Tuesday, August 31, 2010
In her book "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" author Patricia Evans writes that abusive personal relationships are a microcosm of abusive societal relationships, drawing parallels between the control an oppressive regime struggles to exert over it's citizens and the control an oppressive partner struggles to exert over their significant other. She points out that in both cases fear is at the root of these evils- fear that people will recognize their own power, fear of abandonment, fear of inadequacy, fear of exposure. Does the root of all evil stem from fear?
I have been thinking about this for a long time. I have been considering it in the light of recent events, including Arizona law SB1070, the argument over the cultural center near Ground Zero, Dr. Laura's racist verbal crap explosion, and various and sundry things being said by Sarah Palin and members of the Tea Party, and local cases of child abuse, domestic violence, and homicide. To name only a few. The sadness of the harm done, the ugliness of the rhetoric, the wrongheadedness of the self righteous, the shocking disregard for our fellow human beings. Ten years into the new millennium, this is what we've got. It's a damn shame.
The common thread I see among all of these things is fear, but when I think where could that fear have come from, what I get is : ignorance. Some ignorance is very easy to identify—words or actions that reveal a deficiency in knowledge of a subject. Some ignorance is very willful ignorance, serving an agenda, a play for power, stoking the fear engendered by the ignorance of others. The most basic ignorance, though, is the ignorance of self. When we fear to look within, to address our hurts, to know ourselves and to heal ourselves, then we can't know peace. We act out- whether it is by violence towards our spouse or children or by getting up on a podium or a radio show and spouting really hateful, condemning words about people we don't even know, we are acting out. Fear, not love, is what motivates our actions when we are ignorant of our true selves. We live our lives in knee-jerk mode, and a lot of other people get hurt, maybe even in spite of our best intentions.
So, ignorance: the root of all evil. The solution? It would be really nice if human beings could just agree to acknowledge that by the time we are twenty some one or some thing has probably seriously fucked us up in some way—a trauma, a messed up set of beliefs about our selves and the world, some jerk messages our parents instilled in us—whatever. And it would be really nice if everyone accepted that before they got married, had children, went into a professional practice, spoke in public or held a public office, you would get some kind of therapy, get to know yourself, heal whatever your wounds are, and learn to be at peace. How else is anybody going to act with pure intentions? Because otherwise, there is a whole lot of fronting going on, a whole lot of the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, a whole lot of nastiness and needless suffering.
I will end with some quotes from the Dalai Lama:
"If there is love, there is hope to have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace. If the love within your mind is lost, if you continue to see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education you have, no matter how much material progress is made, only suffering and confusion will ensue."
"I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed."
"Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace."