Who Needs War?

Twenty years ago when so many of us were protesting against the looming invasion of Iraq by US/UK forces, a group of us in Edinburgh produced a leaflet with the title ‘Who Needs War?’ Of course, we were thinking of those who profit from war in various ways. Whether politicians who want to look ‘strong’ and able to ‘defend’ the nation or corporations who depend on oil flowing in  Southwest Asia or those who make vast sums from the production of weapons, we were pointing our fingers at others.

Looking back, I wonder if in accusing others, we might have been ignoring something about ourselves…

There is a teaching that when we point one finger at someone, we have three fingers pointing back to ourselves. In our fierce opposition to war, were we not in a way declaring war upon war? I cannot speak for the others in the collective who produced the flyer, but for myself I am aware that I greatly relished being right about war being wrong. I was heart-broken and furious about the devastation caused by war and hurting deeply from my own experience of growing up in a culture of war. But I certainly did not wish to sit with those feelings, to honour them, understand them and release them. No, I was an angry young man who was mostly in denial about being angry. I just wanted to be right.

The desire to be right, like the desire to win, is one way to disconnect from others and from ourselves. 

In her now classic novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, the wise revolutionary Ursula K Le Guin wrote ‘To oppose something is to maintain it… To be sure, if you turn your back on [something] and walk away from it, you are still on the [same] road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.’ By being anti-war, I was defining myself in terms of war. In other words, I was one of the ones who needed war. I needed something to oppose to try to create a story of who I was. At the time, I couldn’t even see the possibility of another road…

The trouble is, identity based on opposition is shaky ground. In this story, we don’t know who we are, only what we don’t want to see, what we don’t want to be. And it encourages those who are perceived as being on the other side of the conflict to also reinforce their position. Just as in a battle. Both sides arm and armour themselves. And thus the cycle continues.

If we wish to see the end of war in the world, perhaps the answer is not to hate war. Not to oppose war. But instead to fall so deeply in love with peace that we no longer feed the pattern of war. Not even the wars within our own minds where we declare another (or some aspect of ourselves) to be an enemy. We could perhaps walk another road together. We could choose peace instead.

It can be helpful to recognise that conflict, drama and stress can be highly addictive. Why do you think so much of the media, including not only books and movies but also what is called ‘the news’,  relies heavily on adrenaline-fuelled storylines? We could even say there is a Dis-ease Industrial Complex. Those of us who grew up in high stress environments can become so used to stress that we come to expect it and, oft-times, unwittingly generate it. It can be our comfort zone. But it’s not our growth zone. It’s peace that allows for growth. Real growth. Ease is a medicine that heals dis-ease. Peace is a medicine that heals the separation at the root of war, inequality and the like.

I’m grateful to Joy Harjo, renowned poet of the Muscogee Creek Nation and three times Poet Laureate of the United States, for observing that relationships on all scales can change when we allow our hearts to open not only to others, but also to ourselves.

This Morning I Pray for My Enemies

And whom do I call my enemy?

An enemy must be worthy of engagement.

I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.

It’s the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.

The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.

It sees and knows everything.

It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.

The door to the mind should only open from the heart.

An enemy who gets in, risks the danger of becoming a friend. 

– Joy Harjo

‘The concept for I Pray for My Enemies began’ says Harjo, ‘with an urgent need to deal with discord, opposition. It could have been on a tribal, national or a personal level. I no longer remember. The urgency had a heartbeat and in any gathering of two or more, perhaps the whole planet, our hearts lean to entrainment – that is, to beat together.’

In these sad times where the horrors of war have returned to Southwest Asia, perhaps now is the time for our hearts to come together to beat in peace. 


Joy Harjo’s poem ‘I Pray for My Enemies’ is included in the collection Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (Norton, 2015) and the spoken word album I Pray for My Enemies (Mekko Records, 2021)

The quote about the album comes from her website

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  1. SteveH says:

    The sentiment is very noble, but unrealistic with humankind being at the stage of evolution it is.

