“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” -Gandhi

I’m sitting in my room with my headphones on. The low murmur of CNN is still detectable. There was another shooting today. My husband needs to know. I already want to forget.

I watched with him during some of the calmer moments–SWAT teams walking around a residential neighborhood, that sort of thing. The anchor and her guests were stating the obvious things about American police tactics that they always talk about during times of action, but no information. Then they talked of Paris and radicals, terrorism and bombs. They prefaced everything with acknowledgments of their ignorance, but that did not stop their mouths.

As they spoke, the never-ending scroll of information caught my eye: United States decides to start bombing after some debate; Britain to start bombing soon; Germany gearing up to start bombing; France asking for more bombs…

I am not a pacifist though I imagine I could become one before my life ends. Why do we keep doing the same thing and expecting different results?

I think of America’s Civil War and World War II and decide those were wars that needed to be fought, but I say that with the distinct advantage of hindsight. Would I have thought the same thing if I had been around at the time? Would I call them justified if they had ended differently?

How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?
-Howard Zinn

We do this thing where we spend millions and billions on war, then we leave. Maybe the fighting is done, maybe it isn’t, but we leave. We leave these people that we have terrorized with ruined homes and ruined lives and expect them to fix what we have broken. We may send a tiny fraction of the money we spent destroying them to rebuild, but never enough. We leave the ones we claim to have “saved” in squalor, usually worse than where they began, and are surprised when they grow to hate us.

We contribute to the cycle of violence with every act of violence we commit, regardless of our intentions. So, how do we stop? Can we stop? Evolution is a game of getting to the top and it was a bloody rise for humans. Societal evolution has been just as bloody, but even worse, for we have been violent whilst having a conscious.

My children’s first acts of violence came long before they could speak. I regularly played games in which I and my friends imagined ourselves in situations of heinous hardship. Our entertainment is not just laced with violence–violence is often the point. Our games are purposely ‘us versus them’. Do these casual examples of violence serve as outlets or provocations of our worst traits?

Fear is such a basic instinct. It is easy to lash out in pain, easier than to spread happiness. The dichotomy of good versus evil is uncomplicated compared to the complex reasons why people deliberately cause harm. Are we doomed to rinse and repeat the bloodshed until we are no more?

Imperialism is not our answer, but neither is willful ignorance and inaction. This is not a day on which I feel optimistic about the human race.

23 thoughts on ““I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” -Gandhi

  1. Thank you for that. As always bringing a subject to the table with great depth and the need for change ..if we are doing something whatever it may be to better ourselves and working in love toward others in our actions and words and intentions we have to believe we will make a collective difference.

  2. This is a thorny one. Without certain wars that needed to be fought, I possibly wouldn’t be enjoying the freedoms I’m enjoying today. At this time in history. But, I have to agree with Howard Zinn’s sentiments and yours that war itself is terrorism. It seems that the only people who want wars are those who want to throw their weight about on the world stage. I say let’s not feed their narcissistic egos and unchecked greed for power. Don’t join the army. Let the military organisations die, even if they threaten us with treason for not joining them. Isn’t war a kind of treason against the human race?

    Ugh. Sorry. I get a bit emotional about this stuff. There are days when I feel legitimately despairing of the human race. We don’t learn. We just do the same crap over and over again and expect a different result. How disappointingly stupid and shortsighted is that?

    1. Those are exactly the complications that make it all seem so helpless. I think there must be a better way, but all ideas I’ve heard ignore the damning truths of our current reality.

  3. I’m very anti-war. I’m particularly anti-war under false pretexts, and as far as I can see most recent wars are exactly that. Finally I’m anti-war when no provision has been made for paying for and picking up the pieces.

    1. I agree, but no one who gets elected around here ever seems to. I don’t know what is more influential: the military-industrial complex, the lack of alternative viewpoints, or the drive for revenge. We clearly don’t do these things out of the good of our hearts. We only talk about the ‘good of mankind’ when it starts to affect us.

  4. “The greatest talents have been frequently misapplied and have produced evil proportionate to the extent of their powers.” (Thomas Malthus, 1798)

    An example of Poe’s Law, yes, but dare I say it, there’s a ghastly consistency in the TOOAIN thesis.

    How do we end violence? By making it embarrassing and shameful, the act of a child who really should have known better, and knows so.

    1. Infernal, indeed.

      There is a long list of wars that were embarrassing and shameful. We either ignore them or alter the dialogue. At this point, when the idea for another war comes up, most of the world just shrugs and goes for it.

  5. I am really very glad that you wrote something about this, because I didn’t have either the strength or the will to do it myself. If I have to write one more post about mass shootings, I think my mind might collapse upon itself.

