Retaliation is a beginning,
not an end
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
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
riding the wave of public support for
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
once said, "The unleashing of the power
of the atom has changed everything but our modes of thinking and thus we
drift toward unparalleled
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
Campaigns that involve military force are
accepted strategies because they represent a long tradition of human practice.
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
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
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
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
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 email@example.com.