Monday, January 24, 2011

Defining Peace

Peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of understanding. That is the understanding that it is not ideologically sound, morally coherent or politically practical to attack those around you with violence.

Violence is the use of force with the intent to cause harm and can take many forms. Violence can be direct, indirect or passive. Direct violence is the form we are most familiar with, intentionally causing physical harm eg: punching someone. Indirect violence is to intend to cause harm in all actions short of physical violence eg: using racial slurs to enforce cultural oppression. Finally Passive violence is non-action with the intent to cause harm, this is commonly associated with systematic oppression eg: a government denying its people food aid, knowing those people will starve.

Knowing what violence is allows us to then gain a scope of tactics for non-violence, which requires the expulsion of hate from one's heart. The use of non-violence requires the confrontation of all forms of violence and allows a certain amount of force. It is conceivably non-violence to act, without the intent to harm, but to restrain. To tie up and transport individuals, to have shields which sustain and do not return blows and to contain violent elements. Armor is non-violent. The degree to which non-violence can be used is not limited to marches and boycotts. Indeed if there is popular support, a community could engage in escalating dialogue and when views are unalterably different a community has the capacity to non-violently defend itself. Almost any action is non-violent if it does not attack, intend to cause harm and affirms a principle. The moment one takes a swing, knowingly caused harm or deliberately tried to cause harm, that behavior has moved outside non-violence.

The reasons and excuses to use violence are many and the consequences are great, it is easy to say I was hurt and so I felt the need to hurt others. But if you did not want to be hurt, why would you hurt others? To partake in violence justifies any violence done to you already, it blurs the lines of correctness and honesty. The practical matter is that we live in such an interconnected world that greater influence can be exerted through nonviolent means than any bullet or baton could ever render. Even if you kill your opponent with violence, then you have justified any reprisal against yourself and you have made more enemies. If however you exert yourself as a physical barrier between the oppression caused by your opponent and the oppressed, you have entered a realm of tactical ownership as opposed to realm of reciprocal harm. By stopping trains, ships, trucks, picketing stores, seizing, expropriating and exterminating the institution of oppression and creating a barrier of popular support any source of oppression can be expelled from any community. No need for guns or bombs which will only delay or change the institution, but if you want an institution GONE, it must be confronted with its own inhumanity.

Take heart in these words:

Be at Peace. Not around peace, after or before peace. Be at peace.
Wether there be a great tempest on the sea,
Wether you are in a dungeon under lock and key,
Wether state or economy says what you can be,
Wether you are standing or on broken knee,
Wether you are burdened or bending like a tree,
If you are rooted in Peace you will be free.

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