You don’t have to be a pushover to do no deliberate harm
Okay, I’ve disconnected this blog from my Twitter account, so that makes things simpler. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… they all have their different rules for how to format your writing so that you can get visibility, and I just don’t have the time (or interest) for doing anything special, other than writing.
I have no desire to accommodate other “platforms”. I have no desire to use/create hashtags, so I can be in on the larger conversation. The larger conversation tends to not be a conversation at all — rather, a shouting match. Especially with all the events of the past week.
Count me out of that particular exchange.
What we need now, more than anything, is a lot less yelling, a lot less attacking, a lot less blowing people up over differences of opinion. Whether it’s literal or metaphorical, trying to destroy other people never, ever has the intended results. If anything, it just makes things worse and perpetuates the exact problems we’re grappling with, to begin with.
It’s just common sense that a living, breathing human being who is attacked, is going to strike back. So, why would we think that attacking our enemies — even with a superior show of strength — is going to settle the matter? Those attacks can be with bombs or words or social policy, but in whatever form, they strike at the humanity of others and threaten their existence.
What do people do when you threaten them? What do they do when you humiliate them? What do they do when you blow them and their families up? They fight back. Of course they do. We do it, too. No self-respecting individual or culture is going to just roll over because someone overpowers them at one point in time. Things change. Power shifts. Someone takes control of an arsenal of weapons that used to belong to someone else, and the balance of power shifts against whoever was the aggressor, the last time.
Fantasizing that it’s anything different from that, is not helping, in the current “wartime” situation.
All our our intentions to “settle the matter once and for all” do nothing of the kind. What do we think? That others are just going to sit back and say, “Oh, you’re right – you’re much stronger than we are, so we’re not going to do anything to you anymore! You’re the MAN!!” ….? Have we lost our minds? No self-respecting individual is going to do or say that — and mean it. They may pretend to surrender, they may retreat for a while, but they’ll be back later to try to hurt us again. And there will be someone out there who’s willing to sell them all the right weapons to do exactly that. That’s just human nature, and anybody who thinks that shock-and-awe force will “settle” any issue for all time, has not been paying attention to, oh… just a few millennia of human experience and history. Even looking at the past 20 years will show you that.
Of course, if you’re in the arms business, life is pretty sweet, right now. So, it’s not all bad — for some people, anyway. I’m sure there are plenty of mutual funds out there that are invested in arms manufacturing, which means all the retired school teachers and civil servants and countless folks drawing on their 401(k)s can avoid eating dog food and living in a cardboard box under an overpass for at least a few more years. It’s all interconnected, and we’re all complicit in this arrangement. As long as any (all) of us are benefiting from our perpetual state of war, there’s only so much we can say about it. Even if you move off the grid, you’re still probably going to be using things that were created, thanks to the system we all live in. So, none of us is without blame in creating this situation.
Of course, I’m never going to convince the People In Charge that running around blowing up your opponents is going to solve anything. Everybody who talks in these terms just looks like a bit of a passive, utopian twit on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or whatever social media outlet they prefer. In these days of escalation, anyone who talks about de-escalation seems soft and out-of-touch with the necessities of the situation. Blinded. We’re all blinded by trauma and passion, and even though I agree with the words posted about how to relieve conditions of war, all those pictures of East-Asian gods and goddesses and the Dhali Lama just make me angry.
As far as I’m concerned, the only thing for me to do is get out of my head. Get out of my fear and anxiety, to just get on with my life. Get active. Live my life. Live it fully. Don’t sit and stew. Get going and take positive action.
“No harm, no foul,” seems like a pretty good philosophy and life approach to me.
It’s about not letting myself be harmed by what others do. They will do what they please, and they won’t necessarily give a damn about how it affects me. It’s often up to me, to decide what I’ll do with the experience — if I’ll get carried away by insult and perceived hurt, or if I’ll let it slide and get on with my life. There are many, many things that are done “to” me, that I can either notice and turn into a terrible offense… or I can just ignore them as moments of stupidity that mindless people are doing because they don’t know any better. It’s my choice, what I do with all that.
Probably the best thing that anyone can do these days, is do no harm. That, and make a positive difference in the world. Pay close and considerate attention to what’s going on around you, so you can be strong from moment to moment. Be alert to opportunities to be a little better at what you do than you were, just a moment before. So many things are happening at a “macro” level that are beyond our influence and understanding. There is so much we do not know, so much we cannot control. What we can control is how we relate to others… how we take care of ourselves… how we mind our own behavior and keep it as clean as possible.
There is only so much we can influence, on a day to day basis. But the things we can influence for the better, could make all the difference in someone’s life, or a troubling situation that has the possibility of escalating.
I have to admit that, for myself, I bear a lot of responsibility for having caused others harm. Many times in my life (usually shortly after a TBI, or later on because of brain injury and PTSD), I struck out and harmed others. I broke things. I attacked people. I did my share of damage, being deliberately hurtful — because I, myself, was in pain. For many, many years, this went on. Hurting people — family, friends, loved-ones… saying and doing the kinds of things that were intended to cause pain — to make sure I wasn’t the only one who was hurting.
I wasn’t fully aware of what I was doing, when I was doing it. And while I was doing the damage, I believed I was entitled to do it, because, well, I was hurting. And I needed some relief. Hurting others was the only way I knew how to relieve that pain, that hurt. It was the only way I could figure out how to not be the only one in the room in excruciating discomfort.
And it took a toll. It trashed so many friendships, so many relationships that have not been able to recover in many, many years — even after I got my act together. There is little to no trust between myself and some of my siblings. There are old, once-close friends I have not spoken to in 25 years. There were family members who had to turn their backs on me, for their own sake, and who died before I could make amends. My past is littered with broken relationships and fractured trust. I am still paying for it, and some debts I will never get to repay.
Which is why I now feel like the best thing I can do, really, is be kind. Be gentle. Be generous. Be strong. Be fierce, when it’s called for, but don’t let that be my default mode. There’s a difference between being a pushover, and standing your ground firmly with a disarming smile on your face. The people who can do the latter are the true bad-asses of the world.
And that’s what I strive for: To stand firmly, but to not let others get the better of me because I’m an easy mark. Also, to not be a mindless jerk who unconsciously messes with other people. Being aware of my surroundings and responding as who I am, rather than what the situation turns me into, is a true martial art. Being able to absorb the hits of the world, and not fall to pieces… not take it out on others… that’s my ideal. When I can do that — just let the world be its crazy place, deflect its blows,and keep going with my life, calm and collected — there need not be any blood, there need not be any foul.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.
It just means that I don’t hurt others, as a result of my own pain.
It’s a goal, anyway.