Of motes and beams

By Edith Morgan

Does it not always seem so much easier to see the fault in
others, and to forgive and overlook the fault in ourselves? That’s hardly a new
observation, but the art of finger-pointing and directing our glance elsewhere
has become something of a national pastime. As a teacher, I often experienced the very early version of this: if a student, even as early as Kindergarten, was caught doing something wrong, often he/she would point to another and say “He did it first” or ” See what she did, ” in an attempt to divert the blame or the punishment. We do this naturally, no one teaches us. A wise teacher or parent recognizes this pattern, and doesn’t fall for it. But what do we do when the whole society falls for these tricks, and citizens and voters are constantly misled?

Almost two thousand years ago, the Sermon on the Mount commented on this
propensity: Matthew 7:1-5 says, “..and why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but
considerest not the beam in thine own eye?” All major religions , and our poets
too (“would some power the giftie gi’e us to see ourselves as others see us,”
by Robert Burns) have tried to get us to look in the mirror – and we have been
told , in so many ways so often that “people in glass houses should not throw stones”, sand “judge not that ye be
not judged” . But in this age of ever increasing egotism, we feel more and more entitled to pass
judgment, to assume that we are right and therefore can do as we want, and that
our “mote” deserves the same weight and consideration as someone else’s “beam.”

So our foreign policy enables us to go abroad and kill
people in other nations because they MAY attack us at some time; or because we
disagree with their government, or they refuse to recognize that we are always
right, or they are sitting on some resources we want and feel entitled to. We are endlessly
surprised that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan did not welcome us with open
arms, and invite us to stay, take their resources, drive millions of them out
of their homes, blow up their ancientcities, and wreak as much havoc as possible everywhere. Do we ever think about
how we would feel if someone did that to us?

I remember my father saying time and time again as he
watched world politics being played out: “Small nations have no rights.”
And it would seem, 35 years after his death, that he is
still right about that. Everywhere, the politics of bullying by the powerful is
still the order of the day..With so many constant examples daily before them,
how do we expect our children to behave differently when the adult world in
which they are growing up provides such a compelling and continuing example?

Would things be different if we taught history as it REALLY happened, not as we
would like it to have been?

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