Spiritual Practice and Clandestine World Powers: Two Conflicting Strategies
What Can We Do?
"The U.S. has about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming, and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford the luxury of altruism and world benefaction. We should cease to talk about such vague and unreal objectives as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better." George Kennan, U. S. State Department, 1948
War On Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You To Know.
William Rivers Pitt with Scott Ritter, Former U.N. Weapons Inspector
Context Books, 2002
Could this Statement from 1948 be relevant today?
If you are already familiar with the factual material which immediately follows, please proceed to Part II
. If you are not familiar with this material you may wish to take it little by little, but please read it.
Part I: The Facts The material that follows in Part I is taken from the Inter Religious Task Force brochure given at the 30th annual celebration of the lives of the 4 church women murdered in El Salvadore on December 1981.
What is the SOA?
Since 1946, The U. S. Army School of the Americas (now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation–(WHINSEC) has trained more than 64,000 Latin American soldiers in civilian targeted warfare, including intimidation, torture, and assassination. Graduates of the school have been consistently linked to human rights violations and to the suppression of popular movements in the Americas.Contrary to Washington’s "War on Terrorism" rhetoric and a former
president’s statement that "every known terrorist training camp must be shut down," the United States government has been training terrorists at a camp in Georgia for years–and is still pumping out assassins and death squad leaders for its dirty work in Latin America. Most recently, the 2009 coup attempt in Ecuador was led by SOA graduates.
What Countries Send Soldiers to the SOA?
In the 1980s Central America topped enrollment at the SOA. Today it’s Colombia, whose military has the worst human rights record in the hemisphere. Currently, however, five countries have vowed to no longer send soldiers or police to the OSA–Venezuela, Uruguay, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Bolivia.
School of Dictators and Death Squad Leaders
Although the U.S. claims to be the defender of democracy, the military often supports rogue nations with few democratic processes. The SOA consistently produced soldiers and officers to bolster fascistic governments and death squads, sometimes even training men who would overthrow democratically elected governments. In total SOA has produced at least eleven Latin American dictators. SOA graduates and guest instructors include:
– General Hector Gramajo:Architect of genocidal policies from 1980 to 1981 which resulted in the rape, murder, torture, and displacement of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people in Guatemala. After U. S. Courts found him guilty of numerous war crimes, Gramajo was a guest speaker at an SOA graduation ceremony, as an "honored Guest."
– General Hernan Jose Guzman Rodriguez:He protected and aided the Colombian paramilitary death squad "MAS," which was responsible for the deaths of at least 149 people. He commanded the soldiers who detained, tortured, gang raped, and executed Yolanda Acevedo Carvajal.
– General Hugo Banzer Suarez:Banzer was a brutal military dictator who achieved power in Bolivia through a violent coup. He developed the "Banzer Plan" to silence outspoken members of the church. He is currently a member of the SOA/WHINSEC "Hall of Fame." –Colonel Pablo Belmar:He was implicated in the torture and murder of UN
official Carmelo Soria, whose neck was broken while being tortured by Chilean DINA personnel.
– General Rios Montt: Author of the "scorched earth" policy in Guatemala, which resulted in over 625 indigenous villages being completely eliminated. He gained power by orchestrating a bloody coup and led the country during some of its most repressive years.
Since the year 2000, the US has been funding "Plan Colombia" with $5 billion—80% for the military–accelerating the armed conflict. US military involvement has steadily increased with approximately $700million in annual aid packages–one million dollars per day for Colombian security forces. The Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations supported expansion of aerial fumigation in the "war on drugs," while small farmers and indigenous communities suffer health and environmental impacts of the herbicide.
What is the War About?
According to human rights and church leaders in Colombia, the war is not about drugs at all. They say that globalization is behind the war. Thousands are displaced, "disappeared" and killed so corporate interests can take over resource-rich lands.
Who Is Hurt?
Ten people are killed in political violence each day (second only to the Sudan). The indigenous population and Afro-Colombians are most affected.
