The question of why there is so much violence is perhaps the most important issue of our times. The answer is not really complicated, but it has several parts:
• There are more people.
• Resources such as food and fuel have not increased as much as population.
• The gap between the “haves and have-nots” is wide and accelerating.
• More and more people feel exploited by the new “world economy.”
• The old economies were wasteful and exploited natural resources.
• Stress and anxiety have increased along with the complexity of daily life.
• The media panders to the box-office, i.e. the sensational and the violent.
The solutions to these problems are also diverse. In the old world, the larger the problem, the more likely it would be handled by brute force. Before science and medicine, whatever was ineffable was handed over to magic or religion. The hope of the scientific paradigm is that reason will prevail over emotion. If it doesn’t, our species may not survive.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. apparently knew more than 30 years ago where the spiral of violence would take us in an age of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and he summed it up in three words: “nonviolence or nonexistence.”
Nonviolence or nonexistence is the very real life and death question for ourselves and all people on earth today. Will we continue to follow blindly down the path of escalating violence toward nonexistence behind political, military and media talking heads or can we choose the path of nonviolence? If we follow the path of escalating violence, it is likely that back pack or suit case nuclear weapons will be exploded in Washington or other U.S. cities and U.S. Trident or nuclear tipped cruise missiles will be fired on Muslim nations. The attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon that killed thousands of people will seem small in comparison to those killed in a single nuclear blast.
At the heart of nonviolent action is a heart of compassion, repentance and forgiveness, a firm commitment to non-cooperate with evil and a willingness to see through the eyes of the millions of people alienated and exploited by today’s global economy. The choice of nonviolence or nonexistence is an age old choice of life or death with profound new implications. “Love your enemies” is a way out of escalating violence. It is a way to choose life over death, nonviolence over nonexistence.
Martin Luther King, like Mahatma Gandhi before him, knew that only love can overcome hate and transform relationships. Responding to violence with violence only begets more violence ending in nonexistence. King and Gandhi both recognized the practical truth and power of love which is not something utopian or sentimental. “Love your enemies” is a very real and practical form of nonviolent action that can transform relationships and lead to reconciliation based of justice for all.
The perennial theme of all cultures mythologies is the persistence of the human spirit in the face of adversities. For thousands of years the central philosophical theme of western civilization was nobility; the nobility of the struggle of mankind under the protection of the divine. After the idea of evolution became prominent, mankind came to be viewed as a product of the survival of the fittest. Diminished ideas of deity also diminished the perception of the nobility of mankind.
The claim of science is pure reason, devoid of prejudice. But behaviorism has yielded indifference. But we now know that, overwhelmingly, our choices are subjective and intuitive. A mature approach admits, rather than denies emotion. Science is beginning to understand more about the correlation between thoughts, emotions and attitudes and health and well being, and even our evolution. Mounting evidence suggests that in reality, all these are integrated
Researchers such as Bruce Liptonand Candace Pert are now proving in the laboratory what practice has shown for years. Their leading edge studies of cell biology reveal that every cell has elemental consciousness and that "environmental signals" are primarily responsible for selecting the genes expressed by an organism. This new perspective is in direct contrast with the established view that our fate is controlled by our genes.
Survival requires protection as well as growth; however individual cells of the body cannot be in both modes at once. Remaining in the protection mode will eventually destroy the body’s defenses because normal replacement of protein parts cannot be continued and can be especially harmful, resulting in various dysfunctions and diseases. The way from protection to growth is through the heart. The brain alone is ineffectual.
Men are often thought to be hard wired for violence and aggression, and women for passivity. In order to be considered manly a man's mind must always be in charge of his body. Science and war have been men's proper concerns, while gentleness and nurturance have been seen as women’s exclusive realm. Gradually a new sense of integration is replacing these old stereotypes with a more informed attitude of wholeness.
Women have long suffered the pain of being devalued. They also have a more immediate sense of pain and grief. Menstruation itself is a kind of loss, a kind of mini-death within. Women are more immediately in touch with the emotional significance of coming into being and passing away. And their psyche is geared to nurturance. They will likely be the ones to show the way to appropriate modes of thinking and behavior.
Men traditionally patrolled the boundaries guarding against potential threats. Their bodies and minds adapted to accommodate. Up to the time of invention of weapons of mass destruction, men’s’ aggressive behavior resembled that of lower animals, usually more noise and posturing than lethal encounters.
“Testosterone poisoning” is a new term referring to male aggression run amuck. Sensationalism grabs your attention because the body pays attention first to situations that might be threatening. Sex and violence are used to manipulate audiences into “paying attention,” while commercial or political messages are slipped in. The philosophical content of the media has been, “got a problem, get a gun.” Religious prohibitions of sex have resulted in increased reliance on violence to capture an audience. Gratuitous and graphic violence in the media had gotten so bad as to be as emotionally damaging as any pornography in the way it disrespects human dignity. Violence begets violence, and gradually desensitizes us to its consequences. Developing nations mimic what they perceive as western affluence and power.
Americans are becoming more polarized in their attitudes, concerns, and fears about the outcome of this new international policy of "pre-emption." The real cost of this war may haunt the U.S. and the world for decades to come.
Roles and attitudes developed early in life tend to persist. Emotional trauma, particularly as a result of negative or frightening experiences in childhood can result in scarred emotions and may begin to loose his respect for others. Many people are addicted to judging themselves or others and defining certain emotions as bad, evil, dark, unspiritual or disgusting. This leads to a posture in life as victim or victimizer, or “us against them.” This splits the psyche into a good and worthless portion.
The world's great wisdom traditions are basically variations of the perennial philosophy of integration: The Golden Rule. Most religions preach that we should “love your enemies,” but when this becomes an “ism” it gets political. Man’s greatest inhumanity to man has almost invariably come under the guise of bigotry, usually couched in religious terms. But terrorism may not be so much about ideology as it is about economics.
We seem to be crashing into each other without any real connection. We long to know that we are cared for in some significant way. We want to move beyond isolation and conflict into cooperation and a more positive flow of energy so we could develop deeper meaningful connections. But it becomes apparent that we aren't communicating. The Internet seems to offer a bright new means to stimulate dialog and understanding.
World peace starts at home with our own self-realization. Wisdom includes rather than excludes. The hope of a new paradigm is one of new and enlightened and more appropriate ways of feeling and behavior, which unites rather than fragments and divides us. To what will you pay your attention?