The Root Is Violence

After my blog post on “The March for Our Lives,” my son told me there had been another shooting – at YouTube. He told me we need to do something about guns. Did he read my blog post? I think not. Anyway, I told him the root cause of the problem is violence. And, that the violent person chose to use guns is incidental to the problem of violence. Guns are merely tools. They can be used for good or evil. What we should be addressing isn’t guns, but violence, which is the root of the problem.

He didn’t like my answer. First of all, because he thinks violence is too systemic, it can’t be dealt with. Guns (on the other hand, he thinks) can be dealt with. I explained to him that there are far more guns in our country than there are people. They are too prevalent, and there is no getting rid of them. That genie is already out of the bottle. There will always be a supply of them, making them illegal won’t matter. Because, where there is a demand for something there will always be a supply of that thing. If guns can’t be possessed or purchased legally, they will simply be possessed or purchased illegally.

The conversation went on for a whole lot longer than I am covering in my brief paraphrase. He insisted that making guns illegal would probably reduce the amount of gun violence. I insisted that we can’t know that, but even if it did, at what cost? He really couldn’t have read my previous blog post. I went on to talk about cutting off branches, while leaving the root intact. Violence is like crabgrass. Are you familiar with crabgrass? It is very hard to eradicate. I hated it in my parent’s garden, when I was a child. You inevitably break some of it off, leaving the roots to spread.

My son is right about violence being systemic. It seems, as I told him, to be wired into our very nature as humans. While I think of myself as a pacifist, it sometimes seems that nearly every other human being is just looking for an opportunity to be violent. Our culture glorifies violence. I am not talking about the entertainment industry, which I think is only peddling what they know sells. So, you won’t see me wanting to ban movies, or TV shows, or video games, because they are violent.

I am thinking more of how the State glorifies violence. How it promotes war. And we honor those who “serve” in the military, awarding them with medals, parades, holidays, statues, monuments. And the more violence they have perpetrated, the more prestige they earn.

So how do we deal with violence? Well, we get rid of the one institution which thinks it has a divine right to commit violence – the State.

That, also, wasn’t a satisfactory answer to my son. You might think that living with me for all these years would have influenced him more. But, I raised my two children to think for themselves, and he is making real progress, actually. There was a time when he thought FDR was great. Our discussions over the years have always been good ones. I point out his logical fallacies, and he points out mine. Still, there will come a time, and probably sooner than he will care to admit, that he will realize that anarchism works. It worked, for example, when I was “raising” him and his sister.

But that is an aside. How do we get rid of the State, the single greatest purveyor of violence in the world today? Here, my approach may differ from many.

My method is based on what I learned from Lao-tzu over the last few years. “Let it be.” Evil thrives on opposition. If you don’t give it something to oppose, it will disappear all by itself. I don’t confront the State. I simply ignore it. I don’t flaunt how I live my life. I don’t crave attention from the powers that be. I simply live my life following my own code of ethics. And I do what I want. I get away with that, because doing what I want harms no one; and harming no one keeps me from being noticed. I kind of prefer to be ignored. And so should you.

But does ignoring the State actually work to curb violence? I guess that depends on your perspective. It isn’t hard to look and see the State’s violence being perpetrated like always, only with greater magnitude. But what exactly do I expect to be able to do about violence on such a grand scale? I am only one person. All I can expect to do is to effect change within my own small sphere of influence. So my mantra is, “If you don’t want to see violence in your world, be the change you hope to see.” Don’t set your sights on greater spheres than you can possibly influence, merely don’t practice violence in your own small part of the world. It is simple, really.

Too simple, for those who think that is doing nothing; and we really have to do something. But that, I have always thought, was Lao-tzu’s whole point. Doing nothing, out does doing something. When I busied myself with doing something, there was always something more to be done. I never ran out of things to do. Something was always left undone. But when I do nothing, nothing is left undone. We only need to, wait for it, let it be. That is laissez-faire.

And, contrary to what you have been brainwashed to believe, laissez-faire has worked every time it has been practiced. It just isn’t practiced as often as it has been accused of being practiced. Laissez-faire gets blamed whenever our interventions go badly, as they always do. They will say, “We didn’t intervene enough, or we waited too long before intervening.” That isn’t laissez-faire. No, what caused the problem was we intervened too soon, and too much. It would have been better to have let it be. For, whatever evil we felt we needed to confront would have sorted itself out, if we had simply let it be. In other words, it isn’t the fault of laissez-faire that your escalation of violence caused violence to escalate.

Having said all of that, I know my approach, my method, leaves something to be desired. And I could remind you all “desire” is a problem you are going to have to deal with on your own time. Look, I know my own sphere of influence is quite small. I never know whether my blog posts are read by more than a handful of people. I haven’t even managed to convince my own flesh and blood “just live and let live” is always the best course of action. But I am convinced that slow and steady wins the race in the end. And anyway, I am not trying to change the world. That would be biting off a whole lot more than I could ever chew.

Still, I am impacting my own little corner of the world. I know that is true, because as far as my own life is concerned, I have nothing to complain about.

I begin each day knowing I won’t be initiating any violence today. And I end each day knowing I didn’t initiate any violence today. Put simply, I practice minding my own business. And I would recommend you all do the same thing. It makes for a good night’s sleep, every night. Yes, the State is still alive and well, as far as appearances go. But its impact on my own life shrinks and shrinks and shrinks. And when enough of us leave it behind (i.e., stop propping it up) and, otherwise, get on with our own lives, wholly independent of it, it will soon enough collapse under its own weight.

At least that is what I think. And writing down what I think is the purpose of my blog. You, of course, are free to disagree. You probably have an entirely different approach to ending the State, and/or curbing violence in your world. And that is just fine with me. In fact, I think the more diverse methods we all use, the merrier we will all be. If you want to engage me in discussion, or argument on any of this, I welcome the opportunity for dialog. Until then, and as always, have a great day!

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