As French journalist and historian Jacques Crétineau-Joly said, “Truth is the only charity allowed to history.” Tai Ji Men Shifu and dizi deserve it too.
by Marco Respinti
Conclusions of the webinar “Political Charity and the Tai Ji Men Case,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers on September 5, 2022, United Nations International Day of Charity.
An article already published in Bitter Winter on September 13th, 2022.
Today the Organization of the United Nations asks us to observe the International Day of Charity. It is an important day. No matter its virtues and/or failures, no matter what political opinion one may have of it (and I have mine), the UN project is the best the modern world has been able to put together to try to achieve peace and cooperation among the nations of the earth, after the terrible disasters of the two world wars in the first half of 20th century.
Such an attempt is seminal. Human beings are supposed to live a good life. To live a good life, they need peace. Only free people live in peace, and wars and divisions and hatred come around when evil reigns and freedom disappear. All attempts to bring people and nations to unity are crucial. The ancient, medieval, and pre-modern world tried some of such attempts. Sometimes they enjoyed success, sometimes they suffered failures.
Of all, let me just mention “tregua Dei,” i.e. “God’s truce”, also called “God’s peace.” It was not a period of time but a social movement during the Middle Ages, aimed at containing violence during the crises that took place in the middle of the 9th century in Western Europe. In a deeply religious time, Councils of the Roman Catholic Church set limits of times and places that could be dedicated to warfare, and threatened with spiritual sanctions those who trespassed. Protecting civilians, properties, and peaceful institutions, “God’s truce” had a profound and lasting impact on the whole society, accounting for true progress in civilization during what many people still wrongly define the “dark ages.” It seems apt to quote this example to an audience like ours, which is sensitive to spiritual topics.
The United Nations’ attempt to avoid contrasts among nations is at least ascribable to the same intention used by other institutions in different periods of time and different places, no matter how the world has changed, and the secular nature of the UN notwithstanding.
During the first of the catastrophes of the 20th century, World War I (1914‒1918), an event echoing “tregua Dei” took place in the battlefields of Ypres, in the West Flanders, Belgium, in December 1914. Europeans had been butchering one another for five months. The bombastic slogan of the time, called it “the war to end all wars,” drawing inspiration from the English novelist H.G. Wells (1866–1946)’ 1914 book “The War That Will End War.” More aptly, Pope Benedict XV (1854–1922) called it the “useless slaughter”.
On the Western Front, the carnage reached one of its many climaxes. Soldiers were rotting in the trenches and losing hope. Then, with no agreement of sort, guided by who knows who, servicemen from both sides, French, German, and British, started crossing the firing lines around Christmas Day 1914. Shy at first, bolder then, they shacked hands and exchanged cigarettes, even wishes. They befriended each other, sang together, toasted, played a soccer match. History knows the episode as the “Christmas truce” and it let the world astonished.
Books have been written on it and letters from the front collected. A beautiful French movie came out of it in 2005. In Fall 2021 even a Swedish heavy metal band, Sabaton, whose songs are all dedicated to history and war, honoring valor and heroism while despising bloodsheds, published a mild piano song, “Christmas Truce”, on a variation of “Carol of the Bells”, a popular air by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych (1877–1921) and his American colleague Peter J. Wilhousky (1902–1978) based on the Ukrainian folk chant.
Why do I indulge in such details? To offer my testimony how noble the spirit of human beings can be even in the most horrid conditions or bizarre ways, when inspired by a superior dimension. Think for example of the crowds at a Sabaton concert being educated to such benevolent sentiments during a dark rock concert.
This brings me back again to the United Nations’ intentions for a day like today and its relations to Tai Ji Men. Tai Ji Men is suffering slander and injustice. It has been the victim of a malevolent condition for more that a quarter of a century, its youth being stolen their joys and hopes, its property seized, its reputation trodden upon. The corrupt and ideological forces that have been persecuting Tai Ji Men, with no reason and against the rulings of courts of law, and for such a long time, demonstrates just the contrary of what charity is: they exhibit meanness, covetousness, and greed.
Wishing to properly reflect on this topic, on a UN day of observance devoted to charity, we have devoted our today’s webinar to the concept of “political charity.” How peculiar this is—and central to any discussion regarding citizens and nations living together in harmony and peace.
Today international scholars and dizi (disciples) of Tai Ji Men addressed the topic, offering us important insights and valuable information. They treated the topic from different angles, intellectual or personal, showing that a society with no political charity is like Cain continuously assassinating Abel—a social hell. It is as if the two world wars which I evoked earlier would become a permanent condition for humanity.
The papers presented today by the scholars and the always touching testimonies of dizi spark my final consideration on a concept that twins political charity. I will formulate it by using the words of the 19the century French journalist and historian Jacques Crétineau-Joly (1803–1875). He famously said: “La vérité est la seule charité permise à l’Histoire,” “Truth is the only charity allowed to history.” It is a deep thought.
Crétineau-Joly wrote thousands of pages, and I haven’t been able to locate yet where that quote exactly is. It is traditionally reported. Maybe he uttered it and some of his contemporaries picked it up. It is a noteworthy phrase, because among Crétineau-Joly’s voluminous writingss many are dedicated to the first genocide in history. It was that which the French Jacobin state perpetrated in 1793‒1794 against its own citizens in “la Vendée Militaire,” a region in the north-west of the country where Catholics rebelled to the ideocracy of the French Revolution (and to exorbitant taxes) and were slaughtered.
The subject is relevant here because it is about the hatred for religion, state persecution, the unbearable burden of exaggerated taxes, and the obligation for peaceful people to enroll in an unjust war of aggression (declared by France against the Habsburg Empire on April 20, 1792). We find the same elements in the Tai Ji Men case: a spiritual movement operating for a more peaceful world to avoid wars and hatred, which is persecuted by a state using the fiscal weapon.
In his books on Vendée, Crétineau-Joly quotes relevant details that are not found elsewhere. Some doubted the truthfulness of his notes. They were wrong. Crétineau-Joly was mainly a reporter: he collected facts, opinions, even rumors. It is like saying that one cannot trust the scoop of a reporter because no one else had it. Of course, here all is based on credibility and dignity. Crétineau-Joly showed to be credible and dignified in many other ways, thus he must be considered credible also in his scoops. Equal credible is the meaning of his aphorism.
If in fact political charity is the second form of love of humanity (the first being love directed to God), this is because its fabric is truth. The fabric of all that is human is and should always be truth. The only political charity allowed to Tai Ji Men, as to all human beings, people, and nations, must unavoidably be always truth. Therefore, until and unless truth is fully and publicly restored on the Tai Ji Men case, political charity won’t be fulfilled and no permanent “tregua Dei” and no continuous Christmas truce would bless Tai Ji Men Shifu (Grand Master) and dizi—and the whole world. Because if and when one human being suffers, we all suffer.