“All beings tremble before violence.
All fear death.
All love life.”
–The Dhammapada (The Sayings of the Buddha)
I’m amazed by, but not surprised by groups that say they wish to promote peace and spirituality, yet fail in their objectives due to their mental and physical violence against others. They seem to have overlooked the fact that a peaceful-spiritual society is not achieved through the process of discrimination. In their attempts to create a Utopia through discrimination, they succeed in forming a dystopian nightmare. Discrimination is simply another form of violence.
If we skim through the pages of history, we find that humans have tried to impose their versions of perfection through brute force, ideology, theocracy, and other ways to coerce others to submit to their wills. None of these violent means ever came close to creating a heaven on Earth. It also turned out that those who imposed such tyranny remained profoundly unhappy.
Violence as a technique of achieving justice or striving towards perfect societies is impractical and immoral. Again, consulting our history books we notice that nations, including our own, have won their independence through violent revolution. Certainly the violence freed us from the imperial colonialist powers, but the violence never ended.
“But the fool in his mischief forgets
And he lights the fire
Wherein one day he must burn.”
The pre-existing violence of “Manifest Destiny” and slavery continued. The ongoing unrest and violence caused serious rifts in society leading to the genocide of the aboriginal population and to the Civil War. While the official violence eventually lead to political reunification, it did not stop the severe forms of violence of Jim Crow. Even the various civil rights movements and legislation of the mid-20th century did not end the retrograde movements to negate humanitarian gains. Our contemporary news headlines reveal that the violence against minorities is increasing, not abating. It appears that political and religious violence is still dominant. On top of these are crime and domestic violence.
Sometimes I ponder the various forms of artificial identities we humans have invented throughout the years. We call ourselves Italians, Egyptians, Koreans, Russians, Americans and so forth. We have the categories of Muslim, Christian, Hindu, etcetera. There are the ideological followers of left, right, libertarian, and moderate. We take these labels for granted while forgetting that these categories separate us from the rest of humankind. We believe that belonging to these categories makes us special and privileged. Instead, we have only managed to achieve separation by our traditions and beliefs. Separation breeds violence.
Thankfully, the human mind is complex. Despite our species’ proclivities towards violence, humans also possess the ability to practice self-control, we do cooperate amongst ourselves, and there are the precious qualities of empathy and compassion. Perhaps these inclinations will provide sufficient weight to counterbalance our habitual violent acts.
The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers some Bob Dylan lyrics:
“Democracy don’t rule the world,
You’d better get that in your head;
This world is ruled by violence,
But I guess that’s better left unsaid.”