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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Senseless Neutrality

Ashleigh Ellwood Brilliant (yes, his real surname) is a British author/cartoonist best known for his Pot-Shots. These are cute, pithy statements each accompanied by a line drawing. Some of his offerings are cuter than others . . . some more brilliant than others. The scads of sayings-with-drawings are available in a series of books which I’ve found handy to have in my bathroom magazine rack. Brilliant intends for his Pot-Shots to be mentally stimulating. The following one worked for me:

In the continuing war between good and evil,

those of us with any sense will remain neutral.

I beg to differ.

There is good and there is good; there is evil and there is evil. For instance, there’s a big qualitative and quantitative difference between the goodness of an ice cream cone and the goodness of a lifelong love affair with one’s spouse. Similarly, there’s a big qualitative and quantitative difference between the evil of hurling a racist term at an African-American and the evil of shooting one in the head.

Part of wisdom is picking one’s battles. Put another way, one chooses if and where to direct one’s energy and effort in the age-old conflict between good and evil. But one fact is often overlooked: attempting to remain neutral simply supports the status quo. Choosing to not get involved can mean several things. 1) One doesn’t care whether a particular manifestation of evil prevails; 2) others, perhaps better equipped to do so, are already purposefully engaging in the struggle against said evil; 3) one is already deeply involved in other battles against evil (and one’s plate is always has limits); 4) one is too busy enjoying the good life to spend any time and energy trying to constrain or eradicate whatever evil issue persists. But no matter what the reason, embracing neutrality in the face of good-verses-evil is to affirm per se whatever the current situation may be.

In the late 1800s Germany invaded what is today Namibia. (The first German missionaries actually came there is the 1840s.) They confiscated whatever land they wished and enslaved many of the native Africans. In 1915 South Africa invaded Namibia (then called South West Africa), and in 1920 was granted authority over the country under the League of Nations Mandate to safeguard the rights and interests of the indigenous people. For seventy years South Africa governed Namibia with the same apartheid system that embraced the racist domination of the Black indigenous peoples of S.A. by the White invaders.

Namibian Africans would still be under the oppressive, racist rule of White colonialists today if not for the determined, purposeful actions of millions of people around the globe working for their freedom and respect. People of every stripe and strata in scores of nations combined efforts to force South Africa to “grant” Namibia independence. That day finally came in 1990. If everyone would have claimed neutrality in that situation, a million Namibians would still have chains around their necks.

Obviously, there are considerations about time, abilities, resources, and priorities when considering possible involvement in the fight against evil. Not everyone could make three trips to Namibia (as I did) in support of the quest for independence. But anyone could have made the conscious effort to avoid purchasing South African products, such as Outspan oranges, in the effort to force change. In fact, the jettisoning of neutrality and participating in the global South African economic boycott was perhaps the most significant factor leading to Namibia being a post-colonial-era free country today.

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