My last post ended with the idea that perhaps the effectiveness of nonviolence depends on the existence of a discrepancy between the adversary’s actions and their conscience. If that’s the case, then when there is no discrepancy, nonviolence will have no direct impact. I left off with the question of whether it’s possible to change someone else’s moral code, so that nonviolence can then be used effectively.
I’ve been trying for a few days to write a post that follows up on that question, but, I’ve given up. I admit defeat. Due to a lengthy conversation with my rabbi yesterday, and a Facebook comment by one of my nephews 🙂 , I realized that the amount of reading, thinking, and stressing I’ve been doing about how to make peace happen is not good for me, or my family. What I’ve ended up with is the following:
There are many traits that humans have, and each person falls somewhere along a continuum in each trait. People have a wide range of ability in music, for example. But a person who’s tone deaf and a person with perfect pitch are both fully human. And they’re different. Same for the tendency to hate vs the tendency to love. People who hate really are different in some fundamental way than those who love. But we are all human – i.e. evolutionally equivalent. Each individual is somewhere on a spectrum of tendency to hate. In a society that values tolerance and love, only those who are at the extreme end of the spectrum will end up acting out their hate through violence. There will always be the occasional Eric Harris or Tim McVeigh. But the more a society condones hate, or even encourages it, the more of the spectrum from which people will express their hate through violence. It’s a societal problem, not an individual one. Clearly, the actual human beings themselves weren’t evolutionally different in 1940 Germany than in 1900 Germany. Human evolution doesn’t happen that fast. But changes in society do. And that’s why it’s been such an issue for me these past several years, and especially during the presidential campaigns when I saw constant incitement of hate and fear among the hardcore Republicans.
I’ve also realized, today, that for many people, maybe even most, peace is simply not as important to them as it is to me. I’m pretty far along that spectrum, I guess, and I’ll just have to live with being wired that way — and live with the rest of the people being wired the way they are, as well. But at least I’m no longer as frustrated by it. Sad? Yes. Stressed? Not anymore.