Saturday, June 17, 2006

To Be Or Not To Be


My favorite play by Shakespeare is Hamlet. It was the first of his work I was ever exposed to and the first time I understood that language could be used beautifully outside of poetry. My first love of a brilliant turn of phrase.

I never thought I would be quoting him in this particular context.

No, no. I'm not deciding on whether or not to continue with the miseries of life or whether I will sleep, perchance to dream.

For now my sanity has come to rest in a place that would rather suffer the slings and arrows.

Slowly, very slowly I'm starting to get a handle on my life. Oh, I'm in financial ruin, and some days (many less than there were before) I feel so lonely I don't want to know or feel anything. But these days are aberrations in what is slowly shaping to be a life.

I believe I'm going to be OK.

This famous quote by the Bard I use to discuss the nature of resistance to tyranny. Many of you have no doubt noticed I'm not what you might term consistent when it comes to my ideas on resistance. Which is it that I believe in? Violent or peaceful resistance?

Well, both.

Each situation is different. To say "I don't believe in violence" is to, I believe, renounce all claims to humanity and reality and consign yourself to the realm of pure theory.

Put more pointedly, if you claim to be completely non-violent, I think you're full of shit.

Everyone, every human being has a breaking point. A point where you snap and are capable of flashbacks to the earlier ages of man where teeth and sinew were the tools of negotiation.

If you claim complete non-violence it's because the right buttons haven't been pushed.

Michael Berg stunned the poor twits in the media when he refused to be baited into saying he was glad that al-Zarqawi was dead. It's a bold thing for him to want mercy for the men who killed his child and I was very impressed with him.

But you have to know that deep in his heart he wishes he could have been in that chamber when those men were about to kill Nick. Imagine the violence he would be willing to unleash there.
I'm not making light of Mr. Berg's convictions, nor am I attacking him. He's suffered a loss I could not survive and is turning it to something very positive. I believe he's very sincere and brave.

I also believe that even the most devoutly non-violent people must understand that sometimes, depending on the situation, violence is the answer.

I've caught hell before for defending the Palestinian right to self defense, by whatsoever means is at their disposal. Over fifty years of occupation and the non-action by the international community makes me wonder why there aren't a hell of a lot more things going boom in Israeli restaurants and shopping malls. If you ask me, the Palestinians are showing incredible restraint. No, I don't agree with targeting of civilians. Absolutely not. I believe they should limit their targets to the occupation forces themselves. But that's very easy for me to say. I've never gone up against a tank with a handful of stones.

Do the people of Palestine want to learn the ways of non-violent resistance? Well, efforts by brave individuals to spark such ideas have met with little enthusiasm. It seems generations of watching your family members being beaten, humiliated, and murdered does not lend itself to thoughts of peaceful co-existence.

But all of that is dancing around my real point:

Sooner or later, if the march of the One Party system has it's way, Americans, to remain free, will have to resist. The question is whether it will be violent or non-violent.

Oh, you know it's true. Even the so-called doves that are paying attention and writing on the web are starting to get the picture. They would deny it if asked straight out but they know it's coming. I can say it because I don't have a reputation as a "serious" writer to protect.

The corporate media, hell, they won't even see the tanks or the camps when they're right there in front of them. They're paid not to see such things.

So I'm wondering to myself. Is there a way of proving that violent resistance solves more problems than non-violent resistance?

You could point to Iraq as an example of violent resistance and the toll it takes on the population, but I don't consider Iraq to be an example of pure resistance. The Shia and Sunni are putting as much effort, or more, in fighting one another as the are trying to kick out the American occupiers. The Bush administration knows this and has a great interest in keeping the two factions at each others' throats. If the Sunni and Shia ever decided to put their grievances on hold long enough to mount a real insurgency, the twenty five hundred American casualties would become twenty five thousand very quickly and America would withdraw.

So I was thinking about how to illustrate how sometimes insurmountable political and social problems can be solved or at least helped greatly by armed resistance, providing the right people have the arms.

