The Moses Leadership Legacy | Freedom from the Heavy Hand of Repression

Every group of people who have ever existed seem to have undergone periods of terrible repression. From merchants, to minority groups, to women and children–history has shown us that no organised or even unorganised group of people has ever been spared the heavy hand of repression.

But when they finally–at long last–receive the freedom that they have painstakingly fought for, they then go on to repress someone else.

That seems to be the historical pattern.

The Act of Repression

Repression is the long-term act of subduing someone or something by force. If the force and pressure wasn’t exerted over a long and sustained period of time, it never would have manifested into a deep and dark repression that longed to be freed.

Why do people repress other people? The reason why leaders, politicians and even ‘big business’ repress people is to ensure that parts of themselves remain unconscious. It is these forsaken parts that never have the opportunity to see the light of day. If repression is the shadow of every leader’s legacy, then freedom is the light it is seeking.

Organised repression is enacted to control a group of people by force for political, religious or economic reasons. It is done to restrict or prevent a group’s ability to fully take part in the life of a society, thereby systematically reducing their standing among their fellow citizens.

Repression is usually sustained by violence, which might be legal under certain circumstances or illegal according to domestic law. Violence can both eliminate opposition directly by killing opposition members or indirectly by instilling fear.

The Gifts of Moses

In an allegorical and metaphorical sense, a “Moses” is a leader who delivers people from a terrible situation. In the Biblical narrative, it is Moses who is chosen to guide his people from repression into freedom.

In Exodus 4, Moses is given powers. The Lord permits Moses the ability to turn his staff into a serpent–which Moses himself fled from. Moses is also given the ability to lay his hand on his bosom, thereby turning it ‘leprous like snow’ and changing it back immediately till it resembles the rest of his flesh.

These are the two signs with which Moses is to prove that the Lord had indeed appeared to him; and that he is the one who will guide his people to freedom. The final power Moses is given is the ability to turn water from the Nile into blood when it is poured on dry ground.

If the shepherd’s staff represented Moses’ calling, the hand was that which directed or ruled the calling. The final talent that Moses is given is the ability to change the natural environment; thereby transforming the environment in which he is placed to support the task that he has been given.

Despite Moses’ newly acquired powers granted to him by the Lord, we are told that he has, ‘Never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past’. To overcome this final obstacle, Moses’ brother Aaron is to be his mouthpiece.

This reminds us that despite all of the power and gifts that one has been given, partnership and teamwork will forever remain of vital importance.

Moses as a Leader

As a leader, Moses not only led his people from slavery into freedom; he was also a lawmaker. He did not leave his people out in the desert. He was there to bring down the Ten Commandments so that his people may carve out a new life for themselves.

But no matter how good the leader is, the people must have the determination and willpower to create a new life and a new society for themselves. The story of the Golden Calf shows how once people were freed, they not only doubted the freedom they had been given; they went back to their old ways.

Even though their external environment had changed, their internal environment had not. This led them to continue to be who they used to be as opposed to embracing their new destiny that had not yet been actualised.

The past is a comfort zone for most people who have undergone a deep, profound and lasting change. There is no going back or harking back, but that danger is always there. No matter how great a leader is, he is limited in what he can do if he does not have the support of his people.

It seems that once freedom is actualised, a new form of repression began to loom large.

Moses by Michelangelo (Image Credit: Jörg Bittner Unna)

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