“It is better to subdue a country whole and intact than to destroy it completely. It is better to win when your enemy surrenders without giving you a fight.”–Sun Tsu THE ART OF WAR
I said “we’re winning” a couple of days ago, in relation to racism. And a reader asked if this was not a dangerous way to look at it. “Winning” to this reader implied war. Am I going to war against my fellow citizens?
The reply is that “winning” can be applied to a game, or a debate. What I didn’t say were some other things:
- If I win, that doesn’t mean that you lose. If the point is to get to Disneyland, and you think Route A is better, and I convince you Route B is better, and we later discover that the bridge A was wiped out, who wins? If you think “winning” is “convincing the car to take my route” then you have lost. But…is that a valid definition? Wasn’t Route A just a means to an end? Isn’t your END to get to Disneyland? In that case…didn’t we ALL win, once you release your ego?
- In other words, if we speak to determine what is true, and our commitment is to truth, if truth wins we all win. If we have a commitment to a point of view, the view itself can seem to be the END rather than the MEANS.
- Proposed: the meaning of life is to be happy.
- All goals are just a means to this end: “If I do X, I will be happy.”
- An accurate map is critical to being happy–it allows us to navigate.
- Incorrect information will therefore ultimately be contrary to happiness.
- Sometimes, incorrect information will give temporary pleasure. But truth is always ultimately preferable.
- Proposed: Racism is an incorrect view of the world. Therefore it might give temporary pleasure (an easy answer to complex world issues, sense of superiority, political leverage, an excuse for selfishness) but it will give ultimate pain.
- Therefore, even IF there is a war, it is not a war on the citizens of the country. It is a war of ideas, a war of perspectives. “We are winning” when we help our fellow citizens dispel an illusion, so that our country can thrive by utilizing all citizens to their highest levels.
- Those who believe the incorrect ideology will believe that the “illusion of equality” can only be produced by government pressure. Note that this position can motivate them to ally themselves with others who believe in “Small Government” for other, more moral reasons. A political bloc is formed.
- To be careful, then, the rights of such people must be respected in the political version of the Hyppocratic Oath: “First, Do No Harm.” Their rights to free speech and assembly must be respected, but they must also be prevented from hurting others, or swelling into a force that can be poisoned into mass violence. Finding this balance is one of the most difficult things for a free society.
- But IF racism is viewed as a disease, then the “war” is with the illness, not the patient. The highest good would be to support rule of law, protect rights, AND NURTURE THE PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL rather than attack the sick. Triage. While maintaining strength (to protect children from snakes and monsters), offer friendship and love. If you REALLY believe that racism is a flawed theory of humanity, then it is a warped reality map. That means that such people should be lost more often. In more pain. Show them the way out.
- What is the pain? Guilt about the past. Fear of retaliation. Greed that reparations might be demanded. Self-doubt to realize that all the accomplishments of your life were supported by an advantage (this is no more implausible than the notion that a person born into the U.S. will have a higher average net worth than someone born into a poor country anywhere in the world. Do you really think you are automatically a better, smarter person? Or are there advantages that have nothing to do with your genes or personal energies?)
- Fear. One way or another, all of it is fear. And the antidote for fear is Faith. What does the Hero’s Journey suggest? That the way through the Dark Night is Faith in yourself, faith in your companions, or faith in a higher power.
- In yourself. That you don’t need to deny you’re standing on a ladder. Your attention should be on growing as tall as you can, and standing as straight as you can. Some are born on ladders, others in holes. Be grateful for your blessings, and philosophical about your damages. Model success, and keep your eyes on the ball: a happy life of growth, contribution and Self-knowledge
- In your companions. If you believe that, if the world were reversed, you would seek revenge, want to kill or damage, you are feeling from your fear/survival place. Understandable. But that will be the world you experience. If you can learn to touch the love in your heart, committing to protecting yourself FIRST and then bonding to others, you’ll see that you are safe not because you are angry or fearful, but because the fear motivates you to pay attention. The attention is necessary. The fear is optional. The anger actually creates more violence, because it triggers fear in others. Find the love in yourself, and it is easy to educe love in others. But remember…it must come from strength. You will be tested by predators, seeking weakness. They know that you can peel off members of their herd. THEIR kingdom must be isolated. But their citizens can be welcomed into the community of the open-hearted. BUT THEY MUST KNOW THEY ARE SAFE if they drop their guard. Do NOT expect them to drop that guard if you plan to sucker-punch them. Do you think they are stupid?
- In a higher power. We all have some sense of the nature of reality. The ethical structure of the universe. Those who believe that there is something positive about the working of that reality can have faith in that process. Those who believe that humans are basically evil, the world is pure chaos, or that God played racial favorites will not be able to take comfort here. If you have a believe system that embraces the light, and can live your life with power and grace, you will attract some of those citizens of a fearful nation, and some will change faith. If you really believe in that orderly universe, you will be able to have patience with the others.
For love to win, fear has to die, or subside. People who identify with their fear and anger will see it as an attack on THEM, and on what they believe keeps them safe. They may have to change an entire world view, an entire interpretation of history. It shifts political alliances, and they may fear that (“how can I accomplish X unless I have Y’s support? I’ll hold my nose and vote.”) That’s the world of politics. Those who grasp that, and can play that, can win elections.
What do we do? Trust the process of time. This is multi-generational stuff. It has taken generations to move the ball this far across the field. I have faith that the majority see what I see, but the minority is vocal, and afraid, and frightened people will do anything, like drowning swimmers will drag down life-guards.
Unless you are a hell of a swimmer, keep your feet on dry ground. Life a happy life. Love your children and neighbors. And keep a life-line ready to throw to the drowning. “If I trust you…will you hurt me?” Is the question under the question. Listen with your heart.
And remember that you too labor in illusions. Different illusions. That we need others to point out to us. One of those people you extend compassion to might well save YOU one day.
We’re all living in glass houses. I’d rather throw lifelines than stones.