How Are Drugs Involved?
To survive, peasants grow coca leaves (cocaine) because prices for legitimate crops are so low. Food crops, water supplies, and people are poisoned when the US sprays coca plantations with Monsanto’s Round-Up herbicide. After the
herbicide is sprayed on the land, the only plants that will grow on the poisoned earth is coca.
How Is Oil Involved?
Colombia has vast oil reserves that international companies drill and export. US "aid" has even included line-items to guard the pipeline of US-based companies like Occidental Oil.
How Is the US Involved?
Billions of US dollars-worth of police and military equipment are sent to Colombia each year without human rights investigations or accountability. In 2002, Congress expanded the US role from counter-narcotics to counter-insurgency - - a green light for more US troops on the ground. In 2004, Congress doubled US troops from 400 to 800, and expanded "advisors" to 600. In 2009, the US and Colombia agreed to allow the US full access to seven Colombian military bases. Currently pending is the Colombia Free Trade Agreement which is unanimously opposed by labor, church, and human rights groups in Colombia.
Environment and Human Rights
Mono-cropping/Industrial Agriculture: Mono-cropping, the practice of planting one specific crop in an area rather than a range of species that would naturally grow together, is a threat to biodiversity and is chemically intensive. Mono-cropping, mainly fueled by agrofuel industries, drives poor people–peasants, indigenous, and Afro-descendant communities–from their ancestral lands.
Mono-cropping is a major threat to the environment and human rights.
1 - It leads to rampant deforestation and loss of biodiversity.
2 - Chemicals necessary for mono-cropping infect the surrounding groundwater, causing health problems.
3 - Corporations force indigenous farmers from their lands in order to mono-crop, using violence and other threats.
4 - Since mono-cropping produces primarily export crops, less land is available for food crops for domestic consumption.
Logging and Deforestation
Deforestation, mostly due to illegal logging, decreases biodiversity, causes dry
conditions and contributes to soil erosion. Illegal logging activity brings violence into regions and destroys regions originally inhabited by indigenous communities.
In response to the ever-increasing demand of oil by consumers, many countries
in Central and South America are increasing their oil drilling. Oil drilling contaminates water sources, and introduces violence into the lives of many indigenous communities.
Oil drilling is an ongoing threat to the environment and to human rights:
1 - Protected forest reserves are being depleted by oil corporations, and surrounding areas are being contaminated.
2 - Peaceful indigenous communities are often forced from their land where oil is being drilled.
3 - Oil drilling brings violence into the lives of local communities.
Repression: Threats and Assassinations:
Multinational banana corporations have historically had a lot of influence over Latin American governments. For instance, the United States fruit Company (now Cincinnati-based Chiquita) lobbied the democratically-elected government to instigate the coup that overthrew Guatemala’s democratically-elected president in 1954. By 1960, the country was plunged into a civil war that would last 36 years. The US backed the military during Latin America’s longest civil war, known for its massacres of Maya peoples, leaving 200,000 dead.
The repression continues today, particularly in Colombia, lawsuits against Dole and Chiquita accuse the companies of paying paramilitary death squads (classified as terrorist organizations by the U State department) to assassinate union leaders
and workers on strike.
Chaquita pled guilty in 2007 to having paid over $1.7 million to the AUC paramilitary organization. The company paid $25 million in fines. (Incidently, Chiquita’s defense attorney was Eric Holder, the current US attorney general.) Now
it’s time for Dole to admit their complicity in the killings.
The Corporate "Race to the Bottom"
Consolidating supermarket chains (and Wal-Mart SuperCenters) demand ever lower prices, prompting transnational banana companies to cut costs and overproduce. These forces have prompted a "race to the bottom" for workers’ rights, wages, benefits, and working conditions. In recent years, Del Monte, Dole,
and Chiquita have all cut jobs, wages and benefits, and closed plantations.
Banana production is now being concentrated in low-wage, non-union Ecuador and the low-wage, non-union Pacific coast of Guatemala, creating pressure to lower wages and working conditions on union plantations elsewhere. West Africa and other regions are also expected to increase low-wage, non-union competition.
