Why we need to keep the flame burning

I've only had the opportunity to meet RPK once in my life. I wrote about that experience in one of my older posts, here.

He was arrested not too long after. The feelings of anger and sadness were felt among most of the bloggers and people I met. I felt sad and angry too, and a certain kind of emptiness. It was weird, one day you're having dinner, drinking, and puffing away at cigars. Then suddenly, the person sitting next to you just lost his freedom. And this was just from one meeting, imagine his family and friends who've known him for umpteen years, they must feel a deep void within them.

Before, ISA detainees were just names and statistics to me. Now they have histories, lives, family and friends because I finally saw them as human beings, not just a name. I teared when i see their families tear, I feel the same outrage and injustice that their families and friends feel.

We all have this problem as human beings, it's described as limited altruism. This means that we have limited empathy for the plight of others. We say "Oh, pity the poor people" then we go on living our lives like normal. We don't feel until we are affected by it. But when it happens to you, or your family or friends, then it will hurt. Who then, will stand up?

Perhaps the best and simplest way to describe this situation of political apathy and what it leads to is this poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller who described the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.


Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Jude.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.


When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

So speak out now, before it is too late. Here are the ways you can show support for RPK and the other detainees

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