    We learn from the biological scientists that we have within us two sentient brains, the animal (emotional) and the human (logical and analytical). We learn from psychologists, philosophers and theologians many ways of looking at human thinking and behaviour – much of it ugly.

    We also know that many humans have deeply dangerous traits and psychopathies. We know that crowds are routinely mad, herd-like and dangerous.

    Violence is a natural part of life.

    Western society has been fortunate in that most young people have not experienced the violence of war for a few generations . How many of them who have grown up with “Call of Duty” can really understand the extreme terror and anger that real combat can bring.

    History tells us the reality of humankind’s constant competition for resources and the fear and dislike of otherness. Even the critical social justice warriors or trans-activists routinely behave aggressively and violently against those who do not share their ideology. “Kill a Terf” isn’t exactly evidence of kindness or love.

    Ideas of maintaining peace simply because a lot of people want it are sadly as unworkable as “luxury beliefs”.

    The extreme person-on-person violence we saw from the Hamas terrorists on their Israeli victims shows the depth of barbarism to which human brings can sink. We saw it with ISIS. We saw it with Hitler and Stalin.

    I’m sorry, but the proverb “speak softly, but carry a big stick” is the best humanity can currently aspire to.

    Sure, using commonly agreed laws and working for peace should be our goal, but making yourself vulnerable by disarming or turning the other cheek is a sure way to win the Darwin extinction award.

    1. Vishwam Heckert says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Steve. Growing up in cultures of domination, we are taught that humans are inherently dangerous and that there is no alternative to violence. Could it be something about our culture that is simply in need of healing?

      You might like to listen to this short talk by indigenous activist Lyla June who suggests that other ways of living are possible.


      Wishing you well,

      1. SteveH says:

        My knowledge of our dangerous world comes from first hand interaction with people from totalitarian states.

        States where dissenting and disagreement provokes severe retribution. Where acceptance of unfairness and injustice are the norm.

        In the West we have grown accustomed to freedoms and safety, such that we have become complacent.

        Hard times create strong men.
        Strong men create good times.
        Good times create weak men.
        Weak men create hard times.

        We are in a time of good times and weak men in the West facing a world full of hard men unencumbered by morality or softness.

        Hitler wasn’t beaten by men devoted to non-aggression, but by men who knew that they had to be as hard as their opponents.

        We are now weakened by misguided ideology based on identity politics and a notion of critical social justice that is self-indulgent and self-destructive.

        Orwell reminds us:

        “We sleep soundly in our beds, because rough men stand ready in the night to do violence on those who would harm us”

        Hamas has now discovered that Israel has such men who are determined to keep their people safe.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @SteveH, we get that you’re a man who likes to bunk with other men, but where did you get that supposed quote from Orwell? It seems to be a misquotation or misattribution, judging by online sources. I’m not discounting the possibility that you’ve read a book.

          Hitler was beaten by Allies who successfully mobilised women, certainly a decisive factor not only in the decisive Second Front where the bulk of war-winning was done by the Communist Red Army of the Soviet Union, but in China, in the UK and USA and elsewhere, in the resistance and partisan movements, in the anti colonial struggles (particularly against the Japanese), in the munitions factories, medics and other support services, the codebreaking teams, translators, spies, the SOE agents, and so on. Hitler’s failure to mobilise German women (well, apart from all those forced labourers) until around 1944, when it was too late, is a particular weakness of fascists like Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, and yourself.

          The role of the British professional armed forces in ‘peacetime’ is not to protect the UK population against invasion (indeed, that would suggest nuclear weapons were redundant), instead they are primarily used for imperial adventures abroad, like the SAS death/terror squads currently under investigation. The word ‘Defence’ is a misnomer, as the real George Orwell wrote about Newspeak. Actual defence of the mainland will, as historically, require mass mobilisation of civilians. The idea that anyone should feel safer in their beds because of our British elite forces is of course laughably ludicrous, but in a really sad and disturbing way:

          I think you are also somewhat confused about the composition of the Israeli Defence Force. If you cannot tell men and women apart, this hardly enhances your credibility in the trans debate. However, I am not doubting the intimate knowledge of evil you comfort-blanket Jingoists all seem to have, although I doubt it is too difficult to suppose the reason for that.

