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UERJ 2006

Ways of meeting oppression

    Oppressed people deal with their oppression in three characteristic ways. One way is acquiescence: 5the oppressed resign themselves to their doom. 6They tacitly adjust themselves to oppression, and thereby become conditioned to it. In every movement toward freedom some of the oppressed prefer to remain oppressed.
    There is such a thing as the freedom of exhaustion. Some people are so worn down by the yoke of oppression that they give up. This is the type of negative freedom and resignation that often engulfs the life of the oppressed. But this is not the way out. To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system; thereby the oppressed become as evil as the oppressor. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
    A second way that oppressed people sometimes deal with oppression is to resort to physical violence and corroding hatred. Violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem; it merely creates new and more complicated ones.
    The third way, open to oppressed people in their quest for freedom, is the way of nonviolent resistance. 1Nonviolence can touch men where the law cannot reach them. 2When the law regulates behavior it plays an indirect part in molding public sentiment. 7The enforcement of the law itself is a form of peaceful persuasion. But the law needs help. 3Here nonviolence comes in as the ultimate form of persuasion. It is the method which seeks to implement the just law by appealing to the conscience of the great decent majority who through blindness, fear, pride, or irrationality has allowed their consciences to sleep.
    The nonviolent resisters can summarize their message in the following simple terms: We will take direct action against injustice without waiting for other agencies to act. 4We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because 8our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to the truth as we see it.
    The way of nonviolence means a willingness to suffer and sacrifice. It may mean going to jail. It may even mean physical death. But if physical death is the price that a man must pay to free his children from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing could be more redemptive.


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