Monday, September 17, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 18


 
 









 
Retaliation is a beginning, not an end

Angi Patton
Guest Columnist

In a plot that seemed scripted in fiction, in an act that was wired for special effects, terrorism left the vagueness of imagination and invaded
the immediacy of real life. In a matter of minutes, all the details and trappings of daily life, both rich and mundane, shrank to minuscule
proportions. What looms in their place is a stunned sense of disbelief that has leveled all semblance of civility and normality.

Calculating the costs seems unfathomable as families grieve, the economy teeters and a nation suffers. As we struggle to make sense of
these circumstances, we find that we are left with the greatest injury of all -- a hardened heart. No one can deny feeling the immediate and
very human response to get even, to strike back, to "take care of business," to "search and destroy."

And while the perpetuators of this atrocity must be identified and held accountable, government leaders and media commentators must resist
riding the wave of public support for disproportionate vengeance.

The World Trade Center, the Pentagon and terrorism are all social concepts representing a free economy, national security and the dark
side of human nature. And just as the destruction of the World Trade Towers cannot topple capitalism, and a damaged Pentagon will not
overthrow law and order, striking back to settle the score will not end terrorism.

What drives terrorists festers deep within the human psyche and cannot be ferreted out with threats, bombs and physical destruction. Einstein
once said, "The unleashing of the power of the atom has changed everything but our modes of thinking and thus we drift toward unparalleled
catastrophes."

When hatred is the motive, the choice of weapon and ideology is irrelevant because the outcome is the same -- to hurt, to kill and to destroy.
No matter what motivates hatred, even if it seems justified, hostile actions only contribute to the collective anger and aggression that builds
up in society and finds expression in the Osama bin Ladens of the world.

Consider that the United Nations charter states, "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is the minds of men that the defenses of peace must
be constructed" -- and yet, we continue to rely on strategies that ignore the mind and maim matter. Sadly, we are persuaded by strong-arm
tactics that scar the earth and mutilate the body because human-designed devastation exists within our frame of reference.

Campaigns that involve military force are accepted strategies because they represent a long tradition of human practice. Traditions formulate
our values and define our belief systems. And yet, if we revisit world history we are reminded that anger and violence do not eradicate
aggression; at best, these tactics only reposition it.

We can use all the force known to mankind; we can blow a hole through the Earth and cripple the human enterprise, and still we will not
eliminate terrorism because we have not removed the conditions that spawn it. On another day, at another time the pent-up anger that is the
lifeline of terrorists will seep through cracks and crevices in the social fabric and burst forth again.

When NATO began bombing Yugoslavia in 1999, then-President Bill Clinton described the situation as "force-backed diplomacy,"
representing "America at its finest."

During this time, an advertisement appeared in the Wall Street Journal and other prominent newspapers soliciting support for an Endowment
Fund for Perpetual World Peace. This effort sought to nullify aggression not through the use of state-of-the-art warfare but through a
consciousness-based technology that could neutralize the sources of the conflict -- hatred and hostility.

Incredibly, this 1999 ad stated, "Can you imagine if bombs began to fall on Washington, D.C., and destroy the high-rises of the money
markets of New York? Will NATO be able to prevent this? When this happens it will be beyond the power even of the wealthy to save the
situation." This message went unheeded.

On Tuesday morning, those unthinkable events occurred and as predicted, the most powerful country in the world was powerless to stop
them. In the aftermath, rather than question our practices of "force-backed diplomacy" and the failure of a government to protect its citizens,
we are foolishly being lead down a vengeful path of large-scale retaliation that can only result in an escalation of violence.

This strategy will insure the reign of terrorism for years to come, because terrorists feed off hatred. President Bush's declaration that this is
"the first war of the 21st century" lets us know that he understands that our military response is a beginning, not an end.

More than 200 years ago, James Madison wrote, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men,
neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." What Madison recognized, but had no means to affect, was
human behavior; and yet, clearly he saw this as the better choice.

It is time to open our awareness and give credence to the UN's own recognition that the conditions for war and peace reside within the
human mind. It is time to reconsider a belief system that accepts the hypocrisy of violence as a means to peace. Peace will require a
technology that is more powerful than anything NATO has in its collective arsenal, a technology whose residual effects are not fire, smoke
and toxic fumes, but coherence, tolerance and compassion.

To "alter modes of thinking" will require a consciousness-based strategy that enables us to reach inside the hearts and minds of individuals
and as Madison suggested, "make men angels." When men are at peace with themselves, peace will be mankind's legacy.

Patton, an associate professor of 
art, can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.


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