Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Ethics for Activists - 3

Eduardo Galeano, one of the greatest writers in any language, spoke about "doubt" in an interview he did many years ago for NACLA's Report on the Americas. These words have acted like a mantra for me ever since as i struggle to be an effective participant in the struggle against injustice. What week or month goes by without adding to our burden of discouragements? Galeano's words remind me that discouragement is not something to fear, nor need we compound it with an additional burden of bad feeling for being discouraged. As Galeano writes, discouragement is proof that we are human.

...I do not have a bad opinion of doubt. I think doubt has been a factor in the movement of history. I have grown to appreciate doubt more and more and, at the same time, to distrust those compaƱeros who only offer certainty. They seem too much like the wooden men which the Popul Vuh in Mayan mythology describes as one of the mistakes the gods made when they attempted to create man and didn't know how to construct him and finally they made him out of corn and he came out alright. But one of those attempts consisted of creating him out of wood.

The wooden man was just like a man except that no blood ran through his veins; he had no spirit or courage and didn't speak a word. I believe he had nothing to say because he had no courage and therefore was never discouraged. The proof that one has courage lies in the fact that one can be discouraged. And the proof that one can arrive at certainties that are truly capable of transforming reality lies in the ability to entertain fertile doubts before arriving at certainty; doubts that buzz around in one's head, one's conscience, one's heart, in the imagination, like tenacious flies. We need neither fear doubt nor discouragement: they are proof that our endeavors are human. And we are fortunate that these endeavors are human. Otherwise, these would be the endeavors of false men, men of wood, that is to say bureaucrats, dogmatic men, people who choose models over reality. Discouragement and doubt indicate that one sees reality as it really is.

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