Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nonviolence: Lesson 2

After beginning my exploration of Mark Kurlansky's 25 lessons about nonviolence laid out in his "Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea," I've gotten off track and, well, lazy about continuing my posts. It always seems there's something that "needs" or "should" be done rather than blathering away on the blog, but I'm trying to make this a priority now.

Anyhow, last time, we looked at the first lesson: there is no positive word for "nonviolence." Today, we look at the second lesson.

Kurlansky's second lesson about nonviolence is this: nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them. The idea of having a "robust" military merely to dissuade others from attacking is not nonviolence at all. Such a military will always end up being used actively (even if, as was the case in the invasion of Iraq, its use was disingenuously couched in the rhetoric of "deterrence" and "prevention").

The Russian dramatist, Anton Chekov, famously said that if you have a gun hanging on the wall of the set of a play in the first act, it must necessarily be used in the second. It would seem ludicrous to have such an attention-grabbing prop be there and remain unused.

The gun hanging on the set of the set of the ongoing production that is "The United States of America (Now More than Ever)" is our military.

There have only been a handful of years in its history when the United States didn't have its military in the field somewhere in the world participating in a conflict of some sort. It is a tragic example of the maxim, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." We've spent so much money on our military and made it so central to our national ethos that we find reasons to use it even when it is the last tool that should be used. The current "wars" (which, it hardly needs saying, haven't been wars for years, but long ago morphed into clumsy and violent occupations) in response to the actions of 19 men with boxcutters is only the latest example of this attitude.