Saturday, August 12, 2006

More thoughts about nonviolence...

It occurs to me that one of the problems we have with nonviolence as a cause for peace is that we think of the way states interact using a false analogy: that states are like people. In the case of people, in the absence of a judicial system (which is the way things are between states), conflicts that are not resolved through negotiation or bargaining are instead resolved through violence: one person attacks the other, and either kills the other, or the other surrenders. The victor must subsequently remain vigilant to avoid a surprise attack in the night, but otherwise the situation is pretty much resolved, until the victor weakens and dies.

When we talk about states, we discuss it this way, as if states have brains. But states are made up of individuals, and states can add individuals when other individuals die. People can keep secrets from their enemies, but states may contain their own enemies. States sometimes attempt genocide, but generally speaking they fail. So the kind of total victory, and the kind of total unity of purpose, that characterize a dominance struggle between two people, do not exist in the case of states.

And yet we pretend that they do. So Israelis, when they think about fighting their enemy, think of it as a conflict between two people, and think it's possible to totally vanquish their enemy. But the analogy doesn't hold. Israel's actions are predicated on a mental model of its enemy that doesn't reflect how things actually are, and this is why they continue to engage in these failed strategies. And of course the U.S. does the same, in fighting a "war on terrorism," as if there is an enemy with which to engage.

Ultimately, states are ideas, held in common in the minds of their citizens. Aside from some form of instantly transmissible mind control, or actual genocide, the way you fight an idea is to change it. You can't fight it by killing some of the people who have it, because the idea can easily persist and grow, if you give it fertilizer, and the most fertile ground for the idea of a just war against you is in the minds of the friends of the people you've just killed.

So if you want an actual, practical way to stop violence that is being done against a state, the way to do it is to remove the fertilizer that nourishes the idea behind the violence, not to try to kill the bodies that contain the minds that hold the idea behind the violence.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Patricia said...

The violence I hear decried most often in the Arab media (Link TV's Mosaic, etc.), apart from the killing of children and helpless individuals, is HUMILIATION. I think that because the Christian teaching about turning the other cheek is so pervasive in Western society, we have ceased to reckon with the destructiveness and psychological abuse of humiliating one's enemies, so maybe Bush doesn't even see that in refusing to speak to Ahmedinejad and the Iranian mullahs or to Bashar Assad, he has sown the wind, and it is the resulting whirlwind we are reaping.

Another issue: My cousin, an evangelical Southern Baptist but an otherwise intelligent woman, explained earnestly to me a couple of days ago that we SHOULDN'T work for a cease-fire in Lebanon, because we NEED Armageddon to come about so she and others of her (to me, evil) persuasion can be taken up in the Rapture.

How does one communicate with such a person?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 5:19:00 PM  
Blogger Ted Lemon said...

The Iranians are scared of us, as they should be. We're a rogue nation. We have nukes. We don't like them. I doubt that the thing they fear most is being snubbed by Bush. My guess is that it's being snuffed out by Bush. And frankly, if it's not, it should be, because Bush has them in his crosshairs, and he's just spoiling for a fight. But in fact the best move for the Iranians is to do just what they're doing: provide Hezbollah with money to rebuild Lebanon. This is a *very* smart move: they look good in the eyes of the Lebanese, they make Hezbollah look good, and by extension they make Israel look bad. All without ever giving Bush any kind of provocation that he can use as a pretext for going to war on yet a third front.

As for your cousin, she is insane. You can't reason with an insane person, no matter how intelligent they are. If she's reading this, I hope she will accept my apology for being so blunt, but there are people in the world other than her. The supposed goal of evangelical Christianity is to save people from going to hell. Right now there are a lot of people going to hell, by the standards of the evangelicals. So this is a really bad time to have Armageddon - you want to do it when as many souls are in a state of grace as possible, not when as few are.

And if you think that provoking a battle that leads to Armageddon is part of God's plan, you're doubly insane. God's plan, according to pretty much anybody who's willing to weigh in on it, is hidden from the knowledge of Men. You can't move his plan up by provoking a war. If the scriptures that prophesy Armageddon (e.g., the Book of Revelations) are genuine (it's my belief that they are actually the work of Satan), then God's will will play out according to God's plan, and there isn't a thing we can do to change the timing of it, with the possible exception of living a righteous life in accordance with Jesus' teachings, which are not in the Book of Revelations.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 7:45:00 AM  

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