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. Because to learn you need to realize that you were either ignorant, or that your current information has been proven wrong. But that’s not a loss because the new idea expands our understanding. So thanks for even entertaining the idea that maybe your sister’s not just emotional, but that she might also be wise as well.
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 when people transgressed I felt harsh punishment was in order. I remember when I was about 10 saying 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 today because now I know 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 they functioned. What software was running on their hardware was only incidental to me in the beginning. And yet now that fact is my ultimate point: what we call that person is really that software. Meaning it’s malleable. It’s changeable. We were originally programmed by others and we absolutely can and do become different people. We just have to start doing it 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 you’re 100% “successful” and your $200,000 “smart bomb” hits just the right house at just the “right” time and you “only” kill three people—your 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.” But here’s what really happened:
As ugly as the actual terrorist inside that house might be, he is simultaneously a son, a dad, a friend, a neighbour, a brother, an uncle, and a mentor. He will certainly have done kind and compassionate things in his life just as the soldiers on our side have. And the same goes for the 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.
They very well may have been on your side just before that bomb hit. But now you’re the people who killed their loved one. And so your bomb sort-of splashes outward, soaking a circle of loved ones with hatred and bitterness. So each time you drop a bomb your enemy gets larger and stronger. You sister isn’t against it because it’s bombing, she’s against it because it doesn’t work. It’s illogical. If you’ll pardon me for being extremely direct, bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity. It doesn’t make sense.
I get that it’s frustrating and you just want it over. That’s a very compassionate compulsion. But it’s the same one the violent people on the other side of the argument are using. We must fight a principled battle lest we become what we are fighting against. We are not against other people. We’re against hateful ideas. If we can change the idea without killing the person, all the better. Because when we kill the person, we splash the idea.
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 toward 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.
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. 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 fight back, period. 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’s what wars are built on.
Meditate on that. I’ll bet you change your view and that you like the new one better than your old one. I know it felt a lot nicer in my own life when my reduced judgments because it also translated to fewer and fewer enemies and fewer and fewer frustrating experiences. I do hope you respect her enough to at least give it an earnest try.
Thanks again for considering another idea. I hope you have yourself a great day.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.