Wednesday, 16 April 2008

peace is the way

Concordia, Roman Goddess of Peace
I am a pacifist, but what exactly do I mean by that? I know that war is wrong, but what is the right response to aggression, or to interpersonal violence? What do I mean by peace?

Peace is not simply the absence of war, nor is it a state - it's a process of dialogue and the active resolution of conflict. One saying that particularly affected me was A J Muste's "There is no way to peace, peace is the way." This neatly encapsulates the idea that peace is not a state but a process or a journey; a process of engagement and dialogue. In order to dialogue effectively, one has to enter into the viewpoint of the person one is dialoguing with, and be open to them, even to the extent of being prepared to adopt their point of view; but for the dialogue to be truly mutual, they have to be equally open. If there is a conflict of viewpoint, the parties need to seek truth and reconciliation, not blame. The truth and reconciliation process in South Africa involved all parties acknowledging what they had done to each other (on both sides of the divide), and both asking for forgiveness, and giving it. Both sides had to recognise that they had done wrong things, and only when that truth was out in the open could they move on and begin to heal.

If this process of mutual understanding, dialogue, tolerance and forgiveness does not occur, then the situation begins to slide towards warfare. But can war ever be justified? If my country was invaded, would I take up arms against the invader? No, because if I did the particular enemy soldier that I killed might be a conscript who was unwilling but couldn't get conscientious objector status, or a guy who joined the army because he didn't have any other prospect of employment and then regretted it. And anyway, non-violent resistance is more effective, particularly if you don't have the firepower for a war (which presumably you wouldn't if you'd just been invaded). Gandhi wrote a lot about how satyagraha (non-violent resistance) works and why it works; it is still a process of resistance, using civil disobedience and actions like the breaking of unnecessary or unjust laws (like curfews, or the salt monopoly).

What about individual violence? I am not sure about this one - personally my first instinct is flight rather than fight; but if one of my loved ones was being attacked, i don't know how I would react. But saying that this slight inconsistency doesn't make me a pacifist is like attacking vegetarians for wearing leather shoes. It's just that both pacifism and vegetarianism make people uncomfortable, so they have to try and find an inconsistency in order to make themselves feel better.

Certainly my conviction that peace is the way leads me to engage in dialogue and conflict resolution activities as much as possible; because pacifism is not just a matter of going on anti-war marches, it's about living my values of peace, understanding and forgiveness every day (even though I sometimes get it wrong), and actively seeking to engage in dialogue with groups with whom I might otherwise be in conflict. Being a pacifist doesn't stop me getting angry about injustice, either - it leads me to seek to channel my anger into a constructive process for change, rather than getting depressed or lashing out. Anger is a good emotion, and it is a pity that it is generally so taboo; provided it is used effectively, and allows space for a response (either of apology, restorative justice, or explanation) it can be a very necessary warning signal to others that they are treading on your corns.

How does this relate to my Pagan spirituality? I guess it's my conviction that all life is sacred, which is a part of my Pagan world-view, but I'm not sure which came first; did my conviction that life is sacred lead to my Pagan worldview, or did my Pagan worldview lead to my conviction that life is sacred? I think the ethics came first, actually. I'm not a pacifist because a deity told me to be; I am a pacifist because I see it as the best way to remain in harmony with the Tao.

I am also convinced that social justice and environmental concern are pre-requisites for peace; the fair and sustainable distribution and use of the world's resources would go a long way to helping to prevent war.


Dove said...

I think the fact that you "don't know" what you'd do if one of your loved ones was being attacked is telling. To me, it says that an extreme is never truly the answer. We invariably back ourselves into a corner when we "go there." And that's because extremes and absolutes ("consistency" in this regard) isn't the answer.

Because I hold no label such as "pacifist," I am free to use my intuition in any situation. I am free.

I resonate with the energy of Athena, she was a peacemaker, but she was also a warrior, a very good one. There are times when we must fight.

Going to extremes and absolutes, these aren't the answers we seek. Balance and freedom and learning to trust our own intuition/heart in every situation, in any given moment, is.

If I saw someone attacking someone I loved -- especially a child or elderly or disabled person or other defenseless person, causing them suffering and pain, I wouldn't hesitate, I wouldn't let some label (like "pacificst") stop me from using whatever I needed to use to save their lives or to immediately stop someone from causing them further pain or suffering. There is no question in my mind that SOMETIMES, we must be a warrior in this way.


