Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Way to Stop the Violence By David Swanson

The troubled souls (generally known in the media as "monsters" and
"lunatics") who keep shooting up schools and shopping centers, believe they
are solving deeper problems.  We all know, of course, that in reality they
are making things dramatically worse.

This is not an easy problem for us to solve.  We could make it harder to
obtain guns, and especially guns designed specifically for mass killings.
We could take on the problem with our entertainment: we have movies,
television shows, video games, books, and toys promoting killing as the way
to fix what ails us.  We could take on the problem of our news media: we
have newspapers and broadcast chatterers promoting killing as a necessary
tool of public policy.  We could reverse the past 40 years of rising
inequality, poverty, and plutocracy -- a trend that correlates with
violence in whatever country its found.

What we can't do is stop arming, training, funding, and supporting the mass
murderers in our towns and cities, because of course we haven't been
supporting them.  They aren't acting in our name as our representatives.
When our children run in horror from classrooms strewn with their
classmates' bloody corpses, they are running from killers never authorized
by us or elected by us.

This situation changes when we look abroad.

Picture a family in a house in Pakistan.  There's a little dot very high up
in the sky above.  It's making a buzzing noise.  The dot is an unmanned
airplane, a drone.  It's being flown from a desk in Nevada.  The family
knows what it is.  The children know what it is.  They know their lives may
be ended at any moment.  And they are traumatized.  They are in a constant
state of terror.  And then, one bright clear morning, they are torn limb
from limb, bleeding, screaming, groaning out their last breaths as their
home collapses into smoking rubble.

Picture a family in a house in Afghanistan.  They're asleep in their beds.
A door is kicked in. Incomprehensible words are shouted.  Bullets fly.
Loved ones are grabbed and dragged away, kicking and screaming with horror
-- never to be seen again.

The troubled souls (generally known in the media as "tax-payers") who keep
this far greater volume of violence going, believe they are solving deeper
problems.  But when we look closely, we see that in reality we are making
things dramatically worse.

That is the good news.  There is violence that we can much more easily
stop, because it is our violence.  The U.S. Army last week said that
targeting children in Afghanistan was perfectly acceptable.  The U.S.
President maintains a list of men, women, and children to be killed, and he
kills them -- but the vast majority of the people killed through that
program are people not on the list, people in the wrong place at the wrong
time (just like the people in our shopping malls and schools).

In fact, the vast majority of the people killed in our foreign wars are
simply bystanders.  And they are killed in their homes, their stores, their
schools, their weddings.  The violence that we can easily end looks very
much like the violence we find so difficult to address at home.  It doesn't
take place between a pair of armies on a battlefield.  It happens where its
victims live.

Were we to stop pouring $1.2 trillion each year into war preparations, we
would also be stopping the public funding of the manufacturers of the
weapons that rip open our loved ones and neighbors in our schools and
parking lots.  We would be altering dramatically the context in which we
generate public policy, public entertainment, and public myths about how
problems can be solved.  We would be saving lives every bit as precious as
any other lives, while learning how to go on to saving more.

One place to start, I believe, would be in withdrawing U.S. troops from
over 1,000 bases in other people's countries -- an imperial presence that
costs us $170 billion each year while building hostility and tensions, not
peace.  There's a reason why, at this time of year, we don't sing about
"Peace in My Backyard."  If we want peace on Earth, we must stop and
consider how to get it.

THANK YOU so much, David Swanson, for being, --along with John Dear (see the post at for December 2012 ) -- a rare, generous & peacefully-spoken
voices for peace in our time.  And how can anyone even logically argue with what you say?

READERS:  If you have not yet read David Swanson's wonderful children's book:
Tube so & send them as gifts to children of wonder & peace of ALL ages.
I am reading it through again with my husband who can't wait to read it together each
night.  What fun, what wonder, what hope & what facts are presented therein...
Should be a best seller soon.  Get out the word!


CN said...

Also see the post top of: for December 15 2012

CN said...

You will find other items/actions by David Swanson who is one of our best peacemakers in the USA today....

He recently has put together a petition in favor of the POET who was imprisoned in Qatar merely for a poem.

If you'd like to sign, & have trouble finding this, let me know...

robert said...


Thank you for sharing this article. In it are many valuable points.

