It’s Not Our Job
October 16, 2011 § 2 Comments
”For years we have worked for power, money, and prestige. Now all of a sudden we’ve learned that those are just the values of a dying world.”
-Marianne Williamson, Return to Love
During the shooting of my film Taxi Casablanca, I spent a day interviewing a well-known Moroccan feminist and activist in Rabat. She and her colleague from Oxfam Quebec piled into the back of Zakia’s taxi and I interviewed them as we drove around the city.
At one point, I asked her how she could reconcile the liberal rights for women she was advocating with the religious laws as they are practiced in Morocco, especially when at times the two appear so opposing. I was expecting her to give me an historical and impassioned interpretation of the Qu’ran that would somehow conform to her visions for equality and justice. Instead, she looked me squarely in the eye and said this:
“We are demanding justice, it is not our job to figure out how to conform our demands with the religious texts, it’s up to the authorities to do that.”
This was a really awakening moment for me. I’ve always believed that in order to have justice, I must also be responsible for finding the way there. This has at times felt daunting and impossible. In fact, what this woman was telling me was that we don’t have to be learned intellectuals or people of authority to know the difference between right and wrong. She was saying that fairness is a birthright. We don’t have to be lawyers, scholars, translators, or versed in hermeneutics; in fact, we don’t even have to be literate.
Justice is something that lives inside of the heart. That is why children have some of the most finely honed abilities for discerning fairness. They know when they’ve been neglected too long and need attention, they know when they deserve to be seen, encouraged, loved, or when a toy that was taken from them should be returned. Justice isn’t something available only to those who can defend their positions. It is something true for every one of us, it’s democratic that way. It’s a feeling. It’s an experience.
All too often, we use our minds to make an argument for what we think is right. We hire lawyers, draw maps, enforce rules, buy guns. Usually, we use our mental faculties to get away with something that we know in our hearts is wrong, rather than to defend and protect what we know is right.
When I think about some of the injustices I’ve experienced in my own life, I immediately try to come up with a solution, a way of reconciling; in other words, instead of listening to the knowledge of my own heart, I get to work, I envision the solution, I become the advocate, I read books, I make my case, I convince and cajole. Today, I want to say that sometimes simply what I feel inside is enough.
Inspired by the occupations that have been happening in cities around the world, from what little I know about this movement, I wonder if it is indeed a protest of the heart. This protest isn’t as much about solutions, as it is about acknowledging what we know is an injustice, acknowledging that the injustices taking place across our planet and in some of our own lives, are enough to make us weep. We don’t yet know the way out, and maybe we can’t, until we have fully acknowledged our experience.
Perhaps then we can ask, How do we find a path to justice? How do we find the solutions?
Perhaps, at the same time, it’s not our job. Perhaps simply demanding it is enough.