Can you explain to my brother that you can’t just bomb all the terrorists to death? It drives me crazy that his idea of making peace is to kill everyone that disagrees with him.
Dear Brother of Frustrated,
If you’re actually reading this then let me start off by thanking you for being an open-minded person. It’s always baffled me how people could argue they were smart, and yet they were so closed-minded that they effectively prevented themselves from learning.
To learn demands that we either encounter brand new information about things we have no opinion on or; we realize that we were ignorant to some important fact or; we learn that our current information has been proven wrong or illogical.
Fortunately, having that happen is not a loss because the new idea expands our understanding. Afterwards we know more and we can be even more more confident in what we know because we recently verified it. So thanks for even entertaining the idea that maybe your sister’s not just emotional, but that she might also be wise as well. I promise I won’t ask you to believe anything you can’t verify yourself.
First off, let me say that I get why you can see violence as a solution. I started my life feeling like that. My mom was strict. And I believed in her, so I listened carefully. It made me a bit strident as a kid. And that led me to the idea that when people transgressed, harsh punishment felt appropriate to that way of thinking about it.
I remember when I was really young, I briefly had the idea that; if we just killed all of the prisoners in jail once and for all, the world would be just fine. That idea seems insanely funny to me later, today because that’s a ridiculously indefensible idea. I just didn’t know enough about people when I formed that view.
Like most people, I mostly knew me. I hadn’t given a lot of thought yet to other people. My accident just caused me to study how the mind functioned in principle. What individual software was running on anyone’s hardware was only incidental to me in the beginning. But later I realized that what we call a ‘person’ is really just the ‘software’ they are running.
Since it’s only code, that reminds us that it’s malleable. It’s changeable. We were originally programmed by others and we absolutely can and do become different people throughout our lifetimes, otherwise no one could grow or mature. But at some point in life we must become masters of our own minds and we must use them more consciously.
So what’s this got to do with why you shouldn’t bomb people? Because 99.7% of the world is overwhelmingly unconscious in their daily life. Meaning they’re going to act based on their egos, not on their spiritual nature. So who are these egos that are getting bombed?
So let’s say we’re 100% ‘successful’ in our war and our $200,000 ‘smart bomb’ (oxymoron) hits just the ‘right’ house at just the ‘right’ time and we ‘only kill three people.’ Let’s say we got our target (who’s an actual member of a group with a cruel and controlling agenda); the school teacher who was walking past the house at that moment; and her son who she was walking to class.
Military spokespeople would describe this as a ‘successful strike with a ‘high benefit ratio’ because there was a minimum of collateral damage sustained in obtaining an extremely valuable target.’ And all of that’s true in fact. But here’s what really happened:
As ugly as the actual terrorist inside that house might be, they are ultimately fighting for some cause that makes sense from their perspective. And while they are doing that, to other people, they are also simultaneously a sons, dads, a friend, a neighbour, a brother, an uncle, or a mentor.
In every lifetime every human being does countless kind and compassionate things that they –nor we– ever account for. And the same goes for the innocent teacher and her child. And each of their friends, family and loved ones will look to the death of the little boy and they will see the pointlessness of the death.
They will feel the stolen potential. The weddings that never happen, the grandchildren that will never come. And such an enormous theft makes the thieves into barbarians. There is no logic or geopolitical argument that fixes that. There is just pain and the fear of a future without the ability to love their child. And that fear and pain soon becomes hate, no matter who we are or where we live.
One of the saddest aspects of that logical reaction is that those people may very well may have been on our side just before our bomb hit. That leaves us as the people who killed their loved one. And so our bomb sort-of splashes outward, soaking a circle of loved ones with hatred and bitterness. Each time we drop a bomb our enemy gets larger and stronger.
In the end this is a practical, tactical issue. You sister isn’t against the bombing because it’s bombing. She’s against it because it doesn’t solve the underlying problem, it exacerbates it. So if you’ll pardon me for being extremely direct, bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity. It doesn’t make literal sense. Bombs have too much blowback.
I get that situations like this can be maddeningly frustrating and that we all want a fast and/or easy solution. That’s a very compassionate compulsion. But it’s the same one the violent people on the other side of the argument are using. That is a dangerous tack to take. Remember, Hitler’s excuse for the horrific crimes he committed was that he thought he was saving the world.
That’s how dangerous getting the wrong idea can be. It can make you the worst human being in history. That’s why we must fight a principled battle lest we become what we are fighting against. We do not need to be against other people or cultures. We just have to dismantle hateful ideologies with compassion and respect.
If we can change the idea within a person, without killing the person, all the better. Because when we kill the person, we splash the idea. It’s like a mini-bomb. The only way to win a battle is to change the hearts and minds of our enemies. We want to shift them away from divisive, hateful, judgmental thinking and towards where they can appreciate the similarities in our objectives and theirs.
Everyone wants to live a good life and they want the world to operate well too. But we have different definitions of what defines those things. So rather than converting everyone to one idea with violence from either side, we instead must develop tolerance for each others ideas; including those whose views we feel are crazy and dangerous. In fact, especially including those whose views we feel are crazy and dangerous. They remind us we’re still allowing people to be free.
You know your sister. She’s a good person or she wouldn’t have sent her question in. It’s of no benefit to her. She’s trying to help people she’s never even met. That kind of generosity can never be a bad thing. So just consider if what I said makes sense.
If you need a thought experiment to do that, just think about how you would suddenly feel about China if they were actually lobbing bombs into your city and killing your friends? You would likely fight back. You wouldn’t do any deep philosophical questioning of yourself to see if maybe your side was wrong. You would just be hurt, angry and then attack. Just like them.
That action and forever reaction game of ping pong is what wars are built on. Every solution (read: bomb) creates five new enemies, minimum. It’s good for us all to meditate on that. If you do, and if you do it earnestly, then I feel confident that logic alone would see you changing your view. And you’d do that because you knew for sure that approaching things peacefully ends things faster and with less money spent and people killed.
I was little and it was a long time ago, but I remember it felt a lot nicer in my own life when my reduced judgments and accepted that violence bred violence. That translated to fewer and fewer enemies and fewer and fewer frustrating experiences. I do hope you respect your sister to at least giver her philosophy an earnest try.
Thanks again for considering another idea. I hope you have yourself a great day.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.