An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Strange Virtue



"Christ died on the cross with a crown of thorns on his head defying the might of a whole empire." - Gandhi

This is the power that we must wield, by our suffering and by our faith: "He or she must have a living faith in non-violence. This is impossible without a living faith in God. A non-violent man can do nothing save by the power and grace of God. Without it he won't have the courage to die without anger, without fear and without retaliation. Such courage comes from the belief that God sits in the hearts of all and there there should be no fear in the presence of God. The knowledge of the omnipresence of God also means respect for the lives of even those who may be called opponents."

The empire works by division - Shiite against Sunni, Iranian against Iraqi, secular leftist versus Christian, and so on. Perhaps no one analyzed this as clearly as Thomas Aquinas. Here he is analysing the common good, a concept that is more and more explicitly denied by the powers that rule the current empire: "Security is banished and everything is uncertain when people are cut off from law and depend on the will, I would even say the greed, of another. A tyrant oppresses the bodies of his subjects, but, what is more damnable, he threatens their spiritual growth, for he is set on his own power, not their progress. He is suspicious of any dignity that he may possess that will prejudice his own iniquitous domination. A tyrant is more fearful of good persons than of bad persons, for he dreads their strange virtue. Fearful lest they grow strong and so stout of heart as no longer to brook his wicked despotism, but resolve in companionship to enjoy the fruits of peace, a tyrant is constrained to destroy good people's confidence in one another, lest they band together to throw off his yoke. Therefore he sows discord among them and encourages dissensions and litigation. He forbids celebrations that make for good fellowship, wedding and feasts and such events that are likely to promote familiarity and mutual loyalty."

The spiritual growth which we seek is to become conscious of our inner power in order to end the anonymous impotence induced by the empire's propaganda. The spiritual disease we are suffering from is comfort. Bit by bit we have lost the taste for anything but comfort, until it becomes a treasure incapable of risk. This is the addiction that paralyzes our best efforts because it ultimately means that we would rather see hundreds of thousands of far-off people killed than risk losing the oil supply that makes our comfort possible. The Democrats efforts to stop the bloodletting will remain ineffectual as long as they accept the basic premise that our comfort is more important than the life of an unknown foreigner or the sovereignty of their nations.

The consequences of comfort are revealed in the very phrasing employed by the Democrats: "Questioned by a reporter about making 'an urgent end to the Iraq war and asking Congress to cut the funding immediately." he asked, 'Is that a bad idea?' Nancy Pelosi, whom most observers believe to be opposed to the war, said, 'Why would it be a bad idea not to support our troops?' - rephrasing a funding cutoff as an attack on the soldiers.

It is a demonstration of the entirely artificial and false character of 'official' US politics that sending hundreds if not thousands more soldiers to their deaths is hailed as 'support,' while removing them from the battlefield and returning them safely to their families is denounced as 'undermining the troops.'"

Here we can see that liberals have internalized the arguments, as well as the premises of those arguments, of those who would use military power to gain control of key economic resources. The louder and more incessant the cries that rise from the Democrats with their meaningless expressions of distaste for Mr. Bush's tactics, the more likely that the underlying hegemonic imperative is being buried beneath a waste dump of moralistic rhetoric.

To end the war means to end the taste for violence in ourselves - through action that risks comfort, career, and all the perks that the empire can provide to buffer us from the consequences of that comfort - the price of which is alway paid by others far away. The truth we cannot face is the truth Gandhi knew so well: "We must voluntarily put up with the losses and inconveniences that arise from having to withdraw our support from a Government that is ruling against our will. Possession of power and riches is a crime under an unjust Government, poverty in that case is a virtue, says Thoreau...if a Government does a grave injustice the subjects must withdraw co-operation wholly or partially, sufficiently to wean the ruler from his wickedness. In each case conceived by me there is an element suffering whether mental or physical. Without such suffering it is not possible to attain freedom." - Gandhi

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