A Greenfuse reprise from #112, January 2010
Why do you think they call it hope?
Following the announcement of a U.S. troop increase in the war on Afghanistan, Barak Obama has accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1901 the first co-recipient of this prestigious award was a founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross. From this committee came the 1st Geneva Convention that established humane rules of war- that govern the treatment of prisoners, wounded, and dead during armed conflict. Armed governments predilection for violence always overrules ideals. –Forming a committee to end the legitimacy of warfare was never an option, so rules about how to respect its victims have to do.
In his acceptance speech Mr. Obama’s acknowledgement of the aspirations of morality and faith, and his condemnation of misguided faith was put in terms of religious belief, but misguided believers can be found elsewhere. The Golden Rule, fundamental to all religious faiths: do unto others as you would have them do unto you- treating all as one would like to be treated by all, is translated by the language of civil authority into JUSTICE. When an armed government wishes to become uncivil, with some purpose- in the support of some particular article of their belief, this is a faith empowered by a moral flexibility that enables what is termed a “JUST WAR”. A modern upgrade of the archaic “TRIAL BY BATTLE”- in which disputes were settled by close combat, where the victor, obviously favored by God, must by his deeds, be in the right. A Just War makes war not only permissible, but a necessary duty for faithful and powerful believers in justice. The insensible “need” for war is made a sensible pursuit, reconciling the irreconcilable.
Is the Karma of violence that ambiguous morality leads to it perpetuation? Academic empathy, or theoretical compassion by leaders for the sacrifices of the “fallen”-those human beings on all sides, of all types, whose lives are torn by cruel agony, is inadequate. Concluding that blood splattering, gut spilling, bone crushing, home wrecking, family-destroying violence is necessary, because of a belief in peace and justice, is the same misguided faith that Mr. Obama warns against.
How does the Golden Rule apply to the orders that create the destructive chaos of war? It only can with a mind numbing cognitive dissonance, the background tinnitus of our society. “Believe what we say, not what we do” is the smoke on the mirror of politics that becomes what we expect, where hope is dashed on the rocks of reality- a merciful killing- before it becomes the cruel and misguided; “false hope”, which transparently exposes itself as, no hope at all. More blatantly known as- Hopeless.
Nobel laureate Obama tells us with certainty, that we can aspire to peace, even as we pursue war- as needed for our purpose. This paradox of human nature condemns any understanding of morality. When moral aspiration can be explained away with a well-reasoned argument for the global control of risk. This political expediency rivals any debased religion in its single-minded, fundamentalism. When military action is conflated with enlightened self-interest, peace inevitably becomes quaint or naïve. Declaring an abhorrence, and an acceptance of violence, is a calculated doctrine that enables the fabled paradox of: “Having your cake and eating it too”- is this part of the corruption that power creates, the hubris that leadership seems to imply?
I sometimes wonder why I am compelled to register my incredulity with the current state of political play. What do I hope to achieve by pointing out the flaws of reason that confront us? Perhaps I am exercising my own sort of faith. The heart of the impulse that has generated the religions of the world begins with an unshakable faith in something external. What then follows is a belief that through knowledge, care, and action, one can transmit important truths forward to the future, affirming recognition of our common roots and destiny. Peace comes with honest integrity, critical thought, selfless generosity, respect, and trust. It is its own reward, and its own argument. Any faith in a hope for peace must share the peaceful aspiration that, by living with peaceful intent, with peaceful purpose, by being humane, and doing no harm, we can one day create a peaceful commonweal.
When faith is polluted by political force, the control derived and governed, well meaning or not, by either outright coercion, or corruption, or at the least, a dubious legitimacy of a majority opinion, leaders compromise, just as the early Christian priests restricted by scripture and vows from blood letting in battle, found a loophole, by avoiding edged weapons in favor of the Mace, bludgeoning their foe to death, they killed the priestly way. Mr. Obama essentially tells us tells us that; our most revered spiritual leaders, the near sainted, fellow Nobel laureate Martin Luther King Jr., and the 5 time nominated, though mysteriously, never actually honored Mahatma Gandhi, though righteous, progressive, revered champions of justice and non-violence, were in the matter of war, misguided. Where the important realms of leadership and power projection are concerned, sometimes the ends DO justify the means. When examined under the harsh light of geopolitics, brotherly love has its limits, and so, faith in the soul force of Gandhi is ineffective, does not fit the needs of a dominant superpower, and is inadequate to deal with the dangers that weapons can fix, to further the goal of peace.
The Hubble space telescope enables the most distant view of the universe yet seen. Pointed into the darkest corner of deep space, recording the faintest shimmering light from billions of years in the past, we can see through the gloom a view filled by hundreds of millions of galaxies, each containing more stars than we can imagine, expanding away from us at enormous speed. Look at these phenomena and tell me truly that anyone has any right to claim certainty about the nature of life or faith.
Sorry Mr. President, pragmatic as it may be, any policy that willfully empowers brutal, destructive chaos, as a just, unavoidable necessity, cannot be in the service of peace or hope. The truly pragmatic must see, the party is over, and there is no more cake.