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The Greatest Bell We Have To Toll
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The Greatest Bell We Have to Toll

It is not necessary for us to act against another's aggression unless it directly affects us.

This is a statement frequently made by those who believe that intervention in a country where one group of people are being aggressive (sometimes murderously so) towards another group, is wrong.

This infers they believe the right thing to do is to stay out of the conflict in the way we ought to stay out of an argument between a married couple for example. It is essentially a private matter for the conflicted country; the conflicted couple.

It is an attractive proposition. Why get involved in trouble abroad when we have our own troubles at home? Are not our efforts more valuable if solely concerned with our country; our own relationships? Perhaps; yet ask yourself this; what is the criterion for discerning that which directly affects us? At what point do we note that aggression is here?

Martin Niemoller (pictured with his wife Else, who died in a car crash in 1961) lived through both world wars and is purported to have said that:

"they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out...they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out...they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out...they came for me..."

Niemoller seems to be saying that the criterion for discerning that which directly affects us is not so much direct aggression against us, but direct silence or non-intervention from us.

When the direct aggression comes, the time for speaking and intervention has passed; and perhaps it passed when we first chose to believe the right thing to do is to stay out of the conflict and/or remain silent upon it.

This is not to say we are to speak or to intervene the second we see a conflict out with our own homes; but it is the point at which we ought to avoid choosing to believe that the right thing to do is to stay out of the conflict.

It is better we propose noting the conflict and preparing to speak or intervene if it seems that the conflict is concerned more with the coming of one group for another group, as opposed to a brief flash of anger between clumsy fellow-citizens.

Yet preparation is pointless if action is not executed. So the real question is; when does preparation to speak and intervene give way to actual speech and intervention?

Is it when one group of people goes after another group of people that we are not part of? Or is when they come for us?

The thing to remember is that if anyone considers themselves to be a human being, then wherever and whenever one human being goes after another human being; or one human being is come after by another human being; then it is you and I that are going for and being come for. For are we not human?

What was it John Donne said?

No man is an island, entire of itself ... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

The greatest bell we have to toll is our own voice.

Street Talk

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