#3 Social Justice or Social Mercy?
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! I’m Maseh Hadaf, and this is DeepTox. Every episode, I’ll explore an idea that challenges the way I see the world. I want you to leave this podcast the same way I came into it, having discovered something of value. Thank you for being here with me.
- I wish you plenty of suffering this year. Valuable suffering.
- Comfort vs. suffering.
- Like a hot potato. Non-identifying with suffering. Another box you’re in.
- More “Social Mercy”
Suffering and Mercy
“One of the last things man will surrender is his suffering” Ivanovich Gurdjieff
(Wisdom of the Enneagram book)
Seems strange, why wouldn’t we let our suffering go?
- Forms the shadow of our identity, personality/ego is most formed around.
- An abusive father, being humiliated for your weight, being sexually assaulted by a partner.
Social justice, is it an outlet for our suffering? If you do believe in social justice, why do you believe in it?
Huge for activists. Ask yourself. What drives your pursuit of social justice? Underneath the altruism, and goodness. What are the shadow reasons, the ones that don’t feel good?
Who, what would I be, if I were to not identify with my suffering? With my shame, my anger, my pain? Is it as easy as just letting go? Complicated grief. Naivety.
Is my suffering holding me back from the same social justice that I seek? I am of the belief that social justice rooted in suffering, in anger/fear/shame, is doomed to fail, it must be rooted in love, the same love that makes social mercy possible.
Mercy is when you forgive someone who has wronged you, even when they deserve punishment. Before we can show mercy to others, I am of the belief that we need to reflect deeply on our own suffering, and show mercy for ourselves.
Okay but what does that really mean? How exactly do we do that? Part 1 is discovery, tactics to re-imagine our suffering. Part 2 is Creation, how do we go beyond social justice to show social mercy to others.
Discover: Tactics to re-integrate with our suffering
Catching ourselves in the act of holding on to our suffering
Perhaps your mind has already wandered while listening to this podcast
Catching yourself by thinking about how you’re thinking, and letting a thought go. Hard, especially with habitual thoughts. Very much like working out. We don’t realize how much energy we spend holding on to suffering, how much energy we spend thinking mindlessly, instead of being present and acting. I believe it’s a cause of procrastination, which can be a lot deeper than simply laziness.
Every thought casts a shadow, and you need to look closely to see what that shadow is. You shouldn’t try to stop it or put it away, repress it, but rather just be aware of it and let it pass. I’ve committed myself to this, and I’m finding more and more, a sense of passive mindfulness.
It could be reliving the past, imagining what you could have said in that argument. What someone really meant by what they said, over-analyzing the details, what the right answer on the test was.
Imagining the future
Fantasizing success, love, sex. To fill a void, the suffering of not-having some deeper need
Catastrophizing, preparing for rejection from a partner, for a fight with someone you see on the street. Preparing for suffering.
Habits that help us avoid the present
Checking social media, random rewards. Staying busy. Reading, doing something while eating, a need to be productive, the microwave. In fear of the quiet mind.
What is the quiet mind?
Catching yourself in the act (Wisdom of the Enneagram). Literally pulling yourself out of the thought, it feels good even if it’s bad. Say it out loud. Hearing it.
Ask yourself in that moment. What does your higher self demand? Not your more morally righteous self necessarily, but your higher self that is more free and open, non-attached. And it’s hard meeting the needs of the higher self, it’s demanding.
Personal experience, abstaining from highs of mania and lows of depression, baseline goes up. Stoicism.
When we become aware of how identified we are with our suffering, we open ourselves and the world around us to the possibility of mercy.
Create: Making Space for Social Mercy, not just Social Justice
What is mercy?
Forgiving those who have wronged us.
It feels foreign, even the mention of the word carries a religious undertone, reserved for preachers, there are no incentives, the transaction is unequal, it’s utopian, even. The ‘left’ might tell you it reproduces the image of being docile and servile, passive and subordinate, a pitiful obstacle to the revolution. Can you see the underlying shame in the statements? The anger? The ‘right’ might tell you it’s unrealistic, that the individual should be held responsible for their actions, that it weakens the sense of order, and that forgiveness must be earned. Can you see the underlying fear? The anger?
There are people on all ‘sides’ that reject mercy. Most major religions, famous atheists, cultures of old, philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche, consider mercy to one of the greatest of virtues for humankind. Nietzsche wrote in Genealogy of Morality,
“The justice which began with, “everything is dischargeable, everything must be discharged,” ends by winking and letting those incapable of discharging their debt go free: it ends, as does every good thing on earth, by overcoming itself. This self-overcoming of justice: one knows the beautiful name it has given itself—mercy; it goes without saying that mercy remains the privilege of the most powerful man”
To show mercy to another, is to show mercy to yourself. To that part of yourself that has been fragmented, hurt, wronged. It demands exploring suffering deeply, and re-integrating with parts of your psyche that you repress or compensate for with an incomplete, or worse, misguided activism.
Politics and activism
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.
- Conversations with Myself, Nelson Mandela’s story.
- Catch yourself dehumanizing others, putting people in degrading boxes or ‘sides’, the point that you become the monster you’re challenging.
- Catching yourself identifying with any one all-encompassing idea, being a little too mainstream radical. Calling yourself a communist or capitalist, left or right.
Spark: Start small. Tinker with Mercy.
If this is something you struggle with, or don’t really believe in, start small. Experiment with mercy.
It can be forgiving a person who cuts you off while driving, letting go of the road rage that only you feel the effect of. It can mean showing love to your partner when they’re letting their frustration out on you. It can mean reconnecting with friends you no longer speak to because of some past, faded wrong. It can mean just looking in the mirror, actually looking into your eyes, and for a moment, with no judgment, no thoughts, just seeing yourself.
“Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a field. I will meet you there.”