Monday, March 11, 2013

People first


Leaving Phoenix,  I have one last thought about our PHEWA time together.

We learned it from our colleagues in the Disabilities Concerns network. People first. It was language pedagogy at first: don’t say disabled people, deaf people, the poor, the homeless...People are nouns, not adjectives and any adjective does not define a person’s identity. We have had to stop and think until we have begun to understand. A group can refer to itself in this way as a form of community identification, as in the deaf community, but it is not to the rest of us to define people by any condition which is only one aspect of who they are. People first. Liberals have a longways to go here. People first.

But it’s more than that. It’s a commitment of practice. Those of us who have been around awhile have all experienced in one movement or campaign or organization or another the idea that people can be sacrificed for the cause. Point is, it is always soemone else who gets sacrificed. And who gets to decide? On what basis? The discourse is that personal feelings are to be set aside but in all honesty, it is usually personal feelings disguised as ideology that lead to banishments and exclusions. (Our Reformed perspective on how things work makes that pretty clear. It’s the way things are...) Too easy. Too susceptible to envy, jealousy, personal stuff that pretends to be objective. 

Organizing teaches us that it’s all about relationships. Yes, we can call each other to accountability, We are compelled to do that. But the nature of the society we seek to create is already revealed in the nature of how we conduct our struggle. Any vanguard, any leadership, that seeks to act for the masses and not with the masses has already acted in a condescending, paternalistic way that destroys community. And liberals can  be the worst offenders.  People first.

It was Che who said At the risk of sounding ridiculous, the primary motivation of any revolutionary must be love

Or if you prefer, Jesus who said that  you can't say you love God and hate your brother or sister. 

We have decided to claim this as one of the defining principles of our PHEWA culture. People first. The rest follows. 

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