Thursday, July 07, 2005

cycle of violence

the cycle of violence continues, with london commuters the latest victims. this cannot continue indefinitely. "free" society does not function well without trust: trust that my money will be accepted at the gas station (and that there really is gasoline coming out of the pump), trust that i will (most likely) not be randomly attacked, trust that the tylenol in the bottle isn't poisonous, trust that the pizza guy didn't sneak some sausage onto your veggie lover's pie. there are many degrees of trust that serve to smooth out our daily existences and give us the peace of mind to enjoy ourselves once in a while.

trust is a luxury. it is not a priori. it must be earned. therefore, the policy of fight-violence-with-violence is perhaps a bit too blunt. it certainly succeeds in some areas, such as deposing foreign despots. but it does nothing to facilitate trust. what we need are some creative solutions, possibly pride-wounding solutions. there are casualties on both sides of this War on Terror. why is one zealot more righteous than the other? here we have a bunch of ideological extremists butting heads, each purporting to have god on their side. and innocents (civilians and soldiers alike) are caught in the cross-fire.

the goal, dare i say it, is for us all to love each other, is it not? i'm sure i read that in an old book somewhere... when we have love, the violence will disappear. trust come before love. we will not succeed if we just "hunt them all down" - this will not build trust or love. cooperation, compassion, forgiveness, care, generosity, selflessness, LISTENING. these all inspire trust, which can grow into something more. look over that list again and ask yourself how much of any of them is happening between the extreme crusaders and the extreme jihadists. then ask yourself which takes more courage: to care for and love and forgive your enemies, or to send more young men and women to die for a vendetta.


Anonymous JAC said...

You are certainly a busy blogger the last couple of days. It's hard to keep up with you and with whatever "dream" you are describing. Yesterday it was your "dreams" to be fulfilled in LA. Today it's your dream for "peace on earth, good will among all." [That's a contemporary translation of "an old book somewhere."]

Your stream of thought is interesting -- if not questionable and/or flawed at a number of points.

Just some quick comments (and possible perspective).

You write: "Why is one zealot more right than the other?" Isn't it possible that one "zealot" is right and moral while the other is wrong and immoral? Isn't it possible that one "zealot" approaches the problems of the world from a perspective of democracy and the Judeao-Christian tradition --- while the other approaches the problems of the world from an impersonal, non-democratic, and questionable religious foundation?

You say: "The goal ... is for all of us to love each other." Let's assume that's true? But it may just be that before we get to this beautiful nirvana, we may have to burn some of the landscape.
You go on to say: "When we have love, the violence will disappear." That may be true in the world of Peter Pan. However, if only that were true in the real world....

Then you suggest that we adopt a series of virtues -- the highest of which is "LISTENING". I hope that while we are listening, those other "zealot" don't blow us up!

And then you close with a flawed choice -- an either/or that leaves out all other possibilities. As you say, the choice is "to care for & love & forgive your enemies OR to send more young men and women to die for a vendetta" [Or dare I call it a "cause?"]
I wish that it were all that simple. Your last question is wonderfully rhetorical and a long way from reality.

You have scratched the surface on a very complex and complicated matter. If only "love" would solve it. If only.....

Thankfully, I must close for now.

11:58 AM  
Blogger nate said...

It is possible that one zealot is right and moral and the other is wrong and immoral, but I doubt it. And certainly not for the reason you cite ("one zealot approaches the problems of the world from the perspective of democracy and the Judeo-Christian tradition...").

Frankly, I find all zealots to have a questionable religious foundation. For that matter, what does an un-questionable religious foundation look like? That God himself shouts down from a cloud whether it's the Christians, the Muslims, or the pagans that win the argument?

So, you see, my problem is that I can't make the judgment satisfactorily, and I am skeptical of anyone who claims to have the ability (the conflict of interests is too great - nobody can be objective enough except God, who doesn't often shout from clouds). The only options left are to stop arguing over who is right and start finding a way to live together. Fighting mindlessly forever for a "cause" is irresponsible and wasteful. It will never end.