        2. Sandy Watson says:

          Seems to me that ‘hard men’ who are good would not oppress people and occupy their territory

        3. Vishwam Heckert says:

          Thank you, Steve, for sharing your perspective. Interestingly, this quote just appeared in my inbox from my friend Matt Colborn – https://mattcolborn.substack.com/p/a-dream-of-world-peace-as-climate – which seems relevant to our discussion.

          “That oppression corrupts the oppressors is well enough known. That resistance to oppression can profoundly change those resisting, and for the worse, is less widely recognised— particularly among those who give that resistance their sympathy and solidarity. The ennobling part of resistance—of standing up, of fighting back, of driving the invader from the homeland—is seen and celebrated. The corrupting aspect— the hardening of the heart, the acceptance of casualty and atrocity, the replacement of the moral calculus with a cold-eyed calculation of advantage, of revenge and reprisal—is put out of mind, and sometimes for the best of reasons. That too is part of the damage done.”

          – Ken MacLeod in his 2014 Introduction to Ursula Ke Le Guin’s book The Word for Worlds is Forest

          1. John says:

            You are indeed practising what you preach in your polite reply to Steve H. Even a cursory reading of his posts show he is a former soldier how is now obsessed with fighting culture wars.
            He has a virulent hatred of immigrants, graduates and trans people. If you disagree with him you are usually called a Neo- Marxist (a favourite term of alt- right for those that don’t agree with him).
            I personally have found trying reasoned discussion with him a futile experience as I am tolerant to most things except the type of hatred and intolerance which Steve H has by the bucketload. I tip my hat to you for being able to undertake discourse with someone who exhibits none of the humanity you project in such a calm and reasonable manner.

          2. Vishwam Heckert says:

            Thank you, John, for your kind observation. I understand wanting to reject hate. It’s an uncomfortable emotion, in ourselves and in others. The more we can open to discomfort, the more we can connect. It seems to me that connection is the key to transformation and liberation.

            We might also feel compassion for someone who has been through the horrors and trauma of war and recognise that they are more than their beliefs, more than their aggressive defensiveness and more than our idea of them. Perhaps we might take off all the labels we’ve put on them and all the labels we’ve put on ourselves so that we can really connect.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    I am reminded of the discussion between two of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Watch characters on what war might be good for.

    In Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent, Priyamvada Gopal writes that CLR James stressed the importance of the successful Haitian Revolution in ending Caribbean slavery. Similarly, anticolonial uprisings eventually forced the British to relinquish much of its Empire. I hadn’t even heard of some of the conflicts mentioned in the book:

    I would caution against falling into any kind of absolutism which can quickly become a trap in pacifism. Sometimes fighting back is the only realistic way of resisting genocide, emancipating a people from slavery or a group from oppression, or defending against imperial invaders or settler colonialists. So it’s no wonder Sarge found it difficult to argue with Nobby.

    But clearly war is often waged for evil reasons, and Smedley D Butler’s War is a Racket is one of many testimonies to this.

    1. Vishwam Heckert says:

      Thank you, SleepingDog, for your thoughtful comments as ever. There was a large scale study done of revolutions which showed that not only were peaceful revolutions more likely to succeed, the culture afterwards was healthier than after violent revolutions. The Zapatistas seem to demonstrate something unusual where their movement is largely peaceful but also has guns available for self defence when needed. International solidarity, however, and depth of spiritual practice and community connection, is what largely seems to keep them relatively safe.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Vishwam Heckert, there may be reasons why states and empires geared to particular types of violence tend to come out on top in violent struggles, and certainly I agree that violence tends to obscure political messages, lead to further injustices/negative patterns and attract violent people (all these and more are behind the anarchist switch from propaganda of the deed to propaganda of the word). However, I would be reluctant to patronise other people’s struggles. In terms of a continuum of militancy, it is likely that in any given struggle there will be a radical flank, and this may have significant effects on its conduct and outcomes:
        so attributing success to one particular strand within a struggle is probably not sound: the mix, the interactions, the events count more.

