Phil Wolfson MD
This Crescendoing Celebration of Violence–Inciting Violence and Violent Minds by Investing in Violence and Violent Minds—Does Peace Stand a Chance? Thoughts and Analysis in the Wake of the Election.
I am crying today—as are so many of my friends and the others whose laments and outrage I have been reading. There is a great tear in my heart. I have lost a child, my oldest son, to an intractable leukemia at almost 17 years of age. I know the terrible grief of losing a child. I know the extraordinary medical effort that goes into saving a child’s life, many children’s lives. Then there is this slaughter, one of so many, all unacceptable, in which children in schools are targeted by deranged humans with access to weapons of the most terrifying power. In this case these weapons were—apparently– obtained from his mother’s collection, who trained him—apparently—in firing them—making him a good shot–no doubt for fun—perhaps–who knows her mind—it is inconceivable that she foresaw this disaster.
I had written this piece in the aftermath of the Aurora massacre, knowing all too well that there were other horrors on the horizon. Of Course! Conditions are ripe. And there seems to be even a copycat aspect to killing kids. More will come. No doubt. The conditions are still ripe. Change, if we have the will to make it happen, will take time. While we grieve and are overwhelmed by the inhumanity of this act, thousands are dying in other lands by the murdering leaders and regimes that are supposed to protect and honor them. Murder is in the air!
Then, there is the humane and communitarian effort on the Sandy damaged east coast. It exemplifies our other capacities. We do rise to the need for mercy, community effort, assisting each other. rebuilding, loving our neighbors. We have that in us! And we need to grow this as a generalized loving-kindness that seeks truth and justice, and understands our violence producing culture and takes back control for the 99%, building a truly representative democracy for all.
Hugs to you all in this time of great sadness!
I hope you will read on.
Inciting violence: Creating the conditions for violence to arise. This may occur by directly inciting; by using persuasive means; by paying for and investing in violent acts and creating a consciousness that tends to violence–by creating a culture in which violence is an acceptable aspect of mind and is cultivated, may be eroticized, may be archetyped as heroic, and is valued.*
I have several friends who are completely committed to non-violence as a way of life; and, concomitantly, to persuasion as the methodological force for love, peace, sharing, justice, eco-sanity, and progress. We sit around the table, growing older and more despondent, committed to our path as the only one that makes sense to us and arises as passionate cause from the depth of our beings. Increasingly however, our conversations reflect isolation and despair—and we puzzle over the failure of our communitarian program. After all, it does make perfect sense and is achievable in our modern society, which could enthusiastically take care of the basic needs of all people! We have long lamented the lack of a transcendent ideology as a guiding force and we have come to understand that all great teachers and all democratic movements also live in samsara—existence in this confusing world–and have difficulty both interpreting it and coping with it. With time we have learned to ‘Do the dharma’—the teachings–and follow teachers and movements with discernment as well as love and respect. That’s a good slogan. And truly, there are many of us, distributed globally who know this. But it does not alleviate the pain of this great, encompassing disaster that is happening all around us.
We have just survived the presidential election, truly too narrowly averting the overt rule of criminality that would have functioned solely to continue enriching the richest, moving church and state to a near merger, stripping the remnants of the tattered welfare state, and consigning FDR reforms to historical oblivion. That danger is not over and the freer breath of the moment is just a bit of a sigh at best. The shift to the right has been opposed–especially by young people–and democracy at the state level has been affirmed in a few places with legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, a bit of taxation of the rich, and the election of a few progressives. That is terrific!
But there are also daunting facts that require our pointed attention. In 2012, The US is still heavily influenced by racism, the legacy of slavery, and prejudice against Latinos and recent immigrant groups. Prejudice of this sort outweighs the self-interest of far too many citizens who will vote ‘white’ rather than for their own economic reasons. Disturbing is the fact that 56% of white women voters cast their ballot for the’ hand in our pockets Mitt’—against the clear interest for older women to retain and bolster Medicare and Social Security and for all women to retain and expand their rights to birth control, family planning, abortion, parity of pay, recognition of the value of domestic service. Certain members of that party shamefully raised the specter of legitimization of rape and violence to women—and were inadequately disowned. Add to this lack of essential clarity that Republican appointments to the Supreme Court would surely have resulted on an overt attack on Roe v. Wade and all women’s’ democratic rights. Go figure. We need to deeply understand what propels so many of our people to vote for delusions and lies.