Quick responses to your other quick comments:
- Burning the landscape is obviously the wrong way to create love and trust. It will simply not accomplish the goal. If, that is, love is the goal. If it is not, say if the goal were to kill or convert all the non-Judeo-Christians, then burning the landscape makes sense.
- When we have love, violence will disappear. This is not naive. It is empirically true. People are overwhelmingly less likely to go to war against an ally, are they not?
- I think a big part of why the Muslim extremists are so angry is that they do not feel listened to. I know I feel angry when I don't feel like the person I'm trying to communicate with is not listening. The Judeo-Christians have the luxury, as the biggest and most powerful, of not caring whether the Other listens or not.
- I see two general paths. One is to try to find a way for us all to live together peacefully, and the other is to exact revenge for every act of aggression. They are, in my mind, mutually exclusive. It seems that we, as the biggest and most powerful, have the responsibility to initiate the conversation and start down the path to peace and cooperation. We seem determined to wait for our enemies to make the first peaceful move. Like petulant children, we cry "but they did it first!". Revenge is almost never a good reason to do something.

Now is the time to ask ourselves what Jesus would do if he were President. Would he invade and kill and fight? Would he divert resources from the poor to build bigger guns and bombs to carry out an agenda of reciprocity? Was Jesus naive when he commanded that we "turn the other cheek" or "love our enemies"?

12:44 PM  
Anonymous JAC said...

Some reactions -- for what they are worth.

(1)Was Jesus naive when he "kicked Butt" in the temple or when he said "render unto God what is Gods and to Caesar what is Caesar's"? No, just realistic. You've got to do what you've got to do. Come to think of it: That's a pretty good summary of his ministry.

(2) "Burning the landscape" isn't necessarily bad. Even Jesus told us that it was good to prune in the vinyards so that the fruit might be rpoductive. The gardner has great love and respect for the vines and he realizes that an occasional pruning (burning) is beneficial.

(3) As much as you don't want to be --- you may be right re: one of the very simplistic statements you made. You said: "It will never end." Pessimistic as that sounds -- you may be right.

(4) You say: "I see two general paths. One is to try to find a way for us all to live together peacefully, and the other is to exact revenge for every act of aggression."
Why do you always only have 2 choices? Life is not always a choice between "A" & "B" or black vs. white. Most often it is something in between or gray. And that's what makes life & life's decisions sooo difficult.

(5) And then you ask: "What would Jesus do if he were President.?" Don't even go there. He wouldn't be President. As He said: "My Kingdom is not of this earth."

Ponder those thoughts and ruminate those ideas.

1:16 PM  
Blogger nate said...

I always thought the root of Jesus' ministry was to love and cherish neighbors and enemies alike. "Do what you got to do" sounds like Rambo, not Jesus. Of course, we'll always be able to find counter-examples in the Bible. I just happen to find his "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies" comments directly relevant to the state of today's geopolitics. Why do you think we should ignore them in this particular instance?

1:34 PM  
Anonymous JAC said...

I don't think we should ignore them. We just have to keep them in context.

We just need to remember that while we live life at the personal level there are many larger things that happen that are not so easy to control -- and, in fact, may be outside of our control.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous JAC said...

I saw this parphrase this morning & thought of our discussion. Remember this is a paraphrase -- not a translation.

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. [Words of Jesus in Matthew 11:16-19, Peterson paraphrase in THE MESSAGE.
Just thougt it would be good for the thought of the day. Have a good (and peaceful) day.

6:13 AM  
Blogger nate said...

Thanks, John. You end a debate graciously. I will do some more thinking on the subject.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

I won't enter this particular dialog except to agree with John on two points:

(1) Jesus wouldn't be caught dead being President! (In fact, he'd probably be dead if he were.) While speaking to pretty much all the issues of humanity, his realm was, as John put it, "not of this world."

(2) While rhetorically the device of "two alternatives" (i.e., it's either A, or it's B) may be good rhetoric, it's not how life is. I wish it were. It certainly would make things a whole lot easier and we'd all have at least a 50-50 chance of getting it right. But, alas, it's much, much more complicated than a mere binary operation. Interestingly enough, the A/B-binary arguments are, in my humble opinion, one of the downfalls of all those "zealots" you mention. They usually only see it in terms of "my way or the highway," the ultimate binary solution! In short, it may be good rhetoric but it's just not real life.