        Of course, in an Empire like the British, the colonial authorities were very keen to be seen to benevolently grant concessions after ponderous deliberation rather than given in to uprisings, since uprisings can spread (they greatly feared), and they could suppress much reporting of unrest. So I think there is a whitewashed history where violent anti-colonialism was more of a problem for colonial authorities than official records show, and this needs to be taken into account. Official propaganda tends to say the natives were largely happy with colonial rule unless stirred up by outsiders or the educated (this seems to have always been a lie: humans resist oppression, and the more oppressed at the bottom resist more).

        1. Sandy Watson says:

          You know, this thread has given rise to a fair bit of theorising and some of us having read and experienced some stuff relevant to it like to express that in our intelligent ways. But you know what? Biden doesn’t give shit about that. Netanyahu doesn’t give shit about that. Westminster doesn’t give shit about that. Watch what happens.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Sandy Watson, ‘tactics require observation’ is a quote from somebody Civilization VI used, and you can see patterns without theorising. In biology, successful social species tend to need violence-reduction approaches otherwise they would depopulate, and cheat-reduction approaches to punish or deter antisocial behaviour. These behaviours too can be observed.

            The overriding problem with the non-planetary-realistic ideologies of Abrahamic religions (especially Armageddonist varieties) and of catastrophe capitalism, of Biden, Netanyahu, most Westminster politicians, is the harm they do and threat they pose to all life, human or otherwise, and the War on Nature they are waging, which includes racism and misogyny and speciesism.

            Failing to resist the War on Nature, disdaining to fight on behalf of non-humans, is an ethical abandonment of horrific proportions. Expecting non-human life to put together a non-violent resistance is as bonkers a non-planetary-realistic ideology as the others mentioned. Topically, the South African episode of Why Does Everyone Hate the British Empire features armed anti-poacher forces defending the dwindling rhino population. The polarisation is expected to increase, perhaps with increasingly wild swings as in the Chile constitutional battle.

          2. Vishwam Heckert says:

            Perhaps, Sandy, we might shift focus from so called world leaders and focus on how we might embody peace in our own lives. The more peace in the world, the less violence can rear up. We can all contribute to peace. Thich Naht Hanh is a great teacher of this, among many others.

          3. Sandy Watson says:

            Yes. I certainly seek some kind of peace myself. On occasions when I find some peace I’m aware of how valuable that is.

            How you get that to everyone else, I can’t fathom.

            And I wonder how it fits with various tenets, for example:
            “all that’s required for evil to succeed is that good (men) do nothing”

          4. Vishwam Heckert says:

            What great questions you ask, Sandy! Your first question was something like: How do we help others to be at peace?

            Have you ever been in a place that felt very peaceful? Maybe a church or stone circle or a beautiful part of the forest? Somewhere the peace was palpable? Well, someone who is deeply peaceful themselves had that kind of environment around them. Others can feel it. And it helps us remember that we, too, could choose peace instead of drama. Another path is possible. So perhaps the most helpful thing we can do for the world is allow ourselves to be at peace.

            To respond to the second question, peace is not the same as inactive. We don’t have to be agitated to take action. I’m fact, agitated action is less effective because our attention is scattered. Peace has a kind of focus to it. There’s no wasting energy with worry or overthinking. All the energy is available for what really matters. And so we can Dutch our energy towards effective action to help others. We can embody goodness in the world. With practice and support, this is possible.

          5. Sandy Watson says:

            In that sense, perhaps someone who is inflicting cruelty snd violence on others can be at peace too.

          6. Vishwam Heckert says:

            I am see your logic, Sandy. It seems to be that true peace involves a recognition that we’re all connected. Cruelty is incompatible with peace. Surgery or other interventions that might hurt but are helpful can be performed peacefully.

          7. Sandy Watson says:

            I used to have to deal with conflict in my day job.
            In the heat of a moment, two conflicting groups on the verge of getting physical, a colleague came up with the notion of ‘sufficient consensus’. Not full consensus which could not realistically be achieved, but sufficient consensus to enable moving forward, some progress, making space/time for better understanding, at least by those who really wanted to understand and progress. And it also allows for taking steps back by either side in the conflict.