Then my question was answered by, of all people, Amnesty International.

These are excerpts from Amnesty International's news page:

Amnesty International, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the International Committee for Human Rights expressed concern today that the activities of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) State Commission for the Revision of Decisions on Naturalization of Foreign Citizens), which began its work in March 2006, may result in the transfer of persons to countries where they would be at risk of grave human rights violations.

Amnesty International condemns the Iranian security forces' violent disruption of a peaceful demonstration on 12 June by women and men advocating an end to legal discrimination against women in Iran.

Amnesty International today condemned the killing of at least 58 civilians and the wounding of at least 45 others in a Claymore mine attack in Anuradhapura district, in northern Sri Lanka.

Amnesty International is calling on the United Nations (UN) Security Council and the Iraqi government to ensure that those who commit crimes under international law in Iraq, including members of the US-led Multinational Force (MNF), are held to account.

Amnesty International today called for a civilian-led fully independent investigation into the deaths of three Guantanamo detainees after apparent suicides.

Amnesty International is calling on Israel to end immediately its reckless shelling and air strikes against the Gaza Strip, which have killed and injured scores of unarmed Palestinians, including several women and children, in recent months.

Israel's persistent violations of human rights should be a priority issue at tomorrow's EU-Israel Association Council, says Amnesty International.

Amnesty International is concerned that a pattern of arson attacks is taking place against persons and organizations which have spoken out against.

Amnesty International is very concerned about a great many things. Amnesty International is calling on various governments, including Israel and the United States, to do a great many things.

None of these things are going to be done. Don't get me wrong, God bless the well-meaning folks at Amnesty International.

They've been howling about the American torture camp at Guantanamo Bay for years now.

And accomplished nothing.

Now let's say that Amnesty International was run by folks with a different sort of world-view.

Let's say this group was very well-armed and willing to use those arms.

Just like Amnesty International it had groups operating all over the globe.

Let's say this new group didn't condemn. It demanded. It wasn't concerned. It was outraged.
It didn't say something should be done, it said it will be done.

Or else.

Insane, you say? Outrageous, you say?

Well, if you were sitting in a cell where you had been tortured for years, or you were burying your husband or wife gunned down by an occupying army, or you had no home, no food and no hope, which Amnesty International would you want on your side?

That's what I thought.


Anonymous Barnita said...

HI Robert - you guys know I believe in non-violence - though I don't see it very often anymore. For non-violent methods of protest to work - a helpful, empathical media is very important. But unluckily - your media is not exactly what we can call very sympathetic. The other thing is - the Government needs to be hiding something from the people, or must want something from the people protesting to even begin to be embarrased or up a corner on account of the protestors. This also doesn't apply to your Government because -hey the US government can take a shit in broad daylight in full public view without worrying about consequences.

SOmetimes I wonder if the age of non-violent resistence has passed because peace is not a language that authority understands anymore. I'll use an Indian context to get my thought across - The anti-reservation protests sparked by the Mandal Comission of the early 1990's that caused the fall of the Zail Singh Govt in India was not exactly peaceful. Students were violent, the cops even more so- some of my frienmds have stories of burning their school furniture while being locked up in classrooms when older students went on rampages. In the end - the students settled for peanuts - but peanuts are better than nothing I guess.

This time round, in 2006,the protests started out peacefully but when the cops took a physical turn and bashed up members of the medical community - they went too far. Noone wants their doctors beaten up. The protests took on a crazy intensity after that. But the protestors did not get violent- yes they got worked up - they yelled and screamed and danced around screaming bloody murder at the guys who initiated this round of reservation policies. And this time - cos the media was watching, cos in a multi-party democracy one has to be careful and mind what people feel - the cops behaved. And the result. The wonderful result - NOTHING.

