‘Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.’ Rosa Luxemburg

Throughout the ages, philosophers have highlighted that man imprisons himself within his own petty conventions and behaviours. Plato’s original Allegory of the Cave has us picture slaves tethered to a wall and, in watching events pass by through the shadows cast on the cave walls, theorise a way of life that bore no resemblance to that which was visible to those outside the cave. Neither the cave dweller nor the watcher from outside would be able to see each other’s point of view; the shadows, dancing in both natural and artificial light, creating that whole world vision to those inside which was simply invisible and incomprehensible to those not benefiting from that perspective.

Rosa Luxemburg comes from that Marxist tradition that held such strong sway in central Europe during the latter part of the 19th and start of the 20th century, giving rise to the various revolutions of the time.  Battle-hardened through umpteen struggles in Germany, wherein she tried (amongst other things) to highlight the oncoming world conflict. Her major contributions were as a political activist , feminist  and writer, and in advancing an internationalist view of nationhood, promoted the birth of democratic ideals in Germany. She was murdered shortly after the end of the first world war, and for many years neglected as an inconvenient truth, the Nazis’ first assassination. Shortly after her death, the poet Berthold Brecht wrote

Red Rosa now has vanished too. (…),

She told the poor what life is about, 

And so the rich have rubbed her out.

May she rest in peace.”

I have always liked Luxemburg’s other famous quotation too; “Freedom is always the freedom of the one who thinks differently.” Put together, they provide a framework for human development that sits comfortably with me, as I work within the framework of British Education in which so many ‘beacons of light’ are set to ensnare the unwary traveler. If educationalists, politicians, economists were right, then we’d have a perfect world by now. The conventions that make a just and fair society seem to run at variance to that which rule a free market and successful economy, and almost always at such a tangent that collision causes mayhem on the frequent occasions when they collide.

In short, it is Humanity’s struggle that ensures progress, that constant testing of the light, shadow, natural and artificial that reveals what we can learn about all the dimensions of our surroundings. For those content with the status quo, they simply won’t feel the fetters that prevent them from flight.  George Bernard Shaw, a contemporary of Luxembourg, had this to say “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
This set of thoughts links directly to “The vanity (or narcisism) of small differences”

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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3 Responses to ‘Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.’ Rosa Luxemburg

  1. Blondet Patrice says:

    Hi, i’ve been desperatly loooking for the exact reference of the Rosa Luxembourg quote. Would you be kind enough to help me ? Thanks

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