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.

Monday, February 26, 2007

No Power But Powerlessness

"So the devil tries again: worship me, he says, and the world is yours. It is mine to give, and the power over it all I give to you. And again, Jesus answers with Deuteronomy: "You are to pay homage to the Lord your God, and you are to revere him alone." There is no God but God, and no power but powerlessness. Worshipping God is not a stepping stone to power. It does not make us masters of the universe. It still leaves us in the wilderness, famished after forty days, and only the devil for company. God-forsaken indeed, or so it would seem to us. Jesus knows better." - Adventus.

No power but love. "The dehmanization resulting from an unjust order is not a cause for despair but for hope, leading to the incessant pursuit of the humanity denied by injustice. Hope, however, does not consist of crossing one's arms and waiting. As long as I fight, I am moved by hope; and if I fight with hope, then I can wait." - Paulo Friere, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

This, however, is only one half of the equation of hope. Politicians such as Barack Obama are strong on this half, but hope uninformed by the substance of critical thought is as vacuous as the apparent "opposition" of Democrats to the President's war policy. "Critical thinking contrasts with naive thinking, which sees 'historical time as a weight, a stratification of the acquisitions and experience of the past,' from which the present should emerge normalized and 'well-behaved.' For the naive thinker, the important thing is accommodation to this normalized 'today.' For the critic, the important thing is the continuing tranformation of reality, in behalf of the continuing humanization of men." - Friere

Here we see why the Democrats are incapable of taking a stand against the war. They have sold their consciences to a normalized today in which "what is" has imperceptibly merged with "what must be." They are well-adjusted to the weight of history and have surrendered to the lovelessness which is the metaphysical foundation of that history. "Only by abolishing the situation of oppression is it possible to restore the love which that situation made impossible." - Friere.

It is simple and inspiring to speak about "hope" in the abstract, devoid of critical "thinking which discerns an indivisible solidarity between the world and the people and admits of no dichotomy between them." The naive thinker, whose naivete in the case of Obama is carefully calculated, acts in the interests of the corporate master who wish their reality to remain untouched. He is happy to advise them on their plans to control Middle East oil as long as they adopt his notions of strategic success. But the weight of history will remain.

Here is a story you won't hear our progressive candidates talking about:

"'He was kept in a 9-by-7-foot cell with no natural light, no clock and no calendar,'Klein wrote. 'Whenever Padilla left the cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a 'truth serum,' a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP."

This is the loveless void in which our history has become embedded, from which no release can be expected by those unwilling to engage in critical thought that hopes that real humanity can be regained, rather than accepting the false humanity which Satan makes so enticing.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It Never Goes Away

"He was an Iraq war veteran, age 21. The guards were kind to him, but the young man was very disturbed and ended up fracturing his hand and fist, pounding a wall. After falling asleep, he repeatedly woke up, shouting and cursing, 'You killed my friend, - I'm gonna' kill you,' and intermittently sobbing, 'It doesn't change. It never goes away.'"

"The following day, Ash Wednesday, 25 Chicagoans held an ecumenical prayer service and then attempted to deliver a letter to Senators Durbin and Obama. Many in the group were clergy, vested in their clerical garb. They had gathered to pray for forgiveness, as a nation, for the times we all had not spoken out against the war. They wanted to assure that the Senators of Illinois heard their remorse and understood their opposition to the war and its ongoing funding." - "Do Something Good", Kathy Kelly, CounterPunch, February 22, 2007.

Many wonder why the Democrats seem so unable to make the stand the vast majority of their constituents clearly want them to make. An analysis of a recent anonymous Democrat's statement about the ongoing negotiations provides a clue:
“People are unhappy with the war. We have to conduct oversight. We have to push the president in a new direction. We have to find a way to do that that makes the caucus comfortable, and I think we can.” First, note that the speaker said "People are unhappy", not "We are unhappy". Translated, this means: "Other people are unhappy with the war and we must find a way to appease their feelings." In fact, most Democrats in Congress do not seem to have strong anti-war feelings, or any anti-war feeling for that matter. They do not own the feeling in question - other people own it - but they have been given a reluctant custody over it and must somehow discharge their onerous obligation. "We have to conduct oversight" summarizes this obligation. "We have to push the president in a new direction" epitomizes their powerlessness. To push someone means to stand behind them and try to exert a surreptitous influence, at least initially. Once again, someone else owns the problem - in this case, the President. This statement acknowledges their powerlessness, reducing them to the level of children attempting to influence a stubborn father. Finally, they acknowledge their true goal: "We have to find a way to do that that makes the caucus comfortable" At the end of the day, they want comfort, not justice, much less peace. They fail to understand that God's peace is living justice, not comfort. Comfort is the reward given to slaves when their master is satisfied with their service. And I agree with the Democrats when they say, "I think we can." They can indeed please their master and will find a way to do so.

