by Sophie Turton
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu
We live each day at a carnival, casually traversing the mirrored hall and the wizard’s show: politicians pull nuclear weapons from hats and make “baddies” disappear. Every area of human life is reported through a constant stream of media and social networking, providing a confusing cocktail of self-liberation (“tweet your way to a better job”) and intense insecurity “‘there are NO jobs”). None-the-less, great change is happening and at the forefront of this change are great people with great ideas, courage and an insurmountable love for humanity. Desmond Tutu, the first black Archbishop of Cape Town and advocate of peace and equality, is one of these greats.
Desmond Tutu is not just great because of what he says and does. he is great because he demands a realization of our individual greatness. He helps us believe that greatness exists.
Most who know Desmond Tutu associate him as being one of the lead advocates of South Africa’s anti-apartheid regime. He first came into the public brain box during the 1980s and has since been the voice against inequality, injustice and downright political lunacy, but this is not just in relation to race. Desmond Tutu beams at all areas of human interest. One of the most exciting examples of this comes in his recent attack of Tony Blair and George W. Bush.
In February 2003, London saw one of the UK’s biggest ever protests, as at least 750,000 people took to the streets to speak out against the war in Iraq. This was perhaps the beginning of a nationwide feeling of impotency: our government doesn’t listen to us, we have no control. Now, almost ten years later, Desmond Tutu’s outrage echoes the thoughts of millions, as he calls for a “consistent world” where “those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague.”
Hurrah to that!
Despite the fact that very probably and almost certainly nothing will come of the cry to try the “world’s crusaders” for war crimes, the very fact that someone of such prestige has so fervently and publicly spoken up against them, is greatness in itself.
In order to achieve greatness, one needs a large dose of courage. This courage can be seen sparkling across the many minorities in the world who, daily, often have to fight for the right to be exactly who they are. One philosophy teacher recently pondered whether someone of such religious importance as Desmond Tutu could be in support of LGBT rights. The teacher believed that he could not, for in order to keep true to the New Testament, Tutu would need to condemn acts of homosexuality as Paul did, through listing them among the criminal offences that will send a person straight to hell.
Desmond Tutu supports LGBT rights. In a recent campaign to help prevent the further spread of HIV and AIDS, Tutu demanded that homosexuality be decriminalized all over the world. In his column in the Lancet and quoted in Pink News in July 2012, Tutu stated:
“They also tell us what we each already know, if we are prepared to be honest with ourselves – that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are a part of every human community.”
He goes on to compare anti-gay laws to racial segregation during the apartheid.
While, as the philosophy teacher pointed out, these views appear to actively contradict some biblical teachings, it can be seen that Tutu is doing the same thing that religious practitioners the world over have done for thousands of years: omitting certain biblical teachings and focusing on others in order to suit their cause. For once, this is in support of peace, love and equality. In a direct address to the LGBT community, Tutu said: “God loves you as you are…never let anyone make you feel inferior for being who you are.”
Wake up world: there is greatness all around us. By being exactly who we are, we can help to move those we come into contact with and to change the views of ignorant people; by being afraid of who we are, we are supporting the ignorant and condemning ourselves. As the great Desmond Tutu said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Sophie Turton is a British writer, editor and journalist. Her favorite foreign saying is Život je krásný (life is beautiful), and she says it, a lot. She is pretty straight, most of the time, but is a fervent advocate for LGBT rights, under the basic belief that there is no box big enough for the complexity of love and sexual attraction; people are people. She has conducted research and written several articles on the subject of China’s dawn of sexuality and loves anything and everything to do with Chinese culture. She has written for several China-based publications, including Shanghai Daily and Shanghai Expat, and was the Arts and Urban Editor of Shanghai247. She is currently immersed in a deep love affair with Britain’s Brighton, after spending three years living outside of the UK.