We now know we certainly will die without clarity that the great vector of getting along and helping each other is dominant in this world as we had hoped and on which we based much of our life endeavors. We are aroused by those moments of hope and possibility provided by Occupy!-like movements, the Arab Spring, the constant struggles in every corner of the globe for social justice and realization. We are gladdened indeed by the at-heart goodness and sense of connection of so many who voted in the US against the demon force and hope to see a movement for love and change become invigorated by this success. Still, these seem like drops of rain falling in the great ocean of dominance, unfairness, ruthlessness, systemic violence and corruption. The human world appears to be more unfair, more unjust and its laws are more and more for the propertied, the rich, parasitic finance capital, and multinational corporations–promulgated by the world’s paid-off politicians–and defended by their $750 per hour pettifoggers.
With such a chasm widening beyond our historical imaginations, with haves ripping off have-nots even more viciously with the support of hyper-technologized armies, drone Presidents, an international cartel of ‘support the exploiters for they shall support us’; with lives bought and sold as consumable wage slaves or worse; with the constant demolition of even the smallest of welfare state measures in those nations that had them; with murder in the heartland as acceptable and a constant fact; and murder in the periphery as an inherent part of living there; with so many confused about their basic self interests, un-led, and whirling about in their lives like Rumpelstiltskins on various corporate induced consumer passions; with the unopposed heating of our marvelous planet—can there be reason for real, un-deluded hope for peace and love?
Violence appears almost everywhere in its actualities and in the assailment of the media. Games of violence have achieved overwhelming worldwide popularity. All of our minds are bombarded by the reportage of violence, by its nearby occurrence, by its systematization as acceptable, by our movie minds that have been taught the magic of violence and its great appeal—so much so that we now live with minds that are caught up in the games of violence–consciously, unconsciously; and far too often. Our culture has created a super, nearly cosmic gladiator game of the soul that dwarfs the reality based games of the Roman coliseum. We are in the game and of the game, each of us in varying degree, but the infection is running in our minds. We live to some extent as if we are the game and far too many of us humans live the game fully and destructively.
The diagnosis is clear: unbridled multinational monopoly capitalism and its coteries of wealthy, its pabulum media acolytes feeding the pap of consumerism and promoting the meganopolistic corporate interests, and the consumerist deluded middle classes that can’t get clear to unite with the rest of the wage slave population to recognize as fact and action format that we are eating ourselves alive and planetary nature cannot support our greed for evermore. And there are ever more of us bloating this singular planet with our presence—now at 7 billion souls. This is just not sustainable however we wish to fly blind and enveloped in our own ego-centered lives.
I am not going to try to prove this thesis with statistics and projections of doom. The ‘truths’ of our lives are not that hard to discern. We will ride that wave of ‘obviousness’ together and you will be able to ‘feel’, actually ‘feel’ what you know to be truths, as truths. We all carry them inside ourselves, however we like to avoid them, or are unconscious of them until we are startled awake. Take one and feel it—you be the judge of its truthfulness—start with this mega-truth: Global warming, climate change is upon us—we humans are the cause—and we are not doing anything sufficient to reverse this. The changes that will be wrought are disruptive and will not be stopped by the measures proposed–for generations to come. We wish for some new great technology to come along and protect the atmosphere—but the complexity of that operation, its possibility its cost, its scientific, national, global, and ecological impacts and accords are not even close to articulation. There is no stopping this warming of the earth until such time as we come together globally and determinedly and then there are decades ahead before the progression stops and a reversal would take place. Hence, depending on our ages, we, our children, and grand-children are fated for great difficulty, and the planet shall not look like what we have known, even as in this 7 billion person time of the 21st century. True or false? Can you tell by just feeling the alarm in you? Or, the sense of true despair?
Do take the next step: Really, you are not ready to do much about this—and to the extent you are, you don’t know what to do. There are no obvious social strategies, organizations, leaders, or programs that have caught your attention that seem to offer a possibility for realization of a new direction. The just past presidential campaign was mired in irrelevancy and paid no attention to this truth (or others). They argued over how to extract more and more resources as if the planet and nature have no limits and we can expand and make more money for more people, especially the wealthy–as if we aren’t crushing our futures. And personally, we like to drive our cars and travel to see the world. We enjoy our great gourmet opportunities. We have yet to tithe ourselves for sharing with have not’s, or for peace, or agree to limit our reproductive lives and families to one child, or at most two, and so cut the population rapidly. Some believe that others won’t stop conceiving and so fear ethnic domination by lopsided birth rates from those others. We don’t know what to put in place of solo consumption. We divide further and further down into autonomous consuming units. Divorce brings complete separate households with all the duplicate accoutrements–when they can be afforded. More and more kids have their own cell phones, computer games, and often, personal television sets.
