An eye or a cheek?
SUZANNE MILLS Friday, June 22 2012
You know those times when you become a tumble weed on the gusty tundra, life blowing you about, knocking the wind out of you so that you explode, “Lordamercy, spare me, I wouldn’t wish this predicament on my worst enemy!”? You conclude that some suffering is so dreadful, so beyond your vilest scheming and the swoop of your bitter mind’s eye, it transcends all barriers and boundaries, even yours.
That’s the feeling that spurred COP members to reach out to their former partisan Marlene Coudray in her anguish; that made them blurt, “Our political differences pale in comparison to our shared humanity.” There is little hypocritical about compassion when it derives from no ambition within; indeed its genuine expression humbles us and can make us the better and stronger for it.
Nalini Dial feels no sympathy for her human enemy; her empathy is reserved for man’s best friend, the dog, but it would be inconceivable for the vengeance in her heart to be hers, so she ascribes it to a fall guy. God told her that Coudray’s daughter has paid for the sins of the mother with her timely demise, though he spoke not directly but through the Bible. Though holding no issue with true believers, I am mystified by modern day Christians who cite the Old Testament and who are experts at detecting God’s punishing hand poised to extract an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, when Christ predicated the contrary position of forgive as you will be forgiven, judge not lest you be judged, or some such liberal ideology, which did not seek to rationalise human pettiness, but to eradicate it.
I could be wrong, perhaps Dial is not Christian and I have been too hasty with my conclusions. May Dial find room in her Buddhist heart for this transgressor, Christianity speaking little to the animal rights cause; it being a human centric faith system, man placed at the locus of a universe managed by his God, above and beyond his fellow creatures.
I do however uphold Ms Dial’s right to conceive of murder as bad karma, though I wonder whether we are not devaluing freedom of speech by concluding that liberty means we should share every inanity that crosses our minds, as if this were a pearl of wisdom, fashioned out of years of mental cultivation. Nothing must be kept to ourselves. We converse to the extent that we seem to have stopped believing in the art of contemplation. That said, perhaps contrarily I defend Dial’s right to the most outrageous and banal of declarations and believe the COP would be immature and undemocratic were it to ban her for her gross insensitivity. If we profess ourselves advocates of liberty of expression, we must include the utterances we find most abhorrent.
Yet if Dial had thought it through before writing, she would have realised that free speech does not fall into a vacuum; but bears consequences, often weighty. As free as speech is, for every declaration, there is a price, a reaction; universal notion which is contained in popular idioms such as an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. With speech it should be a word for a word, but the revenge is usual paid in unexpected currency, and dear.
Neither has Dial considered that when she demands COP support her right to unfettered rambling she is commanding the listener be compassionate and tolerant of her opinions and not exact a steep wage for her words, costly to the listener though these may be. Turns out that liberty of expression rests on the very Christian fundamentals Dial rejects when she condemns and damns Marlene Coudray and her family: forgiveness, sympathy, perhaps empathy.
Dial’s devotion to her cause has blinded her to an alternative manner of measuring misfortune: in this innocent young woman’s grave, the COP and UNC have been afforded the opportunity to bury the hatchet. Surely it is more Christian to look for the silver lining in tragedy, to find the path to light and to commonality, than to look over the shoulder toward the divisive past and into the abyss. Some good Samarian needs to help Dial feel her way out of the Old Testament.