Work Conditions on Banana Plantations
12-hr work days, unpaid overtime, seasonal work of 6 months or less, threats and assassinations of union workers, just 4% of banana sales go back to the workers.
Criminal Cocoa While cocoa is sourced from several regions around the world, West Africa is the largest producer, making up 70% of the world’s cocoa.
Over a decade ago, initial reports from this region described how children worked for long hours on cocoa farms performing hazardous work like using machetes, carrying heavy loads, and coming into close contact with toxic pesticides. A study by Tulane University reported that 15% of children surveyed reported forced or involuntary work in the past twelve months. In addition, they found that nearly 50% of children working in cocoa farming in Cote d'voire and over 50% in Ghana reported injuries from their work in the past year.
In 2005, children who had been trafficked from Mali to Cote d’voire to work
on cocoa farms filed a lawsuit in US courts against cocoa traders Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, and Nestle that is still ongoing. As the predominant companies trading in cocoa globally, Hershey purchases its cocoa from these companies, The children described being forced to work for long hours without pay and being kept by force on cocoa plantations.
What is Killer Coke? Coca-Cola is the largest manufacturer, distributor and marketer of nonalcoholic beverages, concentrates and syrups in the world. Today it is one of the world’s most powerful and profitable corporations. Coca Cola was
invented in Columbus, Georgia, (coincidentally, home to the infamous School of the Americas) and now has more than 200 branches. Despite its popular appeal, there are many well-deserved criticisms of both the company’s products and trade practices.
Coke workers in Colombia and around the world have been tortured, kidnaped, and or illegally detained by paramilitary death squads hired by Coke’s bottlers. Coke managers in Colombia have ordered the assassinations of at least eight union leaders since 1989.
Because of continuous and on-going abuses, Coca-Cola’s worker’s union SINALTRAINAL has suffered a dramatic loss in membership, as worker leaders are intimidated or forced into hiding. SINALTRAINAL has appealed for solidarity from U.S. labor and social justice movements.
A sweatshop is any workplace where workers are subject to extreme exploitation, including the absence of a living wage, workers’ benefits, and acceptable working conditions. Sweatshop workers are generally young girls aged 14-25 who work 60-80 hours a week without getting paid enough money to put food on the table.
These forms of exploitation are not a thing of the past: they are more a problem of today than they ever have been.
Sweatshops are a product of the global economy and so-called "free" trade. Big companies are in a global race to increase profits by driving down costs. Garment industries look to countries in Asia and Central and South America to do cheaper business: where workers are paid the lowest wages and human rights are trampled. In major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, companies also employ undocumented workers in sweatshops.
Globalization of Trade
We should not be fooled by the name "free" trade agreements. The cost of "free" trade agreements is the roll back of labor rights and human rights throughout this hemisphere. These agreements push more people into poverty while increasing the wealth of an elite few. These agreements give corporations and market forces advantages over small, independent producers and provide little or no environmental protections for worker rights.
What Happens Under Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)?
1 - Agricultural policies in FTAs favor corporate agribusiness over independent producers in the US and Central America. Small farmers are negatively impacted because they cannot compete with agribusiness and United States subsidies.
2 - FTAs expand maquiladoras which assemble foreign goods for exportation and employ mostly women aged 15-25 at low wages and under poor working conditions.
3 - FTAs do not require countries to meet core labor standards as established by the International Labor Organization (ILO).
4 - FTAs do not adequately prevent countries from weakening or failing to enforce their existing labor laws, in an effort to attract investment.
5 - Free trade agreements often require governments to limit the percent of their national budget spent on social services such as health care, education, and infrastructure.
Part II: What Must We Do?
