I recently asked a classroom of young adults what they thought of when they considered the history of humanity. Almost in unison their response was,
There is nothing great about war, nothing to be proud of. Sure, we can feel pride in the noble actions of individual soldiers or leaders, or the common person faced with incredible odds…but war itself? There is nothing to celebrate, nothing to admire.
What’s more, it is repetitive. War will plant it’s own seeds for future conflicts: old grudges, vengeance, greed, theft and endless justifications.
Intellectually we know this. But behaviourally, we still embrace it. The idea of conflict as a proving ground for our strength is seemingly innate.
Everything is a conflict, a struggle – or war – whether it be against drugs, cancer, terror or nations. And so it goes.
So when we talk about fighting for change, for our rights, for justice…while the ends are desirable, the means are simply a repetition of human historical behaviours.
And so what real change can you reasonably expect when the approach is the same today as it was a thousand years ago?
There actually is a way to effect real change. All it requires is a willingness to change our approach.
We need only to step out of the mesmerizing stream of history and view the world, our circumstances, and what is possible, with new eyes.
What if instead of a battle, a fight, a struggle, we viewed these so-called problems as exciting challenges, puzzles to be unlocked. Instead of cutting the Gordian knot, or despairing at it’s complexity, we instead figured out at last how to loosen it – how to free it from itself. What if we could free the generations to come from the automatic fallback setting of destruction as a way of life?
Well, we can.
But it must be acknowledged that we are up against human stubbornness, we’re up against a wall of pride and anger. The State automatically reacts to the protests of the People with violence. The people respond. Again, with violence. Where is the change possible there? The French Revolution was supposed to have overthrown corruption and tyranny, but the aftermath was an autocracy, a reign of blood and execution, unrest and war.
The American Revolution was to have set the stage for a free and equal Nation, yet slavery persisted and the Indigenous Peoples continued to be slaughtered and shunted onto smaller and smaller parcels of land as their continent was stolen from them. Talk about taxation without representation!
Wherever there is power, there will be men and women willing to abuse that power.
What can we learn from our collectively bloody and unjust past?
We can learn that to become healthy, we must break our ingrained patterns.
And so to stop hate, we must love. And I don’t mean some namby pamby, hippy dippy love. I mean, that’s nice and everything, but I’m talking about actively loving each other in word and deed. We will complain about homelessness but most of us do practically nothing to stop that solvable suffering. Heaven forbid we should give up an iota of our privileged lifestyles to help those who have not been as fortunate as us!
What about loving those who anger and frustrate us. What about instantly forgiving the little vexations of driving, of checkout lines, of differences of opinions. What about loving those who have hurt you, who have taken from you, who have broken you.
Love and forgiveness.
To many people, this reads as rolling over, as giving up, as weakness.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Weakness is the inability to master yourself, the inability to seek your higher and wiser self. Weakness is the failure to identify your contribution to the sorrows of the world.
Forgive, yes. Forget? not until a balance has been achieved.
In Canada, we too have experienced the strong arm of colonialism, of stealing from those you can steal from and blaming them for the result.
In Canada, we too have witnessed the violence of the state, then in turn witnessed the retaliation of the weak who would be strong in a doomed attempt at reciprocity.
In Canada, we are aware that because certain people have a different history and a moral and historical right to the wealth that is gleaned from their lands, that the government instead grinds them to the earth so that non-natives and corporate interests can keep the status-quo in place.
We are not blind to the casual inequalities and abuses that are perpetuated that allow for the maintenance of the status-quo.
Of course, that status-quo is one wherein the Indigenous person is not welcome to their own ancestral inheritance. It has been taken, never to be returned, and damn them all.
And so the war continues.
But we can stop it. We can be victorious in an entirely new way.
Indigenous people who are concerned with irresponsible and extractive, destructive development that is driven not by necessity but by greed, have and will block roads and access to ancestral lands.
These roadblocks are a peaceful and respectful way to protest when all other avenues have been exhausted, when no one listens.
The government will try to foment violence in order to justify their impending and inevitable attack. The media, in their shameful laziness will parrot the government line and the Canadian people end up deceived, played like puppets in a drama built around hatred and fear. This is how it goes and has gone for centuries.
But there are new sources of media, new methods of sharing of information. These sources are wholly in the hands of the people. And Canadians are finally learning the truth.
So what does this have to do with breaking the war cycle?
Knowledge, information, truth…these are the tools. Non-violence in the face of aggression…this is the way to demonstrate the greatest strength there is: self-control and wisdom.
Once you add violence and retaliation from both parties into the mix, instead of an oppressor and the oppressed who are finally standing along with their many good hearted allies, you get just another stupid nightly-news war. Instead of the Egyptian protests you get the Syrian civil war.
When people see the strength inherent in taking the higher road, the harder road, they become inspired, and rightly so. There is a yearning in all of us to reach for something better than today, for a brighter hope for our species and for our generations. When we see others living the way we long to live, centred in their hearts and unwavering in their compassionate strength, we want to help them. Probably because deep down inside something whispers to us that it is helping us as well.
But how do I ask people of so many nations who have inherited lifetimes of pain and hurt to let go of their anger?
How do I tell them that their experiences, if they allow it, have made them more powerful than they know?
I have walked the cold streets, slept in alleyways, and felt the sharp pains of deep and empty hunger. I have felt the bruises, I’ve received the scorn, experienced eyes full of disgust and hatred. I know the shame and the anger and the grey sadness. I know the unending wail of grief that underlies everything.
And yet knowing that, and knowing that the majority of Indigenous people share that experience I still ask: Be the true strength of the world.
Be the example of courage for our children.
Stand in the road, stand in your land, stand for the rights of the natural world, for All Our Relations.
A warrior will fight if all else fails. A warrior will protect. A warrior will give of their last breath if that’s what’s required. I honour that.
A true warrior will do everything possible to ensure that ultimate sacrifice is never required.
Not from themselves, and not from anyone else.
I say to you: love your enemies. Hate is easy, it requires no strength at all. It asks for no wisdom.
Love your enemies. Make them friends. If they will not, that’s their choice. It means they can’t see that we are all connected in the web of life. For that, you can mourn for their blindness because it means their lives are small, unimaginative and empty.
Love your enemies, but do not break before them. Extend your heart, extend your arms in welcoming them into the hoop. You may find that the majority of those who thought they were against you end up being your strongest supporters.
Love your enemies not because religion has told you so, love them because they are your brothers and sisters, love them because to hate them is to poison your own heart, to diminish your own life, to darken your own soul.
Life is harsh, brutish and unfair. You have to be strong to survive. But if you are bitter, then you are brittle and you will break.
War is our inheritance. And it is the legacy of our existence.
But Peace is our promise. And it can be the legacy we leave the world.
We have an opportunity to change everything in this land we call Canada. We have an opportunity to become a revolution that will sweep the world. This is the moment where we choose:
Do I live as I have been living, do I carry on with anger, hate, violence and struggle?
Or do I fill my heart with the Creator’s power, and by so doing give myself the ability to create a new future, a new hope?
Do I claim my power to save this world?
One at a time, person by person, we can all become warriors for the land. And by choosing the path of Creation over Destruction we will redeem the human race.
Every person, no matter their race, colour, creed or birthplace is welcome in this great initiative.
Welcome to the hoop.
We all rise together.