Sunday, 16 December 2007

Criminal minds...

is one of my new favourite television shows, not least for the erudite quotes at the beginning and end. Tonight's juxtaposition of quotes at the end - apparently contradictory, said by the same person - was one of the best yet:

"It is better to do violence, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence."

Still not sure who it is? This quote should help:

"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary. The evil it does is permanent."

That sounds more like the version of him that we revere...the man is Mohandas Gandhi. What does that first quote really mean? He's saying that it is better to be violent, if that is your truth, than to claim a position of nonviolence as a lie because you are incapable of doing something about a situation.

True nonviolence is not a position of weakness: it is the position of ultimate strength. It is only when you are deeply rooted and secure in who you are that you can even contemplate true nonviolence as a position - and I'm not talking about just guns or knives. I mean the violence we do to eachother on a daily basis: judging eachother;
the subtle bullying, trying to pressure others to 'fall into line' with the rest of the group for their own good; the parent who criticises and controls endlessly because 'praise would make you lazy, and criticism will make you work harder'. On a show I was watching, I heard a woman claim "I'd call myself aggressive. I'm strong." Aggression isn't about strength; it's about fear. It is the ultimate in weakness- it's proactive violence - getting in there before someone else does.

Being in control is not always strength. And to quote a favourite book, "That which yields is not always weak."

But what about violence 'in the name of good'? The snipers and police officers who kill hostage takers, terrorists, people who place our lives at risk? Responding with force to an invasion? The death penalty for those who commit heinous crimes?

I'm not saying nonviolence is easy, especially in a world that communicates through violence so often. There are times when a show of strength is needed, no question. But responding with more force than is needed crosses the line into violence. And you can't help but wonder what happens to the hearts of those snipers and executioners over time.
Like faith, like following your principles and being true to yourself, it's a choice you make over and over, every single day.

The evil violence does is permanent. Just ask those one or two generations down from an alcoholic or the survivors of a violent event beyond our imagining.

Yes, but what about revenge? What about when someone hurts you or someone you love, and all you want is justice? All you want is for them to feel in pain the way you feel in pain? All you want is fairness?

"Before you embark upon a journey of revenge, dig two graves." --Confucius.

"Yes," you may say, "but it would mean the world to me. Then I'd be fine. It would be over, and life would be fair."

To which I would respond with a final quote - taken out of context, true - but it shows the true price of violence, even that done for the best of reasons:

"For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The trouble is, just one act is never enough. Because once it's done, it is so apparently satisfying that the mind spurs on the human to see if it can get that satisfaction again...and again and again... Well that is what I have been led to believe, so that I would totally agree with your end comment. It may appear to be out of context, but actually it is very fitting within this context...