Friday, July 08, 2005

More on Nonviolent Responses to Terrorism

I raised a difficult question in my last posting. I thought that this time I should share some of my own thoughts.

Another blogger, Contemplative Activist, points out the Quaker stance on such issues:

We are called to live 'in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars'. Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ? Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war. Stand firm in our testimony, even when others commit or prepare to commit acts of violence, yet always remember that they too are children of God.

Quaker Advices and Queries
(British Yearly Meeting)

I find this very powerful. Since terrorism is itself born out of fear and desperation, the ultimate solution to the problem of terrorism is to create a world in which there are no groups of people who are oppressed and desperate.

But how do we get from here to there? It would involve investigating the realities, sources, and reasons for oppression. Oppression itself is rooted in fear: the fear that ultimately there is not enough to go around. When someone (or some group) is truly afraid that this is true for some important resource, then that person or group wants to control access to the resource in order to be sure that they and their group continue to have it. Many (most?) people regard this as perfectly rational behavior -- you protect first yourself and those you love.

In many cases, such resources are either not as rare as we may think, or not as important as we may think. Research and education that helps show this to be the case can reduce fear and increase generosity.

But what if there are resources in short supply?

I've been interested too in how much discussion there is in the media on "our way of life." Many different people have said, "we refuse to be intimidated by the terrorists, who threaten our way of life. The best way that we can show that we have not been defeated by the terrorists is to continue in our way of life." There is usually something about our "values" and our "freedom" as well.

So, it may appear that this is an ideological struggle over religion or values or a "way of life" that presumably includes important freedoms, and maybe even important kinds of equality.

But what if "our way of life" is really code for "our affluent, addictive, consumer-driven depletion of resources"? Then it is not just an ideological struggle, but a struggle over resources.

I am deeply deeply troubled that a very small percentage of the world's population is addictively consuming far more of the world's resources than we need, while others do struggle for food, clean water, and adequate medical care.

It seems so idealistic -- but is it possible for the wealthy countries to voluntarily scale back, develop more sustainable and renewable sources of energy and methods of production, and agree to re-distribute wealth and environmental care? It's a complex path to peace -- but it is a path, and it is probably the only reliable path to a lasting peace.

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