I think I felt much as most people felt when the news of what happened in Paris last weekend trickled in. The mounting death toll was a thing of horror. As the news came in over the next few hours I felt many emotions, so when it was announced that the French military was launching air raids against IS, I was right there.
But then I started to remember my beliefs and asked the question – “How could this be a solution?” I have learned enough about power struggles to recognise that we need to rise above them. There is no right or wrong, no winner or loser in a true step forward. In all that has gone on in the Middle East over the past decade it seems few lessons have been learnt. In fact we seem to compound one bad decision with another again and again. We also know that two people or two groups or even two countries in a fight actually feel the same thing and deep down, and often want the same thing. IS want the destruction of us, infidels, and we want their destruction. Both sides are being equally right about their positions, so doesn’t that make us the same? We might claim the higher moral ground doing our killing in a more remote form, but it is still killing. Their bombing is barbaric and psychopathic, whilst ours is ‘shock and awe’. There will be no winning of this fight, so the only solution is to rise above this dynamic by setting out a higher ideal than the desire of the destruction of our opponents.
I was curious about my reaction of wanting to strike back. What was driving my reaction? Everything we do, everything a government does, is because of what we feel. Fundamentalism is driven by guilt. Guilt makes us aggressive and justifies our belief that it is okay to attack people who don’t believe the same as us. It did not take me long to see my guilt and aggression about attacking others. Many of us hide this guilt under righteousness, and we use this to justify attacking others. To me, the driver of these events is guilt, two groups feeling really guilty trying to destroy each other.
The other powerful emotion that is prevalent over this last decade is the feeling of powerlessness. When these events happen around the world, especially at such soft targets, we feel powerless as we watch these horrors unfold. We hate to feel powerless, so the desire to strike back is overpowering. When we order revenge attacks on empty buildings what we are doing is trying to prove we are not powerless, a few bombs or guns enables us to hide that feeling of powerlessness. Naturally, when we respond in this way our enemies also feel powerless, so they plot to strike back.
I know what I am writing about is not common thinking but there is a growing movement of people looking for a better way, looking for solutions to this cycle of victim/victimiser. I was moved by the TV interview with an American mother who did not cheer the death of her son’s executioner in Syria. I also remembered the story of the Tibetan monk who, when released after many years in a Chinese jail said that at one point he nearly lost his compassion. When asked for whom this compassion was for he replied that it was for his jailers, his abusers.
People are brutal because they have been brutalised, people are merciless because no-one has shown them any mercy. The idea that bombing the ‘sh*t’ out of some people is any solution, is in itself, horrendous.
I trust that one day we will find our way out of these conflicts, the leaders we need to move us out of this dark age of violence will show up. It is only a matter of time that we evolve in consciousness and find the meaningful answers that bring about concrete solutions. Everyday as we look at the world we are presented with choices and the events in Paris offer us the most fundamental of choices – the choice for love or hate. There is no middle road between these two, it is a crossroad that will define the rest of our lives.
Yes, there are horrors in this world and the question is what will end these:
What lessons do we need to learn?
What is it we are being asked to heal?
Who are we being asked to forgive?