Courage to Walk out of the Cave of Innocence

Can we look at the world through the prism of innocence? Will it miss the complexity and result in oversimplification? This way of viewing the world is a way of policing the boundaries of oppression and emancipation making everything appear dogmatic, natural and normal. This attachment to innocence is said to be linked to neoliberal economics and conservative right-wing politics. It enables us to accept moral wrongs and injustices in depoliticizing ways. Innocence assists to obfuscate oppression and violence and offers us a feeling of being on the right side of history.

The circulation of innocence runs deep in several religious as well as political cultures. It proceeds and exceeds neoliberalism. This makes it difficult to interrogate neoliberal rules and values of success. Innocence, therefore, becomes an exercise of power. It shields us from examining the debts of complicity with oppression. We seem to be longing for a space of purity, a space empty of power. it is this longing that is legitimating our blind attachment to innocence. we are constantly displacing politics towards the limit of innocence in our never-ending quest for purity and a power-empty society. Innocence being a kind of moral disposition has to be constantly reproduced and is not a state of being.

We, therefore, have to examine the manner in which innocence is mobilised to frame and delineate the possibilities of politics. Innocence is cannot be delinked from victimhood. it brings about the erasure of agency. we then think of ourselves as helpless and embrace depolitical options of disengagement. we cannot allow innocence to become a reason for our inaction against injustice, violence and oppression. We have the challenge to suspect and interrogate this disempowering innocence. This requires us to accept that our exercise of freedom is not innocent. It has political and moral consequences. Karl Marx had already manifested how liberalism was deeply embedded in capitalism. We also have other Marxists demonstrating the links between neoliberalism and capitalism.

Several scholars teach that innocence is manufactured and circulated by universities. Several disciplines discipline us to regard everything as innocent. Education seems to silence our critical ability. Perhaps, we need critical thinking to become the chief component of education. Education has become a practice of depoliticised diversity. We are put back in Plato’s cave and assigned a place that chained us to the walls of society. Our classrooms are new Platonic caves. We are made to sit in rows of those domesticated to belong to our society as good obedient childrenized citizens. This means we have to do a Socratic act and leave the cave to embrace the light of the wisdom that will enable us to see the chains attached to what appears as our freedom. If we do not interrogate our attachment to innocence, we shall convert our society into a cave of unfreedom.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao