We are one: The power of action

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Sunday, December 23rd, 2012
Harold A Maio, 75, is retired from teaching German and mental health editing, though he keeps a hand in both. Through art and German he has a lasting interest in expression, particularly in language. To him word is art, he likes to discern the meaning in word. Harold speaks to Newry Times this week about actions.

Harold A Maio

We are one. A police officer in the US  abetted by another, beats a young man to death on the streets. Other officers stand by doing nothing to stop him. The act is caught on a video phone camera. We are one. A man in Canada is beaten by a vigilante and later dies. It is not the first beating he has administered. It is the first death. We are one. As societies we inspire acts. Those acts are sometimes good, sometimes not. We are not always one. The leader of a sub-society decides to take personal action against another world wide sub-society, knowing the actions that will result and burns a book holy to them. Many people die in the rioting that takes place. Sub-societies inspire acts. Those acts are sometimes good, sometimes not. Doctors in Scotland do nothing as a woman in need of medical aid dies, fearing the acts government will take against them if they act. Societies around the world have different standards for the acts they will tolerate. Sub-societies have different standards for the acts they will tolerate. Governments have different standards for the acts they will tolerate. The officers in the first beating death will go to prison. The man in the second beating death will go to prison. The minister who burned the holy book will not be charged. The men whose acts to that event resulted in many deaths will not be charged. Doctors in Scotland will not be charged. Government will not be held accountable for the woman’s death. We cannot always count on governments, a sub-society within societies, to act. We, each of us, respond or do not on the basis of lessons we have observed. Now, in my elder years, I have become aware of the lessons to which I reacted. Many of my acts violate my today standards. I struggle to appreciate what lessons I ought not follow. My reactions in the present often fly in the face of people who adhere to those lessons, as I adhered to those in the past. I am inspired by language in my reactions. I follow a simple axiom: If directed at me, would I accept contemporary acts? I do not direct what I would not personally accept. I follow another simple axiom: If directed at groups who have taught me through their struggles for full respect, I do not direct my acts. I am satisfied with the lessons I have taught myself through the struggles of others. I have many examples in my life, I am grateful for each one. The Women’s Movement occurred here in my youth. I learned from it. The African American Movement occurred here in my youth. I learned from it. Though I had known of Gandhi, I had not learned from him, but through Martin Luther King and his adherence to Gandhi, I learned from him. Earlier Gandhi had remained distant, far from me geographically, I did not see the application of his philosophy beyond India, a society remote from mine. The world has shrunken since then, it is far easier to see and respond to lessons from far away. The speed of communication in word and images informs me, and with the experience of age, I react far differently than I did as a youth. I have become open to learning. I do not know from where that sprung, but I am grateful that it did. As an Elder I take very seriously modeling the lessons I have learned. My children do not harbor the prejudice I once did. I observe their acts and know that not only has society changed, that it influences their acts positively, but I have as well. Are my prejudices still present? In my mind I cannot erase them, in my acts I can. It is my acts that matter. Those I can decide.
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