The Dialectical Interplay Of Elite And Masses

The dialectic between elite and masses is of another sort. In Latin America, for example, we have pppressors and oppressed. But many elite groups are themselves dominated by foreign powers. So the domestic dominator may in turn be dominated by foreign oppressors. In short, there are different grades and stages of oppression in the whole dialectic of elite and masses.

The elite is some small oligarchic group. The masses is the large group which suffers from the domination of some elite. But our domestic elite is in turn dominated by some foreign elite in the United States or Russia. The foreign elite is autocratic, self-appointed, and bureaucratic. There is no one over it, and it is not democratic by any means. This foreign elite dominates our domestic elite, and the latter in turn dominates our people here.

We can describe all this in terms of the Gospel message. At the top we have Pontius Pilate, the oppressor representing the Roman emperor. Below him is Herod, the native ruler and oppressor under Pilate. Then we have the common people, of which Jesus was one. Our Creed tells us that Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate" We often do not advert to the fact that there is a note of oppression recorded in the Creed itself, but it is there. The reigning elite could not allow the liberation of the people, for that would end their domination. Sin does not permit people to work justice.

There is then a political situation incorporated into the death of Jesus. The relationship existing between human beings is a political one, and the per'son who fails to understand this will probably end up implementing or supporting the worst kind of politics-the politics imposed on people by the established order. We cannot simply say that we love our country. We must be dedicated to making our country one which works justice.

What is the function of the elite and of the masses in the process of liberation? Is all the tightness and wisdom to be found in the latter group? Some people think so, naively believing that the masses have the whole solution to any given problem. But if a given people is alienated for the most part, then the role of the masses may be a very dubious and equivocal one. Remember that the Hebrews fleeing from Egypt in the Sinai desert kept complaining about their lot. They kept telling Moses that they had been better off in

Egypt. Moses had tofightagainst his own people, because they did not want to continue in the demanding process of liberation. The point is that the masses of the people, weighed down by a long tradition of oppressive pedagogy, may not possess an authentic yearning for liberation-at least one that is explicit and clearly defined.

In the process of liberation there must be another elite, standing outside the process in a sense and teaching people what liberation truly is. This is the group that will practice what Paulo Freire calls the "pedagogy of liberation." This group will probably always be a minority. It will be embodied in such as Jesus, Moses, the prophets, the Church. The people in this group know that they must get out of the existing totality. They criticize the oppressing party and help to lead the oppressed towards authentic liberation. Hence they are distinct from both groups in some respects.

These basic categories help us to get beyond the simplistic dialectic of elite versus masses, wherein the latter group is all good. An elite is needed to look at the situation critically and see the proper role of the people in the process of liberation. Knowing this, it must then summon the people, the masses, to undertake the task. Instead of engaging in demagoguery, it must stand outside the masses to some extent and engage in liberative criticism of both the oppressor and the oppressed.

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