FROM BEING RIGHT TOWARD BEING WHOLE
(For me personally, if not for all humans)
At our present state of evolutionary consciousness, we humans compete for limited resources, some getting more than others. The “have mores” inevitably rely on some type of force to maintain their advantage. The greater the advantage, the more force that is needed to maintain the advantage. This force can be laws enforced ultimately by force or the threat of force. The force can be one’s own guns used in self defense. The force can be armed forces. The force can be nuclear arms. The ones we maintain the force to oppose, are our enemies.
We all think we have enemies. At least half of us have divorced spouses and spouses often become enemies over custody of the children.
After one has used one of the various forms of force to maintain his privilege, his advantage, and has “won,” there are various things one can do with defeated enemies:
· Ignore them or deny their existence. Israelis seem to do this with the Palestinians.
· Kill them all, ruthlessly and savagely. Hitler tried this with the Holocaust. Genghis Kahn and other conquerors in history did this. This was Stalin’s solution.
· Enslave them or hate them (which may be the same thing)
· Try to “rehabilitate” them or “reform” them or “educate” them, control them or impose laws or agreements governing their conduct. The
Unless we are totally without conscience and lacking in sense of morality, we will not wish to kill or enslave our enemies. We can sometimes simply try to ignore or deny the existence of our defeated enemies while attempting to preserve our own sense that we are good and moral.
The trouble is that enemies defeated by violence are inevitably angry. They are resentful. They seek justice. They want to retaliate. Victors often project their own fear on to the defeated enemies thereby exaggerating it. The victors worry that they may be poisoned, bombed, hurt or killed. They worry that they may be subjected to a nuclear attack or a biological warfare attack. The victors arm themselves further and enact ever more repressive laws both on themselves and their defeated opponents.
If something of yours was unjustly taken by force, would you not be angry and try to get it back by whatever means it took?
We have to live with our defeated enemies after we have “won.” Some people will always be conservative or right wingers or fundamentalists. Some will always be fascists. Some will continue to fear gays and lesbians. Some will still be very greedy.
So it is important to remember three things:
The use of force is almost always counterproductive and increases the numbers of our enemies and their determination to retaliate. The use of force creates mirror images of the reactions and feelings in the users of force as well as the victims.
All advantage and all privileges over others are maintained at some level by force.
We will have to live with these others, our enemies, after we have “won” by the use of force. We will have to resort to even more force.
Because of the counter productive results of the use of violent force, I have been examining my own religious heritage, particularly the teachings of Jesus, and MLK Jr. and Gandhi in their exposition of non-violent means of exercising power. This necessarily requires my willingness to share whatever unjust privileges I have more equitably with my enemies.
It was far more complicated and profound than I had thought. I got a hint of this from the title of a nonviolence training manual offered by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Its title is From Violence to Wholeness, a ten part process in the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence by Ken Butigan and Patricia Bono, OP. How does one get “wholeness” out of a nonviolence training manual? Is this “wholeness” individual, cultural or both?
First, one can not use nonviolent means effectively unless one believes and is ready to act upon the insight that God created all humans, loves each human, and expects each of us to love each other as God does. This means not only giving enemies caring attention, but also affirming the good human qualities in every human, even enemies. This caring and affirming must be sincere. It must not be given grudgingly. This is basic. There are no substitutes. I am searching for a secular source for this foundational ingredient. For example, we can choose to act as if we were created equal and can commit to give each of our fellow humans caring attention, if not love, all based on thousands of years of human experience and expounded by the most respected sages of mankind. The human experience is that in the long run this secular assumption makes us and our families happier and safer. All of this involves the question: Where do we get our ethics? Our sense of morality? Our wisdom? Our Judgment? From God? From Human Experience? I am frankly not satisfied with my secular formulation. Can others do better?
Second: We must love our enemies no matter who they are: Ex-spouses, employers, the ruling class, fascists, greedy aggressive persons, racists, homosexuals, the rich, the poor, foreigners, terrorists, communists, and capitalists. We will be living with them after we have “won.”
An essential component of these first two points is the assumption that there is some glimmer of good in every human, and that no matter how evil, this evil human can be lead to change his mind and alter his conduct.
Third: We must establish a trusting, caring relationship with our enemy before we can change or teach, influence or persuade him. Those that we seek to change must know that we will not hurt them. This is the first law of nonviolent efforts. We must not frighten our enemies. We cannot successfully establish this relationship after we have used force of any kind to subjugate our enemies
Fourth: Our caring confrontations with others must be nonviolent. That does NOT mean that we should be passive. MLK Jr was certainly not passive. We must not try to dominate others. We seek cooperation, partnership, sharing with others who are as entitled as we are. We do not use force or fear in any form. We do not use abuse, be it verbal, mental, psychological, spiritual, or physical. The basic reason for this is that the experience of mankind, the teachings of the major spiritual traditions and sages shows that the use of force of any kind is always counterproductive. It does not achieve one’s intended objective. It causes more harm than good. It makes things worse. (A system of police and laws established by the human community humanely to control, treat, and reform the mentally ill or those who are out of control in committing hurtful acts is perfectly consistent with the commitment to be nonviolent as individuals and as a human community.)
