Thesis Number: #9 (Page 8 of 10)

The Language of Hope

A vision of hope is needed. Two examples may be cited, one from the language of the divine, appealing to sacred forces for salvation, the other appealing to scientific materialism for salvation.

Dutch pastor Conrad Boerma invoked the language of liberation theology. He understood that trauma inflicted by land loss could lead to self-destructive fatalism. He witnessed what happened in Salvador Allende’s Chile. Land reform included the planting of trees in Osorno, a district threatened by soil erosion. One night the campesinos dug up and destroyed the trees. Their explanation: “When the trees have grown and the land is restored, our harvests will be taken away again”. Six months later, Allende was assassinated by the CIA-backed death squads. And to confirm the pessimism of the peasants, the landlords’ regime was restored (Boerma 1979:77).

Hope needs to be restored, for “once people have a different picture of the world and believe in the possibility of change, they re-gain their self-confidence and press for change” (Boerma 1979: 85). Boerma cites Dorothee Sölle, who examined the impact on people locked up in German concentration camps. They were humiliated to the point where they acquiesced in their fate.

“The first stage towards overcoming this suffering is to find a language that leads out of the uncomprehended suffering that makes one mute – a language of lament, of crying, of pain, a language that at least says what the real situation is.”

Boerma notes that this is the significance of liturgy and worship, with psalms as a phase in the process of change. Sölle writes:

“I consider the stage of articulation, the stage of psalms, to be an indispensable step on the way to the third stage, in which liberation and help for the unfortunate can be organised” (Sölle (1975: 70, 74).

Karl Marx rejected theology. He developed a materialist theory of history. This led his disciples to believe that their salvation was embedded in the laws of society. Their rallying cry: liberation is inevitable. People will be freed through “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

These two approaches indicate how the structure of power may be subverted by invoking language to create a psychological state that empowers people. But success depends on knowing how to re-design the structure once they acquire the power to liberate themselves from tyranny. Thus, for example, little will now change in Ukraine, even though the people have deposed an authoritarian president. Joining the EU is not the way to salvation, as the unemployed youth of Greece and Spain will attest.

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