All of this supports consumerism and corporations selling us more and more of what we think we need, stuff that becomes the norm for almost all and drives the mind in its acquisitiveness, as if these ‘things’ are necessary for life or quality of life. Our very experience of social integration is mixed. Getting along with others is usually problematic, let alone living with them, trusting them, sharing with them, working for them. The psychotherapy industry mostly supports the atomization of society as it works the independence program of the individual, often separating us to even greater isolation as we move away from the traumas of our childhood and our traumatizing parents and the later struggles with our partners. ‘Make me one with everything’, the Dalai Lama is supposed to have told the hot dog vendor, but it is the corporations and their ad men and women who really have grasped that slogan and they mean ‘get all the stuff’—every bit of it—every thing—you won’t be happy until you do—and then something new will come out which you desperately must have, like that sleek sedan, and it even gets 27 miles to the gallon—how great–and it still has 320 horsepower. Forget the 45 mpg hybrid—disposal of the battery is a big issue anyway—and its manufacture has a large carbon footprint–how green is that?
When awakened consciousness makes our choices obvious and yet we choose to live in denial and acceptance of the exploitative paradigm, we suffer a kind of internal violence by being in league with the enemies of nature–against our own nature and true self-interest, indeed. And we cannot escape some at least dim awareness of what harm we do and what harm in which we are participating. This has become a global fate of our species enmeshed in its hyper-materialism. We have the other side in us as well, weak though it appears to be. And honestly, it truly is so hard to secede from this economic juggernaut that penetrates every aspect of our lives, so difficult to not use fossil fuels for something or other, so hard not to buy products made in China, or eat food that we don’t grow in our own gardens. Getting off the grid is not a simple thing, nor is self-sufficiency and sustainability as a way of life.
Living internally with violence as too acceptable, living with the wolf of narrow self-interest, immediate gratification, and the delusional sense of reward for participation in the system, we create an attitude that embraces a meanness and insensitivity to direct and indirect violence, more of a ‘me and them’ way of mind, and a need for rationalization to make this attitude work. It is the suffering of selfishness and its disappointment that arises, this as a result of the near-constant confrontation with being left out of the rich guys/corporate party. It is the suffering of materialism and its lack of real satisfaction once our basic needs are met. It is the suffering of lack of empathy–our hard-heartedness towards the planet and its beings. It is the suffering of alienation from ourselves and that which truly benefits our growth and development.
Wow! Difficult, huh? You may think: “I can feel why you guys feel the way you do.”
So, lets take an expedition to the world of violence, its production, causes, and its ‘truths’. Do notice what you feel as I propose these ‘truths’. Again, you be the judge—does it reach you or not? Are there feeling tones of fear, sadness, empathy, disappointment, helplessness, awe, for example?
To begin, there seems to be more of it—violence that is.
1) Gangsterism is on the rise. The democratic aspirations of many peoples are thwarted by gangs of goons and their politicians–like Russia and some of its former states. Thugs moved in from the secret military elites that had all the spy info on the populace, expropriated the state industries and built a network that supported and institutionalized the thefts. They have little hesitation in violently crushing opposition, while wearing nice suits and pretending to be benevolent parts of the world of nations. Much of Africa has been beset with large cliques of predatory, heavily armed gangs. Civilians have no chance. They are drawn into the conflicts, which have become ways of life. Arms are so prevalent. Do let your mirror neurons put you in touch with such misery and fear, such calculation for survival and self-protection, the allure of being armed and the need to out-macho the next guy—there are few girls with guns–and weapons are much cheaper and easier to procure than tractors and water pumps. Money for weapons, no money for farms! Dire straits indeed! How many hundreds of millions live this way? How many women, children and youth have no prospects but to live lives contorted by direct violence and its impoverishment? Are you ready to move to northern Mexico?
