Saturday, May 19, 2007

Simone Weil

I am reading a biography of Simone Weil, a French philosopher of the early twentieth century. Weil was a women from a privileged secular Jewish family who had extraordinary intellectual gifts and devoted her short life to understanding poverty and affliction. She worked as a teacher and volunteered her time in the evening to giving lectures to workers and promoting trade unions. She spent several years on and off in hard physical labour, something for which she was particularly unsuited. She had immense difficulty with fine motor control, and only acquired legible handwriting as a child through prolonged effort. She also suffered paralysing migraines.

Weil was driven by her desire for social justice. She moved from a position of strict pacifism to action, and participated in the Spanish civil war and the French resistance. She converted to Christianity and in her later writing expressed the plight of the worker as "affliction" rather than "oppression". She died of tuberculosis in 1942 at the age of 34. She had restricted her food intake out of sympathy for those in occupied France.

Oppression and Liberty , her first significant work, made a tremendous impact on me when I read it years ago; more recently I read The Need for Roots, her last work. Notes from her lectures on philosophy were later published and are still used today as a university philosophy text.

In Waiting for God she wrote about human relationships,

    He who treats as equals those who are far below him in strength really makes them a gift of the quality of human beings ... As far as it is possible for a creature, he reproduces the original generosity of the Creator. ... The supernatural virtue of justice consists of behaving exactly as though there were equality when one is the stronger in an unequal relationship.
And on faith and religion,

    We must have given all our attention, all our faith, all our love to a particular religion in order to think of any other religion with the high degree of attention, faith and love that is proper to it.
She said,
    when from the depth
    of our being,
    we need, we seek a sound

    which does mean
    something: when we cry out
    for an answer

    and it is not granted, then,
    we touch the silence of God---

    Some begin to talk,
    to themselves, as do the mad;
    some give

    their hearts to silence.
from Stephanie Strickland. The Red Virgin.

    Russ Moore and Rosie the Riveter

    Sometimes, too often, I sneak a peak at the conservative blogs, the patriarchal blogs, and sometimes I just do a double take. I blink, I wrinkle my forehead and I ask why I am struck with profound dissonance. Take this. Here is a post by Russ Moore on Evangelical Same-Sex Marriages. Apparently he has taken it into his head that egalitarian marriages are "same sex" marriages. Bizarre. Why are these guys out to throw scorn on an egalitarian relationship? As if a man should be ashamed to treat a woman as an equal.

    But even more bizarre is the fact that this illustration was posted with his post. This image was in the original post, here, scroll down to May 1, 2007, but does not show up in the link to the full post here . However, there she is, Rosie the Riveter, who more appropriately serves as an icon on this site , which has the following goal.
                To recognize and preserve
                the history and legacy of working women,
                including volunteer women, during World War II;
                to promote cooperation and fellowship
                among such members and their descendants;
                and to further the advancement of patriotic ideals,
                excellence in the work place,
                and loyalty to the United States of America.

              Is there something here that Russ Moore is against - patriotism, volunteerism, excellence in the workplace? Probably not. It is just the image of a strong woman that these men - Stinson, Dever, Mahaney, and Moore, cannot abide. They don't want women who can stand on their own, and provide for and protect, and particpate and support others with their strength. God help us.

              Oh right, I forgot, they don't want women in the workplace, because, you know, if there is a war, women should just stay home - in the house and not participate, not build weapons, not test fly airplanes, not keep industry moving. Especially a widow like Rosie the Riveter has no business in the workplace.

              I am uneasy knowing that there is another image conference this weekend.