            I have used this often since.

          8. Vishwam Heckert says:

            Thank you for staying this, Sandy. What a great practice! Sufficient consensus – I’ll remember that.

  3. Sandy Watson says:

    I sense that it is necessary to oppose war *at the same time as* championing peace. To oppose war BY championing peace.

    At every level and stage it’s a matter of choice. There are choices that lead to conflict and war and choices that lead to resolution snd peace.

    Surely, it’s not one way only.

    1. Vishwam Heckert says:

      Thank you, Sandy. I would say that perhaps there are many ways to practice peace. You might like this quote (and book) by Ursula Le Guin:

      “What would that world be, a world without war? It would be the real world. Peace was the true life, the life of working and learning and bringing up children to work and learn. War, which devoured work, learning, and children, was the denial of reality.”

      ― Ursula K. Le Guin, Four Ways to Forgiveness

  4. Satan says:

    Pacifism has been ongoing since the biblical first commandment, which didn’t come with exceptions, or maybe Jainism. Unfortunately, the first commandment has always been a niche sport, along with the arch commandment about pride. They would mean an end to war and terror, which are eternally popular the world over. But it takes more courage to lie with the lions in the Colloseum than to hate people because your tribe tells you to.

    1. Satan says:

      I think that Bulgakov was wrong when he wrote that the best trick the Devil played was to convince people that he didn’t exist. The best trick he played was to convince people that the cardinal sin of Pride is good. Pretty much everyone has fallen for that, and it has killed many millions of people.

      1. Vishwam Heckert says:

        Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree getting caught up in self-centredness causes a lot of suffering. And all spiritual traditions point to a way out of that, although not all followers of spiritual traditions are necessarily interested. Perhaps we can support and inspire each other to remember that we are all connected, all interdependent, all one family.

  5. Tom Ultuous says:

    I get where you’re coming from Vishwam. I remember a line from an easily forgettable film along the lines of “I don’t believe in being right anymore. I just believe in doing right.” which resonated with me.

    1. Vishwam Heckert says:

      Thank you, Tom. I like that. Reminds me of another quote:

      “Be good, do good, be kind, be compassionate.” – Swami Sivananda

  6. SleepingDog says:

    The short documentary series 400 Years: Taking The Knee considers a particular history of resistance:
    “A study of the struggles to tackle the legacies of slavery and colonialism that continue to the present day, and remember the inspirational figures who have led the resistance.”
    The first two figures it covers are Nanny of the Maroons and Toussaint Louverture. If you think non-violence was an option for them, I’d like to understand how. The conflicts were the Jamaican Maroon Wars and the Haitian Revolution.

    Another vital aspect is: will the stronger side keep to its promises? In Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown wrote that every treaty the USA entered into with native Americans it broke (I think around 500 of them). This was often a slow kind of genocide, running in parallel with the quicker kinds.

    Once you understand just what levels of violence European settler colonialists were inflicted on people they came across, the idea of non-violent resistance, appeals to anybody or anything, don’t really make a lot of sense. There is a new series on the Australian Wars that is coming to the BBC in a season looking at ‘international history’ for a change (well, not sure the genocides of the British Empire are not British history).

    1. SleepingDog says:

      OK, I have watched the first episode of the 3-part documentary series The Australian Wars, available now on BBC iPlayer:
      I strongly recommend watching this episode before the Remembrance events this weekend.

      The idea that the native peoples of Australia could ‘choose peace’ with their British colonial invaders (naval officers, marines, penal convicts, land-grabbing settlers etc) seems at best naive, at worst complicit in those atrocities.

      It seems to me that several of those advocating absolute pacifism are like the Monk in Journey to the West (called Tripitaka in the television adaptation Monkey): they have no children nor younger siblings to care for. I suspect there is a corresponding empathy failure. Monkey takes the more integrated view of fighting evil for good purposes, while the Monk is lightly ridiculed as a holy fool.

