This paper aims to give a reflection based on my experience and understanding of the thoughts expressed by the writer Albert Camus in pages 57 to 73 of his book, Neither Victims nor Executioners.
Camus calls the 20th century as the century of fear and points out that the advances made in the name of science threatens the globe with destruction (57). I agree with him as this thought about science is not unfounded. Despite the International Law on Bombing of Civilians, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by works of science, of atomic bombs on August 1945. The bombs killed hundreds and thousands of people, majority of which were civilians – defenseless women and children among them. With five nuclear weapons states today who can give a similar order to launch, I think Camus had every reason to say we are living in the century of fear. Indeed, what guarantee do we have that no similar or worse incident will happen in our generation or the next?
Such is our predicament today and in our search for Utopia, men with probably good intentions still end up producing the present infernal world (60). I think that when men begin imposing their particular truth on others, that puts a sword of Damocles on someone’s head. In the Book of Genesis 1:28, we are called to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” To me, this means that we are called to subdue the earth and rule over the fish and the birds, not man whom God made in his own image and likeness. I believe that a revelation of how God sees us and for what purpose we are created will give us a glimpse of the Utopia we all desire to see. The inherent nature of God found in man whom he made in his likeness, puts man to war every day with his fleshly character as written in Genesis 6:5, “. . . every inclination of the thoughts of his (man’s) heart was only evil all the time.” So it is no wonder that even with the best intentions, man’s ways can produce something evil.
Like it or not, I believe that we are all, at times, victim and sometimes executioner, while we dwell here on earth. Camus said that the years we have gone through have killed something in us (57). Some of us go through life dead in the spirit or dead in the soul from an experience in the past that has disabled us for life. Man is body, soul and spirit and while we may have been careful not to be executioners of the flesh, we can be very careless about killing the spirit or the soul of a man with our words. That’s why Proverbs 15:4 says “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Likewise, we may be alive in our body but dead in our spirit or soul from being victimized in the past. Camus stated that revolution is ideally a change in political and economic institutions (63). I say change, is something that cannot be done on political and economic institutions, but change is something that can be done on man. Revolutionize man, and we will see transformation in our systems and institutions. There is an accepted cost for revolutions because of the progress they are assumed to bring (65). Self –awareness, accountability and integrity so that one does not become victim or executioner of the body, soul and spirit, are the cost for transformation that will bring progress that endures.
The instructions set forth in Philippians 2:1-4 can, I believe, serve as a beacon for those who want to make a difference and make the world a better place to live.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
If we have seen and tolerated the high cost for revolution and transformation in the past, then the cost of self- revolutionizing should be an acceptable price to pay for anyone who desires to see a better world. There is so much we want to do that is simply beyond our control but we do have control over ourselves. Camus said that what is essential is for people to carefully weigh the price they must pay (73). I agree. I must weigh my words before I speak, considering the other person at all times so that I do not become an executioner of his/her soul. I must weigh the other person’s words, careful not to accept every word into my soul so that I am not victimized. I will seek awareness of my strengths and weaknesses, be accountable for all my actions and be firm in my principles, knowing that what I do and who I am touches other people’s lives.
Camus, Albert. “Neither Victims nor Executioners.” 1945: 57-73.