Critical thought that arises from the periphery -including the social periphery, the oppressed classes, the lumpen always ends by directing itself toward the center. It is its death as critical philosophy; it is its birth as an ontology and ideology. Thought that takes refuge in the center ends by thinking it to be the only reality. Outside its frontiers is nonbeing, nothing, barbarity, non-sense.

This paragraph from the book, Philosophy of Liberation by Enrique Dussels captures the dynamics of center and periphery. Many of the post-modern philosophers like Nietzsche, Derrida speak of the dynamics between center and periphery. In a binary system of 2 options (this or that), one is always preferred. And the center is preferred. I have argued in the last article, we need developmental initiatives, ideas to emerge from the peripheries. But another danger is the leader emerging from the periphery doesn’t want to remain there, but want to migrate to the center. I also feel this is exactly the reason, why many radicial/liberative movements which are started with much great hope end up being a bird of the same old flock (end up like the oppressive ideologies they opposed).

This is beautifully illustrated by the dialectic between charism and institutionalization. Anybody with a beautiful charism/idea/innovation is forced to institutionalize that charism so that it sustains. Though this institutionalization is most required, it has an inherent tendency to become rigid and structured that the dynamism of the charism is lost. This is a constant danger that can’t be avoided. Normally charism comes from the periphery, and institutionalization takes it to the center. How can it maintain the balance is really a question? We should see the development of various religions (Christianity/Buddhism), whose founder had a charism. Whether the followers follow the same spirit of the founder (or atleast try to do it) is a million dollar question.

When Pope Francis invites the priests to be shepherds having the smell of the sheep, it is an invitation to lead by remaining in the periphery. The example of Jesus washing the feet of disciples do reveal the same. I think such a leadership is essential in all fields — especially political; else we would never be able to solve the problems like refugee issues and inequalities in various forms.

A serious difficulty with the periphery(as many see it) is the dynamism associated with it. This dynamism would be contradictory with the basic idea of any identity that is fixed once and for all. The people who are already in the center may be upset with such a dynamic leadership as it affects their status-quo. Don’t think I am advocating communism, but the dynamism is willing to accommodate the goodness in each ideology. The only aspect is that the accommodation is not once and for all. It will remain as long as it makes sense, as long as it helps the society to be more humane.

I conclude with one example given by St Ignatius, the founder of Jesuits. There was a great council of theologians (called the council of Trent) where some of the greatest theologians were Jesuits. But he instructed those great Jesuits to give catechism to the children in the evenings to remain grounded. Just as updating and upskilling is important for any leader, being grounded to the peripheries too is important to be able to make meaningful decisions that are sustainable and are for all.

A Jesuit interested to think and write; Loves philosophy, spirituality, politics…. Believes in God & well-being of all humans… Open to difference & newness..

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