Our society is permeated by violence. So many of the forms of violence that we see every day – injustice, poverty, crime, pollution of the environment, racism, even consumerism – are beyond our control as individuals. However, what is within our control is our own daily eating and buying habits. When we make nonviolent choices daily — choices which do not inflict unnecessary suffering on sentient creatures — we make a real difference in the world in two ways. First, other people see our example and are reminded that they also can choose a kinder, more just way of living. Second, with or without “followers” of our example, moral consistency is powerful in itself. When we are not ashamed of our own habits we can find harmony and can become consistent, clear voices for a nonviolent and joyful society. I think we all know that we will not achieve a totally nonviolent (ahimsa) society within our lifetimes, but I also know that working towards it is a noble goal which gives us purpose.
I’m pleased to present a guest post by Rich Kellman, a member of the VAVA Meetup group. Rich is a mental health counselor who uses a holistic perspective in his work. He has an M.A. in Psychology and Counseling and is licensed in New York state as a mental health counselor. He has written some thoughts on the noble goal of a nonviolent society. If you are moved or intrigued by his words, please leave a comment.
Towards Ending Violence
Humans are, and have been, the most violent species on earth. Despite historians and others referring to civilizations,” for the most part we have been anything but civilized. As we hear news from around our country and the world, there is no abatement of violence, even though very many continuously plead for peace and respectful treatment of others.
Violence can be looked at as having two basic components: symptoms and root causes. To truly have any chance at someday ending this horrifically destructive behavior, both elements must be successfully addressed simultaneously. We need to work consistently and persistently, in every society and nation, generation after generation, without cessation.
Symptoms of violence include harm done by people towards other people, as in wars, assault, homicide, discrimination, and seemingly endless forms of mistreatment. Other symptoms involve human abuse and disregard of property and the environment, including its non-human inhabitants, both domesticated and wild. While confronting and trying to stop violence symptoms is necessary at times, it is NOT sufficient. Gun control may save lives, but clearly if there was not even a single gun available, other weapons would be used, as they are now. If battery cages for chicken factory farms were abolished, severely overcrowded, contained, inhumane settings would very likely continue to be used. Addressing why society has allowed such disgraceful events to exist is at the heart of the solution.
Root causes consist of two very basic conditions, those which many people have experienced, some much more harshly than others: we, in childhood and beyond, got too much of what we didn’t want and need, and we did not get enough of what we did (and do) want and need. Too much punishment (including physical, verbal, mental/emotional); criticism; blame; neglect; inattention; over-indulgence and over-permissiveness are some very problematic examples. Not enough love; compassionate and kind, yet firm, discipline; support; encouragement; protection; sharing and constructive communication are some of the more important needs which have been in too short supply. Consequently, we have become a species which has far too many of its members disconnected from each other and other forms of life, pursuing self interest above real respect and allowance for the diversity of life. Far too many have harbored resentments, hurt and anger from their unhappy and sometimes drastic past and present experiences, only to unleash harmful and deadly targeted and random rage.
As a global society, many many more resources, money and educators have got to be provided at all levels of life. From the family to the school, the workplace to governmental and judicial halls, education for nonviolence must be a top priority. Life Comes First. We do not need more math and science to produce more smart phones — we must have more teachings which will produce socially and emotionally smarter and better people. As a starting point, for every one dollar spent on objects of destruction, two dollars, or more, must be spent on truly civilizing ourselves. Classes on subjects such as Empathy; Peaceful Conflict Resolution; Positive Communication Skills; Caring For and Giving of Self to Others; Assertiveness (not aggressiveness); Apology and Forgiveness; Tolerance and Patience; Understanding and Respect for Differences – must be mandatory requirements for everyone.
Each person who cares enough to want violence to end must do their part, no matter how small. Speak about this to family, friends, a neighbor, a community member, a co-worker. Speak to a teacher, an administrator, a principal, a superintendent, a Board of Education, a town councilperson, a spiritual leader. Write letters. Send emails. Have rallies and forums. Tell them that we’ve seen, heard and learned of much much more than enough of suffering, and that we must act decisively NOW. This quest will be never-ending one, and once nonviolence becomes reality , we must always continue to be vigilant, to not let violence creep back. This is a process which will take generations, but the journey starts with the first step. Let’s have our current generations be the ones to take real and serious steps towards ending something which has absolutely NO place on earth.
— Rich Kellman