Reading "Black Prophetic Fire" by Cornel West and Christa Buschendorf I was reminded of the Greek word "parrhesia" which is pronounced par-he-see-ah. It means the pattern of speaking the truth boldly and freely without any regard for the speaker's safety or security. West reminds us that parrhesia was a style of speaking used by Socrates in Plato's Apology.
Of even more importance for me is that the same word appears throughout the Book of Acts in the New Testament regarding the bold preaching of Peter, James, and Paul who preached about Christ in the Greco-Roman world without fear or hesitation. With that word in mind, I think it is well past time for people in this country to find the courage for some "parrhesia"on our part. In the face of poverty, violent crime, racism, student conduct in downtown Rochester, and an unending stream of attacks on voting rights that could affect millions of Americans it is time for some "parrhesia."
We need some "parrhesia" whether it comes from clergy of all races and religions, from public officials that are entrusted with safeguarding the common good, journalists and writers that report what they see occurring in our society, or educators whose values need to extend beyond the safe confines of their classrooms. Not much will change in our society and in our world if people of influence are determined to speak only those things that are pleasing and acceptable to everyone and are never willing to put themselves at risk in any way. The people who most transformed this country were quite often those who engaged in "parrhesia." Think about the founders of this country in their attacks on King George III and the British Empire.
Think about abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights leaders, anti-war activists during the Viet Nam War era, or the Occupy Movement and their attacks on issues of the growing wealth disparity in this country. In every instance, these people engaged in what the ancient Greeks call "parrhesia." They all ran a risk, they faced the possibility of some serious reprisal, and they all understood that nothing will change and no injustice will be ended until people with strong convictions find the courage to go public with their views and values. As Edmund Burke said, "The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing."
There is something that good people can do; they can practice the art of "parrhesia.
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