Silencing minorities and difference is dangerous

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Alan Barth wrote, “Majorities, of course, are often mistaken.  This is why the silencing of minorities is always dangerous.  Criticism and dissent are the indispensable antidotes to major delusions.”

It is not often we remember to think and reflect that dissent and social division are actually moments of joy in our lives as they make individuals of all of us.  We stop being clones; we stop being one of the comfortable majority when we care enough about something to speak out and say it differently to those around us.  I think it is this awareness of our differences that ensures we are able to contribute and give something to this world of value to others.

To go beyond our comfort levels means we step out of the area of certainty in our lives.  It makes us vulnerable and exposed, and means that just maybe, we become a minority for the first time and where we are different in the world.   We start to realise it is not our language, our ideas, our preferences or our choices that are the norm.  We have become the ‘other’; it makes us the outcast, the stranger, the foreigner, the one who is isolated, the minority, possibly even a minority of one.    It makes life suddenly very lonely.

However, it is only when we think against the mind of another that we truly find ourselves and find out what it is that we think on an issue; and, find what it is we really want to support and do.  We become separate and connected at the same time.  By finding our truth, even if it is unsettled, it means we have started to define ourselves and the value of our existence.

So often we see division as unhelpful and to be avoided, but it is the space where new opportunities and ideas emerge, new insights, new respect and new beginnings arise.   When we want sameness, constraint and for everyone to think alike, we have started to die; and conforming and not daring greatly is a loss to humanity.

These ideas were expressed in a book by Rowan Williams and Joan Chittester, called ‘Uncommon Gratitude’.  I think they are ideas worth thinking about.  Baptistcare often seeks to advocate and take the counter cultural position to encourage new ways of thinking and being, because we see the majority forgetting or not understanding the minority whom we label as the vulnerable and marginalised.  It is odd that we see the vulnerable as the minority.  When I look at the world and the allocation of resources, it is actually the vulnerable who are the majority, but somehow, their voices are never heard or accepted.  This place of difference and speaking out is a lonely place on occasion and we can be very vulnerable in our actions and voices.

However, a different way, perhaps the unidentified third way out of the ‘either or’ space which the majority minority debate often forces us into, is often the most exciting.  This vulnerability, as Brene Brown describes, allows an authenticity of ideas and conversation to emerge that can be a real gift for everyone.  Our world would be a very different place if we took a different stand.

Rev’d Dr Lucy Morris, CEO

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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