Ubi iudicat qui accusat, vis, non lex, valet.
(Publilius Syrus, Sententia 692)
When the one who accuses is also the one who judges, violence, not law, is the
(pron = OO-bee YOO-dee-kaht kwee ak-KOO-saht wees nohn leks WAH-let)
Comment: The violence that prevails when the accuser also gets to be the judge
ought to be obvious, but I am afraid that it often is concealed from us. This
one little line, in all honesty, could be enough for me to chew on, look at,
listen to and consider for quite a while.
What moves me to accuse? What or who in me accuses? What or who in the other
do I accuse? What feelings have been stirred up in me as I accuse the other?
The Latin word “accusat” not only means “to accuse”, but it also means “to
blame”. Who do I blame today for (fill in the blank)? More basic—why must
someone be blamed? Where did I learn to blame? How often have I been blamed
for (fill in the blank)? As I approach blaming the other for (fill in the
blank) when was I first blamed for this same thing?
I submit that every single one of these questions and others are at stake every
time we approach accusing or blaming another—even—perhaps especially if—the
blaming only goes on in our heads and never gets verbalized formally. With all
those questions at stake, what sort of judgment are we capable of?
I would also submit that since these questions are difficult and painful for us
to answer—they are all attached to deep memories for each of us—that we rush to
judgment in order to avoid reflecting on our blame/accusation. The violence is
that we violate the integrity of the other with our own unresolved patterns of
blame and guilt, and call it objective judgment.
Teachers are in prime place to do this every day, but we are not alone. How
often does a student raise some hackle in us, which kicks in some old pattern?
We could stop and observe it. Or, we could rush to judgment—punish the student
in some fashion, and feel . . . well, superior for a few minutes. We have just
sent our own emotional pattern deeper inside, making the judgment, and the
violence, that much easier next time. At some point, the process crashes on
us, but that’s another reflection.
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day is now available on the web.