Many people, churched and unchurched, religious and non-religious have for a long time been striving mightily in the face of the facts presented above. People hungering for justice, longing for peace. Change happens slowly as consciousness is raised. Scriptures and Spiritual masters from various traditions have called for awakening to the large and glum picture of injustice and oppression. If we are to survive as a species and as a viable planet, we can no longer pretend, if we ever could, that genuine spirituality can exist in a setting which does not include all people and Planet Earth.
Gatherings of people committed to non-violence, saying no to the status quo must continue. Their numbers must grow! Let us salute them, encourage them, and to whatever extent we can, empower them by our prayer, our presence, participation, our enthusiastic support.
It is also important that we acknowledge that the massive presence of injustice and war is made possible by a system which has a life of its own. Perhaps the term "Secret or Clandestine Government" approximates the reality. Whatever the designation, the reality is what keeps alive the plan and intention articulated by George Kennan in 1948. At any rate the complexity of this reality is not on the conscious radar of most people. Blatant, rampant, global injustice may or may not be a formal and conscious conspiracy, yet all of us are to some extent implicated as perpetrators, even as we are victims.
Non-violence – The Challenge
Critical thinking need not produce negative criticism. Committed practice of non-violence demands critical thinking. It also requires that we refrain from blaming which is not the same as conscious, intentional naming.
The recent round of elections in the United States clearly revealed opposing parties out of control. The core of negative campaigning racheted up the negativity of an already hobbled culture. What Eckart Tolle calls the "Pain Body" was further glutted. Refraining from blaming, while being clear in consciously and
intentionally naming the reality, is the fruit of daily, ego-addressing spiritual practice.
If we are to survive, we must turn from blaming (conversion, metanoia) to noticing injustice/violence. Then we need to focus on the plight of the victims, allowing anger to transform into grieving, mercy and compassion. [Daniel Berrigan says that "grieving is the beginning of the Beatitudes.] Moving beyond anger is important because anger is most often directed toward "evil people." "They are to blame! They are responsible!!" In that case we blame others for the injustice/violence.
Systems of Death Have a Life of Their Own
It is critical to realize that evil systems have a life of their own. True, people are involved, but get rid of them and others easily replace them because the evil system is a voracious vortex of negativity...greed, thirst for unbridled wealth, power and control. This is fundamentally a spiritual issue. It is about trying to fill a hole which can never be filled by any amount of wealth, power, control.
How do we Address the Spiritual Issue?
issue can be confronted through daily ego-addressing spiritual practice on the part of those who would see and respond to the problem of injustice/violence. Such daily spiritual practice is even more powerful when done in communities of spiritual practice. We already have action communities. We need action communities which are also spiritual practice communities. What powerful results might happen if the two were to be realized in the same community? Are we afraid that if we gave time for communal spiritual practice in an action community we would not have time for action? My opinion is that this thinking is delusional. Communal spiritual practice will never compromise but will always enhance the work of an action community. Fr. Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation exemplifies such a community.
Examples Let’s look at some examples of the effects of systems that have a life of their own:
1 – Several years ago Sr. Dianna Ortiz O.S.U. was abducted, repeatedly raped and tortured in Guatemala. Dianna was so devastated that when she returned home to her religious convent in the US, she did not remember the names of the women she had known there. She addressed them simply as "sister". For a short time Dianna camped out in a park across from the White House, begging to speak with then First Lady, Hilary Rodham Clinton. Was Hilary Rodham Clinton so cold and unfeeling to refuse Dianna a hearing? I choose not to think that. However, the clandestine system was well in place and would not be messed with. What happens to people who push the envelope too far, who interfere with destructive, mostly secret US policy is clear in the deaths of the Kennedys, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X.
