Ohg Rea Tone struggles, like others who believe wholeheartedly in their own point of view. The simple twist of fate put Mr. Tone on the left side of most issues. Had the shoe of the other foot fallen a few millimeters to the right, Mr. Tone would sound the same, look the same, feel the same – but be posturing for the opposite side of any given issue. This is the case with all idealists. Ideology is the enemy of truth and honesty. Or is it? Ohg Tone believes in ideology.
Ideology is the single greatest cause of dispute among humans – that and money. Mr. Tone disparages the Christians who believe in a literal interpretations of the Bible. This is not to say that he has any particular affection for anyone who believes in Jesus as the Christ. Mr. Tone sees Jesus through two different lenses. Jesus was a homophobic believer in slavery for anyone not of European descent. Jesus wore a dress, never married, and hung around with other men of his ilk. Take your pick – ideology knows only the bounds of stubbornness and self-righteousness. (If you have another view of Jesus you are free to add it in the comments).
I know Mr. Tone pretty well – he does not dispute the difficulty of ideology. But he insists that there are some principles that can never be compromised. Are there?
Mr. Tone’s current crusade is wrapped around his belief in poverty as a form of brutal child abuse. Poverty is chaos – the uncertainty of any given day providing food and shelter. Poverty is the harbor of extreme stress for adults. Abject poverty is brutal – who can deny this? I have to give Ohg come credit. He correctly identifies poverty as child abuse – but he adds some qualifiers. Poverty as a result of selfishness by the parent, poverty as a result of ignorance and narrow mindedness, poverty masquerading as humbleness – these qualifiers sort out the difference between State sanctioned poverty and individual poverty. And this distinction fires the coal in Ohg’s heart.
When a child has loving parents, perhaps unskilled parents who work hard at two menial jobs to care for their children, parents who hold their child close and sacrifice of themselves for the child’s benefit, parents who simply do not know how to improve their economic – then the child suffers the indignity and chaos of State sanctioned poverty. The State has the power to alleviate the condition of poverty and chaos in a loving and caring home. Economic legislation can improve the lives of these people.
Ohg is presently on fire about the other form of poverty – that of parents who choose to provide for themselves before providing for their children. He accuses me of being too compromising. Ohg really goes out on a thin branch in this endeavor. He and I share the same ideology – the question is when is enough protest enough? When do we surrender and accept some conditions that we cannot change? When do we recognize the limits of courage and consider the merits of wisdom?
My friend, a psychotherapist in New Mexico, and I were debating this point one day last year. We were in his vehicle en route to an expedition on the Colorado River. He argued for surrender. All of life is about surrender, about accepting our limitations, about the wisdom of letting go. I submitted Ohg’s argument that there are times when we never quit, never surrender, never stop crusading, and never submit to the atrocities of poverty and ignorance. I said to my friend, “We are about to set sail on rafts on the Colorado River. We will traverse the most dangerous rapids in North America. Our location is considered the most remote in North America. It is remote because there are many places where even a helicopter cannot go. We will at times be days away from any help.” With that qualifier I said, “If you fall in the river I am coming in to get you. I will not quit, I will not surrender, I will never stop until you and I are both back on dry land. You might be dead but I will never give up!” We shook hands, agreeing that we would live or die together in the remote wilderness of the Grand Canyon. Poverty is a remote wilderness, like the Grand Canyon, existing in the most prosperous country in the history of man.
Mark Twain once said, “There are fools and there are damn fools”. In our scenario he might have been referring to the difference between the parents who simply can not get out of poverty and those who choose to allow their children to exist in poverty so the parent can have a better life. Damn fools! Ohg has a valid point.
The problem is this. Once the poverty of selfishness is confronted, when to we confronters let go? When the parents choose not to listen, when the parents fight back, when the parents insist that they are loving and caring – when is enough enough? When other adults accept the condition as being unmanageable by outside forces then must we also accept the condition? When does the argument, the confrontation with the errant parents, become unproductive? Is there a point where harmony among adults becomes more important than the defense of the child? My experience is that there is a point when the fight is lost and harmony becomes the better option.
Ohg says “NEVER!!!”.
Ohg will fight to the end of the earth to defend the child. He is the man who would jump in the river to rescue his friend. (an aside. I was the boatman responsible for jumping off the raft and securing the line to a tree or rock. I slipped off the rock and was floating down the Colorado up to my neck in concern when a hand reached down from another raft to save me. It was my friend.) Ohg is a man who does not know the meaning of surrender. He is like that Japanese soldier found on an island twenty-seven years after the war ended – still prepared to fight to the death.
Ohg is not a man to give lip service to social justice. He will claw and fight to the death.
The irony of Ohg is that there are people n the other side of the issue with equal fervor. They believe in their cause as much as Ohg believes in his. They will also fight to the death. Ohg’s response, “Let’s get on with the fight. Time is wasting.”
Is there ever a time when surrender is an honorable option? Why don’t we ask Winston Churchill?