FIxing Things

This op-ed in the New York Times, and this other from the Economist, have me worried. They both describe an increasingly common view in America that “the other” is “evil” and that government as broken beyond repair to the point that violent revolution is an option. I don’t agree with everything in the news pieces, but I am worried because I know a lot of people who are so convinced government is the cause of all the problems in their lives that they tread into the ground of hatred and violence these editorials describes. I am worried because, to a degree, I share some economic views, some social views, and even some political concerns with the “nuts” the editorials writes about.

However, I completely dissociate myself with the means discussed in the editorials. These means will lead to increased bloodshed and tyranny, less freedom and prosperity. These means are full of hatred, force, and violence than cannot be used to fix anything. These means are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus Christ that many of these “nuts” claim to espouse.

The environment we are in is similar to that in Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides describes it thus:

Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected…The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation…Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first. The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and ambition; and from these passions proceeded the violence of parties once engaged in contention. The leaders in the cities, each provided with the fairest professions, on the one side with the cry of political equality of the people, on the other of a moderate aristocracy, sought prizes for themselves in those public interests which they pretended to cherish, and, recoiling from no means in their struggles for ascendancy engaged in the direst excesses…Meanwhile the moderate part of the citizens perished between the two, either for not joining in the quarrel, or because envy would not suffer them to escape.

Thus every form of iniquity took root in the Hellenic countries by reason of the troubles. The ancient simplicity into which honor so largely entered was laughed down and disappeared; and society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow.

These editorials give the sense that the times Thucydides describes are either here, or are fast approaching. The fear and distrust that permeate our political environment is disturbing. Is power to be distrusted? Absolutely, that’s why checks and balances in government are absolutely essential. Have some of those checks and balances been destroyed or ignored? Yes. So how do we go about fixing things?

We engage in the conversation, instead of angrily getting into a bunker mentality. We talk to those running for office and make clear our views and ideas in an appropriate and non-threatening, non-violent tone. We discuss options for changing the current political structures to sure up the checks and balances that are tipping.

But if you are convinced that the government is stealing your money by taxing you, have the guts to stop paying your taxes, as Henry David Thoreau did. If you are convinced that certain laws are unjust, violate them and spend time in jail to prove your point and bring others around to your point of view.

If you aren’t so convinced of your position to be willing to stake your own life non-violently, why are you willing to stake someone else’s life violently? There is nothing Christian about threatening violent revolution, or rebellion. If you disagree so adamantly with what the government is doing, stop cooperating with it. Don’t take Medicare or Medicaid. Don’t send your kids to public schools where they will be indoctrinated by “the socialists”. But do something. Better your health. Join with others in cooperative schools and health systems. Don’t just condemn the government and crawl into your bunker.

And don’t ever take up a weapon of aggression in order to make your point. (Perhaps even consider turning the other cheek in the face of aggression). Aggression has been tried in the history of the world, and it is the least effective method of changing things and in fact it can be argued that aggression doesn’t change anything.

So long as we allow fear to motivate our actions, it will lead us down the road to violence, oppression, war and tyranny; it also leads us down the road to bad legislation, poverty, and debt.

The reason for the American Revolution was that the American colonists had no representation, no say, in their government. However some may feel that this is the case today, our situation has not yet arrived at this point. Participate. Engage. Expand your knowledge base. Expand your circle of friends. Talk to people you disagree with or you think are different from you.

The forms are still in place. The dialog is still more free than in any other place. But please, please, do not buy into the fear-mongering, the hate-mongering, the idea that violence will fix anything. It will only further enslave and tyrannize.

3 Replies to “FIxing Things”

  1. Hey Mikey,

    I was searching the interwebs for your name and came across this blog. If you remember who I am give me a holler. I’d like to know how you are doing.

    Yan

  2. You know Mike, this reminds me of a description of the “evil one” in Revelations, it says:

    And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

    I find the the description of an “accuser” to be very interesting…and condemning.

    Interesting because Christ is the advocate with the Father and not the accuser. Condemning because I am often the accuser. And when I am, it is a sign that I am on the wrong side of things. The accuser feels nothing of love, understanding, compassion, or interest in those they accuse. The accuser see someone to blame; someone as the problem. The advocate sees at least a fellow member of the human race, a brother or sister; and at most someone to rescue.

    The advocate sees others in a state of evil, such as corruption and power grabbing, as persons to fight for not against. A person to save not destroy.

    And least you think I am accusing the accuser, let me just say I am a recovering accuser…we all are. In life I am more and more convinced that there are two primary motivations: advocate or accuser. Love is the realm of the advocate.

    And as a side note, I think history bares out that those who want to control, enslave and tyrannize, love nothing more than a fight. They know how to turn it to their advantage every time. This goes to a common misunderstanding that many people have that “fight” for freedom. They think battle is battle, more or less. One is like the other. Nothing could be more wrong! When men fight wars the objective is to destroy the other side. Simple. But in the battle for freedom the objective is to save, strengthen, and preserve the other side. Because the right minded freedom fighter understands that to become the destroyer of those who seek his destruction is only replacing their brand of tyranny for his own. There is no way around the law of the harvest; what we sow, we reap. I am not advocating passivity, I am advocating love. Violence and love are not mutually exclusive, but accusation and love are.

    The war of the advocate is asymmetrical, and when it is the tyrant is completely baffled. The advocate’s war is to show the tyrant that tyranny is not a reality, it is illusion that will crumble under its own weight. Tyranny lacks permanence, and only appears to be real when seen in the limited view of history. Only charity endures, it never fails.

    Thanks Mike for your intriguing thoughts.

    Best

  3. Thank you Mike and Chris for your insight and your feeling and thought-work that got you there. I also need to renew my shift away from accusation and posturing. More on this in time as my thoughts surface.

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