Ever a fan of mandalas, the X/Y axis, delta functions (the rate of change per unit) and comparisons, descriptions, and culture (each generation’s locus of hope and meaning), I drift toward ideas and facts behind the headlines, to meanings and interpretations omitted by the sound bites, to the hidden side of acts that are the substance of Digging Deeper.
Within national and global politics, violence is one of the most challenging acts to explore, not only because it is one of the most immediate and visible, but because this most brutal of human choices conceals its inner core in its horrors. That core is more violent than the physical acts that spring from its depths. The core transcends ideology.
In their failure to understand the core of terrorist violence, Republicans are absolutely wrong to focus on radical Islam; the violence ISIL and other groups commit in the name of Islam is neither radical or Islamic. It is deeply separated from social process or faith. Deliberately and knowingly, it perverts faith to turn the world toward a preposterous but exacting evil in which all forms of killing are justified and killing becomes a social brand. Terrorists killings are no more about faith than American gang drive-bys are about disrespect.
Overlooked in the fight against aggressive violence is that what repulses some attracts others. Those attracted rejoice in mocking and knocking down society’s moral barriers; they revel in the absolute senselessness of murder and its use as evidence to justify and celebrate their deplored acts. Killing creates new norms that mirror their inner tension and thwarted and disturbed self-images; their core beliefs compose from each series of kills the idea that life offers limited choices that only death expands–the death of themselves and others. This strain within the current generation seeks to kill by any means. The only requirement is not allegiance, but style. (Allegiance is a simple shout-out.) Follow closely: style is carefully planned. Its justification is a template without fervor; the real inspiration is not a cause of faith but a wish to kill.
Follow closely: style is carefully planned. Its justification is a template without fervor; the real inspiration is not a cause of faith but a wish to kill, a search for fame. (Many of the killers have successful profiles as youth but later ran into obstacles and never recovered.)
ISIL has tapped this frustration and in some, drawn out its killing impulse. Islam is the sheep’s clothing worn by its killing wolves. Look carefully: those killing in Islam’s name are not devout but displaced; not “inspired” but branded for fame. By adding a tangential relationship, they gain instant celebrity–and increase the power of the brand.
The Republican mistake is to be duped into heightening ISIL’s status while not understanding its appeal. It is the first global movement of killers, of death squads that compete against each other and imitate each other and share kinship in a global brand of death in which killing is the initiation; that and claiming the brand. The allegiance of the killers is not to its ideology but to the exclusive sense of belonging ISIL offers–a club for the world’s most vicious killers and suicide mass murders, a society which will keeps alive and celebrates their names–a global society which proves the sacredness of life is mockingly violated by a finger on a trigger of guns bought in American stores. How can life be sacred if you buy the vehicles of its destruction as easily a carton of milk? How can life be a divine expression if it can be taken in the name of the God? What value can life have if in a society killing machines are readily available and ready to use upon unsuspecting, helpless innocents?
Beyond this appearance of contradiction that ISIL and its killers use to support their killing logic is the force of evil–real evil–an inner force whose presence is lost in secular and even religious societies. Evil is unexplained but is real and feeds on acts that expire the divine and humane. The seeds of evil begin in passive violence.
Violence has a dual character, two main forms: passive and aggressive. Orlando and Newton, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice bring to mind aggressive violence, violence by the hands of men rushing pell-mell into a situation that existed in their minds, who decided to shot and kill. Their justifications turned aside safer options that would have saved lives. Their attitudes are a part of the growing world of passive violence, a world of exaggeration, broken logic, lost values, and perverted moral reward that says violence is a duty. Not a means to carry out a duty–violence itself is an obligation, one shouldered only by a select, self-chosen few.
In its intellectual form, passive violence is built on deception and false promises that become more demanding as passive violence declares itself the only option for safety and peace. It argues that violence is a reasonable act. It is a worldview that shows no remorse or sorrow for the existence of death squads and executioners, or victims.
Passive violence is unfolding in our politics. It is entering into policy; it has its own lobby and it is making the world more dangerous for the rest of us. Most of us will not be hit by a bullet or blown apart by a bomb. But we are all caught in the sights of passive violence. All of us are on the battlefield of ideas to mark our social standards, to determine how we will live and in what kind of society and relationships.
In our digital age, passive violence is on speed dial by voice commands. It encourages retaliation and vengeance, and disregards the idea of principles and peace. It changes the perception and conversation about aggressive (physical) violence, as the conversation about aggressive violence fails to include the influence and corrosive effect of passive violence on our social permissions and values.
It certainly causes physical effects. Think of all the times you have watched an interview or speech or round table and flashed instant outrage; felt anger, made worse by being without a way to respond to the attack being carried out, or felt sick to your stomach because of a stupid provocation, or felt your blood racing, your voice screaming in real, silent time, being left helpless and shaking at a deliberate idiocy. to liberties, to rights, to morality, to common sense, to truth and logic–to life. (Cries of “right between the eyes.”)Think how many times you have listened to words breathing death. (Note: in those moments, I post on Twitter, directly to the timelines of those carrying at the preplanned assault. Knowing it is aimed at debilitating me and others watching and listening as much as it is at winning support or scoring policy points. Television is the perfect delivery system for passive violence. In fact, in the New Era, its purpose is to convey passive violence, more than winning arguments.
Think how many times you have listened to words breathing death as if were a recall. (Flint. Martin. Rice.) (Note: in those moments, I post on Twitter, directly to the timelines of those carrying at the preplanned assault. Knowing it is aimed at debilitating me and others watching and listening as much as it is at winning support or scoring policy points.) is the perfect delivery system for passive violence. In fact, in the New Era, its purpose is to convey passive violence, more than winning arguments.
Television is the perfect delivery system for passive violence. In fact, in the New Era, its prime purpose is to convey passive violence, more than winning arguments. The main intent of its talking heads is to make ours explode!
Television also shields these same talking heads from their own poison. Audiences have limited ways to respond, certainly, audiences cannot confront them en masse or live. The media sycophants never feel the rage they evoke, never know the pain they willingly inflict.
Passive violence is the new mass poison for the heart and mind. Its intent is to kill the spirit; it is the companion of violence against the body. Passive violence affects and cripples, interferes with and obstructs the social process that reinforces and fortifies peace within. Passive violence attacks our character and spreads its symptoms. It is overt and predatory.
It is the shame in being raped, the frustration of ignorant repetition, the hopelessness in utter stupidity, the grief in senseless deaths, the rage about Flint, the sorrow Trump evokes; the anger at Ryan and McConnell; the blows on our hearts and souls left by lies, the scars and grief at the bullets that struck Trayvon and Tamir–and all the others.
Ghandi, in a list he gave to his grandson, described key forms of passive violence that breach humanity’s most ancient essence. He listed the forms in his “Seven Blunders of the World:”
- Wealth without work.
- Pleasure without conscience.
- Knowledge without character.
- Commerce without morality.
- Science without humanity.
- Worship without sacrifice.
- Politics without principle.
Passive violence. We shake off its symptoms. But they are real. So are its effects.