The Witnesses’ Practice of Non-Recognition

I was walking up my street this morning to buy a newspaper. (Yes, who buys newspapers these days, eh?) This one I had to though, and it had nothing to do with Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration later today. Some local journalist was breathing life into a dead story at my expense; so I opted to get the hardcopy for my archives.

On my way back I came across some Witnesses I once knew. Good people otherwise. Of course they noticed me; but as they drove past, I was confronted by what I’d like to call the ‘Batman posture.’ If you’ve watched any old Batman movie, you’ll know that the early Batman costume was made in such a way that Batman couldn’t turn his neck. He had to turn his entire body to face whomever he was speaking to. And this is what I was met with, Witnesses who were cognisant of my presence, but who assumed this Batman posture, unable or terrified of even making eye contact.


MEDUSA: In Greek mythology, anyone who makes eye contact with Medusa turns to stone.

In one way, it’s funny. In another, it’s downright preposterous. It’s only natural to gravitate towards a familiar face. It takes deliberate effort to assume the Batman posture, where even swinging one’s eyeballs seems too difficult a task; as if making eye contact with Mabunda would pay the same wages as staring at Medusa. Only ‘religion’ could validate such madness. Where something that is patently childish is cloaked with nobility and honour.

Ludicrous as this practice is, however, it has the potential to be truly traumatic: living people being taken for dead; intimate family ties disconnected; friendships that took a lifetime to forge severed by a religiously imposed silent treatment. The ‘silentee’ and the ‘silentor’ often suffer in silence; and it is the silencer that is the beneficiary of the censor.

Adults know that differences are resolved, not by silence, but by meaningful dialogue. This is especially true when a person is no longer a Witness, not merely owing to an infraction, but as a matter of conscience backed by sound logic. Insistence on silence under such circumstances does not inspire meaningful resolution, but creates unbridgeable divides. More often than not, the ones meting out this silence are themselves impoverished as to the facts in question, and so it is a mindless system that is jealously aimed at extracting conformity – at whatever expense.

Despite the Batman posture, however, I’m inclined to believe that somewhere deep beneath this crusted exterior is an organic part that is suffering as well; but undue influence is at work; the momentum of belief creates inertia; religious conviction justifies everything; the ‘God’ ingredient makes even the abominable palatable.

It is only when the love of truth eclipses the fear of oppression that what is human inside can be a given a chance to grow. Only freedom from religious pride can permit our mental curtains to be drawn, so that our souls can be nourished by the light. It is a complex process, yes, when the universe that is our life is riddled by commitments and connections. One can only hope, however, that that which is right will prevail over that which is oppressive.