Articles : THE AUDACITY OF MERCY: A BOLD ENCOUNTER WITH THE SOCIAL SPACEPosted on: 2016-05-06
Source: Fr. Martin Badejo
We celebrate today the 50th World Day of Communication. To live is to communicate. This stands as one of the most fundamental desires of man as he seeks to go beyond himself. He expresses himself in various ways, by putting his experiences in view. Indeed, he makes use of language as the vehicle of communication. More still, language varies in mode, being either verbal or symbolic. Quite importantly, this ability to communicate puts man in contact with the other, by which he is able to create a space and he is able to interact within that space. In other words, man finds himself in a society, and his ability to communicate drives the society through the interactions he has with others in that society. The inevitable fact which comes to play here is the relational dimension of man’s communication ability. It is out of this that the social space gets formed, such that it is no longer limited to one particular place, and it could be either virtual or physical.
The paucity of order
It is a known fact that the social space allows for everyone’s participation. Each person makes his contribution according to his level of understanding and following his preferences. The assemblies convoked in various groups formed especially in the social media space demonstrate various types of attitudes. The most evident of these attitudes affirm the drop in spontaneous order, or better still, its total absence. As Francis Fukuyama opined in his book, The Great Disruption, “for spontaneous order to occur, it is important to put clear boundaries on group membership.” The paucity of such order, which is evident in the social space, sometimes presents a silently eloquent anarchism, which could even become as imposing as to shut out one’s openness to some more reasonable discourse still present within the same space. At times, our minds and senses are over bombarded from the social space, much so that they get formed through the unchecked information imposed on them.
A Fruitful Encounter
Borrowing from the words of Pope Francis in his message on the 50th World Communications Day, “as sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception. In a particular way, the Church’s words and actions are all meant to convey mercy, to touch people’s hearts and to sustain them on their journey to that fullness of life, which Jesus was sent by the Father to bring to us all.” There is no hanging back from this necessity. As long as we remain members of the Church, children of God, we have to get up, dress up and show up. The Pope further says that, “the words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement...they must firmly condemn evil, (but) they should never try to rupture relationships and communications”. The consequence of our presence which brings a fruitful encounter, is that each member of that social space to whom we take Christ can see his own ability to understand and to also betake himself to Christ.
To be able to arrive at the level of a convincingly mature involvement that can result in this fruitful encounter, formation is important. It has almost become the norm in many societies today to find people acting without adequate formation in what they are supposed to do. Creative formation is important, to be able to avoid what Garret Hardin calls the Tragedy of Commons; a case where individual users of a shared resource system choose to please themselves, concentrate on their own self-interest, and behave contrary to the common good. Even though it looks like a tall order in the present times, to ask that the basic formation in media usage be taken up by each person, it behoves each one to make this choice. While participation in the social space allows everyone to express himself/herself, there are some basic principles which ought to guide this participation. This includes, avoiding offensive and uncouth language, listening so as to understand, rather than hearing only so as to reply, reading up the history of discussions before contributing, to mention a few. Paying attention to and using those principles responsibly bolster our participation.
The Audacity of Mercy
To hold up a moral standard within an order that proclaims a creed of ‘no absolute standard’ demands audacity. The mettle supplied by the creative self-formation is limitless. More still, when that audacity is founded on the absolute moral standard of God’s call to repentance and his offer of mercy, each encounter that comes up with others within the social space becomes fruitful.
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