Joining the massive protest march (March 23rd), the coalition of resistance, has been a highpoint Lenten experience for me. I gave up writing about protesting and took to the streets with the thousands protesting – hopefully making a statement against heartless and some clueless politics (not to mention politicians! I lost track of the number of poignant, creative and stinging placards carried by protestors of all ages on this protest.
As we marched in what I can only describe as a Carnival atmosphere, I wondered if I had my bible on me, what scripture passage would I read and how different that reading would have been. I am sure there will be many texts.
The thought crossed my mind, however, as I had only recently come across the practice of what has been referred to as “dislocated exegesis” – the practice of reading scripture in unexpected places, in places that might unsettle the reading you were accustomed to or likely to bring to the text from the comfort of one’s desk or office.
The text that came to mind, as it was easy to remember having heard it so many times (besides preaching on it!) was the story of the Good Samaritan. What did I hear differently, as the very familiar words of this narrative replayed in my ears and my mind on the march?
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…” The thousands journeying on this march took on this journey in solidarity against inconsiderate economic policies that would affect very vulnerable people. In the eyes of the government and the banking institutions, I suppose we would not be considered “the good protestors” but largely idiots who do not understand the economic mess we are in, who are unable to give up our comfortable lives and people who can only moan and whinge! It must have been mind-blowing to juxtapose “good” alongside “Samaritan”, as it is to do so (in the minds of many) alongside the very diverse group of protestors on that march!
There were many neighbours on this solidarity or coalition march – unlikely ones, but neighbours nevertheless – who may have beeen (or are) victims themselves, but who are certainly on the march for the many victims our economic policies have attacked, battered and left for dead on the roadside. I recall the words of Gustavo Gutierrez: “the neighbour is not the one whom I find in my path, but rather the one in whose path I place myself, the one whom I approach and actively seek.” When this happens it is not only the world that will change, but also our ways of acting in it. This is when protest marches are then translated in concrete policies that change the ways we manage our economic life together.
Participating in the protest march brought alive for me the need to revisit the assailants in the story of the Good Samaritan – who often go unnoticed in the story. I mean those who assault, leave people naked, wounded and bleeding to death at the wayside of history. They would continue to go unnoticed as long as we only go down from Jerusalem to Jericho to treat the wounded with compassion, without it ever dawning upon us that that we are only binding up wounds while nothing changes. Binding up wounds isn’t enough; we have got to also ensure that people don’t need to be bound up in the first place. More radical steps are necessary in order to get at the root of the problem. This is the task before us which that march brought forcefully back to me. The “coalition of resistance must turn into “coalition of change” that starts with each one of us! After all, in economic terms (to employ its own logic): it is cheaper to eliminate poverty and social ills than to maintain it! We need an alternative system not a bandaged up and redressed one!
copyright March 29, 2011