After the Bataclan attack in Paris, a very courageous gentleman who lost his wife in the shooting came out publicly saying that the attackers would not “have his hatred.” He said this as soon as the next day after the attack. Wow. A seriously committed pacifist, to say the least. It was a moving statement, but I wonder, is that what the attackers really wanted? Gandhi would certainly advise us not give it–our hatred– to a murderous attacker, but I don’t think that he would say that what the attackers wanted was hatred itself. It’s just too convenient, too simplistic to allow ourselves to believe that people “out there” are just hateful and violent.
Gandhi asks us to look deeper and wonder what drives a person to hatred. We have first to understand, with empathy, what might drive a human being, whose deepest nature is after all not hatred by any means, to act out of such hatred and risk getting it back in return? By asking this we humanize a person or a group whose hatred of us might be terrorizing. And let’s be clear, fellow Americans, in particular, no one “hates us for our freedoms.” They hate us for what we have done to them.
A most effective way to interrupt that fear or terror – and with it the whole cycle of violence – is a question: what is the end that a person who is using hatred is seeking? Is it respect? Is it dignity? No matter how ill-conceived their plan is to get it, Gandhi says that there would be no problem with the end itself, if they would go about it through nonviolent means. The real difference between a terrorist movement and a nonviolent movement is here, in the means we choose and the image of the human being we uphold.
Whenever your are meeting with violence, near or far away, see if you can think of the genuine need behind it, and how that need could be addressed by nonviolent means.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org