Yvonne said...

Good comment, Dove, and I agree with what you said.

I would also let the dynamics of the situation guide me intuitively.

I think it extremely likely that I would act to defend someone being attacked - but that's not necessarily the same as counter-attacking, if you see what I mean.

I don't, however, think that peace or pacifism are extremes - I think that peace is the dynamic equilibrium at the heart of things. I also think that this is a Pagan definition of peace that embraces change (whereas a Christian definition, because of their theology of death, would be stasis).

Dove said...

Hi Yvonne,

I appreciate your comment and I believe I understand what you're saying. Yes, peace is so very much what we're needing right now... And I might note, it all begins with finding that peace within -- that there within thing creates it all ;)

Nah, peace in and of itself is not an extreme. But all things can be pushed to an extreme. That is, we can go too far in our drive or our "mission" to always conduct ourselves in a pacifist fashion so as to supposedly create "peace" in this physical reality. I think I've already elaborated on some good examples (someone allowing a child to die or be harmed because they couldn't step outside their role as a "pacifist").

And this was the reason for my comment, your hesitancy ("don't know") to commit to this type of reaction if ever in such a situation -- it spoke to me as thinking in extremes (feeling a need to live up to the "pacifist" label).

But then when I pointed this out, you felt compelled to change your position. BUT even in your response to me, there's still no absolute commitment to it ("likely"), there's still that hint of commitment to the extreme (always "peace"), whereas I state without doubt that I would do whatever it took to save the defenseless person or child. Ya' see what I mean?

Again, to me, that hesitancy speaks of a need or an irrational desire to stay in one's pacifist "box" -- and that's where it becomes an extreme.

I think one of our challenges on our path to real freedom and real peace :) is to extract ourselves from all of these "boxes" and begin to simply trust ourselves, our own hearts, our own "intuition." And in truly doing so, we'll have no need for any of those suffocating/limiting boxes. We'll trust in the power of our own hearts, and live free in each moment... And I believe such powerful TRUSTING equates to true freedom and real peace :)


Yvonne said...

Hi Dove

I hear what you're saying.

If I was to say I would definitely respond with violence to someone attacking a loved one, that would also be adopting a pre-judged position.

So what I'm saying is, I would respond in what seemed the best way to help the person being attacked - without reference to my pacifist values.

Thanks for helping me to clarify this bit of my statement.

The initial point of the statement was to explore what the label means for me personally, not what I think it should mean based on some external standard.

I think one needs to reflect in advance on what one would do in any situation, without necessarily being bound by the decision if the situation arises.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering why so many people assume that pacifism = inaction in the face of violence?

Choosing the most loving, peaceful way of dealing with a situation (trying to talk down someone who has taken a hostage; using force without violence to free someone from immediate attack) is not the same as simply standing by and allowing violence to be visited on another. I used to think it was, but I've come to the conclusion that pacifism is a process, not an extreme or a box in which to insulate oneself from right action. To me, violence is when words, actions, assumptions tip over into an attack on another. Self-defence can be pacifistic (push away and run like the clappers) or macho (beat the living crap out of him and call yourself a "have a go hero").

And then, of course, you get into the question of when the best course of action is no action, and whether no action, by virtue of being a chosen course, can itself be action.

What's most important is whether or not you are in right relationship with yourself. If you live peaceably with yourself, making the struggle to overcome your maladaptive fear-based reactions, your interactions even in times of crisis are more likely to be peaceably led (and vice versa: I find that making myself really value others makes me value myself more makes me value others...).

Hi, by the way. Pagan exploring Quakerism and how to relate to Jesus (always one of my favourites, but not so keen on some of his followers and their theology) here; stumbled across your blog via a comment in Cat Cahpin-Bishop's blog.

Dove said...

"making myself really value others makes me value myself more"

It truly doesn't work that way. The "seed" is within us, it must always BEGIN with us, not the other way around. There should be no need for "making myself" value others. If it isn't flowing naturally, it isn't truly happening, and it's of no real value to "others."

