Moving beyond Racism is moving beyond sadism and power-over, power-under dynamics.  The same is true of moving beyond Sexism; Ageism; Anthropocentrism; and Homophobia. It is moving and marching toward a society of gender justice, intergenerational justice, and eco-justice. 

Connecting beyond gender and race. Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Is sadism embedded in every effort to distort relations between people of different races, sexes, ages, sexual preferences?  And, of course, the more-than-human peoples whether animals, trees, fishes, winged ones and the rest?

Sadism is cruel. Judith Shklar, in Ordinary Vices, considers cruelty the worst evil and defines it as the ”willful inflicting of physical pain on a weaker being in order to cause anguish or fear.” She places it first on her list of deadly sins.  

War unleashes the worst side of humanity’s energies. Consider Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who turned the fields of Cambodia red with the blood of his countrymen and women and children. He and his followers killed 1.7 million people—one-quarter of the population—in the “killing fields.”

Unearthed mass grave at Choeung Ek immediately after it was opened up and 450 bodies exhumed. (Phnom Penh, Cambodia) Photo by shankar s. on Flickr

These killings were sadistic. Pol Pot’s methods included slow death by starvation, overwork, disease, torture, and execution. The institutionalized brutality of the sadist in war atrocities includes gloating over the suffering of one’s enemy. It is difficult to imagine any action more opposed to compassion.

The sadism of the Nazi tormentors and executioners, of the Stalinist brigades, of the Bosnian murderers and rapists and torturers, and of slave traders and slave masters reveal the same. 

“Lynching of R. Stacey…amid crowd of men, women, and children, Fla. 1935. Lynchings were often family events.” Photo uploaded to Flickr by Image Editor.

Could slavery have persisted without sadism as a part of its dynamic?  Are public lynchings a quasi sexual event that satisfies the sadist?  The white police officer on George Floyd’s neck for 8+ minutes seemed very satisfied indeed. 

The sadist is always in control. The sadist does not see the eyes of the other, much less the Divine light within all beings. The sadist is too much in control to let light in from the outside. The sadist truly lives in the dark.

Tyrants and sadists are control freaks whether they operate in politics, economics, education, religion or police enforcement. Bad law encourages them; good law checkmates them.

To march and legislate against racism is to march and legislate against sadism and power-over dynamics.  It is to dismantle the “climbing Jacob’s ladder” motif in favor of a “dancing Sara’s circle” motif.  Such a change in dynamics constitutes a very real paradigm shift. 

Traditional Csango circle dance, Budapest, 2018, originating from the Moldavian Csángó culture of East Romania. Photo from a video by Elekes Andor; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

I wrote about this needed paradigm shift in my book, A Spirituality Named Compassion, years ago. 

Dancing Sarah’s circle is one of laughter and joy.  Sarah was able to be surprised, filled with unexpected wonder, and to laugh.  This already sharply distinguishes her symbol from that of Jacob’s dream, since there is little laughter and joy among those who climb ladders.  Ladder-climbing is ever so serious.  Egos are so much involved.  The cause of Sarah’s laughter is pregnancy.  She is a symbol of birthing, creating and fruitfulness. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society,  pp. 353f. And from Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion, p. 44.

Banner Image: Double spiral dance at the Cosmic Mass held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kathryn Gaughan, Washington National Cathedral. Used with permission.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you also see sadism baked in to racism?  How does one deconstruct sadism?

Do you see Dancing Sara’s circle in activities and relationships that please you?  In organizational structures as a welcome relief from Ladder dynamics?

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2 thoughts on “Beyond Racism, Beyond Sadism”

  1. Avatar

    Here on Cape Cod, MA we have a small circle of women who follow Matthew’s Daily Meditations and Ellen Kennedy’s Sacred Circle Dancing. We enjoyed praying for Justice and dancing in the Solstice Light at Skaket Beach this last Saturday night. I felt the Energy shift as we laid out rocks to mark the four Directions- it is so good to be increasingly aware of this sacredness.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Susan, that sounds like a wonderful way to make use of Matthew’s meditations and Ellen’s sacred circle dances!

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