I drafted this yesterday, during a gloomy afternoon. No doubt that shaped this newsletter’s tone, though I’d planned its subject for some time.
Sometimes you realize suddenly that your thinking on an issue has shifted. It was while watching an episode of M*A*S*H the other day that I realized my growing appreciation for pacifism. The team was experiencing a heavy influx of casualties, victims of a heavy offensive to “get it in” before the Christmas ceasefire. To get what in? As much destruction as possible, of course.
I’m increasingly skeptical of statements like “Sometimes violence is the only way.” What does such violence actually resolve? In the short term, it appears effective. But that effect is merely the assertion of an hierarchy of dominance. In the long term, the term which matters most, such hierarchies collapse. When they do, more violence results. Violence begets violence.
This is true on most any scale, whether between two individuals or many countries. For most of us, though, it’s the individual scale that matters. So what can an individual do? I leave that for your own reflection, but these excerpts from Franklin’s “Commemoration for the Montreal Massacre Victims”, on the 1989 murders at L’école polytechnique, might shape those reflections:
Yes, it was the act of a madman [Marc Lepine], but it is not unrelated to what is going on around us. … How people get mad, how that escalation from prejudice, to hate, to violence occurs, what and who is hated, and how it is expressed, is not unrelated to the world around us. When a madman uses easily available weapons and easily available prejudices, it is not totally his own problem that will go away when he does. …
In our memory and reflection we have to include the fact that these women were abandoned by their fellow [male] students. We must face it. …
If reflection shows that all killing is senseless, we may ask why, then, do we have tools of killing around since we agree that all killing is senseless.
In a time when school shootings and other violence feel increasingly everyday, I found Franklin’s address a particularly effective way to feel again. You can read the full text of her address. It’s short and powerful. I recommend it.
All the best for the week ahead.