Is violence ever acceptable?
We justify violence in many ways for many reasons. Self-defense or world peace are the prime rationalizations for violence.
We justify our violent thoughts that subconsciously lead to physical violence. Many kinds of violence are committed solely between our ears. I can hear your mind defending itself already:
“What do you mean I justify violence!? I light a sacred candle that I buy on the free-trade market and burn incense that I buy from Tibetan monks that brings mental joy, uses blessing substances from four dakinis that promise to fulfill the wishes of all peaceful beings, while I meditate for universal peace every morning, even on Sundays.”
Meditate on this: It is our nature to be violent. We all get angry, we all complain, we all criticize, and we condemn each other for our perceived differences even if it’s in the not-so-quiet rattling of our mind. Just because you don’t speak it aloud doesn’t mean that each of us doesn’t contribute in some way to the violence that we condemn. It is the condemnation that creates the violence itself.
We live in fear of violence on a daily basis. Current world and national events involving violence are changing the face of our planet. Religious violence has caused mass migrations of people from the Middle East into Europe and the United States and the violence has followed them. We are dismayed by cultures where sexual assault and violence are acceptable behavior. The Second Amendment of the United States has become a hot topic because people want to defend themselves against those who accept violence as a necessary part of life and survival, i.e. confront violence with violence.
This is nothing new and the human condition is such that no one is exempt from this thinking, and for some the outright manifestation of acceptable violence. Ironically we kill for world peace. Christians have killed millions of people over thousands of years in the name of God, more than we want to begin to count. Muslims are making the headlines everyday in the name of “jihad,” a holy war. Assassinations, terrorism, war are all “acceptable violence” to someone.
The slaughter of animals is just as acceptable as the slaughter of innocents. Whether it be in Yulin, China for the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival or realizing that it’s still acceptable to kill for sport and pleasure, we are driving many animals to the point of extinction.In order to get to the source of violence, we have to look into our nature and our hearts. History informs us that it is our nature to be violent, for survival or perceived survival, and we will (perhaps not so simply) have to change our nature.
The source of violence really begins in the home. I suffered from PTSD and abandonment issues for years before I could heal the wounds caused by the pain and shock of being beaten by someone who I thought loved me. I consider myself one of the lucky ones to have seen that damage in myself and actively took on shifting those experiences from negative memories, to at least neutral ones so that I am not paralyzed by them. I have a particular dislike of violence, primarily for these reasons and I have talked to many people who are still lost, angry, traumatized or suffering because of violence. As Eastern philosophy observes, we must first heal the violence in our hearts before we can stop the violence in the streets.
It is not enough to condemn violence and then go home and hate our neighbors and beat our dogs. It is not enough to condemn violence and lose our temper against someone for cutting us off in traffic. It is not enough to condemn terrorism and be hateful in our hearts, for those actions are just as violent as shooting a weapon at a living being.
In order to change my nature, I have to change the way I think and behave. Rather than condemn and criticize, I need to help through my daily actions and be compassionate. Rather than bring people down in my thoughts, I need to support others in ways that work for them. Rather than separate myself from others, I need to recognize that we are all one.
What we don’t understand is there are no others; we are one giant being who doesn’t recognize its existence. All life can be considered to be a part of that being, a part of Mother Earth. For someone to claim that God gives the right to kill is absurd and suicidal. All I can do is take a deep breath and be as kind as possible to myself and others. I do my best to not be critical and accept life for what it is. I do my best to speak sweetly as one day I may have to eat my words. I do the best I can to not judge or hate others.
However, it is still a fundamental part of my nature to be violent which I have to change. I have to rise above my nature or I am lost. We have to rise above our human nature or all is lost. It is clear that we are coming to a tipping point, the violence is global and it is devastating. The old ways of dealing with violence are not working, and violent responses are just creating more violence. I can’t change what other people think, but I can change the way I think. I can have compassion and empathy rather than thoughts of revenge and condemnation. I can be grateful. I can be kind.
I hope to lead others on this path. Will you help me?
Author: James Robinson
Editor: Travis May
Images: YouTube still