by Jennie S. Bev
Two centuries ago, John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence". This still rings true to this very day and we can clearly see how facts and evidence dominate scientific approaches, ranging from participatory, empirical, constructivism and post positivism. As the logical consequence, equality is oftentimes seen as a condition derived from facts and evidence in the society, not merely a subject in discourses.
Is equality everything? Is it so favorable that we cannot see the merit and beauty in inequality (a.k.a. differences)? What is "equality,” anyway? Why is it considered a "fallacy"?
Today's state of persecution of minorities, including those occurring in Indonesia, has reached an unprecedented level. Intolerance, especially in the realm of religions, can no longer be tolerable. What does "equality,” or lack thereof, have to do with persecution? What can we, as the majority, do about it given the bothersome facts and evidence?
Empirically speaking, throughout the history of humankind, strong and outspoken minorities have been dominating the political sphere, leaving the majority in a "following" mode, either consciously or not-so-consciously. Perhaps it is called "herd" mentality, or at least "members of the pack.”
This is an undeniable fact, which is oftentimes reflected by the silent majority. The case of persecution of Ahmadis in Indonesia, for instance, has left many humanists in trepidation. And this is an undeniable fact, which is hard to swallow.
In this case, apparently, religious hard-liners have been relatively successful in bringing forth awareness of different interpretations of some theological concepts, such as the disbandment basis of this "deviant" sect, put forth by loud and influential pressure groups.
Their apparently intransigent insistence in referring to that particular "deviant" sect within the treacherous notion of iconoclasm might as well be contradictory in reality. This leaves opposing minorities, which include strong and outspoken humanists, and the silent majority at a disadvantage and in a predicament, nonetheless.
Equality in humanitarian values is a valid concept, but equal interpretations as the only legitimate common ground for mutual respect is a fallacy. Failure to acknowledge this has led to religiosclerosis, or in this case, theologiosclerosis, which refers to the hardening of the walls between religions or theological schools.
In a world that is getting less tolerant religiously, foreknowledge is expected in which vexation and disdain are parts of unremitting accretion. Curiosity, however, lies in the hands of the silent majority, as those being persecuted would hope for some alleviation of sufferings. The archetype of a society's majority, nonetheless, has not been known to result in dissipation of persecutions.
Look at the Holocaust and the recent incidents in Rwanda and Sudan. The majority's mutiny against loud and pressing minorities is probably something that we should refrain from hoping for, as it is historically almost non-existent. At this point, swirling and churning roles of the majority and opposing minorities in the society is good enough an indication of the so-called caring majority, that there is still hope in the midst of activism mimicking desultory reactions.
The silent majority maintaining the status quo may as well be the strongest moral force emanating the allure of what a balanced society looks like. The key is probably not expecting them to take charge in making direct changes, regardless of how appealing the notion is, but to increase individuals' awareness of what a human being is capable of doing and not doing, both independently and collectively. After all, those strong outspoken minorities comprise individuals with a mission and a vision, which is something that can be countered with equal forces.
Being persecuted is much more than living in terror. It is alienating and dehumanizing. And to show compassion to those being persecuted is pretty simple. Just be a human being and act humanely. If it requires hardcore activism and compassionate acts, so be it. Act courageous and gentlemanly, like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. did. Start a nonviolent movement from yourself.
Talking may be perceived as useless and cheap, but it is not. Talking requires bravery and intelligence, and talking to the right people in power, be it in writing or otherwise, would create a counter bargaining power to those hard-liners.
We will feel useful and in control of paving our own way to a brighter future. Unless we do so, we are on the pathway to darkness without any point of return.
The Jakarta Post, May 28, 2008