      This quote from an epic computer game may be fictitious and from a warmonger to boot, but nevertheless true:
      “Proper care and education for our children remains a cornerstone of our entire colonization effort. Children not only shape our future; they determine in many ways our present. Men and women work harder knowing their children are safe and close at hand, and never forget that, with children present, parents will defend their home to the death!
      “Col. Corazon Santiago, ‘Planet: A Survivalist’s Guide’
      “Accompanies the Children’s Creche facility”
      Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri: Spartan Federation

      There is something biologically deficient with parents who won’t fight to protect their children from predatory invaders.
      “He wants the natural touch: for the poor wren,
      The most diminutive of birds, will fight,
      Her young ones in her nest, against the owl.”
      Lady Macduff, Macbeth, A4s2
      Therefore the Australian aboriginal resistance fighters are justly honoured for their organised and armed attempts to defend their homes and especially their children.

      And don’t confuse biologically-necessary anger with hate. Anger, as a recent article reviewing psychological research says, makes certain tasks, not just physical but cognitive, more effective. You can retreat into a funk of mysticism if you want, but remember: Tripitaka was a trusting idiot which is why Buddha provided the Monk with more streetwise bodyguards.

      1. Vishwam Heckert says:

        Pacifism is not passive and mysticism is no retreat. Both are a way of connecting with a deeply alive awareness which is active, vibrant and engaged with life. To allow ones children or ones self to be murdered is not peaceful, not ahimsa – the reverence for all life. No one is saying that. We can, however, see that the indigenous people who fought back against colonisers in the 15th to 19th century were largely slaughtered. Probably they had no idea such intense violence was even possible. Joy Harjo is a contemporary indigenous woman who speaks clearly for the revitalisation of indigenous ways of being. She is not lying down while colonisers walk over her body or the bodies of children. And yet she speaks for peace. Perhaps you cannot dismiss her as easily as you dismiss me. Of course, you can if you want to. She won’t mind.

        Elsewhere I’ve written about the Zapatistas and their revolutionary strategies of self care in the face of attempted genocide. https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2022/02/12/the-heart-of-democracy/

        Training for peace is deeply challenge and requires incredible strength and collective dedication. It is a kind of strength that those who rely primarily on weapons cannot begin to imagine.

        So perhaps you can see that what I am saying is not the caricature which you seem to invent in order to criticise. It is something different.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Vishwam Heckert, I appreciate you troubling to give a reply; perhaps anger was useful in composing it?

          I believe I represented the views of the descendants of indigenous Australians from the Australian Wars accurately, and accurately represented the character of the Monk in Journey to the West, and accurately summarised the uselessness of nonviolent resistance in various types of conflicts.

          I would distinguish the theoretical ideal of ahimsa from historical evidence, just as I would not confuse the Christian ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ commandment with anything Christians have actually done in history (and they’ve done a lot of killing). I understand that Buddhists have been bloody and vicious at times too. I do have a lot of respect for the pacifist writings of the likes of Vera Brittain (Humiliation with Honour; Seed of Chaos), say.

          Your cited poet writes:
          “I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.”
          but the Tasmanian oral testimony quoted says that groups of their ancestors were forced to their deaths over cliffs by British colonial militia when they had nowhere else to go. Eventually many people ran out of land, but the Māori fought the British into a treaty, and some Tasmanians who fought to the end similarly negotiated an escape from genocide, apparently.

          Retreat is not always a bad thing: invaded peoples have often retreated to forests and hills, jungles and swamps, mountains and water margins. In chapter 3 of The Australia Wars, a group of ancestors survived by occupying a region of sharp volcanic rocks that the horses of the British colonial or native police couldn’t walk on. In its imperial wars on IndoChina, the USA firebombed the forests and used defoliants like Agent Orange to deny cover (and also bombed countries not officially in the war, like Cambodia). The Vietnamese partly retreated underground to try to avoid saturation bombing. Sometimes retreating over a border is also practical.