    At what point do we reach critical mass with evil? Or overcome the need to respond to violence with more violence? Texas’ open carry law is going into effect in four weeks, and I seriously fear for my life, my wife’s, and my friends’ lives. I’m beginning to think it’s no longer an issue of “if” I’ll be caught up in one of these situations, but “when.”

    Come, Gene Roddenberry; your disciples await you…

    1. Has the open carry law not gone into effect yet? You wouldn’t think so around here. There is a group (or groups) that have been hanging out around shopping malls, busy corners, and highway overpasses in our area. They carry flags, poorly worded signs, and huge guns. Oh, and their kids.

      I just saw an article about the likelihood of getting shot in America. Thankfully(?), you are still more likely to get shot by some random person who gets angry at a gathering or public place than by someone who started the day planning to kill people.

      The United Federation of Planets was founded in 2161, so the ethos that created the Prime Directive should be less than two centuries away. A fan can dream, anyway.

      1. Kicks in on January 1st, 2016. If I can convince Tammy to do so, we’ll be moving on December 31st, 2015. (Not really, but I totally would if I had my way. Leave these nutjobs to eliminate one another from the gene pool…)

  6. Madalyn,

    I share your viewpoint completely. Yet, I recognize it/mine from a fortunate (privledged?) POV. :/

    Regarding the two San Bernardino shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik (his fiance or wife), the facts of their motives are still under investigation. Syed was a U.S. citizen while Tashfeen’s background is yet unknown exactly last I looked.

    Nevertheless, whatever the couple’s exact motives, becoming violent aggressive killers without first exhausting ALL AVENUES of non-violent negotiation and compromise is by far the worst possible method of effecting change — violent aggressive killing, by global standards (Geneva Conventions), is an entirely different discussion all together and not applicable here. As a former psychiatric/A&D worker in the area of Crisis Management & Assessment, the pathologies that people in “critical-mental-emotional-conditions” are suffering in are widely and ignorantly misunderstood. The pathways these critical acute cases take on the way toward violent psychotic behaviour — typically endangering everyone nearby — have revealed in a plethora of ways over a great deal of time (weeks-months?), signs and symptoms that were either unseen, noticeably disguised, or blatently ignored by those around the simmering psychosis. The rare exception to this psychotic person’s affect would be cases like Charles Whitman of the University Texas Tower shooting in 1966 — Whitman’s autopsy revealed he was suffering from a glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor, pressing against regions of the brain thought to be responsible for the regulation of “strong emotions.” Therefore, there is no perfectly consistent patent-response to any psychotic’s overt violence; it’s too late by then.

    However, the signs and symptoms are manifested in many various ways PRIOR TO the psychotic snapping point. What further complicates identification of simmering powder-keg violence is the person’s or people’s/group’s culture and environment. Are the signs-n-symptoms extraordinary or are they socially acceptable, tolerated, even encouraged by peers? In many Western nations those sorts of manifesting signs-n-symptoms are tolerated/ignored, but the post-psychotic break is not at all tolerated and eventually dealt with firmly and/or reciprocated. Yet, even in the U.S. our social “freedoms” often disguise psychotic escalations. In some (many?) regions of America provoking and antagonism is encouraged, taught in homes and certain schools! American “schools” not unlike those found and popping-up in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria that violence (sometimes termed “revolution” or “Apocolyptic”) is the ONLY form of transformation. And here Madalyn, is where I agree with you and Gandhi.

    For those people like Charles Whitman where they are suffering from psychological-biological malfunctions such as tumors, I’m afraid we won’t catch them all in time before snapping; there just aren’t enough trained educated licensed psychiatrists & psychologists in the world. However, the more common simmering violent aggressive killers/terrorists can most definitely be identified by two primary human conditions: 1) poverty, and 2) very poor (and narrow/strict) education. These two conditions can be easily found right here in our own American backyards, not just abroad.

    Once those 2 primary conditions are rooted and well established, no matter the age group, this is what often follows:
    1. Dualism
    2. Paranoia & Rage
    3. Apocalyptic transformation
    4. Charismatic leadership
    5. Totalized conversion

    Apologies Madalyn for the length of my comment, but as I mentioned, I have background into forms of psychosis, their preliminary developments/pathologies, and eventual overt manifestations. What is encouraging for times like yesterday in San Bernardino, CA… is that these types of inhumane violence HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED and their root-causes accurately understood, and can therefore be addressed and treated properly. That is, “properly” from a medical, neurological, pathological, psychological, biological standpoint WITHOUT offending personal higly-subjective “belief systems.” Venture outside of these 5 standpoints and 4-5,000 years of horrific history and atrocities show you’re taking the high-risk WRONG approach! I am certain of this one fact: If you continue to treat immoral violence through a religious lens, once again, what has 4-5,000 years of history shown us? As you stated Madalyn, repeating the same behaviour always gets the same results with no tangible differences. Duh. 😦

    Anyway, that’s my humble two-cents opinion. LOL ❤

    1. I’ve read your informative comment through a few times and I find that I agree. On an individual basis, we have to combat violence with education, security, and science-based strategy. But, are those not the same things that all of humanity needs?

      I’m not certain that we should draw such a thick line between violence of individuals and violence of nations. Poverty and lacking education is a result of the actions of nations, but not only that. The mindset that leads us to war is an extrapolated undercurrent of the rationale (or lack thereof) that leads a person to violence. How do we treat a nation’s (a world’s) drive to violence medically, neurologically, pathologically, psychologically, and biologically? The mere fact that we think that war is the best/only option available to us is proof of our collective psychosis.

      1. How do we treat a nation’s (a world’s) drive to violence medically, neurologically, pathologically, psychologically, and biologically?

        Start with individuals? Then hope on all that is good in human nature that it spreads like neverending poppy fields? 🙂 ❤

  7. “The dichotomy of good versus evil is uncomplicated compared to the complex reasons why people deliberately cause harm.”

    I only wish politicians, and so of course the mainstream media too, would desist from couching complex issues in such simplistic, quasi-religious terms Madalyn i.e. ‘bad people’ (evil), and ‘good people’ (righteous). Was it Reagan who started it all with his talk of ‘going after the bad guys’, as if we were living in a Western movie narrative? Anyway, it now is catching on over here in England, and our current war-mongering P.M. keeps blathering on about these ‘bad people’, whilst our ‘fine young men and women’ go dropping bombs in Afghanistan (fail), Iraq (fail), Libya (fail), and now Syria too.

    1. The only time we don’t go in guns blazing is when it is in a part of the world we don’t care about for some reason. Then, we just ignore it. The only time we try diplomacy is when they have something we want. We need a complete shift of thought process and empathy. Otherwise, all we will do is fail until there is no one left to fail.

  8. It’s good to see a new post from you. (Not meant in a snarky way; it’s good to see you back. You always put things into words in a way I just can’t seem to.)

    We do this thing where we spend millions and billions on war, then we leave. Maybe the fighting is done, maybe it isn’t, but we leave. We leave these people that we have terrorized with ruined homes and ruined lives and expect them to fix what we have broken. We may send a tiny fraction of the money we spent destroying them to rebuild, but never enough. We leave the ones we claim to have “saved” in squalor, usually worse than where they began, and are surprised when they grow to hate us.

    Thank you. Every time we’ve stepped into the Middle East, we’ve left it a bloody mess and spent millions on pointless death. I don’t know why our governments think Syria will be any different.

    I was incredibly disappointed in my country when the “Britain to start bombing” verdict was announced, both because I decidedly am a pacifist and because it seemed like it was playing right into the terrorists’ hands. After all, I’ve always been taught that the different between bog-standard violence and terrorism is that terrorism is specifically intended to induce fear and panic, and so to beget violence. The ideal outcome of terrorism, for terrorists, is civil war. And what have our governments done? Reacted with anger and missiles over mind, ordering raids that will very likely also kill civilians and make us a target. They’ve panicked, they’ve had a complete failure of empathy, and they have done exactly what people like IS want. Back when Stalin was in Russia and other countries were wary because he seemed to be pursuing a policy of aggressive expansionism, he didn’t make a move to start a war. He theorised that the capitalist nations would destroy themselves, and then he could simply step in and take what he wanted when they were reduced to rubble. I get the feeling Islamic State are banking on a similar theory, and we’re playing right into it. I may sound fear-mongering, but I have a real sense this will backfire on us spectacularly.

    So yes, thanks for this post in general. In a long-winded way, I’m saying that I totally agree with you, and every moral bone in my body is rebelling against my government’s decision. Good to see someone talk about it better than I can.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It seems that no matter how it is worded, the decisions made by those elected will not change. They see no other options and we get no other ideas. The idea of doing nothing to help those in danger from such violence sickens me, but we do not send bombs to help, we send bombs to get revenge.

      It breaks my heart more as I get older. Send water, send doctors, send transportation to bring them here and give them homes. For the love of all that is good, don’t send more death. Yet, that is what we send. And all I can do is sit here and talk.

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