Cultures of Resistance, Cultures of Peace
“I would prefer to live in peace, but when I looked around me, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Everywhere I looked, the land was being destroyed, Indians were victims of genocide, Third World peoples were oppressed and massacred, people lived in industrial wastelands and womyn were being raped and children molested. I could never live in peace, only quiet – the kind you find in cemeteries”
“I take it for granted that resistance is the natural response to dehumanization, and, therefore, does not have to be explained or justified.”
Violence is implicit in the everyday functioning of industrial civilization. Until this is fully understood, what we see as hope is just a mirage. In the web of life, there is no place to hide from this, at least not anymore. And still, from the day this consumptive cancer manifested, a place to hide became only that: a place to hide. Separation was only an illusion of distance, a dream so beautifully believed in. It is so easy to lose ourselves in the memory of untold generations outside the march of Empire. But here, now, we must only find ourselves there. The present cannot be denied. The present cannot be escaped.
Even if we can keep our own hands clean in the midst of all these ecological and human bloodbaths, our own pacifism acts as a willing accomplice to theses perpetrations. Suffering is facilitated and not alleviated. The illusions are that we can find purity in isolation and separateness, or that we can leave our fellow creatures behind and escape into some kind of personal enlightenment. We can be so afraid of all that we see, although this fear can help us realize that we all want to wake up from this nightmare. Or we can sleep in denial and constantly numb ourselves to all the things that may crack our façade of happiness. But the dance of emptiness and form is not our enemy, nor the ebb and flow of life and death. Our enemies are all the fundamentalisms of mind, the stasis of grasping and aversion brought on by fear. Fear can be a teacher or an enemy, but always one or the other. Its energy cannot be denied, only transformed. A culture of living peace must cultivate a living intimacy with its fears, and this becomes a culture of resistance, fearless in the face of Empire.
One thing Western culture is severely lacking is a sense of balance, but I have found a great inspiration in the intersection of modern Ecology and the ancient Buddhist practice of the Dharma. The Dharma teaches how to walk a middle path, not because it is moral but because it is effective. Here we can see actual peace being inextricable from the ever-present path of resistance. To be ever-present with our reality and the truth of our experience, we learn to resist both grasping and aversion. This is an ever-present active resistance that allows openness and letting go. Letting go of what? Both ideology and compromise, both denial and naivety, both resignation and inflexibility. This path is unyielding.
This can at times sound paradoxical, and by logic it sometimes is. But looking past the form of words we see movement and meaning. It can be like walking a tightrope, requiring sensitivity and mindfulness at all times, with nothing to cling to and no ground to stand on. But to be concise, this is a mental exercise that allows us to stay rooted in the Earth at all times. Rooted in our undying love for Life, rooted in our compassion for all the suffering present in the web of life, rooted in an expansive joy armed with insight and understanding, rooted in the inescapability of equanimity and reciprocity. This is the liberation of the heart that lets us join the fray. The vow of the warrior who hides behind nothing so as to fight the lie that is publicly labeled “Peace.” There is no peace to keep and it’s time to let go of that illusion.
In the context of Empire, true and experiential peace is resistance. But this peace cannot compromise, and it cannot exist in stasis but only through the active alleviation of suffering. Here we find ourselves at war, against our will. To live in this paradox is our liberation. To effectively create conscious autonomous cultures, to simply live a sane life in the face the dominant culture, is to put ourselves on the firing line.
The Earth is asking us to breathe life into the unknown and at the same time remember and honor each step that got us here. And to remember especially the tragic steps, the actions that brought us into this mess. We can honor our collective tragedies like a great teacher, and respect them like great demons that will shape-shift and return if we do not pacify them through cultivating the immeasurable truths of active love and compassion. We need not lose ourselves in an existential quandary, especially when that is exactly where we find ourselves.
It is a mature understanding that love does not imply pacifism, and further, “nonviolence” cannot be understood outside of the context of the ever-present violence of civilization. Yet history shows time and again that militancy is a babbling idol filled only with promises it can’t keep. It promises liberation through self-sacrifice, yet delivers compromise and betrayal as if it were clockwork. Can we not see beyond this? Must we cling to one dogma or another? Let us unequivocally state that we can take refuge in the wisdom of Creation, the perfect understanding embodied in our Earth, even as this wisdom is being clarified through it’s own betrayal. Our current crisis is indeed the exception that proves the rule. There are consequences to forgetting this, and our only true hope, our active hope, is remembering that we are not condemned to this nightmare. We wake up when we choose to.