Consider this analogy: a group of well-meaning activists in late 1850’s America hope to bring an end to the horrors of slavery without war. They propose that the two sides strive for reconciliation, that slaves sit down at the negotiating table with slave owners and attempt to work out their differences through negotiation. The activists believe that the institution of slavery is oppressive, a violation of human rights, and that it must end, but they also recognize the property rights of owners to their slaves, as well as the owners’ right to their lives and their livelihoodstheir right to exist and not be murdered in a slave uprising. The activists propose a middle way between the two sides, recognizing that both are responsible for the conflict (slaves have shown a propensity to rebel, causing the slave owners to tighten their oppressive grip) but believing that both slaves and owners have a right to free, peaceful, and secure lives and that the only way to achieve this is to avoid blaming either side. Do we think this is absurd? Imagine a similar scenario involving an attempt to mediate in a balanced, blame-free atmosphere between Catholic priests and the children they have sexually abused. The absurdity of neutrality is equally obvious in this situation. What is most absurd in these scenarios and what links them is the notion of treading a middle or supposedly neutral path between two sides when there exists a total imbalance of power. Could anyone seriously suggest that slaves, utterly powerless except for the ability occasionally to rebel, should seek some kind of equitable solution between themselves and their overlords? Could anyone seriously suggest that abused children, utterly powerless except for the ability to kick and scream, should negotiate with their abusers?By: Kathleen Christison
Date: 10 July 2004
this article in CounterPunch
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