Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Reflections on Violence
I'm facing one of those glorious sunrises Arizona is famous for. Tonight the President will be speaking at my Alma Mater, the University of Arizona, and people are camped out in front of the stadium last night, waiting to get in. Unless I stand in line all day, I probably won't be able to get a seat, but I'll watch on TV, and put another candle on the memorial shrine.
As I watch the lovely flickering of candle flames, I'll reflect on how many kind, compassionate, caring and gentle people there are everywhere. Those who died will be buried, their families will continue to grieve. Those who are wounded will heal the best they can. Gabrielle will spend her energy trying to physically heal, re-learning, if she's lucky, how to walk, or feed herself (if she survives), and we will have lost her wise voice and advocacy.
In little more than a week, the media will forget all about the rampage. Until the next time some crazy, homicidal young man, who's grown up on a steady diet of ubiquitous "might makes right" militaristic video games, movies, TV shows, and toy guns......goes to the corner gun shop and buys a sub machine gun and destroys the lives of another round of families, the peace of another community. And the truth is, if you live in Baghdad, or Juarez, or any number of other places that aren't as wealthy or high profile as Tucson, this kind of thing isn't really any big deal. It happens all the time, and people try to live their lives in spite of it.
Why is it always a "young man"? I remember reading a sci-fi novel from the 70's that envisioned a planet where all the men had died, and the women had to reproduce by cloning. They didn't want men to be re-introduced to their planet because they felt their "hormones" made them too dangerous to a peaceful civilization.
I think I once naively wondered if men, especially when they're young, are doomed to violence because they have bad hormones, but a look at the many men who are the worlds great peacemakers consensus makers and teachers and humanitarians demonstrates that the argument I used to hear in the 50's that "biology is destiny" does not apply to men any more than it ever did for women. But I do agree with Riane Eisler, who has written extensively that patriarchal values are a self-perpetuating mythos, glorification, and template of violence. Without the evolution of what she called "partnership societies", we really don't have much of a global future at all.
Are women immune? Obviously not; women are also capable of violence, and patriarchal thinking, whether as victim or perpetrator. I look at Sarah Palin's popularity and see a "macho dude with breasts".......she's as patriarchal as they come, from her inflammatory images of Gifford and other democrats in gun sights, to forcing her daughter to have a child and marry against her will, to her derogatory comments about vegetarians (as if people who don't want to eat meat and shoot animals somehow aren't "manly" enough). I might also add that this notion of "manliness" includes anti-intellectualism.**
I know, Sarah is too easy to lay blame on. It's just that my little corner of cultural transformation has been about a rejection of militarism, and a concern with Earth-serving reconciliation ("earth" derives from the same word roots as "hearth" and "heart".) Were the societies Eisler wrote about, Minoan Crete, or Old Europe, ideal societies? I doubt it. But it does look like all their art and ritual were not concerned with military conquests, sword waving kings, and warrior gods wrathfully destroying the blasphemers. Leaving them, presumably, a lot more time to trade, make art, value children, and work at improving the lives they had.
What kind of world would we have, if our "Department of Peace" was as big, and as focused on "technologies of peace" as our "Department of Defense" is? (Do we even really have a "Department of Peace"?) Tucson has an air force base, and a huge munitions manufacturer (Raytheon). Big economics, the economics of war. Tucson does have a Peace Center, which I imagine a lot of smaller cities don't. It's been around for at least 20 years. But it still hasn't managed to come up with enough money to rent an office.
**Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond, in his brilliant book "Collapse", has pointed out that the cattle and dairy industry in, for example, Australia produces more environmentally destructive greenhouse gases through the emission of methane than the impact of all the motor vehicles in the country. It's also worth mentioning that the majority of rainforest cut down in Brazil is to produce grazing land for cattle.