After carefully watching and listening to the political discourse, as provided by Democrats and Republicans in Washington D.C., the city councils, state houses, and the political pundits on cable news channels, I’ve realized that there are a few things that seem to be lacking in the discussion. None of these groups talk about freedom and justice. Now I’ve mentioned to others the absence of “freedom” and “justice” from the discourse. And I was told that these media people are supposed to present a nonpartisan view on things. But it seems that the one bipartisan agreement is that we will not talk about justice in terms of our political and economic practice. And there seems that we will not speak of freedom, as a universal condition through which people might exercise control over their well-being and use of time. Somehow to speak of social justice and social freedom, or justice and freedom for everybody is a leftist concern. I always thought it was a human moral issue. I always thought that was the purpose of forming a society: to promote the general welfare, the general freedom of its people.
Nevertheless, the promethean challenge of realizing freedom and justice for all, falls on the shoulders of the Oppressed; those who’ve long been without these, and those who see their interests as inexorably linked to the realization of such conditions for themselves and others. But what makes the small minority of people see their fate as intertwined? Social theories and the study of ideologies and philosophies can only identify the ways people think and behave. Such theories may even serve to make people aware of the patterns of their behavior, but they cannot explain the irrationality of abandoning comfort for struggle, happiness for suffering, and security for uncertainty! As someone who believes that change is a product of what we, as people do, and not the work of fate or a supernatural force, I cannot make sense of what provides such motivation to struggle when a better alternative for the self is to accept the status quo. The understanding of such a motivation is beyond the concrete and finds itself the sphere of poetry, which is itself in the domain of love.
Love is a vital component for any movement for justice and freedom. If love is absent the movement will fail. Now I’m not one to say that “love conquers all”. Love must be basis of all justice-oriented actions, but organization of resources, strategic thinking, and collective action are necessary for concrete change. Nevertheless, all these things without love will fall short of the goal of freedom for everyone. The achievement of the universal conditions of freedom is a condition dominated by love. But the interesting thing is that love is needed in order to achieve love. That is, only actions and struggle derived and endured out of love for one another can beget freedom. I suppose it would be true to say that love is the first and the last.
I am not a particularly abstract person. But some things just cannot be understood without the use of abstractions. At the same time I am not naïve. I know that not everyone is willing to allow them-selves to love others. Those who drop bombs on others disallow themselves the chance to love others. Perhaps worse, they create the conditions of impossibility for others to love. Those who deny others adequate health care and the peace-in-mind from financial insecurity are waging a war against love. They make it more and more difficult for people to think about the conditions of others, as their own security is under siege. When we send the signal that “those people and their children” in foreign lands and “those people” in ghettos are more deserving of terrorism by way of bullets flying, dignity voided, and aspirations ignored, we are saying that we are incapable of love and that we wish others to have loveless existence.
Many of us are aware of the three expressions of love put forward by the Greeks. The first is eros. Eros is a romantic love, a deeply stirring drive or desire for something. I tend to think of this as passion. In relations to freedom and justice we have to have passion. But being passionate is not enough. That is just a spark. Next we have philia which is the love expressed between people. It is the love based on reciprocity, which leads to a sentimental connection. Perhaps, this is where compassion comes in. We have to be capable of compassion for each other. If we are incapable of compassion and good deeds towards each other how can we ever to strive to unbind the Prometheus within? But still this love is not enough, because mistreatment may lead to bitterness, and bitterness surely strangles compassion in the cradle.
That leaves us with agape. This love is not a love based on reciprocity, yet, compassion springs forth from it. But its compassion is for greater good and wellbeing for others in spite of their sentiments and actions towards you. This is the basis of Dr. King’s statement, “we must meet hate with love”. It is also the basis of the statement, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” There must be some greater understanding of right and wrong that transcends our own fickle individual sentiments or else there can be no hope for tomorrow!
In thinking about love and its different expressions, I am realizing that these different expressions are not mutually exclusive. I would argue that all of these expressions are vital to the grand charge placed upon our hearts and minds. To allow eros or this romantic love, which is based in the passion and yearning for ideals often leads to frustration, and sometimes the betrayal of such ideals, as it may promote the ideal over what is real. And what is real is the true life suffering, and challenges of people including ourselves. This means we need to engage in concrete acts that benefit our immediate needs. But ultimately it is agape love that is needed to go beyond the immediate with acts that amount to progress and not acts that perpetuate.
It is only when these three expressions of love are in unity that we claim the existence of true love. And this true love can only be affirmed through action. True love commands us to claim life over death. It demands liberation over supplication. And preoccupation must overcome indifference. True love requires actions that go beyond desires of the individual. As such, justice is the practical form of true love, and the means through which freedom is created! Furthermore, I have found that this true love is not subordinate to the fears and timidity of individuals, for it answers to something beyond the conditions of fear and oppression. It is the right of all people even if they deny it for themselves. An Oppressor does not have a right to deny freedom and justice to the Oppressed. And the Oppressed, being that they are conditioned by their oppression, have no right to deny others the pursuit of a more just social order. The Justice of Love is eternally bound to the Love of Justice.