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Guest column: Breaking cycle of violence means re-thinking nationalism

POSTED: January 18, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Did you know that the vast majority of violence that humans inflict on each other does not come from criminals or the mentally ill? Violence in all its destructive forms is mostly the products of so-called normal, respectable, suit-wearing citizens who often have religious ties.

From a spiritual perspective, we are all one with only one creator. This means that we share the same mind which is capable of both good and evil (free will). All hatred and violence stems from an individual and collective egoistic mindset whose creed is "we are right and good and they are wrong and evil."

Both sides see themselves as the victims and the "other" as victimizers. By dehumanizing each other, it's easier for our egos to justify inflicting all our warlike thoughts onto the "enemy," including killing them. This madness has been and continues to be the "signs of the times" in which we live.

Jiddu Krishnamurti was dead right when he said the major problem of the world is "nationalism." All nationalism, whether religious, racial or political, is rooted in this false ego belief in separation. As long as we identify with the seemingly endless forms of these "idols," we are doomed to a vicious, no-exit cycle of hatred and violence.

The conflicts in the Middle East, especially between the Israelis and Palestinians, are only one of many dramatic and deadly examples of this mindset in full operation. This is a problem that cannot be solved with current thinking and tactics; it must be outgrown.

The level of thinking that got these people into this mess is exactly what keeps fueling their sense of being trapped in separation and war. If we are committed to helping our brothers and sisters in any meaningful way, we must resist the temptation of taking sides in this conflict. The greatest service we can provide is to embrace a higher truth within our minds and hearts and give it away through actions.

There's only one catch; this cannot happen until all thoughts of judgment and condemnation toward Palestinians and Israelis are removed from our hearts. If we, especially those who proclaim to be Christians, are to have any relevance in today's world of increasing violence and chaos, this change of heart will not take us out of the fray, but lead us into its midst with a power greater than violence. The question is whether or not our faith as followers of Christ is deep enough, real enough.

There are those who will call this naive or wishful thinking. I say that anyone who continues to believe that using evil to defeat evil and masquerading this so-called solution as a principled stand is not only naive but insane as well. It's insane because such proponents expect different results by using the same failed strategies.

We have yet to embrace the truth as lived by Jesus and modern-day prophets such, as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.; we must "be the change" we seek. They demonstrated that "there is a power in our hearts more powerful than the power of bullets."

And this divine power was never meant to be only a private affair between the individual and his or her God, but rather to be used in the entire geopolitical spectrum. If we are to be conduits for peace in the world, it is essential that we move beyond all nationalistic and ego-centered thinking and enact a higher spiritual reality.

I don't claim to have specific answers to current world problems, but I do know something about the essential mindset or attitude required in addressing them. The new politics of Barack Obama gives me hope in this direction.

But he cannot do this by himself. If peace is what we want, then we as Americans citizens have a responsibility to represent sanity. We must understand that this is not a matter of good versus evil, justice for injustice. We are caught in a trap of insanity versus insanity where nobody wins. As long as an unexamined thought system of separation, blame, hate and guilt is allowed to dominate the world, violence in all its destructive forms will continue, perhaps even making the human race extinct.

If all we do is judge others for their evil actions and do not heal the part of our minds that share the same unloving thought system, then nothing meaningful will change. We might win the war militarily, but lose the war on the levels that mean the most.

The time has come to stop seeing ourselves as only American, Muslim, Christian, conservative or liberal. We are called to rise above the battleground and put an end to what President Franklin Roosevelt called the "beginnings of all war."

Harold L. Lott is a Gainesville resident.


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