Contribution by guest member Habibollah Babaei from Qom, Iran. The paper is about how past and present liberative suffering can be a basis for present and future unity and solidarity. There is relevance today in the Muslim world given the suffering of Muslims worldwide at the hands of direct Western intervention as in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and secretly, in virtually every Muslim state. This suffering also extends to the pro-western secular elites that run Muslim countries at the behest of their foreign masters seeking to not only exploit us, but but now, openly and directly, to destroy the very core and spirit of our beliefs as Muslims.
NEGATIVE SOLIDARITY THROUGH THE REMEMBRANCE OF SUFFERING
How can the remembrance of self-sacrifice and suffering create solidarity when so many historical instances of suffering resulted not in solidarity but in dispute and violence? This is the key question that I attempt to address throughout this section. I will first describe how the remembrance of liberative suffering provides an effective way to bridge gaps among people who suffer, even while the same memory also has the potential to stoke the flames of violence and vengeance. I will then argue that violence and vengeance result specifically from the memory of suffering from, not suffering for. In contrast, the remembrance of suffering for makes it possible to harness the violent passions of suffering from.
Suffering and Solidarity
Suffering differs from happiness in regard to the self and to solidarity. When overwhelmed with joyful passion, people often disregard others. Happiness without memory of previous adversities and without consideration of potential future hardship can easily lead to selfishness and over-confidence, which tend to create conflicts between "self" and "others." Thus, for instance, Pharaoh’s self-exaltation directly resulted in the oppression and humiliation of others.
In contrast, suffering, as a consciousness of deprivation, is associated with need and limitation. (Levinas, 1998). For example, suffering from disease deprives a person of health, and suffering from poverty entails the deprivation of property. The more that people suffer—or remember suffering—the more they experience deprivation or need. The more they experience need and deprivation, the more they lose their sense of self-sufficiency and realize their need for others. (Edelglass, 2006).
Although suffering has more potential to create solidarity than does happiness, suffering also has a greater capacity for fostering violence and revenge. (Nietzsche,1918). In other words, resentment is a triple achievement that produces “an affect (rage, righteousness) that overwhelms the hurt”; a “culprit responsible for the hurt;” and “a site of revenge to displace the hurt (a place to inflict hurt as the sufferer has been hurt).” (Brown. 1995, p. 68).
While I agree with the Hegelian notion that “men, following their passions, actually serve some higher world-historical purpose of which they are totally unaware,” (Brown, 1995, p19). I emphasize that this account of passion applies not only to joyful cases but also instances of suffering. In other words, acting upon suffering-passions plays a significant role in the formation of history and civilization. Thus, violence that occurs between different groups stems not only from lust for money, possession, and power, but often from suffering or the memory of suffering (clash of sufferings).
Because the power of pain is stronger than the power of joy, the passion of suffering has greater capacity to create conflict than passion of joy. The presence of pain creates more difficulties than the mere absence of joy, and the desire to be delivered from pain is more compelling than the desire to attain joy. Therefore, the type of friction that arises between two suffers differs from frictions stemming from joy. The latter friction is due to the increase in passion for life, while the former derives from the desire to escape from death.
Furthermore the positive and negative power of self-sacrifice and suffering passion, with its destructive and instructive capacities, is not limited to suffering itself, but can also be a component of the memory of suffering. Remembrance of suffering is a re-experiencing of the suffering that is remembered and can result in new emotion and passion. For example, the remembrance of the suffering caused by African-American slavery constitutes an essential element of the historic identity and current unity of those who suffered. Remembrance of these sufferings by immediate victims or their descendants can teach and empower them to stand against those who might create new suffering in the present.
In the face of the negative consequences that can result from remembrance of suffering I maintain that the remembrance of self-sacrifice for human dignity that is kind of suffering for and its constructive aspects can be used to transform painful passions into a rational passion (interest) of suffering.
Rational Memory and Countervailing "Suffering for"
Suffering for (self-sacrifice for the sake of human dignity and glory), instances of which can be found in the history of religions, constitutes a form of instructive suffering, and the memory of this suffering can be constructive for the human community. In contrast, purposeless suffering from without suffering for, and suffering for one’s own individual advantage and not for others, are destructive of human relationships and do not build solidarity. (Soelle, 1975).
Also, memory of suffering for creates powers to resist those who want to give preference to their suffering over that of others and who use their own suffering as an excuse for vengefulness. In this way, memory of suffering can provoke a community to resist injustice. (Farley, 1990). In accord with Spinoza’s idea that “an affect cannot be restrained nor removed unless by an opposed and stronger affect,” (Hirschman, 1997, p. 23) the memory of suffering for results in strong emotion that can restrain the destructive passions of others, whether caused by joy and delight or by suffering from. (Brown, 1995).