2) The so-called war on drugs has or is destroying whole nations, or many parts of nations: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Colombia, Afghanistan,
and too many others. Some of my friends still do coke on occasion—seems a blind indulgence to me. Ecstasy is now coming from chemists in China and North Korea plus many designer drugs. Opium is a plague in Iran with a straight shipping lane from adjacent Afghanistan—the Mullahs don’t seem to mind—doesn’t lead to unrest. Legalize is the only strategy that makes sense but the investment in so-called deterrence, police forces, jails, narcs, bureaucracies, political collusion, and lobbying politicians is massive—it’s a very big business indeed–a big investment in keeping illegalization going. The guy with the baggy goes to jail. The Bushs, and Wall Street rip-off-artists who create such murder and havoc aren’t even touched. Feel it? A bit of outrage at least?
3) We must need more guns, especially here in the U.S.! It’s a true necessity–as demanded by the powerful lobbies of gun freaks, gun manufacturers, pseudo-libertarians, individualists who do everything in their power to help us remain a strong nation independent of invading armies—there are so many trying to invade at any moment, communists, people of color, the envious poor, deviants, atheists, big government—guns will keep us free and safe. The estimate of 260 million guns, or one per person more or less, is clearly insufficient for our needs. Self-defense is conceptualized as requiring military weapons, giant magazines, bullets that maim and disintegrate—or, my mistake, is all of that for hunting? Is the saber-toothed tiger back? Countries that are armed only for licensed hunting have murder rates at small fractions of ours. Guns here are used for murder and crime, not for deterrence and self-protection. We do not need to be armed to take over our government, do we? Can these weapons really protect our rights, or would getting money out of politics go much further for institutionalizing democracy and reversing our political corruption and class chasm. Conditions have changed since George Washington—right? The British are not coming back!
Guns have great allure—what are you packing? A SIG 40 with 13 rounds, a 44 mag? How about a Glock 9mm? Here is how the manufacturer gets you off:
The GLOCK 19 is ideal for versatile use through reduced dimensions compared with the standard pistol size. With the proven caliber of 9×19, it has found worldwide distribution in security services. In addition to being used as a conventional service weapon, it is suitable for concealed carry or as a backup weapon. For instance, many of the elite pilots of the USAF for instance trust the GLOCK 19 for their efficient defense in emergency situations.
I want one. Mommy, can I please get one? Can we move to Arizona and Texas and carry weapons openly? Can we get a license for a concealed weapon? It’s a national trend and we now can carry guns in our National Parks. Was that Bush or Obama? Can we just go to Oakland and have target practice in the neighborhood? Oh, please mommy!
How do you feel?
I was involved in a shootout in Oakland—inadvertently, of course. I had just returned from the sex, drugs, and loving communitarianism of the Burning Man week. At my friend’s Oakland compound, cleaning out the rental trailer of playa dust, in goggles, a mask and with a blower running–like I was from outer space, I suddenly heard a ‘pop, pop, pop’, like popcorn exploding. Suddenly a black man in his early twenties ran in front of the trailer and looking directly at me fired off a round from his 9mm, over his shoulder, as if he was making a show of bravery while actually running for cover in the compound. I yelled for my compatriots to get inside and lock their doors, as the gate to the compound was wide open enabling my cleaning activity. They resisted and I yelled again for them to get inside as I hit the aluminum floor of the trailer. There were more shots. Two young black men ran in front of the van, guns at the ready, saw me, and did nothing—they could have shot me dead–and yelled for their companion to come back out which he did. They fled up the street towards San Pablo Avenue. My partner had been in her car on the street, and had taken cover after seeing a white Cadillac turn around in the street and an exchange of gunfire erupt. The action had moved off, I got her inside the compound and closed the gate. We called the cops who came about an hour later and did not stop to question us. Oakland seemed devoid of protection for its people. Good on controlling and hounding Occupy!-ers, not good on neighborhood safety. I picked up some 9mm casings off the sidewalk.
Taking stock, I noted that I had not felt fear. Rather, I experienced a great sadness in recognizing the contrast between the high jinks of Burning Man and the absolute waste of life in Oakland’s streets. Men of the same age and of the same human value were living distinctly different lives in definitively different movies, one with opportunity, and one with dead-ends at a young age. Despair overcame me and I cried for the carnage of young life, having lost my oldest son to a biological calamity, leukemia, at nearly 17. To be parents of the kids with guns would have felt terrifying, their kids’ risks not acceptable for the money, cocaine highs, or status in their own gang framework. What a waste of our beings. How unkind to have such great wealth and opportunity and to damn so many to awfulness! One of the Black Panther slogans was ‘Power comes out of the barrel of a gun’. But that is one kind of power and the rich tend not to wield the guns but have others do it for them. Those who fight with guns and attempt to overpower others with guns tend to have very little real power in the societies of the world. Even in horror zones like Darfur and the Congo, the power of the gun is for a short moment and at the risk of the loss of life for the gun holder. Those without guns are victimized and those with guns have no future.
