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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Violence Breeds

Violence is in the realm of necessity, i.e. economy and household affairs--what we need to survive. Justice and Peace are in the realm of freedom, i.e. politics and public affairs--where we are fully human. The question for humankind is whether economy trumps freedom or politics trumps necessity.

A democratic republic is a place of freedom over necessity. It is open to all and engages the participants in the actions that form the republic. But when the republic is brought under the control of those few who make laws to increase their ability to produce/consume by not providing the means for all to live in dignity, freedom is overcome by the violence of necessity.

The United States of America is dedicated to the ideals of a free democratic republic within its borders, but uses massive force to control certain citizens within the borders as is evidenced by one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world and outside its borders evidenced by the largest spending on and maintenance of military might and spying. 

Our military spending is estimated at $620 billion in 2014. That does not include foreign military support, e.g. $3.7 billion to Israel or $8.5 million a day. Nor does it include the cost of military intelligence. The cost of incarceration is about $40 billion a year. 

Except for those who have been killed or maimed in war and those who are or have been incarcerated (primarily through Americans' insatiable appetite for illegal drugs), this violence has benefitted most US citizens by providing defense jobs, prison jobs, foreign resources, and generally increasing the Gross National Product. This huge government spending has of course benefited some a lot more than others; and those who have most benefitted are usually the ones who claim they got their wealth solely by their own individual actions.

Violence breeds violence, the saying goes. Or biblically, those who rule by the sword perish by the sword. Today we are suffering the fruits of our national and patriotic violence. Let me cite three instances of this.

1. The nation was built on slavery followed by Jim Crow laws supporting a new type of slavery, and now a new Jim Crow as well as urban and housing policies that supported segregating housing and education. The legacy of these policies is the disparity in racial and social equity that fragments our social unity, encourages crime, and fosters unnecessary suffering.

2. The defense of United Fruit and large corporations in Latin America and especially Central America including the deposing of elected leadership, trade policies that work to the advantage of owners and managers rather than workers, and military intervention to assure United States dominance of the area and the war on drugs is now bringing refugees by the thousands to our borders.

3. Our war on Communism, including Korea, Vietnam, and Latin America and our intervention in the middle east has brought terrorism to our shores. Many have traced the blowback, including 9/11, directly to our actions to defend and dominate. 

It is not simple. Defense of our borders, our culture, our people is legitimate if not justified. But we are fools if we think we Americans are always right and always with God in our actions. Our focus should be on reducing force and violence and creating a space of freedom for all even if it means lowering our expectations for material wealth. 

We humans are caught in a cycle of entropy where our energies are dissipated; and force and violence adds to the disorganization of our neighborhoods, cities, nations, and world. Some dare say that the American way in which we achieve our goals through force, including the domination and destruction of the natural order, will cause the sixth massive extinction in this anthropocene age. 

But there are others, and I am one of them, who bet on empathy over entropy. I have faith and hope that we can overcome our dominating, realistic, forceful ways in which we accept the inevitability of violence by experiencing our most intimate connection with others. All others--not just those of my tribe and nation and culture. But there is no evidence for this position and that is what makes it a matter of faith. In fact there is just as much evidence that we humans will undo ourselves and self-destruct like so many other species have done. It is the faith in ourselves and our future that will make the difference.

(The new Pascal's wager!)

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