Sunday, November 30, 2008

Give Carnage a Chance

According to this report:
"The Indian government is considering suspending a peace process with Pakistan following the attacks on Mumbai blamed on Pakistan-based militants, the Press Trust of India, or PTI, reported Sunday. There is a view in the government that India should suspend the peace process... to show that it is not going to take lightly the deadly carnage in Mumbai,"
The making of peace - the cessation of violence - does indeed require taking deadly carnage lightly. Personally, I have precious little interest in deadly carnage. But in times like these, we tend to trot out our deadly carnage aficionados, don't we? The german shephard-like individuals who believe that the answer to violence is not peace but a ratcheting up of violence all around, even if it means flailing a bit?

Will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism? Perhaps one day, like tree branches growing to create a canopy over a road, the good, tolerant majority of each antagonistic group will reach out to their counterparts, with whom they have more in common than with their more seething compatriots. 

When I was a kid during the cold war, I didn't fear ordinary Russians in the least. I'd have been pen pals with any of them if I could. I feared their rulers and their arsenal. Similarly, there are many Jewish/Palestinian and Pakistani/Indian friendships, and the potential for vastly more. The problem is that we, the peaceful majority, are always hostage to our societies' most aggressive element (and our pandering, posturing governments). Aggression drives everything, even evolution. In a pasture full of blissfully moo-ing cows and a few angry bulls, who's going to run the show?

One problem, of course, is that it's not all black and white. Kind-hearted, reasonable people can unknowingly act german shephard-ish. We all, in fact, possess an inner german shephard. A reader (who I know to have a good heart) left this comment regarding a Slog entry calling for political reconciliation:
"After eight years of hearing leftists called traitor and un-American who should be hung or deported, I'm really not in the mood for bipartisan cooperation."
One must suspend reconciliation if one doesn't take partisanship lightly! Obviously self-contradictory as it is, this is how we humans are wired. And the key is to be as aware of this as possible. Our instinctive response to provocation cannot be eliminated, only repressed and/or transcended (sort of like the impulse to club over the head and drag off to our apartments attractive strangers we pass in shopping malls). There are myriad such instincts we, the civilized, recognize in ourselves and refuse, with varying success, to act upon. This particular one is a biggie, and it's to blame for the vast majority of current suffering in the world, yet it remains almost completely subconscious for most people, even though a very smart guy, whom billions profess to revere, explained about it quite clearly 2000 years ago.

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