On the day I wrote this story, four young black men were killed in Oakland, and a mother and her young daughter wounded. Are we in Afghanistan? How can this be acceptable? For every person killed, there are at least ten relatives and friends grieving, lost, embittered, and struggling with the meaninglessness of such deaths and their interminability.
4) Violence is big business–to my analysis, the biggest. It is promoted directly as a necessity and is packaged to create desire for it. The military budget grows ever larger in the U.S. and is so protected by propaganda that politicians cannot attack the industry without risking loss of popular support. The percentage of the world’s productive apparatus engaged in military spending was over $1.5 trillion last year and is estimated at 2.2% of GDP. But this is a gross underestimate. The U.S. alone accounted for an official $711 million of this at 4.7% of its GDP. Add to this intelligence, ‘homeland in-security’, prisons, the police system, and a vast set of support industries that now handle much of the occupations of other countries in which we have been or are involved, usually in the name of anti-terrorism—and you have a much larger reckoning of the actual size of our investment in institutionalized violence. Add to that, the U.S. is far and away the largest exporter of military equipment and training to the rest of the world. The clear consequence is that this wastes a vast part of the potential resource for goodness that solves problems by sharing, education, culture, social and economic development, and support for basic life needs. We can feel the weight of this distortion done in our names and seemingly impregnable to alteration.
5) Violence is attractive and sells. I am writing this section in Europe where the historical record of murder, torture, war and atrocity adorns the churches, museums and streets. It is impossible to be in Europe without an awareness of the history of violence between humans and an earlier view of nature as threatening humans with being eaten. Human relations were not benign. Good people didn’t survive, certainly not for very long. Being kind did not cohere with existence. To build the big churches–the Duomos– and the castles, raw power, class dominance, extreme punishment, everyday cruelty—these were the methods that enabled small dominant classes to persevere and extract the wealth that made their lives rise over those considered the rabble. Remember that the French Revolution was often characterized as being led by ‘the Mob’. A bit like my sixties warrior friends were labeled similarly by those who feared them. Lucca, Puccini’s town, the home of great pasta and olive oil, advertises a Museum of Torture at its every corner. I guess they have a lot to show. But I certainly did not need to be reminded of how humans dismembered with protracted cruelty, mostly for the sake of it. It still seems to be going on. We moderns are certainly not innocent of this.
Leaving the actuality of violence for the humungous billions being extracted from willing wallets to pay for simulated violence as entertainment, envision the great success of investing in violent minds. I had a rule for my kids—no fake guns—no shooting daddy and mommy, or brother. As a young boy, I hated being shot dead by my friends and, in turn, I killed them frequently. Real death was hidden; so ‘pretend’ had no relationship to really being killed. But I did not block television and movies for my own kids and there death was plentiful and just as distorted. Criminality and war games filled their heads anyway. Then came video games. As a doctor, I knew what life looked like in its myriad torments and endings. It never resembled the virtual. Nor did it prepare anyone for combat or the streets or self-protection. It was and is entertainment in realms of imagination. The effect of watching tens of thousands wounded and dead, killing imaginable numbers of them, dividing into enemies and allies, taking sides depending on your culture and religion—murder in droves by the end of adolescence—all of this warps. There is no similar investment in peace and love—and in contrast their pursuit seems tame and unrewarding. You don’t get rich, get the girls, or become the macho guy, protect your race, thwart demons and world destruction. Peace movies are not much box- office.
