Saturday, November 14, 2015

Non-violence -- There is a way to stop the cycle

In a world so full of anger, oppression, hate and counter-hate, so full of racism, misogyny, homophobia, bigotry, so full of the disasters of nationalism and the extremism of ideology, it is always seen as somehow naive or utopian to point out that at some moment, somewhere, the cycle of violence has to end.

That at some point people -- humanity -- have to learn to resolve differences and to, as hard as this is, overcome even the worst injustices without the resort to violence. Without the inevitable killings then inevitably justified that lead to further killings again justified that lead to killings always justified.

Justified because they are against an oppressor. Justified because they are against a terrorist. Justified because they are against an enemy. Justified because they are supposedly in self-defense. Justified as they are allegedly a form of justice. Justified because they will end violence somehow once violence has ended the lives of all of those who seek to be violent.

Justified because "they" did it more, they did it worse, they did it against the innocent, they did it against civilians -- justified for all the same reasons they say that their violence is justified.

And so deeply cowardly and disgraceful pitiless violence like that inflicted on people eating at restaurants or enjoying a concert whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time is made moral in the minds of those who support it or excuse it as so many -- so many more in fact -- in the Middle East had their lives ended by Western violence in similar or exactly the same ways.

As if this immoral "moral equivalency" on either part is a rational notion.

Violence forever justified.

Perhaps it is utopian to feel that the obvious, clear and only solution to violence is the ending of violence, but it is not naive.

What is naive is to suppose, as one assumes Francois Hollande must, that being "pitiless" will stop future violence. What is naive is to ignore how the West has been pitiless for a very long time now and killed a countless number of people in the process to absolutely no avail other than the actual creation of groups like ISIS. What is naive is to suppose that a terrorist movement created almost entirely due to the interventionist actions and the extreme violence of Western powers in countries like Syria and Iraq will now disappear or be stopped due to more violence. What is naive is to suppose that the killing of innocents and children who are chalked up as some statistical collateral damage in campaigns of high-tech death dealing dealt from on high by fighter planes, cruise missiles or drones will do anything other than give birth to a new generation of the radicalized who, through violence, seek to avenge this.

What is naive is to think that the use of violence -- the ultimately morally debasing and grotesque actuality of inflicting violence on other human beings -- does not simply irrevocably change those who are traumatized as its victims, but also those who are dehumanized as its champions and practitioners.

Confronted with the terrible senselessness and futility of this seemingly unstoppable cycle of death and retribution leading to more death and retribution, it can all seem so Sisyphean and existentially hopeless.

Yet when we renounce violence, when we no longer accept the inevitability of violence, when we turn away from the justifications of violence, we take a step up that mountain towards a new humanism and new discourse.

Regardless of how ridiculed pacifists may be, when people say that political and nationalist and religious and any violence is not just wrong when used against "us" or the innocent but is always wrong in all cases and can never be justified, we take a step up that mountain towards an end to violence.

When we finally acknowledge that the death penalty, inflicted "legally" or extra-judicially, is always wrong we take a step up that mountain.

When we understand that it is almost always the "innocent", the workers, women, children, the marginalized, the racialized and the powerless who are the victims of violence -- including the violence of those who claim to represent them -- and that history is replete with those killed in the name of their own supposed liberation, we take another step up that mountain.

Non-violence and pacifism are not just a solution to violence, they are the only solution to violence.

They are an antidote to the despair that is violence.

No matter how much this may be denounced or mocked as "unrealistic" or absurd, it is proven by the very course of the terribly violent history of human civilization --  a history that truly is a history of violence. The only thing "unrealistic" is to think that violence will ever end violence, a delusion akin to those who actually thought that World War One was the war to end all wars.

It predictably did not turn out that way.

And now we see the drums of war, the calls to vengeance and violence, renewed again. We see the blind cycle of destruction move forward again. We see that so many find it justified again. And we know that it can, will and never has solved anything.

It is like an eternal catastrophe that we pretend we cannot stop and yet of which we know the cause.

While we may never reach that summit -- that day when violence has truly been stopped everywhere -- it is only through the effort of non-violence that we can make a real difference and hope to end the awful fact that tomorrow will bring yet another bloodbath somewhere somehow rationalized and justified by those who commit it by the bloodbath somewhere else committed by someone else that happened yesterday.

No comments:

Post a Comment