This is the justice which orders the universe: "Accordingly, justice, as such, excels among the other moral virtues, and is called the brightest, outshining the morning and evening star." - Thomas Aquinas.

Those who worship comfort will receive their reward, but they will not put an end to this war, nor will they aid the Lord to establish justice on this earth.

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

Friday, February 09, 2007

Becoming Free



"Watada also provides a living example of what it means to step up to personal responsibilities. 'There was a long time when I went through depression because I told myself I didn't have a choice,' he told New America Media. 'That I joined the military and I had only one duty and that was to obey what I was told, regardless of how I felt inside. It really hurt me for a long time because I imprisoned myself by telling myself I didn't have a choice. It didn't matter that I might be sent to prison. I was already in prison, my freedom was already gone.

"When I told myself that I do have a choice, I have a choice to do what is morally right, what is in my conscience, and what I can live with for the rest of my life--even though that comes with consequences, I do have that choice. When I realized that, and when I chose what was right for me, I became free again. And I think everybody has to remember that and to realize that is what is important in life."

Instead, we behave thus: "Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself." - from a soldier currently stationed in Iraq.

What this leads to, beyond the moral catastrophe, are massacres such as the murder of 260 people near Najaf in southern Iraq on January 29 which was first portrayed as a highly successful U.S.-Iraqi joint military action, but has now been revealed as another uncaring blunder by those living in the necessary unreality engendered by the deceptions inherent to the occupation. The roads are filled with pilgrims walking on foot toward Najaf, the holy city of the Shiites. It was the festival of Ashura and the tribes were gathered and on the march to show honor to Hussein, Mohammed's son in law. But fear, nourished through the colonial brutality needed to dominate by division, rules the Iraqi army. When the time for a minor strike on a religious party came, there were various other people in the area--notably the al-Hawatim tribe. The rest of the story is best told from Patrick Cockburn's account: "The incident reportedly began when a procession of 200 pilgrims was on its way, on foot, to celebrate Ashura in Najaf. They came from the Hawatim tribe, which lives between Najaf and Diwaniyah to the south, and arrived in the Zarga area, one mile from Najaf at about 6am on Sunday. Heading the procession was the chief of the tribe, Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, and his wife driving in their 1982 Super Toyota sedan because they could not walk. When they reached an Iraqi army checkpoint it opened fire, killing Mr Hatemi, his wife and his driver, Jabar Ridha al-Hatemi. The tribe, fully armed because they were travelling at night, then assaulted the checkpoint to avenge their fallen chief." - Patrick Cockburn, The Waco of Iraq? US "Victory" Against Cult Leader was a Massacre, CounterPunch, January 31, 2007.

Why was he killed? In an act of remarkable courage, the Hawatim had declared themselves opposed to the occupation-induced war between Sunni and Shiite. Far from being the mythical centuries-old struggle portrayed by the corporate media, the Shiite-Sunni civil war of today is primarily a consequence of the American occupation. The one unforgiveable crime in the current Iraq is to cry out for peace.

"Members of another tribe called Khaza'il living in Zarga tried to stop the fighting but they themselves came under fire. Meanwhile, the soldiers and police at the checkpoint called up their commanders saying they were under attack from al-Qai'da with advanced weapons. Reinforcements poured into the area and surrounded the Hawatim tribe in the nearby orchards. The tribesmen tried - in vain - to get their attackers to cease fire.

American helicopters then arrived and dropped leaflets saying: 'To the terrorists, surrender before we bomb the area.' The tribesmen went on firing and a US helicopter was hit and crashed killing two crewmen. The tribesmen say they do not know if they hit it or if it was brought down by friendly fire. The US aircraft launched an intense aerial bombardment in which 120 tribesmen and local residents were killed by 4am on Monday." - Patrick Cockburn, ibid.

The final count was 263 dead, plus a lie swallowed whole by the corporate media. Do we have a choice? Do we want to be free again?