For years, my primary spiritual practice was Achalanatha, who in Buddhism is rendered as a protector of the right of women to become enlightened, although I was trained in a Hindu lineage, where such a right is not even conceivably questionable, by an extraordinarily ferocious female teacher, a Grandmother from Hell if you will.
Anyway, this is an aside. If you look at the face of that particular deity, it is the face of implacable rage. I’ve worn that face in places you would not believe. I have been, at times, the embodiment of the Wrath of God, or at least as close as 20 years of spiritual practice can get you in a pinch, which is close enough for government work.
So I know how to get angry, and yet retain the cutting edge of my intellect in the midst of rage. It’s a very, very scary combination, and not something that I unleash for less than 1% mortality, generally speaking. It’s a weapon of last resort.
I want to explain why I’m not using it.
People sometimes ask me why I haven’t thrown my weight behind protests or revolution. The answer is simple. I don’t know what to do next.
I’m angry. I’m angry enough to kill, if it would solve the world’s problems. That’s a problem, and its a fact. The problem is there is no target. I’m angry enough to kill, but I’m mentally clear enough to know that it will not and cannot help. I don’t know if Gandhi was angry and had resolve, or simply did not metabolize anger into violence, or was not angry, but nothing makes my real state of spiritual development as clear to me as my disposition towards violence. Carrying such anger is a spiritual function, perhaps someone has to do it, but the very high, very clear people do not; ergo I am not one such. Yet even as I look at the economic genocide and the ecocidal nature of the civilization we are in, I do not go Derrick Jensen.
I want to explain why not. Right now, violence won’t solve anything. The threat of violence might compel change or protect green shoots of change in some instances, but we don’t have problems which can be solved at gun point. We have global problems, and nobody has a big enough gun. It may well be that the Gandhian insight is that violence is never the answer, but if that’s the case, I have not realized it for myself yet. All I know is that right now violence is going to be intensely counter-productive, and we should not commit it. It may well be that I’ll always feel that way, because the situation will simply never be right, and that would be an engineering approximation to Gandhi’s insight.
I am on the side of peace, even wrong, unjust peace, for the time being.
I don’t know if that will ever change. Perhaps if I lived in a genocide zone, and it was outside my door. Perhaps if there was a revolution who’s values I completely believed in as a genuine, deep, permanent solution to the problems of industrialization and ultratechnology. There are a lot of perhapses. But right now, and for the foreseeable future, I remain a murderously angry man of peace.
It’s not an easy position to hold, but if anybody is looking for a navigational steer, particularly in the context of possible large scale political violence in America in response to (for example) perceived electoral fraud or Constitutional challenge, that’s my steer.
No violence that cannot be committed with a completely clear head, evaluating the costs and benefits in a fair-minded manner. Practically speaking, that may become a very close approximation to no violence, ever if one is mentally clear enough.
I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
You don’t have to be a good person to practice non-violence. You just have to refuse to pick up the gun when the opportunity to become that kind of a part of history is passed to you. As Timothy Leary once said, when asked about Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign
“It should be ‘Just Say No Thank You’! It’s terrible how they don’t teach good manners any more!”
We need a global cooperative solution, not the ecological and social justice versions of Baader-Meinhoff, urban guerillas playing into reactionary hands. We need to design a feasible one-planet lifestyle for everybody (see), and until that is designed, prototyped and implemented on a fairly wide scale, no amount of kicking against “the system” is any more than sawing off the branch we are all sitting on: it’s stupid and dumb, and could destroy the resources we need for a global cooperative resolution to our world’s problems.
I’m speaking more about concrete politics, rather than my more abstract previous work, because I sense than in the next year (or, given my typical prescience, later this decade) these kinds of issues are going to matter. I want you to know that I’ve been giving them deep thought now, and this is my conclusion.
Violence which will not solve the problem is stupid, needless killing.
Right now, no path exists by which violence can solve the problem.
Therefor, and possibly always, violence remains stupid and needless.
(*refer to that link if you want to understand why I term Gandhi “Emperor” – it is partly humorous)