In addition to this emotional role, the memory of suffering for has greater potential to make reason “open to learn.” J.B. Metz, although he does not specifically address suffering for, has called attention to the relationship between suffering and reason. (Metz, 2007) Drawing upon Metz’ insight, we can say that an openness to learn, derived from suffering for, can control the violent passions that result from suffering from and can transform them into rational passion (interests).
Importantly, I do not agree with Kitamori’s assertion that “We can conquer [pain] only when we seek it within ourselves and long for it. We can strengthen ourselves when we earnestly seek and desire pain to be part of our nature.” (Kitamori, 1966, p. 80-81). Likewise, in contrast to Simone Weil, one should never love suffering itself, neither because “it is useful” nor “because it is.” (Weil, 1987, p. 72).
I emphasize on remembrance of suffering. By emphasizing remembrance, one can appropriate the positive feature while avoiding its negative features. Without creating or justifying suffering, memory of suffering revives past suffering in order to offer instruction and power for the present. (Maier, 1993).
Eschatological liberative suffering, specifically in the Shiite tradition, could stand as an example of this type of suffering for. As was mentioned above, this suffering manifests intelligibility, emotionality, communality, and existentiality. The emotional feature of this suffering empowers those who remember to resist new evil. Its intelligibility and rationality enable people to control themselves in the highly emotional context of suffering. The communality of this suffering causes people to maintain attention to community and others even in the face of their own individual pain. Finally, the purposeful existentiality of this suffering helps rememberers to avoid negative or nihilistic aspects of suffering and to reflect upon its meaningful aspects.
POSITIVE SOLIDARITY THROUGH THE REMEMBRANCE OF SUFFERING
Beyond solidarity for the purpose of avoiding new suffering, the memory of suffering can also create solidarity by means a shared love for those suffered for others. There is a relationship between suffering and love on the one hand, and between love and truth on the other. By remembering the suffering of perfect people who suffered for the sake of others, one can love their characteristics as a form of external truth. Through this love, one can intimately experience those characteristics and their spirit and thereby reduce the gap between who knows and what is known.
Put differently, we can imagine three different type of knowledge: mental knowledge or the knowledge via the mind (ilm ol'yaqin), visual knowledge or the knowledge via the eye (ein ol'yaqin), and existential (experiential) knowledge or the knowledge via existence (Haqq ol'yaqin). For instance, I know what fire is. This knowledge is via my mind. Sometimes, I see the fire. This knowledge is via my eye. But if I am being burned by fire, this is existential knowledge, with no gap between known and knower.
Love is the experience of a beloved one. By loving exemplary persons, one is able to experience and participate in their exemplary characteristics. The experience of such characteristics by different people—even if the particular bearer of the characteristics varies from one tradition to another—serves as a foundation for positive solidarity and for a common purpose among those who love.
Love and Remembrance of Suffering
Love is the fruit of remembrance of a beloved one, and a deep remembrance is possible only through remembrance of the beloved one's suffering. However, contra Schelling, this does not mean that “Every being can be revealed only in its opposite, love only in hatred, unity only in conflict.” (Moltmann, 1993, p.37). That is, the positivity of love is not always dependent on the negativity of suffering. Rather, spiritual love can also result from remembrance of joy and happiness. Nevertheless, the most powerful form of love is that which results from remembrance of suffering. According to several verses in the Qur'an, general remembrance (zikr), which takes place in one’s mind, is distinguished from deep remembrance (ashaddo zikra) that occurs in one’s heart via remembrance of beloved one’s suffering. (Q, 2: 200). This depth of remembrance intensifies one’s love for the beloved and creates a stronger experience of the beloved characteristics. It thereby generates a powerful basis for commonality of purpose among those who engage in this common way of remembrance, even in an era there is no divine prophet or Imam.
Self-sacrifice for the sake of human dignity can serve as excellent “common word” models for building commonalities between different traditions. Constructive memory of instructive sacrifice and suffering can make it possible to bridge gaps not only among those different religious traditions containing similar sufferings for, but also between religious and secular communities who see the sufferings of those perfect people as a part of history of human suffering.
Fulfilled suffering that is suffering with the four factors described above (existentiality, communality, rationality, and emotionality) can pave the way for both negative and positive solidarity in a complex, fragmented world such as ours. In fact, this kind of solidarity in a common ground of suffering fors in the past and in the necessity of avoiding suffering from in the present. Fulfilled self-sacrifice and suffering as a common language can pave a common way toward better understandings of one another and toward relations of calm and peace.
Memory of purposeful suffering for (in contrast to the nihilistic suffering from) enables us to base solidarity not only on suffering (negative solidarity) but also on hopes, desires and love (positive solidarity). (Rorty, 2005). Furthermore, emphasizing suffering for implies neither a justification of suffering nor neglect of happiness in human society. However, while happiness and joyful passion do play important roles in enhancing human community, their power cannot compare with the power of suffering or of the memory of suffering—both in terms of creating violence and in terms of establishing solidarity.
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