Skip to main content

Taking a stand for peace: Inside or outside the tribe?

Community is important, but there is a risk of being subsumed into a collectivity in a way that diminishes one's ability to see the humanity of others outside it. Jeremy Driscoll:

It is possible to say we in a mistaken and dangerous way. This would be the we of a nation or any group that is said at the expense of the individual subject, the individual I, such that there are no Is in the we; their only identity is their we. Sometimes people are forced into such a we, as in totalitarian governments; other times they choose it, as in a radical and mindless belonging to a group. When there is this kind of we, it is possible to look at others as only a they...

One can stand outside all tribes to defend an ideology of peace, but then, belonging to none, one receives the scorn from all. Alan Watts:

It is both dangerous and absurd for our world to be a group of communions mutually excommunicate. This is especially true of the great cultures of the East and the West, where the potentialities of communication are the richest, and the dangers of failure to communicate the worst. ... On the one hand, it is necessary to be sympathetic and to experiment personally with the way of life to the limit of one's possibilities. On the other hand, one must resist every temptation to "join the organization," to become involved with its institutional commitments. In this friendly neutral position one is apt to be disowned by both sides.

But even when disowned by people, one may have the company of one's ideals. Balzac in The Inventor’s Suffering refers to "moral aloneness," which Erich Fromm describes as the thing that monks and political prisoners lack – they are not alone because they have the company of their convictions.

To practice peace is to have the ability to see suffering others – when it really counts, when one can do something about it – as part of one human family, regardless of tribe. Michael Lerner:

Imagine that you lived in a family in which there were five children. One of those children had been given 40 percent of the resources of the family, a second had 32 percent, a third had 20 percent, a fourth was struggling with 6 percent of the resources, and one was starving to death with only 2 percent of the resources. Surely you would reject the argument of the richest child who praised the arrangements and pointed to the way that it was good for the family because a majority of the children were thriving. You’d say: “No, it is unacceptable to see one of these children starving and another struggling so hard to survive. This is a crazy and immoral arrangement, and it must immediately be changed. I will not be part of any arrangement that has these consequences.” The only reason we don’t say that about the world we live in today is because we refuse to acknowledge these others as actually part of our family.


Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B. A Monk's Alphabet: Moments of Stillness in a Turning World. Boston: New Seeds, 2006. p. 196.

Alan Watts. The Way of Zen. Originally 1957. Vintage Spiritual Classics Edition 1999. p xi-xii.

Erich Fromm. Escape from Freedom. New York: Avon, 1941. pp. 34-35.

Michael Lerner. The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right. HarperSanFrancisco, 2006. p. 341-342.


Popular posts from this blog

Castration at the Battle of Adwa (1896)

On March 1, 1896, the Battle of Adwa "cast doubt upon an unshakable certainty of the age – that sooner or later Africans would fall under the rule of Europeans." In this battle, Ethiopians beat back the invading Italians and forced them to retreat permanently. It was not until 1922 that Benito Mussolini would again initiate designs against Ethiopia; despite Ethiopia's defeat in 1936, the nation ultimately retained its independence. "Adwa opened a breach that would lead, in the aftermath of world war fifty years later, to the rollback of European rule in Africa. It was," Raymond Jonas wrote, "an event that determined the color of Africa." (p. 1) It was also significant because it upheld the power of Ethiopia's Christian monarchy that controlled an ethnically diverse nation (p. 333), a nation in which, in the late 19th century, the Christian Emperor Yohannes had tried to force Muslims to convert to Christianity. (p. 36)The Victorian English spelling…

Review of Cliff Sims' 'Team of Vipers' (2019)

After he resigned his position, Cliff Sims spent two months in Fall 2018 writing Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House. Many stories are told, some already well known to the public, some not. One buys this book, most likely, to gape at the colossal flameout spectacle that is Donald Trump, as with most things with Trump's name. Sims exposes the thoughtlessness, the chaos, the lack of empathy among his fellow insiders in the campaign and later in the White House, but he does not at all acknowledge the real consequences for ordinary Americans — there might as well be no world outside the Trump insider bubble, for all this narrative concerns itself with — and therefore falls far short of fully grappling with the ethical implications of his complicity.Previously, Sims was a journalist. "I had written tough stories, including some that helped take down a once-popular Republican governor in my home state," he says. "I had done my best to be acc…

It is not journalists' job to vet political nominees, but...?

The position of U.S. national intelligence director is open, following the resignation of Daniel Coats. John Ratcliffe withdrew his name from consideration on August 2, 2019, only five days after Trump nominated him. An article in The Guardian about why Trump picked Ratcliffe:Ratcliffe is a frequent Trump defender who fiercely questioned the former special counsel Robert Mueller during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee hearing last week.Even as Mueller laid bare concerns that Russia was working to interfere with US elections again, Ratcliffe remained focused on the possibility that US intelligence agencies had overly relied on unverified opposition research in investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.Unfortunately for Ratcliffe, he had embellished his credentials. According to Vox: He had "frequently boasted about overseeing the arrest of 300 illegal immigrants in one day at a poultry plant in 2008," but the operation was much smaller and his role w…