2 – It is currently known that the Obama Administration has surpassed the Bush and Clinton Administrations in building nuclear technology and increasing the use of drones. It is my opinion that Barach Obama has little to say in these regards. The same was true for Hilary. She knew that to hear Dianna would be to push the envelope. So to blame Obama for something far bigger than Obama is an exercise in futility. What is needed is helping more and more ordinary people become aware of what is referred to as national security policy. That is what is so very exciting about the case of the 14 people who entered the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada some months ago. They went onto the base with a letter to the commanding officer asking for a stop to the use of drones in Afghanistan which often kill 9 civilians, including women and children, while killing only one insurgent. Of course this is obscene! The 14 addressed the injustice/violence toward the poor. They were arrested for trespassing. Raising consciousness is, however, a daunting challenge because news media in the US protect the clandestine system. For example: recently local news reported on the 30th anniversary of the murders of 4 church women in El Salvador. The report stated that Sr. Dorothy Kazel, OSU, of Cleveland, was raped and murdered by police. True. Also true and unreported is the fact that the police or their commanding officers were trained at Fort Benning, GA, USA, at the School of the Americas. (See Above) For years the Kazels sought accountability in the conviction of the perpetrators. It never happened.
The constant efforts to stir fear among US citizens builds collective resistance to reduce "defense" spending, thus creating more wealth in the hands of a few. In addition, the mostly secret business of selling weapons around the world also creates more wealth in the hands of a few. The result is a massive toll of death and suffering for the poor. This death and suffering is called collateral damage.
Not Just the Military
But it is not only military intervention which threatens people and planet.
" About 80% of the electronic waste in the United States is exported, mostly to Third World countries like India. It comes by ship, on tankers filled with used computers, cell phones, televisions, batteries, all kinds of things that contain mercury, lead, and heavy metals that are dangerous to people’s health and the planet." Kostigen, T. M. You Are Here: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our planet: Harper One. New York. 2008 p. 26.
Disparity of Wealth
"The richest 1% of Americans now take home almost 24% of income...The United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana...There’s evidence that the levels of inequality we’ve now reached may actually suppress growth...Rising inequality also led to more divorces...Inequality leaves people on the lower rungs feeling like hamsters on a wheel spinning ever faster, without hope or escape." [Nicholas D. Kristof, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sunday, November 14, 2010]
So this "force" creating wealth in the hands of a few and widening the gap between rich and poor turns out to be profoundly mindless, myopic, and in the short run self-serving. Though fostering this force is a point of view, its fruits are devastating to humans and to the planet. In the long term, everyone, including the rich, will suffer.
This is what confronts us! Our challenge is to do what we can to raise awareness: direct service to the poor, direct action around the militaristic programs which destroy people and planet, bringing attention to the destructiveness of big companies on people and planet. This is happening but it needs to grow. Yet, Gandhi said: "To make any progress we must not make speeches and organize mass meetings but be prepared for mountains of suffering." Erikson, E. Gandhi’s Truth: New York, 1969, p. 306.
Merton writes in the introduction to Gandhi on Non-Violence: "In Gandhi’s mind, non-violence was not simply a political tactic which was supremely useful and efficacious in liberating his people from foreign rule, in order that India might then concentrate on realizing its own national identity. On the contrary, the spirit of non-violence sprang from ‘an inner realization of spiritual unity in himself.’ The whole Gandhian concept of non-violent action and satyagraha is incomprehensible if it is thought to be a means of achieving unity rather than as the fruit of inner unity already achieved."
"Indeed this is the explanation for Gandhi’s apparent failure (which became evident to him at the end of his own life). He saw that his followers had not reached the inner unity that he had realized in himself, and that their satyagraha
was to a great extent a pretense, since they believed it to be a means to achieve unity and freedom, while he saw that it must necessarily be the fruit of inner freedom." (Underlining mine for emphasis)
"The first thing of all and the most important of all was inner unity, overcoming
and healing inner division, (with) the consequent "spiritual and personal freedom."
"The second crucially important principle (is that) the spiritual or interior life is not an exclusively private affair...The spiritual life of one person is simply the life of all manifesting itself in him." Merton, T. Gandhi On Non-Violence: A New Directions Paperbook: New York, 1965, p. 6.
Gandhi also is reported to have said that we work toward justice not because it will be successful, but because it is right. And it all starts within through committed, daily, personal, ego-addressing, spiritual practice. The picture of violence and destruction of people and planet is simply about ego...my power, my control, my wealth. And ego is not addressed by more ego, but by diminishing our own egos so that we can live and address destructiveness with true non-violence, what Gandhi called satyagraha.