So basically - violence gets us peanuts. And non-violence gets us, ummm- peanut shells I guess. And some publicity. Before the matter could be resolved- Rahul & Co went on their attention grabbing OD spree and took all focus away from these students. Now, noone cares that AIIMS docs' jobs are being threatened by the ministry - I'm trying to say that non-violence has lost its edge. Though it sounds like the best way to beat the odds - it really isn't. Civil disobedience and hunger strikes - they work only when people care. And hardly anyone cares anymore. Its sad.

But 'non-violent' its such a lovely term.

Sun Jun 18, 02:10:00 AM  
Anonymous ML said...

Wow! Barnita, thank you for your insights and concision.

Sun Jun 18, 02:19:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Yes indeed. Barnita nails it perfectly.

Someone has to be paying attention for non-violence to work. For people to care if protestors are being arrested and beaten there has to be common decency. An understanding that if they will do this to these citizens they might just go it to any citizen.

Sadly, I believe the only thing that even manages to get through the consumer clutter and warped ideologies is blood and spectacular displays of violence.

And even then in insulated America, it's not a sure bet.

Witness Iraq, for instance.

Those 30-100,000 dead are just strangely-named brown people.

If that many Americans were dead it would be Months of Official Days of Mourning and trillions of dollars earmarked for memorials.

As sick as it may seem from outside, you should live here amongst the ignorance.

I don't want my son to grow up here.

Sun Jun 18, 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger Again said...

Wow! Barnita, thank you for your insights and concision.

agree wholeheartedly

Well, if you were sitting in a cell where you had been tortured for years, or you were burying your husband or wife gunned down by an occupying army, or you had no home, no food and no hope, which Amnesty International would you want on your side?

That's what I thought.

you are not alone...

To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don’t be.

here some great words about used violence to defend yourself...

Your holiness, do you know what my earliest memory is? It is waiting for a pogrom in Kiev. Let me assure you that my people know all about real "harshness" and also that we learned all about the real mercy when we were being led to the gas chambers of the nazis.

great words of a real good person, i guess

We don’t thrive on military acts. We do them because we have to, and thank God we are efficient...
We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.

great words of a peaceloving woman...

Being a grandmother, I'm certain we're going to have peace in the Middle East, for I know there are other grandmothers in Egypt, in Jordan and in Syria who also want their children to live.

who is just forced to used violence to defend herself and the ones she loves...

A leader who doesn't hesitate before he sends his nation into battle is not fit to be a leader.
Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.

Golda Meir

how times change...

or don't they?

you should live here amongst the ignorance.

don't need to live there - live here and time of ignorance is just 60 years gone, with the sad insight left, that ignorance is like rats: it breeds without bounds and is nearly immortal, lurks under every stone and waits patiently for a come back...

Mon Jun 19, 01:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Nemo said...

"... Let's say this new group didn't condemn. It demanded. It wasn't concerned. It was outraged. ==== It didn't say something should be done, it said it will be done. ==== Or else. ==== Insane, you say? Outrageous, you say? ..." ==== Robert: Actually, what I'd say is that what you've described is a fairly *accurate* depiction of al Qaeda and virtually every other "terrorist" [= resistance] group in the world that seeks redress for the numerous human rights violations suffered by its own "constituents". It is only by donning "red, white, and blue blinders" that Americans are remotely capable of dismissing the causal role of officially sanctioned *US* terrorism in directly inciting such retaliatory movements. This country has conducted a virtually NON-STOP campaign of state-sponsored terrorism ever since the inception of the "national security state" following World War II. Upon the formation of the CIA's "Special Operations Division" -- the "covert ops" cutthroats -- a veritable Pandora's Box of vicious US intrigues was unleashed upon the world. (And all who've since strived to dismantle our "Murder, Inc" have failed, often suffering devastating consequences.) ==== Is it any wonder then, as Ward Churchill so eloquently pointed out in his post-9/11 essay, that "the chickens have come home to roost"? If there is a prophetic truth in George Orwell's "1984", it would be, "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." And that boot has sported the caption, "Made in the USA", for the past 60 years.

Tue Jun 20, 11:50:00 PM  

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