Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Wisdom of Dostoevsky’s Father Zossima and Current Political Rhetoric

There has been a lot of finger-pointing from the political left and right in response to the shooting last weekend of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (and many others) but little in the way of taking responsibility for our own words and actions. Contrast The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz  who states “there are crazy people out there, but we can’t all be responsible for what they do” with what Tucson resident Michele Brubaker told a reporter: “I’m here for Tucson. This should not be happening … we’re all responsible. We have to do something.”  Her reaction echoes the words Fyodor Dostoevsky ascribes to Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov that we are “each of us responsible for everyone.” 

How would our political rhetoric (and personal or “private” behavior) change if we held to the belief that we have a responsibility for everyone and everything?

3 comments:

Philip Metres said...

Way to drop Fyodor into the mix!

Our political culture, indeed, the opposite of the guilt-bearing subjectivity of Zosima and Christianity. For a "Christian" nation--if one accepts the premise--it's all rather strange.

On the other hand, to say we're all guilty implies that every act of humanity involves our complicity, and that too is very strange indeed.

A dose of humility and responsibility would go a long way.

Happy New Year, Absinthe.

Dwayne D. Hayes said...

Happy New Year, Philip. I think one could write a book titled "All I Ever Needed to Learn I Learned From Reading Dostoevsky"!

Bob Krieckhaus said...

Good work finding the Kurtz quote! You're spot on in my view, and so was Father Z. (Google took me to your blog as I checked my recollection of the novel).
I must have read the Brothers K 5 times before I turned thirty, and I discovered 40 years later that my daughter did too.
Today I can begin to see that indeed "every act of humanity involves our complicity." And so here we are.