There is an obvious payoff to our immersion in virtual violence—more real violence. I conceived this piece in the aftermath of the Aurora and Norwegian massacres, as Assad assiduously murdered his own people, as death squads sweep through Nigeria and neighboring Buddhists and Moslems kill each other in Burma—to name a few of what throws me into grief and anguish. The red headed Joker freak who massacred at the Aurora Ohio movie theater is one manifestation of the confusion wrought by the culture of violence and the linked availability of the means to carry out the fantasy. In James Holmes’ case, the buildup was brief—months of growing depression, isolation, and frustration, deepening madness and getting caught up in the comic book world of superheroes and malevolent monsters, identifying with power and evil power. I could not get through the Dark Knight. There was just too much calculated torture and cruelty. My mirror neurons were exploding. I watched perhaps half of it. Cruelty without limit, for its own sake, has been around forever. But its mass propagation as vibrant fantasy material is new. Al Qaeda offers a political ideology of violence for the sake of extermination of enemies with virtually no social program, save the sanctification of the murderer. The Joker does the same. The elevation of the murderer to dark superhero offers itself to individuals who are lost, mad and have not connected with the feelings of experiencing real human suffering in others. It is their own psychological pain that runs their show. It is about ‘me’—a profound negative narcissism–and a hatred of ‘them’, but in comic book form—a delusion that is enacted with the weapons of mass destruction available at their neighborhood store.
And so it was for the Norwegian murderer but with sustained calculation, a fascination with war and tactics, and that peculiar right-wing obsession with exterminating those who are defined as distorting the hereditary culture. His was a calculation of cruelty to those whom he blamed for the political distortion of Norway, the children of the leaders of the Labor Party. Therefore, he projected the great despair of parents suffering with the loss of their children and with cold-blood systematically exterminated them. He postured as the singular super-hero, acting when others wouldn’t, to protect the Aryan race—a Hitlerean super-hero. Is it not obvious that global mass media offers that notion of immortality to such damaged souls? And which of those murdered young adults on that island will be held dear and placed in our minds? It is the murderer on whom we are focused again and again. I do not use his name deliberately to contribute to letting him slip from history’s view. Instead let’s remember the actual people who died and what we have all lost by losing their future contributions and their presence in our lives, however distant that would have been.
I have had much practice with this slippage between the realms. Offering psychiatric testimony in several mass killing, I painstakingly reconstructed with the murderers themselves the course of the development of the mental states that moved them into perpetrating. Telling their stories as the movement of mind into un-retractable actions that doomed them and their victims, the point was to understand and explain so as to educate us in this terrible path, not to mitigate the harm they did. On a lesser level, many years ago when I was working in the public sector a young man was referred to me by the court due to his multiple convictions for exposing himself to hapless women, particularly joggers. He was of low intelligence—a clinical term—but smart enough to read Penthouse letters. On multiple occasions he came across stories of men exposing themselves—to joggers among others—who once viewing the engorged member fell over themselves to have sex with it and its owner—a not uncommon fantasy. The problem for my young man was that he took the stories to be real and therefore a possibility for himself—and he pursued this despite multiple arrests, the fantasy felt more strongly than the punishments inflicted upon him. He had little ability to distinguish between the realms of fantasy and flesh, and after all, it was tangibly in print, hence a verite.
I took this as an exemplar. The more that virtual violence is perpetuated, the more we steep ourselves in it, the greater the actual harm will come of it. Take the recent video plastered all over the Arab world of the successful break-in to a U.S. base in Pakistan and the taking of soldiers’ lives, filmed as the suicides that implemented the carnage took place. Twittered, Facebooked, media blitzed, it lionized the murders and the murderers. ‘Look at how we can strike the enemy and take their supposedly invincible lives with our lesser technology and our saintly suicides.’ ‘Worth it!’ is the message. ‘You can do it too! Leave your little lives for the greater glory, nothing much will happen to you if you don’t’.
There are no quick fixes. So long as money dominates and increasingly controls the political process, so long as profit dominates media with its moguls and giant globalized corporations consolidating their control over programming and information with the nearly sole goal of selling their shit and making us want what makes them rich, social regulation of them won’t occur. Money has to be separated from politics and the political process returned to local and locally derived representative democracy for the forces inciting violence to diminish and our 99% side to grow in strength by participation in a new vision.
For now, this leaves the personal realm as the locus of enlightened choicefulness, clarity, political participation, and advocacy. And from this base of awareness and action, we can grow a diverse peoples movement that rectifies this growing disaster and the core sources of violence. This includes educating against the internalization of violence as acceptable—limiting our and our children’s recreational and fantasy immersion in murder, horror, and domination of others—whatever that game may be called. Alternatively, it is essential practice to make love, relationships, and community our energized, exciting and interesting priority in all its creative juiciness.
