Monday, September 11, 2006

Drumming for peas

Under the Federal Blogging Act of 2004, often referred to for short as the Reynolds-Sullivan Act, all bloggers are required to post something about 9/11/2001.

So here is my post.

Maybe if we had more drumming groups for peas, then the more totally whacked-out followers of the Prophet Mohammed (peas be upon him) would not want to kill us all, and our little dogs too.

Yeah, right.

Speaking magically, I think that rituals "for peace," just like rituals to "heal the earth," are doomed to failure, because humans cannot visualize just what "peace" means. Absence of war? Everyone thinks like me? Salvation by the Space Brothers or Jesus?

Who knows?


Blogger Jason said...

Maybe not "peas", but I wouldn't mind a little more wisdom.

8:28 PM  
Blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Hey, Chas.
Not sure I agree. Even if the only effect of such rituals is self-transformation, that's a place to start. Like Gandhi said, "we must be the change we wish to see in the world."

I think that matters. I'm a lousy Quaker in a lot of ways, being naturally of a fiery temperment. But, OTOH, trying to, essentially, invoke and listen for the spirit of peace week after week actually does seem to be helping with that--I am more grounded and even tempered, and I think I do carry that change into the world with me.

Where we go wrong is equating ritual with activism, or allowing ourselves to feel smug about it. There's the "I did my share" feeling I've seen among a lot of Pagans who perform rituals for the earth or for peace--like doing a ritual is a cosmic excuse note from living a life consistent with those aims, or not thinking any further about what else we properly should do.

A shaman friend of mine says that every trance journey needs to end with some kind of physical act--an offering, a healing, a _something_ --to manifest the vision in the world. We need our ritual work to be like that--take pains to ground it in ordinary reality when the circle is done.


Oh, yeah... I like peas, too. (Just not lima beans. I draw the line at visualizing those.)

6:29 PM  
Anonymous S.M. Stirling said...

Broad beans make me feel peacefull... 8-).

More seriously, conflict and struggle are part of life, just like peace and brotherhood.

The myths are quite accurate on that point -- unless you fluffy-bunny them.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous S.M. Stirling said...

Note also that Gandhian psychological ju-jitsu only works on particular types of people, specifically those who have moral inhibitions about hurting nonresisting people.

This is not an inherent human trait; it's culturally specific and rather exceptional.

When Timur-i-Leng sacked Delhi in the 14th century, his men built a pyramid of 100,000 heads. Nonresistance probably occurred, and just made their job easier.

There's a bit of dialogue in a book I like, where someone is about to be forced to fight a lion for the amusement of a depraved nobleman.

He asks what happens if he refuses.

"Refuse to fight?"


"Well, the audience will be disappointed... but the lion won't mind at all."

9:15 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

"There's a bit of dialogue in a book I like, where someone is about to be forced to fight a lion for the amusement of a depraved nobleman."

Except that in reality (I don't know what happens in the book) the man would die either way. So why give the tyrant and his crowd the satisfaction of a struggle? Unless you happen to think that most average men could indeed kill a lion with their bare hands.

I could get into it about the Ghandi/Hitler/German vs British mindsets, but I find that most conversations involving Hitler end poorly for all involved.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

I think there is a difference in mindset here, Jason.

Some would prefer to withdraw from the "spectacle," and hence they might just stand there and let the lion take 'em down.

Others might prefer to go out fighting, even if the outcome is pre-ordained.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous S.M. Stirling said...

"Except that in reality (I don't know what happens in the book) the man would die either way."

-- ah... actually, in Kenya I had a teacher who as a young man was attacked by a lion. The beast sezied him by the left shoulder and started to drag him off into the bush to eat him.

He killed it with his hunting knife. One extremely careful thrust to the heart.

The scars on his shoulder were quite impressive -- he sterilized the wound by pouring brandy into it and then setting the alcohol on fire.

But as he said, the lion looked a lot worse once after skinning; the lionskin rug eventually wore out, too.

Short form: if someone wants to kill you and you fight back, you may die anyway. On the other hand, if you don't, your odds are effectively zero.

And, of course, easy kills encourage aggression. When attacked by a stranger, for example, you're much more likely to be murdered (or raped) if you're passive. Other things being equal, fighting back violently increases your chances of a positive outcome rather substantially.

11:05 PM  
Blogger The Pagan Temple said...

The drumming for peace thing is cool and all, it makes a good spectacle, but the only people it might work for-repeat, MIGHT work for-are the true believers you see standing around and partaking, and probably don't really need it anyway. To think that a few people standing around a public square engaging in drumming and dancing are going to in any way change the mindset of any significant number of people is hubristic to the extreme.

As far as Ghandhi goes, he is highly overrated, by no fault of his own, due to the simple fact that people tend to view his contribution to the world entirely out of context.

He suceeded in his struggles against the British-who occupied India- by engaging in general strikes. How exactly does that translate when it comes to internaional relations, conflicts, and hostilities? Who would you strike against if a foreign nation bombed the city where you lived?

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Jason Pitzl-Waters said...

"Short form: if someone wants to kill you and you fight back, you may die anyway. On the other hand, if you don't, your odds are effectively zero."

