Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tx for the disease of war

We live in a war culture and we are about to pony up our annual tribute to that culture on Tax Day, since more than half of our annual taxes go straight to some aspect of the military.

War is the disease that is killing our culture, our economy, our ecology, our educational integrity and our collective spirit.

What is the treatment? Where is the pill? The surgery? The diet plan? The exercise regime?

The paradox is that each piece of the cure is tiny and the cumulative connected effects are systemic.

Recycle. Vote. Bike. Install solar panels. Lobby for nuclear disarmament. Join in mass nonviolent demonstrations. Hold your elected officials accountable. Teach children peace. Do random acts of kindness and compassion. Spend your money on sustainable goods. Bring cloth bags to the grocery store. Take risks for nonviolence. Learn de-escalation techniques. Contribute to organizations that work for peace and justice by peaceable means.

Oh, one might say, that's just a Band-aid. You can't cure a terminal disease that way. You need sweeping change.


And are those people willing to wait until that wondrous day of nonviolent revolution, when all those systemic changes will sweep across our culture, our society, our academy, our religious institutions, through our Congress and wash all violence out of our military in a Great Nonviolent Tsunami of Goodness?

Gandhi wasn't willing to wait. MLK wasn't. Dorothy Day wasn't. No nonviolent leader was ever willing to wait. They had an endless series of smaller and larger actions, each one a reform by itself, with a never-ending and transparent agenda of nonviolent transformation of society.

That is the difference between reform as a Band-aid and revolution as a cure. It is not waiting until massive sudden change can produce some kind of nonviolent nirvana; it is the everyday actions of the true nonviolent revolutionary. Pushing the envelope, educating oneself and acting accordingly, and never ever stopping in the perpetual push for more nonviolence and against violence.

This is how we hope. Gandhi was a karma yogi, an action practitioner, and even when his actions were on behalf of some group of workers in one town trying to gain more justice, he devoted himself to that. Dr. King died working for more justice for garbage haulers in Memphis. Dorothy Day fed a few homeless.

And the activities of our nonviolent revolutionaries were so much more, so complex, so challenging systemically, that I believe the revolution will come softly on little rabbit feet, the result of the small things, the endless efforts, and the iron determination that we will resist militarism and violence in a dialectical relationship so that the militarism will not change us and we may transform the militarism.

Only when we 'accomplish' something and cease our efforts in a self-congratulatory retirement from nonviolent revolution as a life mission do we cease being revolutionaries and earn the Band-aid reformer pejorative. Enough small actions can prepare the way for large and sweeping changes--changes that were only made possible by the daily smaller acts.

Waiting for massive, sudden change is how we guarantee it will not ever arrive. Like the Filipina nuns who faithfully taught and trained nonviolence for 10 years, inputting this knowledge and gaining commitment, they actually achieved two amazing, transformative results in February 1986, when the people came into the streets and the world watched them gain true democracy and stop a civil war, all with the nonviolence they had been learning.

This is a lifestyle of nonviolent revolution, not a sudden effort. That is the challenge, that is the treatment, and that is the cure for the disease of militarism.

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