What we are "awakening" to is that this "god worshipping" is really about self-love ("worship"), true and deep self-love ("value"). We are "God" ... and Jesus and all the rest :)

It isn't about our relationship with "Jesus," it's about our relationship with ourselves. Once we truly reach that point of KNOWING that we are the "chosen ones," that we are our own "savior," that flow of love toward others is a given :) And how could we possibly not love and VALUE ourselves greatly once we KNOW that we are this marvelous and powerful thing referenced as "God."

Think about it. Does it truly make sense that those who are taught that they are "wretches" and "sinners" -- essentially worthless -- without some powerful being outside of them...does it make sense that they would have an easy time loving others?? Nah, the hatred and self-destruction that saturates our society is rooted in such obscene beliefs.

And because of such beliefs, most of us cringe at the thought of truly and deeply loving ourselves, or being (gawd forbid) "selfish."

I'm "anti" anything that teaches us that we are lesser than ANYTHING. It simply isn't true and it causes us to use our own tremendous Power against ourselves. I'm "anti" anything that brings about our enslavement. Teaching us that we are less than others and powerless (need a "God" or "Jesus" or whatever outside of us), understandably does this.

That is, we continue to look to others for power, rather than trusting our own ability to self-govern. Our multitudinous and mega-controlling systems is a reflection of that (government, church, medical docs, even family).

The bible has much truth in it, but it's primarily symbolic, filled with directives to lessen our suffering ("hell") and to get us to "heaven" (peace)...and most importantly to teach us that WE ARE GOD -- an energy within us ("spirit") that is incredibly powerful. And yet we have twisted these old symbolic stories into an infantile fantasy...

We've blown it all into something so complicated... I have seen how biblical symbolism corresponds to the Tarot. It's fascinating. The Hanged Man is "Jesus." Both symbols are to teach us that we must "sacrifice" one thing to acquire something else. It's the truth on multiple levels...

Sorry for rambling on, but sometimes I just feel compelled to share such things. My "regular" job is a receptionist, and as I've been typing this, my caller ID screen has shown several callers (businesses) with the word "Power" in their name :) I'm used to this, my eyes are open to the fact that the answers are all around us -- and so I often see them. I know that I am "God." :)

But I'm still endeavoring to shake the self-destructive beliefs that religion teaches and I'm still learning to do that self-love thing. But I'm getting better and better at it -- and in this amazing process, I'm finally healing my life on every level. All because I'm learning to "worship" the "God" that is Me, getting closer and closer to "heaven" (true peace) :)

If you are God, how can ya' not love yourself, value yourself, and trust yourself in each and every moment to know what is right for know how to govern yourself, to know that you are very worthy of peace and happiness and FREEDOM?

If you are God, how can ya' not love others? Does it make sense that "God" would have to "make" herself ;) love others? Nah.

We cannot give what we don't already have. Until we truly love us, we do not love others. Until we do what is right for us, we do not do what is right for others, for the world. We are One :)


Yvonne said...

Hi Dove,
funnily enough I am just writing an article in which I wrote "my Pagan path is not about being 'chosen' by a specific deity. It’s about choosing which deities, energies, identities and entities I want to work with in order to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants. ... I am not going to be the slave of another entity, divine or otherwise "

Synchronicity or what?

Dove said...

Definitely synchronicity :) It's all such fun and so magical when ya' realize you're "God," heh ;)

I have to say, I truly didn't "choose" any of this...and it did, in the past, SEEM that certain entities chose me -- and that I didn't even have a choice! lol...

I now feel that each of these energies is simply a part of me that has awakening :)

So many fascinating and exciting synchronicities. Like with my Athena energy. I didn't just decide one day that I'd be aligning with her -- not at all. It's clear that "she" has been with me from the beginning -- at least the beginning of this life. My Tarot story (published in the Sedona Journal) touches a bit on that (can read it at my Tarot site, How I was inexplicably drawn to Tarot cards with her image on it (despite my loathing of the Tarot at that time in my life).

Shortly after that a certain type of "reader" saw an owl on my shoulder (like Athena) much more, but I was especially stoked when I realized that lotsa years before all of this began for me, I had purchased a poster and had it framed. Loved this pic of a young couple in love... One day I just happened to notice the small print at the bottom of this poster, not covered by the frame, the manufacturer -- "Athena Editions" :)