Posted by: Inside-Out Peace | May 1, 2009

Massive Inner Conflict Resolution, Part 3. (Of 3.)

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.



  1. I don’t know if there is reason to be sad. If you must, be sad that it will be a while before we get where we are going. But be happy too. Know that we will get there. The overwhelming majority of people want to live in peace. Look around. Think about the people you know and love. They are all just trying to live their lives and love one another. Everyone is like this inside. It’s hard to think of the Taliban as real people with wives, and children and dreams. But they are real people. You and your family are no different from theirs. They just happen to have been victims of religious extremists and the lack of a functioning government. You are just luckier than they. Eventually we will have more and better education, health care and liberty. So take heart in knowing that with people like yourself around, people working towards peace, we will get there eventually. Don’t give up.

    Love you,

  2. I guess what I’m really sad for is all the “extra” suffering that will happen because of how much longer it will take than I used to think, if that makes any sense. You’re right that many of the Taliban probably are victims, themselves. Just look at the current forced recruitment of young men – boys really – from Buner. I feel sorry for them, that they are filled with such ugly feelings. But I still feel a lot more sorry for the girls in Afghanistan, who also had dreams – like being able to attend school without having acid thrown in their faces. My family and I are no different, as you said, and yet our societies are extremely different. That is the problem.

    Don’t worry, the only thing I gave up on was writing the post I had wanted to write, because I couldn’t figure out that answer. Yet. 🙂 I’m never giving up on working towards peace, I just need to approach it in a more balanced and less stressed way. You could even say, a more peaceful way. Har har. Love you too.

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