Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity;
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is the highest value.
If you the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?
He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 31, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Given the news today (as I am typing this up), that our Nobel Peace Prize winning, Anti-War President Barack Obama has announced that once again we are bombing the Hell out of Iraq, I think today’s chapter is once again, timely.
Yesterday, Lao Tzu talked about how the use of force is a failure to rely on the Tao. He specifically warned that for every force there is a counterforce; and, that violence always rebounds upon itself. He was framing all of that in the context of being content with yourself and with the world.
Today, Lao Tzu continues where he left off with another beautifully written chapter. This time he targets weapons; which, he says, are the tools of violence and fear. I couldn’t agree more with Lao Tzu. All decent people detest them and will avoid using them except in direst necessity. And in those rare moments when direst necessity requires it of them, they use them with the utmost restraint.
Peace should be our highest value. I know that many scoff at that idea. Many can come up with all sorts of reasons to justify war. They’ll even use euphemisms to call war something else than what it is, so they can then smile in the camera and try to justify how still deserving they are of Nobel Peace Prizes. But your euphemisms can’t mask the truth, Mr. President. If you were a decent man you wouldn’t be dropping bombs on Iraq. You wouldn’t be using drones to target individuals without due process. And you wouldn’t call the innocents killed, just collateral damage. If you were a decent man you wouldn’t be fomenting war all over the globe. So, given your actions, I have no choice but to conclude that you are far from a decent man.
And once again, the peace has been shattered. Oh, whatever do I mean? I don’t think there has been a moment of peace in my lifetime. The United States government doesn’t want peace. It wants war. It has been that way for many decades now. And it expects us to be content. But how can we be content? Without peace, there can be no true contentment. Our enemies are not demons. They are all fellow human beings, just like ourselves. How could we possibly wish our fellow human beings personal harm?
And, war is Hell. The ruling elite, that sacrifice our young men and women in endless and needless war, know this. That is why they insulate themselves from the consequences of this Hell that they wreak on the Earth. Millions have been slaughtered. And we award medals and build statues for the ones who slaughter the most. How could I ever take delight in the senseless slaughter? How could I ever rejoice in the kind of victory that the tools of violence and fear brings about?
Still, Lao Tzu recognized a circumstance he called direst necessity. It is a very rare thing, indeed. If I combed through the history of the United States government, I don’t think I would find one instance of it. There are those that would suggest that we were attacked at Pearl Harbor; and that right there was a real justification for war. Hmmmmmm. Well, maybe. But I am also well aware that we provoked that attack to give us the necessary justification to enter a conflict in which we had no business, and the American public was dead set against. And, after that, all sorts of civil liberties were sacrificed (Japanese internment, anyone?).
But just because I am having a hard time coming up with an example of direst necessity, doesn’t mean that such a thing, though rare, couldn’t exist. And if, or when, it ever happens, we should use our tools of violence and fear, gravely; with sorrow and great compassion, like we were attending the funeral of a loved one. I don’t think going on the late night talk show circuit and joking about it, quite fits the mood.
The reason that I have been having such a difficult time coming up with what direst necessity really is, is because I have been looking for it in all the wrong places. Only decent people know when direst necessity comes. And I won’t find any decent people in the United States government. Not throughout its history.
But decent people understand it. And they are ready for it when it comes. No, they don’t delight in it. But they are ready. I am talking about one of the most basic of human rights, the right of self-defense. Decent people never initiate force or violence on their fellow human beings. But when they have been aggressed against, it is their sacred and somber duty to defend their own lives, the lives of their loved ones, and their own personal property.
But I warn all you fellow decent people out there, indecent people (the State, and its apologists) will call you ugly names, like terrorist. They will defame your name. They will speak all manner of evil against you, saying you are the indecent ones. They will put you on their special watch lists, keeping an eye on your every move and listening in on your most private communications. They will convince many that you are to be feared. And it is all a big lie.
For you are the only ones that can be trusted to wield tools of violence and fear. You are the only ones that truly detest them. You are the only ones that will try to avoid them. You are the only ones that will show the utmost restraint. Only you understand your enemies are not demons, but human beings like yourselves. You alone wish them no harm. You alone don’t rejoice in victory, nor delight in the slaughter of fellow human beings. Peace is truly your highest value. And how can you be content when the peace has been shattered?
Indeed, we cannot.