Nonviolence in a Violent World

July 27, 2009

This is a difficult subject, I ask in my interior for inspiration to surround these words and a our understanding.

What is the problem? If I am attacked, if I am criticized, and if I am subjected to any form of aggression, how can I defend myself without violence? How can I restrain a force if I do not oppose it with a similar force? If a power wants to squash me or my group,and in addition, it defames me in the mass media, what is left for me to do to restrain the violence in some way? How can I be gentle and yet face this strong violence?
Nobody wants the violence, but as the violence is exerted over oneself, its utility is always justified. Violence that is used to restrain violence has the smell of legitimacy. We hear it said,”Nonviolence is fine when we are around civilized people, but while we have brutes in front of us, this nonviolent person should be quiet, so we can put order in this disorder”. I believe this is more or less the subject in question. How to be nonviolent in the middle of a violent world?

Violence is not something in our way of life that we can just put aside as easy as that. It is a form of social action that comes from far back in human history; it is a reaction to the fear and an environment that is quite natural and quite animal. Violence has deep roots in us and it is not something to eradicate by decree. The social organization is based on violence. Violence is monopolized by the state, and ultimately by the armies. When society enters a state of panic, the armies react. When fear seizes a person, violence also seizes them. About ourselves, we can say that we are good and pacifistic people; but if suddenly something puts what is mine in danger, something which gives me stability, if anyone enters furtively to snatch it from me, the violence emerges from the tectonic layers of my consciousness and that same violence replaces me and occupies my body and it will soon react. If what attacks me is very powerful, then I contain my violence which is transformed into resentment and hatred which will then look for its revenge. There it waits, for the culturally sheltered revenge, to satisfy itself when the opportunity appears.

Perhaps some of us who live immersed in the violent society, can say that they are free of it. Perhaps we do not practice violence. In the origins of Nonviolence, one Mr. Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha, decided to arrive to the ultimate consequences of not practicing violence. Thus he could not walk, so as to not step on the ants that might be beneath his step, and in 30 years thus feeding himself with difficulty and without moving, he obtained illumination.

Today some Jains, who inherit the lessons of Mahavira, sweep the ground in front of where they walk, before stepping on it. In order not to exert violence in the middle of a violent system, we could not pay or receive salaries, leave all state regulations aside, and not pay taxes because with those taxes, the states arm themselves to the teeth, etc. So, we would have to isolate ourselves totally from society and surely that instead of calling us mystical, they would lock us up in their insane asylums.

The violence is everywhere. The operation, manipulation, and discrimination are also forms of violence that are accumulated in those that suffer until they physically explode. The rate of financial interest for health insurance, for education and for housing are also a form of violence. When the riots happen in the soccer fields, in China with the religious ethnic groups or the Peruvian Amazon, it surprises us because we do not see the accumulation of those other forms of violence which these populations are subjected to. The opposite side is always the violent one, while the side you are on is just, and obligated to use violence.

This is not easy to change, it is a belief that is ingrained. We intuit that the violence does not correspond with the human, although we suspect that it is something that is dragged from our hominid ancestors; yet we do not see a possibility of getting away from it. In addition, what would be the reason for leaving it. Like it or not, humanity has arrived here and it has not been necessary to eradicate it. It has been possible to control it, to direct the violent impulses, and a justice system has been established that can be used with a certain rationality. Some die when violence gets out of control, but we will all die someday, for one reason or another. There must be a very powerful reason in order to change this direction of the consciousness.

Sometimes that mantle of suffering and pain that covers our life is crossed by rays that illuminate spaces of liberty, of solidarity, of friendship, of love, in you; you who are very worthwhile, at times, much more than that. Sometimes a new world appears before my eyes, and I see myself and I do not recognize myself, it seems that I am not me, but happiness invades me and that makes me think that everything is not fear, everything is not suffering, everything is not violence. If only that ray that crosses me at times could widen the hole in the mantle that traps me and that traps us; if that were possible, everything would be very different. If that were possible, life would have a meaning to be lived.

