My Social Justice Mantras

A couple of blogs back I wrote about social justice and human rights, so I thought I’d just pop into this blog the two mantras which motivate me.

The first one, very often quoted, is from Pastor Martin Niemoeller who was a German pastor and theologian. Initially he supported Hiter’s rise to power but he subsequently became disillusioned. He became the leader of a group of German clergymen opposed to Hitler. In 1937 he was arrested and eventually confined in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. He was released by the Allied Forces in 1945 and, according to Wikipedia: “continued his career in Germany as a clergyman and as a leading voice of penance and reconciliation for the German people after World War 11”.

These words have great meaning for me because I was a kid in the post-war period when many of the atrocities carried out by the SS in particular were talked about in great detail. I remember coming across a book, hidden by my parents but with a child’s curiosity I found it.  In it were photos of concentration camps, bodies of inmates piled one on top of the other, rows upon rows of skeletal figures only just alive, and one photo I remember in particular, that of a Jewish man in whose cheek had been carved out a star, as in the yellow star Jews were forced to wear to demonstrate their Jewish origins.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

  Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

 Then they came for the trade unionists
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Not mentioned here are the gypsies, homosexuals, intellectually or physically handicapped, students – anyone who opposed the Nazi regime or who didn’t fit the image of the superior white perfect German – who were also interned and butchered or gassed in concentration camps.

The other poem which is my touchstone is by the poet, John Donne:

“Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls,

it tolls for thee.”

As I said in my previous blog, the fact I’m a Libran with my Ascendant in Libra inspires my passion for social justice. But this has also been fuelled by my early memories of the atrocities carried out in war-time by the Nazi parties and those in Italy and Japan who espoused the same philosophies of racial superiority. I’m also aware that very many were courageous and resisted fascist philosophies, and I hope their courage and bravery, many times at the expense of their own lives is never forgotten because they remind us that evil flourishes when good people don’t stand up and speak, but many, many had the courage to stand up for what they believed was right and good.

Be Courageous

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