Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Revenge, justice and nature bites back ...

I believe in justice and in judgement, I believe in righteousness.
I also believe in mercy and love and care and gentleness.
I do not however believe in retribution. Oh yes of course I do sometimes feel Schadenfreude - and rather enjoy it - but somehow deep down "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" leaves a world unable to see or to eat.

Many moons ago someone I did not much like experienced a difficult personal crisis. I often think about that event when I hear or read the phrase "When bad things happen to good people". I had not particularly wished that individual well and I felt very challenged by what happened to them. So how do we cope, pray, react when bad things happen to bad people, or just to people we do not much like?

Perhaps in the end it is just about trying to follow the line set by Desmond Tutu that we are all "Made for Goodness" - we need to believe this about others but we also need to believe it about ourselves. We too are made for goodness.

The earthquake and ensuing Tsunami in Japan are almost beyond our ability to find a framework for understanding. I do not think that it is nature's revenge to create nuclear pollution - neither nature nor God chose to build nuclear power plants in the country that is one of the most earthquake prone in the world. "Rational" scientists and politicians doubtless chose to do that The "rational" electorate no doubt wanted relatively cheap and "clean" electricity.
I cannot be pleased at the prospect of nuclear pollution. If it serves perhaps as a wake up call (did Chernobyl?) then I wonder for quite how long it may be effective.

At the moment the people of Japan need not theories of retribution but clear solidarity and practical compassion. Later, when there is time for calmer analysis, I would hope that the (sometimes) corrupt way that decision-making and political power operated might also give way to forms which involve all the people much more. In the aftermath of disaster it is not only the physical that needs to be rebuilt, political cultures and structures also need to be rebuilt. In the process it is good to be guided by Tutu's phrase and believe that all of us are made for goodness. Perhaps though it's also a good idea to also keep the phrase from Matthew's gospel in mind , to "be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves".