Tuesday, February 20, 2007

SECRET #5: Protesting War Creates More War

Here's another piece that was of particular concern to me.

Jack Canfield declared that he agreed with Mother Theresa when she said, “I won’t go to an anti war protest, but if you have a war for peace I’ll be there.” Jack then said, and here starts the nausia, “All of these anti war protests are just creating more war!”

It probably wouldn’t have been so disturbing to me except for the lack of reaction from the others watching it with me. And the lack of reaction I predict that I’d get from a movie theatre full of new agers.

In many ways, I resonate with the sentiment. The activist scene tends to be very heavily focused on the problems and has been, traditionally, short on solutions and alternatives (or at least solutions that people want to hear). We've tended to decry what we don't want instead of building a vision of what we do want. I think that's a fair analysis.

But I don't believe that this means that protests have no use. Protests - for those who have been to them - are usually a lot of fun. They're social events where you get to make ridiculous signs, hang out with friends, chants some chants and sing songs. It's not anger that most people feel during them - but a sense of power that comes from doing something in the face of what is often overwhelming injustice. These rallies can be wonderful for recharging batteries. They can also be very effective in terms of raising issues in the media (even if your numbers will always be under reported) and giving them a good photo op. What violence there is is often instigated by the police (either overtly or by using undercover agitators). Protests are a great place to get signatures on petititions and email lists and to pass out your handbills for upcoming events. They're a great place to make announcements.

They're usually not very effective to actually force change. They're merely attention getting tactics. We're likely not getting a repeat of the Seattle WTO meeting shutdown anytime soon.

And this is part of the point - protests aren't that effective at stopping anything. At least not by themselves. They need to be thought of as part of an over all strategy.

They're also ineffective enough that those in power allow them to continue. If they had any real chance of succeeding, they would be illegal. Those in power only allow us the means they deem to be utterly ineffective in creating change.

So, when Jack Canfield dismisses protests because they're too "negative" and focused on being "against the war." I feel concerned. Protests are a very, very mild form of resistance. What seems to be implied is to not resist at all.

To not resist at all.

Let's be clear - no one is saying that we should put 100% of our time into resistance of the system. That would be foolish. But Jack Canfield seems to be saying that we should put 0% of our time into resistance and 100% into creation.

Resistance is characterized as negative and ultimately harmful. Resistance to war is just "creating more war."

* * *

A friend of mine (who I don’t hang out with much any more because I couldn’t deal with her new age views) came over one time and a conversation about racism came up. She told me that she’d been at a meeting where a woman had been talking about how racist our society still is. My friend lamented that pointing out and focusing on the racism that still exists just creates more of it.

* * *

Imagine that you know that someone is beating his wife and, finally, unable to take the sound of his hand connecting with her face and her body being slammed against the wall - you call the police - you draw attention of the authorities to the issue. Are you promoting spousal abuse by giving it energy?

What if the police don’t come?

What if they don’t believe you?

What if you go over to their apartment, let yourself in and tell the man to stop. Is all of this energy and attention manifesting more spousal abuse?

What if you grab him, slam him to the wall and tell him that if you ever hear so much as a slap you are coming over with your friends to see how he likes being on the receiving end?

Which matters more to you? Your own purity or stopping the violence?

* * *

You walk out of a convenience store with popcorn excited to go see a movie with your girlfriend when you are held up by a group of thugs. They take your wallet. And then your watch. And then they decide that you’re gay. And they beat you. A man walking by steps in and beats off the attackers.

But, you’re probably not grateful - after all - he did give a lot of energy to such a negative act. He’s creating more muggings and homophobia in the world by giving it such attention - what an asshole.

* * *

Does the man stopping a rape creates more rape?

Does the man yelling to get attention of others to stop a rape create more of it?

What if you lack the power to stop the violence?

Sometimes calling attention to a problem is all we have the power to do.

I remember talking with Judy Rebbick - Canadian activist extraordinaire. She’d just finished a panel and was going to HUB Mall at the University of Alberta to get some food. I walked over with her. She was telling me about radio debates she’d do with various exploiters of our planet and people. “You know,” she said. “Sometimes you can’t stop them. Sometimes all you can do with these assholes is let them know that they aren’t going unnoticed.”

Abusers need to be stopped. Healing the abuser is important - but it happens only after the violence is stopped. When they can’t be stopped or reasoned with they need to know they will be watched.

* * *

Joanna Macey a buddhist activist talks about three kinds of work that are needed.

One aspect is the shifting of consciousness. As a deep ecologist she realized that, unless people’s relationship with nature changed, they would keep fighting losing battles. The problems we face are outgrowths of a way of thinking based on premises that are deeply anti-life.

A second aspect is the need to create alternatives. How can we meet our needs in ways that are truly sustainable and respectful of all life.

Now, I can hear the cheering from the new agers over those two. But, if you listen really closely, you will hear their sphincters indignantly slam shut over this next one.

The third aspect she called ‘holding actions’. These were actions where you go to the point of violence to stop it. You call attention to it. You do protests to get media attention or stop a meeting. You do tree sits. You sit at the front of the bus. Although she only includes non-violent tactics (cheering from the new age) I would also include self defense and strategic offensives here (boooooo).

The point is that we need all three - and more. You could also add caring for those traumatized by the violence to that list.

Protesting and ‘holding actions’ are not mutually exclusive from building alternatives and creating a new vision and consciousness. If anything they need to be better coordinated.

* * *

Again: Jack Canfield declared that he agreed with Mother Theresa when she said, “I won’t go to an anti war protest, but if you have a war for peace I’ll be there.” Mark then said, and here starts the nausia, “All of these anti war protests are just creating more war!”

To compare the actions of protesters at a demonstration to war profiteers and the military industrial complex is insane.

To say that calling attention to violence is the same as violence is insane.


Angie Evans said...

Hi Tad - Oh - This is gonna be FUN!!! Perspective is interesting, ins't it. When i saw the "War" bits my take was that violence creates violence; an eye for an eye leaves the world blind. In no way did it speak to me of condoning or ignoring violence, nor of refusing to take a stand when appropriate. A minor, real life example is a "peace protest" when i was at Queen's that ended with cars upturned, store windows smashed, people injured. Imagine the energy around that gathering; it was in no way peaceful. Contrast that with a gathering we had here after 9-11 when everyone met, lit candles, prayed for peace, prayed for the victims, families, and bombers. That felt like bringing peace. There are many ways we can take a stand without promoting more of that which we're standing against, but it can be a fine line. Personally i don't believe all the bombing and killing overseas is doing anything to heal the situation. I don't know what would, but this feels like it's simply breeding more violence.

Anonymous said...

You have struck a rich vein of gold, Tad, beneath the sugar-coated repetition of politically correct New Age think. Real spiritual growth is messy. Choosing peace is a disciplined response. Forgiveness only works if the act being forgiven was truly unkind. Yes, we are creating life experience through the law of attraction, but life experience, either messy or grand, is the key to our own spiritual redemption. Yes, we unwittingly attract painful and challenging experiences so that our soul can really, deeply, irrevocably LEARN. In the stillness of my witnesssing self, I recognize that I am a soul on the fast track to waking up...and every experience I've attracted in my life - the pain, the joy, the anguish, the enlightenment, all the dualistic steps actually belong in the greater dance of teaching my self how to love. For me, the real, untold secret, is that until we serve the collective good of fearlessly feeling, of deciding to be responsible for every personal thought, for challenging and admitting our true intent, we are stupidly enabling our sneaky and self-serving negative-ego. This destructive aspect of mind thrills at the popularity of a new and endorsed language that entitles a desire for power and stuff in order to feel secure. In my view, authentic wakefullness requires patient and sometimes confrontational questioning, not blind obedience to a new and attractive code of greed.

Inspiring Newsletter said...

Great topic, Tad, I've been thinking about these things (I'm surrounded by Secret-watchers) but hadn't said anything, and I think it's so important to acknowledge the power of the principle and the feelings it arouses and also be able to still think for yourself. It can be a real strain to do both, but ultimately it's worthwhile.

As I reread Thomas Leonard about the OS of attraction I sort of snicker at the very simplified version the film presents. But what's great about the film, even in its cheesiness, is that it does have a fair number of positive images in it that stir the senses and really get my emotions going--"vibrating". I love watching it in a group of people for that reason, to be with other people resonating in that way.

The worst abuse of this idea that I encounter is blaming victims for "manifesting" bad things in their lives--it's so much more complicated than that, and it's so unhelpful to blame a victim in this way. It's a perfect illustration of how not to use the Law of Attraction anyway--blaming--yet people frequnently fall into this hypocrisy. As a person who has Lyme disease, I find it especially nauseating to be told I'm responsible for my illness. I am not responsible for it. Global warming is responsible for it; perhaps some government bio-engineers are responsible for it; I am merely responsible for
deciding to incarnate in this body in this very painful time and to stand my ground and pseak truth no matter how unpopular it has made and continues to make me, and if getting Lyme disease was part of that package I've accepted that and haven't let it stop me. And I will get better, especially once I get off antibiotics and onto the real medicine.

I am so happy and grateful now that I have so many people in my life.

Anonymous said...

Inconsistency with the name in the second paragraph. (?ed.)