We are speaking of the fundamental themes of human life. The reflection of the violence confronts us with the non-meaning of life and if my life does not have meaning and if everything ends with death, there will not be sufficient energy to attempt a human leap.

Silo, who is very important in the present formulation of this problem, initiated his message in 1969, explaining that a violent mantle has extended itself in humanity and there is no way to get away from it. The violence is in one’s own consciousness, its root is suffering and one suffers from the fear of solitude, the fear of disease and the fear of death. This fear we try to resolve through our desires, our illusions and hopes. Yet, while our desires become more disproportionate, it also greatly increases our suffering and our violence. Thus Silo initiated his teachings and later he would present the parable of the cart of desire, with its wheels called pleasure and pain and a horse called Necessity. When the cart of desire was over loaded, the horse became exhausted. Over the years, these ideas have found extensive development in a philosophy, a psychology and in a mysticism.

Fear, the nothing, and death are what give substance to violence, with that, it is done. But it is not the fear that is fundamental to the human. It is not death which gives meaning, but rather the necessity of immortality and transcendence. If the spark of immortality were kept in the depth of the human heart, like a sleeping red hot coal that needs a breath of air to be ignited, and if that breath ignited it suddenly, it would want to go out of its distant world to color the human world. If one action did not have the same effect as another, why is it that certain actions ignite the internal fire and others extinguishes it. What if the human being were the tinder in which there nests the divine spark and human action were the stone that ignited it, and if that inner fire were so intense it would illuminate all of the world I see? If everything were bathed in a fire of essence and meaning and filled me to overflowing from my feet to my head, I would never want to put it out. An act is moral because it ignites the divine spark in the interior of the being.

Nonviolence is a style of life, a search for the sacred, and the manifestation of what is truly human. It is not simply a political act, it is mainly a moral act, a search for a new human being, it is the presence of the future, it is the encounter with a being who is still not there. Nonviolence is the force that will transform the world because I will transform myself in order to not become those with whom I struggle.

Every time it is more difficult for me to explain this theme. Can I say that I am sincere. I cannot give a class, I do not know how I would act if I were placed in a situation of violence. It is not a dogma either, I cannot demand of another to act as I see fit, I can only decide my own form of action. Every day I feel obliged and pressured to take sides, to take positions that I do not like; each decision, each action is a reference for some one who is near me, and for those who observe me, my decisions are important. I cannot judge what others do, I am not sure of anything being right, nor what is better for others and for society. I look for another thing, there is something more and I want that something to express itself in my action. I do not want to exert violence, I do not want to be part of the groups that exert it and try to find a way, although I often find myself trapped in a group. I want it to be expressed in my actions as something new, something different, the best feelings. I do not want to collaborate with knowledge that leads to destruction, I want to jump over my resentment and I want that these most beautiful feelings be expressed when I am with others. I do not want to impose my truths, but I want to feel free to be able to act in agreement with them. In the situation of oppression which I live in daily, I want to find the internal freedom to act like a human being, to recognize the human being in others, and through my action to call, to make it appear, and if it is not possible to make it appear in the present, to leave the thread of an action that could be recognized in the future, an action which says that it is possible for the human to be expressed. But I cannot choose for you, just as you cannot choose for me. So just as I cannot choose for you, I also cannot judge you, but do not ask me to accompany you, do not ask that I give you a guarantee, I will take my election and I will void the power, I will improve myself so that it no longer interests me, I will surpass my desires for power, I will learn to step back and I will try for my actions to show something that still does not exist, but that will exist in the future. My action will announce the world to come, the human being of the future.

I listen carefully to the plans of The World March for Peace and Nonviolence, they are gentle, and do not resound like military drums, they are soldiers that no one will conquer, but there I recognize the echo of what has been searched for, something longed for, something that makes life worth while.

Thank you my friends,
Dario Ergas, July 18th, 2009 to The Laura Rodriguez Foundation

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