Monday, November 05, 2007

They certainly do things differently here

It was a striking phrase - key to the whole thing. I don't know if you watched the Stephen Poliakoff drama, "Joe's Palace", on BBC1 on 4th November, but it was powerful stuff. A billionnaire was trying to find out how his father had made his fortune, and eventually we discover it was from doing business with the Nazis through the 1930s. But in his diaries there was this story of his visit to Germany, with some business associates, and of their Sunday stroll in the park, where the Gestapo were making Jewish men undress and race each other, and forcing Jewish women to climb trees and make bird-noises - or else they would be beaten. In the diary, it simply said, "We all agreed, they certainly do things differently here". The billionnaire was appalled at his father - not just because he did business with the Nazis, but even more because his father had witnessed this disgraceful humiliation of Jewish people and all he could be bothered to say about it was "they do things differently". It suggests two things: 1) sometimes we cannot just stand by: obviously, it wouldn't have been easy to have tackled the Gestapo personally, but some things make us think 'what can I do about it?' and 2) there are some standards which apply across all cultures, and it's not enough just to say 'that's their culture' or 'they do things differently here' - but the challenging thing is to work out what things are cultural and what things can be and should be changed ... not just in 'their' cultures either, but sometimes in 'ours' too! Let's try to be sensitive to any kind of prejudice - and practise a kind of love which breaks down barriers between all peoples. Amen.