          But retreating into mysticism seems to me unlikely to be helpful. No bomb was ever deflected by prayer, no bayonet by inner peace; no birth defect caused by chemical/biological/radioactive munitions was ever cured by hearts beating together. Or if it was, I require evidence.

          As a trained philosopher, I put great value in winning the argument. But if you’ve won the argument, and your enemies are still intent on destruction, what then? We covered the work of Gene Sharp in a course, but his theory of nonviolent revolution requires the state recognises you as some kind of citizen with rights, which does not apply to the historical examples I’ve given. Indeed, historian Mark Curtis uses the term ‘Unpeople’ to describe those targeted by states for human rights abuses.

          War is not the opposite of peace. The Pax Romana was similar to more modern approaches to pacification. And many kinds of violence can exist without wars (like the domestic violence and abuse of children common in patriarchies imposed by many religions and empires, or horrific forms of slavery which wars and revolts have at times overthrown).

          You will have to provide evidence to back up your claims that your methods are effective in the cases I cover, and not simply ignore the facts that the Zapatistas could retreat into the mountains, highlands, forests, jungles of Chiapas:
          and conduct guerrilla warfare as necessary for defensive (or offensive) objectives.

          1. Vishwam Heckert says:

            Dear SleepingDog,

            Acting angry can be a helpful wake up call for others sometimes. 🙂

            For evidence on the effectiveness of nonviolence, you can check out a careful review undertaken by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan called ‘Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict’ http://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156837

            And thank you for mentioning Vera Brittain. I’d not heard of her before and she looks very inspiring!

            I’m not sure why you return to the metaphor of ‘retreat’ when it comes to mysticism. All the mystics I know are deeply engaged in the world and helping many, many people. They are focused, practical, compassionate, clear and vibrantly alive. Mysticism is not imaginary woo-woo, but a direct experience of something greater than ourselves. I find many of us retreat into our own minds which is the opposite of mysticism. As for evidence of the power of peace, I invite you to do your own research — including the fully embodied and aware research of practice.

            “As a trained philosopher, I put great value in winning the argument.” I was also trained that way and saw it was a dead end. Why would I want to win an argument? What benefit to humanity or the rest of the Earth is that? I wish instead of teaching us to criticise each other and ourselves, more philosophy would point to the wisdom (sophia) of love (philos).

            We are all part of the world – interconnected in numerous ways. We can, as Gandhi demonstrated, be the change.

            Or we can try to be right and see others as wrong and continue to contribute to the spiral of war.

            The choice is here. Personally, I choose peace as much as I am able.

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @ishwam Heckert, my in-depth response seems to have been swallowed without trace, but when you talk about Ahimsa, what are your views on abortion? Abortifacients were sometimes used by enslaved women, for example, to prevent bringing children into chattel slavery:
            Lucy Worsely’s series on Ladykillers featured Margaret Garner, who went one step further. Do you not think that the appalling conditions of racialised chattel slavery merited the violent slave revolts and revolutions and wars that, possibly more than any other causes, eventually brought the system to an end?

          3. Vishwam Heckert says:

            Thank you, SleepingDog, for asking these thoughtful questions. You may notice that the article is not anti-war, anti-insurrection or anti-revolt. It is pro-peace. This is very different.

            Ahimsa, to me, means reverence for all life including ourselves. Being peaceful and loving is not being a doormat. I’ve received this understanding from heart yoga teachers Nischala Joy Devi (in her book The Secret Power of Yoga) and Padma Devi (through years of working together).

            And so when people find ways to break out of oppressive systems, who is anyone to judge? We might also ask, how do we come out of oppressive systems without inadvertently creating new ones? We can see from Israel, today, for example that in trying to escape from an oppressive regime, a new one has been created. There’s no one at fault here. Sometimes trauma reproduces itself. And sometimes it is ready to heal and not create more.

            As for abortion, my personal opinion is that it is up to the person who is pregnant to decide if they are going to stay pregnant or not. Ruining their own life in the name of a potential life doesn’t seem to me to be ahimsa. Of course, abortion isn’t nice for anyone, but it is, in my opinion, sometimes the kindest option.

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