Saturday, 17 May 2014

The iron cage

I've mentioned Max Weber a few times in this blog. This link provides a highly serviceable interpretation of Weber's conception of "the iron cage" that I want to quote from further on:

For those who keep up with the news, there is a heart-wrenching story now being featured in the cycle about a 10 year old Ojibwe girl named, Makayla Sault.

The story of Makayla's great courage got me thinking about Weber's iron cage. To portray it merely as "aboriginal against modernity" conflict (from both sides), as some posted comments on the website do, is to diminish the larger stories of our times: the so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the right-to-die debate, etc.

That this unexpected challenge to our smug modernity is occurring in a territory that has acted as a flash-point on more than one occasion in recent times adds weight and urgency to young Makayla's story. We tend to forget, out of convenience more often than we're willing to admit, real flesh and blood humans being in the news in favour of the narrative of the "enlightened" us against the savage and brutal uncivilization knocking at our gates. But this is the domesticated sense of ourselves uncritically rejecting and resisting that which can give meaning to our lives rather than threatening us and our comfort (our much-diminished ability to look ourselves in the eye):

“I know that what I have can kill me but … Jesus came into my room and told me not to be afraid, so if I live or if I die, I am not afraid.”

Anjana Diyas (one of the respondents to the question about the iron cage) says: "The iron cage is the one set of rules and laws that we are all subjected and must adhere to. Bureaucracy puts us in an iron cage, which limits individual human freedom and potential instead of a 'technological utopia' that should set us free. It's the way of the institution, where we do not have a choice anymore."

Given the penchant of the Harper Government to shoot-now-ask-questions-later not just domestically but internationally I have a feeling that our government is more likely to make a play to the base than act in the interest of our society as a whole, and by the looks of it, it is not going to end well:

"'We’re not going to allow any other agency to come in and apprehend our children. We went through that in the '40s and '50s and we’re not going to allow that again,' said Chief Bryan Laforme".

There is a story I read once that said that the real difference between heaven and hell is not in the context (both are set in a banquet hall) but in the very attitude we assume. Given that the utensils are too long to effectively reach their mouths, those in hell choose to hit people on the other side of the table with them out of frustration while those in heaven choose to feed the other side which in turn feed them.

All of us will die. Whatever the outcome of Makayla, she is challenging us to respect her dignity. It is up to us now to sort out the ethical and spiritual issues that we've chosen to ignore. Hobson's choice is not about a moral dilemma nor about false equivalents, but about choosing between something or nothing.


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