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.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Love and kindness must win over everything



"Nonviolence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means pitting one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of our being, it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire." - Gandhi

One pure soul, filled with the love of the God of justice, is enough to change the world. An army of calculating political operatives cannot match a single gesture from such a soul. The fallacy of pressuring Democrats to end the violence in Iraq lies in the hidden assumption that Congressional Democrats are collection of free individuals who can act as their conscience directs. In fact, they have surrendered their power to act freely to economic interests that dictate to the syllable how they must speak and behave to fulfill the role those interests have designed for them. That role is to attract and drain off the political energy that might otherwise be used to challenge the power relations which sustain the war, and therefore the profits, of those interests. In other words, while Republicans act as direct enforcers of economic domination, the Democrats play a diversionary role, deflecting the energy of challenge into paths guaranteed to sustain the ruling oligarchy.

To end this dictatorship, God has given us a sign in the faces of the Buddhist monks of Burma. Inner and outer revolution are combined in deeds that illustrate the principles that must underlie genuine rebellion.

The correct attitude toward the Democratic party can be compared to a current act of Burmese rebellion: "...a third poster [was placed] on an 'independence monument' (erected by the current [Burmese military] regime to honor themselves) in the capital city said to the people of Burma: 'Remember! This is a fake independence monument. Are we really free?'" The current Democratic party represents a false and empty gesture of challenge against the ruling powers.

Cindy Sheehan's recent article "Leadership Void" illustrates her unfailingly right instincts, and points toward a deeper analysis of the relation between a rightly formed conscience and the current Democratic leadership. The unqualified support of Democrats for the revolutionary repression and war machine of the current Administration is not "inexplicable" as Sheehan states, but all-too-explicable once we realize that their statements are "psyops", the military term meaning deliberately positioned lies intended to mislead the enemy about the real state of our intelligence and intentions. So, just as the Burmese rebels drape the symbols of false independence with posters, we must tag the Democratic "opposition" with symbols of emptiness.

"Additionally, on Friday in Mandalay, the movement leadership proclaimed a three-day vigil of prayers in honor of the Buddhist monks who had been killed or injured by the regime. A pro-democracy activist in contact with movement leaders in the country reports that, 'After people engaged in a "Silent Protest" the whole night, some people left "coffins" at downtown. On the coffins is the name "Than Shwe." (Shwe is the head of the ruling junta.) This tactic can be considered a form of non-cooperation with the regime's insistence on maintaining an appearance of 'life as usual.' It is a sign individual citizens - acting collectively - are withdrawing their consent to be controlled, in this case, by signaling that moral authority lies with the monks, not the regime." - Cynthia Boaz, truthout

The symbolism of death can be applied creatively in anti-war protests against the War Party in Washington, whose worship of death can be turned against them. In a larger sense, Christians can "die to" the current regime as Paul advocated death to "this world", by which he meant the empire that worships Caesar in place of God.

Withdrawal of consent is key to anti-war effectiveness. One practical pillar of this non-cooperation is the anti-recruitment movement on high school and college campuses, a movement that is currently causing effective pain to the empire's ability to wage terror on the peoples of the Middle East. When a government violates its own laws and directly attacks human dignity through torture and unjust, indefinite detention, then its moral authority and our obligation as Christians to support that authority is at an end. Just as the Buddhist monks have become the true moral authority of Burma, we Christian revolutionaries can become the moral authority of this country. Of course, this moral authority is directly dependent on deeds which reflect our love of justice, deeds which signal that we silent Christians are no longer the undertow of history. In the words of Berdyaev, "If Christians, who live by faith in their private lives, lay aside their faith when they approach the things of political and social life, they must be content to be towed like slaves in the wake of history."

Meanwhile, in Burma, "...citizen journalists, possibly emboldened by other signs of resistance as well as daily rumors of cracks in the ranks among soldiers, have reportedly begun submitting lists of names of military commanders, soldiers and informers to the Democratic Voice of Burma." - Cynthia Boaz.

The same tactic could be applied the Democratic enablers of the war. Their pro-war votes and other acts of support for violence should be constantly highlighted. Those who say that by weakening the Democrats we are removing the last remaining impediments to the Republicans are invoking a frame that directly aids the war party. The most effective support for the war is actually coming from the Democrats. Their supposed opposition makes their support for war funding much more compelling. That "opposition" plays an irreplaceable role in corporate media agitprop. The corporate media can only manufacture consent for empire policies by creating a facade of sincerity. By casting Democrats in the role of conflicted, but sincere opponents of their policies, they animate the inevitable Democratic capitulation with an undeniable persuasive force. This narrative can be undercut by constantly focusing on their deeds, leaving their words as an ironic afterthought.

In fact, the whole narrative of "Democratic failure" or "lack of backbone" supports the war party's frame. It reflects an underlying assumption that while Democrats secretly oppose the war, they can't reveal their true feelings because of right-wing political pressure. This allows that same right wing to portray them as duplicitous, pretending to support the war while secretly working to undermine the troops, conjuring images of treachery that move the unthinking base profoundly. It also portrays Democrats as weak, therefore unreliable as protectors of the country. Democratic lack of conviction in opposing the war strongly reinforces the robust pro-war convictions promoted by corporate media.

The actions of the Buddhist rebellion in Burma are the result of long planning, well-thought-out tactics, and spiritual growth. "In any struggle for rights or freedom, a critical variable for a movement's survival is its ability to adapt, to continue to come up with new and creative tactics that keep the oppressor on notice, and remind the people the will to resist is shared by their neighbors and countrymen." - Cynthia Boaz, "Resistance, not Repression, is the Real Story from Burma.

"Where commands are no longer obeyed, the means of violence are of no use." - Hannah Arendt. This is the fundamental contradiction at the heart of all dictatorships, including the rapidly developing one in America. All regimes must depend primarily on persuasion. Violence can support the persuasion, but it cannot replace it. When vast majority no longer consent to the violence done in their name (through deeds, not poll responses), then the empire is reduced to the pitiful band that it actually consists of. No matter how many smart bombs they pile up, someone has to point the bomb and press the button. If the finger is connected to a mind that is open to the influence of rightly-formed conscience, then the power of the empire dies.

The monks of Burma chant, "Love and kindness must win over everything!" When will Christians take up that chant?

1 comment:

Rich said...

Great post! Very insightful. Thank you!