The question is: Who exactly is making things dramatically worse (to use the wording of the author)?

If firearms were, in theory, utterly unavailable, would armed violence not occur? I believe it still would occur, as a root of the issue seems (to me) to be about the manifestation of violence, and not necessarily the weapon of choice. This is apparent, for instance, in a mass attack by a knife-wielding assailant in China about the same time as the recent CT incident.

So are we to apply our energy toward curtailing the availability of certain kinds of weapons? How will this effectiveness look in the world?

Are hearts changed by the lack of availability of this weapon or that one? How does one address all weapons, to include all that manifests through materialism, modernism, and manipulation?

There have been countries which, in the past, suffered far more active shooter incidents (such as the recent elementary school event). National priorities, in these countries, were set, and training occurred in all sectors, to include, not just law enforcement, but citizens as well. Over time, implementing a certain kind of tactic for these kinds of active shooter incidents greatly mitigated the number of victims and overall trauma. The frequency of these incidents decreased. It was then considered a "success."

What also occurred, however, was that other kinds of violence (e.g., use of explosives & bombs) then became more the norm. The violence, then, did not stop; the weapon merely shifted. The violence was, in these cases, addressed only at its most external, concrete manifestation. Whatever was causing the violence - a root of it - was still apparently intact, with those manifesting it simply having to choose a different tactic (i.e., choice of weapon) through which to manifest it.

I work in a field where thinking can be quite myopic and unchanging about the mitigation of violence, this being the main field to which most people look for answers on exactly this topic. When something like the Connecticut incident occurs, the same so-called solutions are thrown at it with greater urgency, more money, more talk, etc. This can also be the case with regard to international issues of conflict and war. All these efforts are well intended, and perhaps useful in some way. My enduring concern, however, is that I sense that an underlying origin of it is not being addressed.

I do personally suspect that society, at least American society, seeks a scapegoating label for the persons who do these acts. Society looks for, and finds, a "disturbed" person.

I have a nagging suspicion, however, that these kinds of incidents are a manifestation of a systemic, social disorder, and actually have far less to do with the exact person through which the disorder manifests.

To this, others might nod their heads in affirmation. But...still, they proceed to throw more and more money and exclusive attention toward the psychiatrically disordered population (a whole other topic in itself), gun control (what actually needs to be tamed?), etc.

My studies of Allama Iqbal contribute to me sharing this view. His views on exactly how to revivify a society could give answers to our modern-day issues (and not just for Pakistan). We are talking, however, about a qualitatively different kind of needed transformation.

Violent computer games can, I believe, contribute to these kinds of actions being done "for real." I also sense, however, that these same games (as well as the many movies depicting graphic violence, torture, and violent sexuality) are, themselves, a manifestation of the same aforementioned originative root.

I sense that a social blueprint needs to be inspected, with attention not just given only to the bricks, boards, and concrete.

All good wishes,


CN said...

Wow, this comment looks so thorough with so many usually missing pieces addressed. I want to come back soon when I can really spend time with your reflection and expertise in this area.

I can imagine that you have certainly been soulful & grieving during this difficult time for our nation & the families/children/area of the horrific recent events.

CN said...

Robert, this line by you is esp. striking to me as we often don't look at the "underlying origin" nor even to weapons that go by another name as you have: "...weapons,...include all that manifests through materialism, modernism, and manipulation?"

While I do believe gun control could help address guns in the hands of any bent on doing damage or acting out rage or mental disorder, your challenge for us all as a society to look at underlying origins in the context of societal pathology is certainly necessary to any real and viable change.

I would appreciate some concrete suggestions for how we as a society might go about doing exactly what is needed now?

If you would like, let's keep this discussion going a bit longer...Robert and others...

robert said...

Greetings Connie,

Shaidi composed an exceptional blog post.

My response to her post may be, somewhat of an answer to what you have asked me here in regard to "concrete suggestions." Well...the suggestions, if they are that, are not really about the "concrete," but more having to do with how to mix the concrete :).

All good wishes,


CN said...

Be aware that I may have to report abuse yet hope I don't have to go to that extent.

So please if you post comments use a real name & don't leave any sites which are COMMERCIAL, negative or strange in any way...

Anonymous -- if you don't want to be reported, end your comments...