When I began this piece, I posited that the ethical vector for a peaceful, nature-loving consciousness is dynamically present and can be nurtured into fruition. There are truly obvious means to do so requiring a different world-view that is communitarian and love-based, that draws on our essential nurturing side instead of the testosterone, hunter-killer part of us—especially prone are men who have so much of that hormone. Science and technology give us great capabilities and great responsibilities. Limiting exploitation of diminishing earth resources, restructuring the nature of profit from that going to the rich, corporate officers, and mega-stock-holders into a dispersed surplus that benefits all is a necessity, however far away its accomplishment may be. It is a great challenge to reverse the course of our social vector when so much of it is controlled by gigantic profit for the few machines and so much of it glitters falsely through false advertising. The task in the moment is to build this consciousness, to build caring and communitarian alternatives and political advocacies. And for communitarianism to be a chosen alternative there must be pleasure and creativity at its heart. There is no clear one way forward as program—we must be open and pluralistic—but there is a clear menace and a clear diagnosis. We have the choice to accept this violence and its causes or to build on the possibilities that truly exist for something very different.
In this present moment that we now are together freed for an instant from past and future concerns, and feeling each of these wonderful qualities deeply:
May I, You, and All Beings Be Happy! Smile inside and out.
May I, You, and All Being Be Peace! Relax and be at peace.
May I , You, and All Beings Be Love! Experience your heart opening.
May I , You, and All Beings Be Safe! Breathe deeply and generously.
Hugs and Love
*For purposes of mutual understanding, here are some definitions related to violence:
Violence: Doing harm to others or oneself—consciously and therefore with will and intent; semi-consciously—with some background awareness but proceeding as if not perceiving or mattering; unconsciously—as part of a legitimated process, or as in an altered state, or without awareness and intent.
Violence may be sudden or chronic;, dramatic or subtle; overt, insidious, or concealed; invisible until detected; aimed at victims who are not nor may ever be aware of its occurrence; personal, cultural, psychological and environmental.
Inciting violence: Creating the conditions for violence to arise. This may occur by directly inciting; by using persuasive means; by paying for and investing in violent acts and creating a consciousness that tends to violence–by creating a culture in which violence is an acceptable aspect of mind and is cultivated, may be eroticized, may be archetyped as heroic, and is valued. By minimizing the effects of violence to both victim and perpetrator, or by creating the delusion that violence is not harmful to oneself or others—like you feel happy and successful, or, like you get up 15 seconds after being shot with no signs of a wound–violence is distorted into acceptable, harmless activity. Similarly, with the righteous notion of destroying enemies and anyone else who gets in the way. Virtual violence as in movies, television, and war games diminishes the awful reality of violence and the ability of individuals to discern actuality from simulation.
Violence is stimulated by oppression and inequality; by scarcity and envy; by unfairness and injustice; by enlarging the gap between rich and poor; by privatization and the rip-off of the ‘commons’; by group, class, ethnic, religious, and gender domination; by definitions of others that dehumanize them, blame them and make them threats and by propagating and propagandizing this; by lies, deceit, and misinformation and other means of concealing self-interests.
Effects of violence: More violence and vengefulness; harm, hurt, loss, grief, torment, post-traumatic consciousness and unconsciousness; self-protection and isolation; minds involved in violence personally and culturally; focus on and acquisition of the means for violence, war and more war.
Reduction of the possibilities for violence: A culture of peace, sharing, equality and justice; basic quality of life for all; freedom of self-determination and expression; separation of church and state; embedding in nature and living in balance; following a moral/spiritual/ethical way such as the Buddhist Eightfold Path.
The World Health Organization’s definition: “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development or deprivation.” This definition associates intentionality with the committing of the act itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces.
Phil Wolfson MD is a practicing psychiatrist/psychotherapist in the Bay Area. He is the author of Noe—a father/son song of love, life sickness and death.
Cf Mander, Jerry, The Capitalist Papers 2012 Counterpoint Press–for an extraordinary documentation and review of the path of capitalist meganopoly exploitation of the earth and most of its people
cf David Abram Becoming Animal—An Earthly Cosmology Vintage Books 2011
cf my HYPERLINK “http://www.profoundemocracy.org” www.profoundemocracy.org, Tikkun and the NSPs ESRA/Global Marshall Plan, and HYPERLINK “http://www.fixamerica.org” www.fixouramerica.org for some of the emerging approaches to get money out of politics.