A call for empathy

Februari Staking 2015

This years poster. In the background the text is questioning the act of commemorating. Can we not forget? (Poster by artist Jan Rothuizen)

power of empathy

The poster at night, in Amsterdam.

Yesterday was the day of the February Strike ceremony. And this year’s poster is a strong but fairylike image in black and blue, showing snowflakes/stars against a wintery February sky, caught in the shape of a sturdy, hands-on man. The blue setting is decorated with black letters; a text actually questioning the yearly ceremony, it seems: ‘What is the difference between remembering and commemorating a forced memory? Forbidden to forget?’ And then a call to action in white: ‘Remember the February Strike 1941′ + where and when.

Well… should we not remember, and forget?

The story originates in 1941, when our country was occupied by the Nazis, and different social groups (‘misfits’ according to the Nazi standard) one after the other were cornered and threatened. Steelworkers were to work in Germany, communists were imprisoned, Jews were done wrong in many ways, all justified by wonky argumentation. To stop this injustice by the authorities, a strike was organized, to stand as one: ‘common people’ united, showing empathy for their fellow man, and say ‘no further!’ to the ruling terror.

This act of courage (for which 22 men were executed by the Nazis)  is commemorated every year at the foot of the the Docker (De Dokwerker), a bronze statue at the Jonas Daniël Meyer Square, representing a workman on strike. ‘Symbolizing the resistance of the common man against a greater power’. AND the need to pull together, I would say.

Februari staking 2015

Flowers and garlands by the city of Amsterdam, the government, unions of industry and education, religious groups, solidarity councils, humanitarian communities and representatives of the WWII-resistance and -victims. (photo NU.nl)

There’s a poem hitting the spot, by Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), a German theologist and a Luteran pastor. ‘A poem agains indifference’ and against the ‘violence of peacefulness’ it has been adapted in many ways and languages, and has become a true antiwar song.

Black triangle, pink triangle, green triangle,
red triangle, blue triangle, lilac triangle,
And they wore the yellow triangle.

When first they came for the criminals, I did not speak.
Then they began to take the Jews,
When they fetched the people who were members of trade unions,
I did not speak.
When they took the Bible students,
Rounded up the homosexuals,
Then they gathered up the immigrants and the gypsies,
I did not speak.
Eventually they came for me
And there was no one left to speak.

(Christy Moore’s version)

What it comes down to: if you don’t care for the other done wrong, no-one will care for you, when it is your turn. A call for empathy.

To me this seems very now and relevant. Now is the time to stand up against bullying, against abuse of power, against bureaucracy, terrorism and all activity destroying diversity.

{Note: “The quality I would most like to magnify is empathy. It brings us together in a peaceful, loving state,” Stephen Hawking said this week to Yahoo News. He fears human aggression could lead to our destruction. Read more here}

Omni Ohm… 😉

About Wilson Tichelaar

relentless hunter gatherer of soothing beauty, great and small
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