

And where might this resistance come from? From forces who have much to lose from the pursuit of the more just, egalitarian Kingdom that Jesus envisaged.

We can find clues about where this pushback might come from by looking at the polar opposites of the groups whom Jesus considered blessed. Again, we have the passive and the more active groups.

The passive groups: those who have concentrated much wealth in their own hands, those who indulge their whims and live it up while many around them are suffering, the arrogant and pompous, those who are disdainful of the basic rights of others, those who refuse to show mercy, and the corrupt.

The more active groups would be those who actually persecute and insult — whether violently or otherwise — those seeking peace and justice, hauling them up for retribution. Remember what Saul (before his conversion) subjected the earliest followers of Jesus to?

Look at the woes in Luke 6:24-26 lying in wait for those who are obscenely wealthy (especially if their wealth is earned off the suffering of others), well fed, even laughing, while fawning hangers-on speak well of them.

These groups should be seen in the context of the stark socioeconomic disparities at the time of Jesus. Back then, the elite class had sucked the wealth of the peasants in the countryside and lived in luxury and merriment.

Their real sin was being indifferent to the plight of the toiling masses or, worse, compounding their poverty by placing enormous burdens on them, especially through excessive taxes, tithes, tolls and tributes (the four T’s).

Jesus shone a light in this darkness, and we then saw how the elite groups scrambled to suppress that Light. But the Light, much to their dismay, refused to be extinguished. May this Light dispel our darkness and usher in a new dawn for all of us.

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