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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Solidarity Forever

Solidarity is the word that uniting workers, abused servants, and those denied equal treatment use to articulate their dream. It implies union, cohesion, cooperation, harmony, agreement.  Solidarity is more than a means to higher wages, safer conditions, and better jobs. It is an end in itself: the respect for human dignity that comes from power. Concerted action.

Solidarity is achieved by sharing suffering and struggle. Philosophers and theologians teach the dignity of all men and women by saying that we are all children of God, we are all born with the divine spark of reason, we all share a common nature or ancestor or consciousness. Those are nice thoughts; but I don't think they lead to solidarity, much less to some universal community of God, Truth, and the Good Society.

At church today, Rob read a selection from Ta-Nahisi Coates' letter to his son where he said: I am sorry that I cannot protect you, but not so sorry--because you have to learn what it means to be vulnerable. Realizing that we are vulnerable, that is, subject to pain and suffering, is the path to solidarity. Vulnerability is accepted when we realize that we are contingent--radically contingent. Our thoughts, our language, our societies, and our selves are contingent. And the acknowledgement of contingency comes from the acceptance of our mortality.

To accept our death, without the pretense that we will go on somehow through reincarnation or by an afterlife in heaven, takes courage and honesty. When I fully accept that I will be no more, that my body and brain will dissolve., that there will be no mind or soul called Rollie Smith. Only then do I fully accept my contingency and my vulnerability--my ability to suffer.

Only then can I feel with the sufferings of others. Only then is there a possibility of compassion and solidarity. And yet, even here, compassion and solidarity will not happen unless I physically, emotionally, and spiritually connect with others in their vulnerability, suffering and their struggle to be recognized. This does not happen in a classroom course, a church sermon, a religious retreat, a meditation exercise, or a philosophy lesson. It only happens when I touch another who is also vulnerable and suffering. Where she or he is here and now.

That is the essence of organizing for solidarity. I share with another our stories of vulnerability and suffering. I grieve with them. I feel their pain of being dominated and abused and humiliated. And I struggle with them to stop the behaviors, the institutions, and the powers that are causing it.

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