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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

GLBTQi: Your struggle is THE struggle

The BBC’s new offering The Eichmann Show is shaping up as one of the ‘must watch’ shows of 2015, and may be instructive to those interested in the philosophical underpinnings of the struggle for GLBTQi justice.
Full disclosure: I love this guy. I'd watch him paint a fence.

The central character Adolf Eichmann (brilliantly captured by erstwhile Hobbitt and proto-Cumberbitch Martin Freeman) was the SS officer charged with arranging the industrial-scale logistics of the holocaust—ghetto-ization, deportation, internment, and elimination of those deemed ‘sub-human’. He has been an especially fascinating figure because of his very ordinariness—a quiet, unremarkable, little efficiency expert. A torturer in a grey flannel suit. It was he who inspired the phrase made famous by Hannah Arendt “the banality of evil.”
The banality of evil
The show absolutely nails the essential ethical disconnect at the heart of all oppression with this speech:

"For each of us who has ever felt that God created us better than any other human being, has stood on the threshold where Eichmann once stood. And each of us who has allowed the shape of another person's nose, or the color of their skin, or the manner in which they worship their God to poison our feelings towards them, have known the loss of reason that led Eichmann to his madness. For this is how it all began with those who did these things." - The Eichmann Show.

Cognizant that homosexuality, too, was swept up in last century’s attempt to ‘cleanse’ the human race, we might, of course, add to that list: “those whose sexuality differs from ours.” But that’s not really my point here.

This speech made we wonder: How many of us involved in struggling for justice for all, have felt that subtle moral slip into regarding those whose views we oppose as something less than fully human? When we confront and challenge the Abbotts and Bernardis of the world, do we not feel the same pull to demonize them? This is a real danger, not simply because it’s hypocritical, but because it’s easy to become what you hate, by adopting their stance, making their contempt for you an excuse for your contempt for them.

The struggle for GLBTQi justice is, at its core, the struggle to recognize the fact of our mutual subjectivity--the first principle my church lifts up as a non-negotiable: “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” Either you affirm this or you affirm, however tacitly, that (in the words of Orwell’s Animal Farm) “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. There’s no grey area here: you have to choose.

So, dear reader, your struggle for GLBTQi justice is but a species of THE struggle, the struggle of all humanity ever since we were capable of abstract thought and could recognize that ‘others’ were as real as the self. So spare a thought (and perhaps some work) for the other struggles as well—gender equality, justice for asylum-seekers, justice for our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Your struggle is their struggle too. Their victory will be yours, and yours will be theirs. Any victory for genuine human equality lifts all oppressed boats.
Self and 'other'
This is why I think a win for Marriage Equality (which will come, must come, and soon) will be a win for humanity, and a step forward in the spiritual evolution of the race. But that doesn’t mean we should stop there. You will also need to monitor and search the depths of your own heart to ensure that, through exuberant triumphalism or mere banal carelessness, we too find ourselves in Eichmann’s shoes.