If I'm being fed to lions for the bloodsport of a tyrant (the example you originally chose) I'm going to die no matter what I do. I doubt he would supply me with a hunting knife, brandy, and a fire. Then let me go once I won.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Jason Pitzl-Waters said...

"He suceeded in his struggles against the British-who occupied India- by engaging in general strikes. How exactly does that translate when it comes to internaional relations, conflicts, and hostilities? Who would you strike against if a foreign nation bombed the city where you lived?"

First off, that isn't all the Ghandi did. Secondly, nonviolence isn't just marching and going on strike. It is a philosophy of action against tyranny. India is hardly the only successful example of nonviolent techniques used to bring about regime change (or social change).

1:50 PM  
Blogger The Pagan Temple said...

Jason-That's all well and good when it comes to bringing about regime change within a country. I want to know how it works on an international level, in a country that is under attack from another country. Assumming that your country is being attacked in a violent way, how does non-violence work? The last I heard, the legitimate term for it was "surrender".

It sure didn't work out too well for Chamberlain, either. And yes, the major tactic that Ghandhi used that brought about his success was the strike. He brought the economy to a standstill, and hit the British where it hurt most-their pocket books. That and the fact that he had widespread support among the people that were willing to follow his example was what guaranteed his success, anything else he may have done was incidental, though it might have helped him rally the support he needed for the strikes.

However way you slice it, while it is a legitmate strategy that has it's place in an internal, national level, it is highly innappropriate, irrelevant, and inapplicable in the context of internatioal relations upon the onset of hostilities.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

First off...

"It sure didn't work out too well for Chamberlain..."

Equating nonviolence practice with the symbol of appeasement to the Nazis isn't fair or correct. Nonviolence isn't a philosophy of absolute pacifism. It is a tool used by the oppressed in circumstances where violent action would lead to even greater oppression and death. Most nonviolent thinkers will acknowledge that there are (rare) times when nonviolence can't work. The problem is that the powers that be usually classify nonviolent solutions as cowardly and thus not even worthy of considering adapting nonviolent tactics on a larger scale.

7:20 PM  
Blogger The Pagan Temple said...

Jason-Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks. You have to know who you are dealing with, first and foremost. There are cultures in this world-not naming any names here, but if the turban fits-that see overtures of peace as weakness. Sure, it's worth a try up to a point, but past a certain point, not.

Nor do I think equating it with Chamberlain is unfair. He cetainly was after peace, even made the statemnt he had achieved "peace for our time". His heart was in the right place, unfortunately it superseded his common sense, which wasn't. It's all too easy to fall into that trap.

Nor do I necessarily think non-violence is equal to cowardice. At times, however, it can be suicidal.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous S.M. Stirling said...

Note that Gandhi in all seriousness advised the Jews of Europe to use non-violence against the Nazis.

On a more general level: Politics (internal and international both) is essentially about getting people to do what you want.

Violence is one means of doing this. It has its limitations -- sorta hard to beat people into loving you -- but also its points.

The biggest one is that it's the only unilateral form of communication. You can refuse to negotiate or talk to someone, or trade with them, but if the start beating on you, you're involved in a dialogue whether you want to be or not. He has imposed the dialogue of threat and force on you.

At this point, provided that the person beating on you is willing to go on until he's achieved his goals, you've got three alternatives:

a) give him what he wants;
b) fight;
c) run away.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous S.M. Stirling said...

A historical example: the British conqueror of Scinde, Sir Charles Napier, issued an edict forbidding the Hindu practice of suttee (widow-burning), on pain of death.

(Death for the male relatives of the widow and the officiating priests.)

The Brahmins sent a delegation to Sir Charles, alleging that he was supressing their national customs and religion.

He replied (or near enough, I'm working from memory):

"By no means. It is your custom to burn widows. Very well; we also have a custom. When men burn a woman alive, it is our custom to tie a rope around their necks and hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it my carpenters will build a gallows.

You may follow your national customs... and then we will follow ours."

That's politcal communication through threat and force. It worked, too.

10:08 PM  
Blogger The Pagan Temple said...

Another point that is never brought out-although I'm not too sure, not being an expert on Indian history-but when Ghandhi became Prime Minister or whatever of India, I'm pretty positive one of the first steps you will see he performed was in raising and equipping an Indian military and establishment. If I'm right, what would be the purpose of that if there was not the determination that there might at some point in time be presented the necessity to use it?

10:06 AM  
Blogger Steve Bodio said...

I once spoke to a woman whose pacifism was so advanced she claimed she would stand aside and allow someone to kill her children, and pray for them. She was a Quaker, though this attitude is hardly "Orthodox" Quaker doctrine as far as I know.

From where I stand, morally and almost-- biologically, this is insane/ evil. My hounds would do better.

10:07 AM  
Blogger The Pagan Temple said...

You just hit the nail on the head, Steve. To not engage in self-defense when you are being attacked is about as unnatural as it gets. And if anybody ever sits back and lets someone kill their own kids and doesn't try to protect them, the first person somebody like that should pray for is themselves.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Part of what is happening in this comment thread, I think, is some degree of confusion between nonviolence as a tactic and pacifism as a philosophy or way of life.

6:04 PM  

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