8:34 AM  
Blogger nate said...

Do you mean to say that nothing is an either/or proposition, or that just none of things I mentioned are? You are right about zealotry creating lots of binary worldviews. I maintain, however, that there are a lot of useful and legitimate real-world binary situations.

I am either a law student or not a law student. The world is either round or it is not round. She is either pregnant or not pregnant. Revenge is either an acceptable justification for violence against other human beings or it is not.

There is also a lot of gray in the world - no doubt about that. But sometimes things are so far off-base that we can actually identify what something is not.

So, let me make my point a bit differently, and hope I can communicate it more effectively: I am not convinced that the best response to terrorism is violent reciprocation.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous JAC said...

Nate, you mention the following as examples of "binary world views." At the risk of stepping on your toes (as oppossed to not stepping on your toes)[Is that binary?], let me make a brief comment about each:

"I am either a law student or not a law student." ... I'd say that you are neither -- you are in limbo (that gray area that PLC mentions) where you are a person who is not a law student who has a paper accepting him to law school but who hasn't yet begun the study of law.

"The world is either round or it is not round." Maybe if you use geography as you point of reference, the statement is true. But, using international economics as a point of reference, Tom Friedman suggests that thanks to technology, the world is no longer round. It is increasingly flat.

"She is either pregnant or not pregnant." ... Let's hope you don't have to deal with that one for a while. Seriously, if she is pregnant, is she pregnant with child or is that "little thing" not a child?

"Revenge is either an acceptable justification for violence against other human beings or it is not." What's this about revenge? I thought "what the world needs now is love, sweet love...." (Tongue in cheek)

Good luck and God's blessing as you go out into the "gray" world.

10:49 AM  
Blogger nate said...

Yes, yes, John, you are very clever and wise. This is just semantics, though, not even rhetoric. I'm much more interested in what you think of my statement: "I am not convinced that the best response to terrorism is violent reciprocation."

11:59 AM  
Blogger nate said...

P.S. Until I am a law student, I am not a law student. There is no limbo.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous JAC said...

You ask for my response to your statement. Your statement is: "I am not convinced that the best response to terrorism is violent reciprocation."

My response is: While violent reciprocation may not be the absolute best response to terrorism, it may be the most acceptable and reasonable as compared to other possible responses.
Again, you try to turn this into an "either/or" situation (binary) when, in fact, life is lived mostly in the gray zone in between the either/or.

Then you say: "There is no limbo." To that I respond: If you see things in the "either/or" sense, you may be right. But if you see things in the broader sense, there's a lot of limbo in life.

Robert Kennedy frequently borrowed George Bernard Shaw's line when he closed his speeches, so I will use it here. "Some men see things as they are and ask "Why?' I see things as they ought to be and ask "Why not?" QED

NOTE: Looks like yur father has been reading and enjoying these exchanges!

12:23 PM  
Blogger nate said...

My statement is not at all an "either/or" statement. Read it carefully: "I am not convinced that the best response to terrorism is violent reciprocation." All I'm saying is that I'm not sure that a violent response is the best one. Maybe it is, but I am skeptical.

Your response, that it may not be the "absolute best" response but that it "may be the most acceptable and reasonable as compared to other possible responses" is confusingly vague. Justify your statement! What possible alternatives were you thinking of when you wrote that? Tell me why they are less "acceptable and reasonable".

12:29 PM  
Anonymous JAC said...

Be careful, now :) Don't tell me that I must "justify" or "tell" you. I really don't have to do anything like that. I can just *&%$#@* your head off.

Or I could be nice and reasonable and take other alternatives like: (1) Write to you and try to resolve our differences. (2) Talk with you face-to-face (bilaterally). (3) Hold multi-lateral talks. (4) We could go to medication or (5) Binding arbitration, or etc, etc, etc.

Of course I am "confusingly vague." As that great international icon Henry Higgins once said: "By jove-- I think you've got it." Life IS confusingly vague. That's the gray area.

1:01 PM  

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