“When they came for the Jews, I said nothing because I wasn’t a Jew, when they came for the trade unionist I said nothing because I wasn’t a unionist, when they came for the communist I said nothing because I wasn’t a communist…” Martin Neomoller.
In our daily lives as you and I perambulate in this thing called earth/life, in our places of employment, our institutions of learning, and even our relationships, we are constantly confronted with challenges and conflict, we see injustices happening to those that surround us, and quite often, most of us, take the easy way, because the other way is flocked with responsibilities, it requires courage and character, so we abscond ourselves of the responsibilities of intervening when we ought to, perhaps in the essence of protecting ourselves, and so we walk away, or even say I have no power over that, there’s nothing I can do.
“There comes a time when silence means betrayal” Martin Luther king.
Walking home one late evening from work, walking down the street from the train station, he hears what seems to be screams from down the alley, he stops for a moment to listen attentively, as he looks to the alley connecting the main street he is walking, were the screams seem to be coming from, he observes what appears to be 3 men and a lady on the ground, it becomes clear that the lady is at the mercy of these men as she further screams for help. The man is confronted with a crucial decision of intervening or walking away, and then he begins to contemplate of his wife and daughter, ‘what if I intervene and I die? What about my daughter, and wife?’, in a spur of a moment he begins running towards the screams- screaming, ‘hey stop, what are you doing?’, as he gains momentum towards the scene, the young men start running towards the opposite direction…
Growing up we knew that a child was a product of society, a product of the community, it was not an abomination for the parent next-door to discipline a child in the absence of their guardian, for the wise and old understood that habits are contagious, especially bad ones, that what the child from this house does, if not guarded, he will influence those around him, hence cultures of gangs prevail in some places and spaces. The weeds growing in your neighbor’s yard will tomorrow be your problem too.
“Every Man’s death diminishes me, because I’m involved in mankind, and therefore never send for whom the bell tolls for, it tolls for thee” Jon Donne, Meditation XVII.
Slavery, colonialism lasted for 300 years because there were people who absconded themselves of the responsibility of taking action to fight the oppressive systems, and there are many such systems that exist today, be it sexism, the culture of patriarchy, gender based violence and many alike.
As the boys ran away and the man reached the scene, asking the young lady if she was not injured as he got closer, he was momentarily shaken when he realized that the young lady who lay crying, helpless and terrified was his very daughter.
The last statement in Martin Neomoller’s quote he says, “And when they came for me, there was no one to say anything”. Your neighbor’s fate can easily become yours.
Blog post by: Tokelo Hlagala