We will never achieve true justice until we allow ideology and dishonesty to corrupt the authentic experience of human fraternity.
by Marco Respinti*
*Conclusions of the seminar “Tai Ji Men: No Fraternity Without Justice,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers at Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy, Pasadena, California, on February 4, 2023, International Day of Human Fraternity.
Something we all normally just take for granted deserves our keen consideration. To underline our strong attachment to a person, our special tie to a fellow human being, and the deep value of a relationship, we normally use the metaphor of the family. We define humans as the human family. In a previous webinar in this series on the Tai Ji Men case, while emphasizing the importance of the idea that we all belong to the same “human family,” I myself looked at Tai Ji Men as a peculiar family within the broader, general human family.
When a man and a woman marry, their respective families regard the other spouse as a new son and a new daughter coming into the family. Each spouse considers the parents of the other as a second mother and a second father. We use in fact expression like “son-in-law” and “daughter-in-law,” as well as “mother-in-law” and “father-in-law,” since a new moral law calls for the enlargement of the household: the law of hospitality and love.
When we want to gratify younger persons with our total affection, we may say “this is my son” or “this is my daughter,” even if they are not our biological children. We may even use expressions like “you are the son or the daughter I wished to have.”
This metaphor continues to be used also among best friends. When people share what they treasure most, or are tied by a special bond generated by peculiar circumstances in life, they found natural to bestow on their buddies the titles of “brother” and “sister.” This indicates a level of intimacy, a sense of mutual belonging, and a profound camaraderie that is second only to blood bonds (virtual blood bonds such as parents adopting children included) and marital relationships.
It is thus clear why Tai Ji Men’s Shifu, or Grand Master, and dizi, or disciples, call each other “brothers” and “sisters.” One of the slogans of Tai Ji Men proclaim that we are “one family,” and you can see it on one of the beautiful posters hanging from the walls of the Tai Ji Men Qigong Academy that I visited today in Walnut, California. This family metaphor clearly cuts through the beliefs and teachings of Tai Ji Men.
Fraternity is another name for human caring and sharing. Yet, human beings have a special talent for twisting and ruining even the most cherished treasures of them all. History is full of examples of fraternity gone astray.
Consider, for example, the French Revolution (1789–1799). Its slogan was “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” but none of the three was really achieved. The Revolution started with a massacre on July 14, 1789, and culminated with a genocide perpetrated by the revolutionary government against its own people in 1793–1794. In September 1792, thousands were slaughtered by proclaiming that their lives were “not worth living,” thus anticipating what Nazi Germany started in September 1939 with Aktion T4.
Consider also what Communism did in the 20th century. In the name of “socialist fraternity,” it killed millions and millions, creating the bloodiest and largest human-made catastrophe that ever happened in human history. In the 21st century, the same bloody ideal of a “socialist fraternity” still keeps millions and millions of people under the thumb of Communist regimes that still persecute, enslave, torture, and murder innocent human beings.
Consider then Nazism, and its highly selective concept of fraternity: so selective to include only Aryans, or what the Nazis called “das Herrenvolk,” the master race of the Aryan brothers. This staggering misuse of words caused the Holocaust of the Jews, and the death of many others.
And consider how vocally Muslim Uyghurs protest the silence and even the support that too many governments of Islamic countries offer to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that persecutes them for their religion and ethnicity, thus blatantly denying the core principles of Muslim brotherhood.
Should we then despair? Not at all. As the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang teaches, also the dark, or darkest, aspect of the universe still conserves a spot of light. This concept is enshrined in the very emblem of Tai Ji Men, and is paralleled by the teaching of the Gospel according to St. Matthew (12, 20). We read there that “A bruised reed shall he [Jesus] not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.” Humanity can always find a way to its salvation. It may be hard to find, deeply buried under layers and layers of hypocrisy and lies, but it is still there. Examples of true fraternity among people that do not even know each other shows it daily, and all of us frequently experience this fraternity in our everyday life.
One way to dig the best of humanity out is to reconsider words and concept we often use in a too absent-minded way. Given the unparalleled profoundness they have, I would suggest to start with “brother” and “sister.”
In fact, if we regard special friends as brothers and sisters, if we even conceive humanity as a family of brothers and sisters, we should immediately consider them as sons and daughters of one same father. The simple use of “brothers” and “sisters” implies the existence of a common father. We could never use the words “brothers” and “sisters.” if we would not think that a common father exists.
Now, this is what religions and spiritual ways precisely argue. They may call it with different names. It may be a personal God or a generic Creator, a Supreme Being or the infinite transcendent unity of the universe. It does not matter. Whatever name it has, and whatever its theological conception is, “he” is the common father that causes all human being to regard themselves as brothers and sisters. This is a pivotal question that Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, whose 2019 historical declaration inspired the International Day of Human Fraternity that we are now celebrating, strongly underlined.
Am I suggesting that to truly consider human beings as brothers and sisters we need to cherish the notion of a common divine father? Personally, I surely do—and it may be appropriate to mention it on a secular day of observance that has however a religious origin. But I am not preaching. I am just pointing at data that history and sociology can ascertain.
Let us reconsider the few examples I listed above. The French Revolution claimed to have guillotined God the Father. The Bolshevik Revolution claimed to have assassinated God the Father, too, and the Chinese Communist regime still imposes to believers the adoration of the revolutionary leaders as the fathers of the country instead of God the Father. The Nazi regime substituted the Führer, Adolf Hitler (1889 –1945), to God the Father. And, evidently, those Islamic governments that ignore the cultural genocide that the CCP wages on in Xinjiang/East Turkestan consider Muslim Uyghurs to be children of a lesser father or a lesser God. The cancellation of the common father makes humans orphans, destroying human fraternity.
Where God was eliminated, or spirituality curtailed and adapted to personal agendas, human fraternity disappeared and greed, violence, oppression, slavery, and all kind of horrors came in. This may be regarded as the single major problem in human history.
The records of history and sociology show it, not the fervor of the pulpit. This may prove hard to be heard for secular ears, but it is useless and somewhat wimpish to appeal to fraternity among humans without considering the core question of a common father. Interestingly, theologians of different religions address the question of God the Father by underlining that God is also Mother to all human beings. The growing awareness of the need to take again human fraternity and God’s fatherhood and motherhood seriously, in face of the failures of all secular reductionisms, may even be another aspect of the crisis of a merely secular perspective some scholars of religion have noticed.
Considering all human beings as brothers and sisters because they are sons and daughters of a common Heavenly Father/Mother is also the foundation of justice. To deprive humans of a common father/mother is unjust, because the equal dignity of all humans is a consequence of acknowledging that they share a common origin. If we do not acknowledge that, then Jacobinism, Communism, and Nazism are totally right in their murderous and selective conception of fraternity.
How can we have true justice, if and when we allow ideology and dishonesty to corrupt the notion of fraternity?
In the Tai Ji Men case, a multitude of human beings has been denied both justice and fraternity. They were and are not regarded as fellow brothers and sisters, thus injustice was and is done unto them. In the Tai Ji Men case, the root of all evil is right before our eyes. We repeat that the Tai Ji Men case needs a political solution as soon as possible. It is totally true. But Tai Ji Men Shifu and dizi cannot receive justice from politics if those responsible for the injustice keep considering them as lesser brothers and sisters. No decent person would in fact treat his or her brother and sister the way Tai Ji Men has been and continues to be treated.
May the day of the liberation of Tai Ji Men come soon: it will be the day when we may forgive even the persecutors of Tai Ji Men. After all, they are brothers and sisters as well.