Reflections on the Power of Intention
Dr. MasaruEmotois a Japanese researcher who has experimented for years withfrozen water crystals. He learned that natural water, as contrasted with tap water, "displays a beautiful array of crystals" especially "when the natural water is exposed to beautiful music. There are also fascinating differencesgenerated in the crystals when the water is shown different words, such as gratitude or stupid. These crystals are filled with lessons concerning how we should–and must live our lives." p. ix. He writes: "One photograph was the most beautiful and delicate crystal that I had so far seen–formed by being exposed to the words love and gratitude."p. xxvi. "Love and gratitude are the words that must serve as the guide for the world," with all of its deformities of injustice/violence. p. xxviii
When we humans are fetuses we are 99% water. When we are born we are 90% water. When we are mature adults we are down to 70% water. When we die of old age we will be about 50% water. Both water generally as well as the water which constitutes our bodies is vibrationally affected by our thoughts, emotions, and surroundings. So we need to be constantly purifying the water that makes up our bodies
p.xv. Emoto, M. The Hidden Messages in Water: Atria Books, New York 2001.
Another astonishiing account is given by Dr. Emoto: Hundreds of families in Japan conduted the following experiment. they put rice in two glass jars. Every day for a month the family members said to the rice in one jar, "thank you," and to the rice in the other, "you fool." "After a month, the rice that was told 'thank you' started to ferment, with a mellow smell like that of malt, while the rice that was exposed to 'you fool' rotted and turned black." Then other groups put rice in three jars. To the first they said "thank you," to the second, "you fool," and to the third they paid no attention. The first and second jars had the same results. The third jar of rice which was completely ignored rotted sooner that the one exposed to "you fool." p.65
"According to (the) theory (of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, the English researcher,) when the same thing repeats itself, a morphic field is formed, and resonance with this morphic field increases the likelihood that the event will happen again...Dr. Sheldrake has proposed that events are...capable of resonating in the same way that sound resonates. Sheldrake refers to the location where such events take place as the morphic field, and the phenomena of repeated similar events as morphic resonance". Ibid. p. 92. What Dr. Sheldrake is describing appears related to whatGandhi called satyagraha. Recall also the story of the hundredth monkey.
In his book, The Global Brain, Peter Russell tells of experiments which revealed that when 1% of the population in a particular city meditated regularly, the crime rate fell. [I don't know the page for this.] Russell also tells of an experiment which
recounts that when two groups, separated by hundreds of miles meditated at the same time, a larger group of meditators affected the brain waves of the smaller group. This would suggest that, contrary to expectations, the brain waves circled the globe and got in sync as they joined those of the other group of meditators. [pp 189-90]
To round out the discussion about energy, Ekhart Tolle speaks about the "pain-body," referred to above. Our individual pain bodies are fed by negative thoughts, negative conversations. Buddhism teaches us to watch our thoughts. In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert puts it this way: "You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions." [p. 132] But further, our thoughts are energy.They go out from us. Dr. Emoto’s work exemplifies this in a striking way. Tolle explains that the pain-body also exists on a collective level. Groups of people who have suffered much have heavy pain bodies, e.g., Native Americans, African Americans, people of the Middle East. He says that " China’s heavy pain-body is to some extent mitigated by the wide-spread practice of t’ai chi... Every day millions practice this movement meditation that stills the mind. This makes a considerable difference to the collective energy field and goes some way toward diminishing the pain-body by
reducing thinking and generating Presence." P. 158
Even a passing acquaintance with modern physics reveals that the universe is
energy. We do not live in a Newtonian universe. But our perception easily places us in an illusory Newtonian world. A paradigm shift is needed if we are to live as the spiritual energetic beings we are. It is imperative to the mission of justice, peacemaking that we bring significant change of focus in order to ground all we do in spiritual practice.