Fifth: We exercise our moral, persuasive, ridiculing, shaming, petitioning power nonviolently. We may break existing laws but we must accept the punishment. We seek to uphold the concept of law and to extend the law to overcome the injustice we are nonviolently acting against. The nonviolent process itself is far more important than the ends we seek. The reason for this is that the nonviolent process causes profound changes in both the actor and the observer.
Considering and hopefully choosing to live by these foundations has caused a major change in me personally in my 81st year. It is creating a psychological and intellectual “aha!” It is an epiphany. As the title of the book suggests, it has brought me a profound sense of wholeness. It has to do with how I view other human beings. Without this insight, my view of others was: Do others hold my correct ideas in their heads? Are they liberal and open minded like me? If not they are my potential enemies and at some level I harbor anger toward them. On the other hand, if I can view other human beings as sharing a spark of divinity, a spark of goodness and humanity I can seek a relationship with them, no matter what ideas they hold in their heads. I now recognize that it is the relationship that I must first have before another human and I can talk about ideas. I must seek common human goodness and not simply try to teach or impose correct ideas. I know that I have always been judgmental and critical. I would rather be right than be in relationship. I believed that the way to change human beings was to teach them about truth and justice, and that most humans badly needed this teaching by me. I applied these assumptions of mine to spouses, all other people, particularly the rich, the greedy, the hypocritical, the civically inactive, the stupid, those in denial, etc etc. Naturally I have had few friends and much difficulty with my spouses. Nobody reads my articles, and nobody is changed by them. I was always angrily trying to expose the evil deeds of my enemies. I was always trying to reform things through my Democratic Party and through my Episcopal church.
This statement in from Violence to Wholeness about my church, and all churches, political parties, and institutions, was especially enlightening for me:
“Institutions are good at preserving and passing on the steps humanity has already taken…They cannot lead people into a different future…People who move beyond the ordinary consciousness and conscience of religious institutions face very much the same problem. They can draw on the words and symbols for support on their journeys. But they must not expect the institutions to create new life. The community that will support them can only be found along the way, as they themselves take steps into an unknown future.”
(A special note: It is necessary and acceptable to be acutely aware of the evil produced by one’s enemies. MLKJr and his followers were certainly acutely aware of the evils of racism. It is alright to be angry about the evil to get the necessary passion for action. That fueling anger at the evil must be focused and used in nonviolent action.)
I find that these new foundational inner assumptions and beliefs cause in me a sense of inner relaxation, of peace, of serenity, of being more accepting of the idiosyncrasies of others. I am much happier. I am relieved of the hopelessly frustrating burden of attempting to persuade others solely by criticizing the evil done by mankind’s institutions. I am delighted to find a method, a process, that has a chance of working, and whether it does or not, I am enriched by the process.
This new insight of mine is founded on theologian Walter Wink’s interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. According to Wink, Jesus sought to establish in each of us a dignified inner consciousness that we were nobody’s master, and nobody’s slave; that we were free to love others as we love ourselves; that the way to overturn the establishment evil persons was to love them and by example to try to influence or persuade them while maintaining our own self worth and dignity. Our objective is to live with them as equally loved by God both before and after we have persuaded them.
This nonviolent approach is truly revolutionary. It upends the status quo and all of the assumptions and institutions of the status quo. It upends one’s inner assumptions and psychology.
Compare the underlying assumptions and approaches
NONVIOLENCE DOMINATION ENFORCED BY VIOLENCE
All humans are equally entitled Some humans are more entitled than others
Relate by mutual caring attention Relate by force, domination and fear
Humans are basically good Humans (other than us) are basically evil
Human relationships in
Community is foundational Force, the threat of force and starvation is
Truth and Justice are absolutes Truth and justice are subordinate to our
A friend, Barbara Rector observes that humans and animals such as horses and dolphins share the following four reactions to fear:
Faint (meaning not facing the evil by denial, drugs, alcohol, or actual fainting)
We humans have two additional powers that animals do not have:
- We can observe our own reactions and inner feelings.
- We can overcome our fear and choose another reaction while observing our fear rather than yielding or reacting to it.
The choice of nonviolent action has become possible due to the ongoing evolution of human consciousness. Some of us can choose to react to fear or injustice in a new way. People with a more evolved consciousness can lead and influence those humans with a less evolved consciousness. An evolved individual first learned how to start a fire and taught others. An evolved human first invented the bow and arrow and taught others. It is our evolved role to live and act nonviolently, to use nonviolent power and to teach it. With the awesome power of modern communication, the evolved consciousness of the sages can be shared with the millions. It is up to us. Will you share? Will you help?
Dated: December 19, 2006
Douglas R. Page firstname.lastname@example.org
This article and others may be found on Doug’s blog at http://www.thenewliberator.blogspot.com