What Is Effective in Addressing Injustice/Violence?
Although it is completely understandable that we feel compelled to use signs to communicate what we oppose: torture, war, assaulting the environment, etc., the question is about the effectiveness of oppositional language and behavior. The Gandhian salt march was not about signs of protest, it was about action, picking up a handful of salt. The Creech Air Force Base action was not about signs but about handing a letter to the commanding officer. A peace activist once asked Mother Theresa whether she would join the anti-war march he was involved in. Mother Theresa replied that when there was a peace march, she would gladly join in.
My own personal experiences of non-violence training certainly revealed useful and effective techniques. However, I recall no mention of grounding the techniques in personal or group spiritual practice. (See above on Gandhi’s apparent failure. P. 13)
So if some action needs to be planned to address an unjust situation, we might ask ourselves:
1 - Does this action arise out of compassion for those suffering the injustice? (Reflect on Daniel Berrigan’s conviction that the Beatitudes begin with grieving.)
2 – Is this action prompted by our feelings of powerlessness, guilt, or need to fix?
3 – Might this action drive onlookers or passers-by into deeper denial and resistance (unconsciousness)? Hence, is it actually violent,...trying to make people wake up?
4 - What is the appropriate context and location for action to facilitate its effectiveness, i.e. inviting growing awareness
I submit that the action at the Creech Air Force Base referred to above, came out -
of spiritual practice, a long planning process, abandonment of outcome and complete acceptance of consequences. (At the trial, the judge was firm in banning international law and personal compelling reasons for the action. This is always the procedure at such trials. But for some reason the judge allowed one of the defendants to speak about "trespass." He spoke for hours. The result was that at the end of the defense the judge stated that this was indeed an interesting view of trespass and that to render a fair judgement, he would need three months to think about it. This has never happened before in such trials.) Might the spiritual grounding have played a major role in the turn about of the presiding judge?
In another case, a friend of mine, during his trial on another occasion, in full sight of the bench, spent the entire hearing time in meditation. The judge freed him with "time served," while a co-defendant assumed his own defense and was given six months in prison.
Another action which seems very appropriate to me occurs at the annual gathering at the School of the Americas, Fort Benning, Georgia, specifically the ritual of speaking one by one the names of the hundreds of victims, with the response for each name, "presente."
A final example took place several years ago. Jim Levinson was a member of
the Catholic Worker House (Haley House) in Cambridge, MA. Jim was a Harvard graduate, an accomplished musician, and a professor at Tufts University. Jim had done civil disobedience a number of times. Draper Laboratories was located in Cambridge, designing missle systems for U.S. nuclear warheads. So one morning Jim walked into the Draper lobby when people were arriving for work. He released a cageful of white doves. Needless to say, Jim went to jail. [recounted in Ten Thousdand Joys and Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple's Journey through Alzheimer's, by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle, pp. 120-1]
Each of the above examples took place right at the location where injustice was being perpetrated or protected.
Can We Proceed Out of Conviction that Spiritual Practice Is Effective?
Could we imagine a witness for justice and peace at which all present would be "celebrating peace" with visual, dramatic, and musical arts, punctuated with 20
minute periods of silent group meditation practice? Could we imagine such a group with only positive signs, no oppositional signs? (We have recently seen groups gathering in various public places; a mall: chorus and orchestra singing the Alleluia Chorus...one or two people starting to sing, then more and more and more people singing; the Ohio State University student center in which a few individuals began to dance and were joined by more and more people; a street in a European city, again with a few beginning to dance and then joined by more and more dancers.)
Could we imagine such a presence on the oval lawn in front of the White House, on Red Square, in the center of Vatican City, Jerusalem, Mecca: Thousands upon thousands of people in silent meditation, bringing the vibrational energy of peace, celebrating peace with music, dance, drama, poetry, Dances of Universal Peace, yoga, t’ai chi? Could we imagine such a throng simply following the breath, quieting the mind and heart, emanating love and compassion?
All this leads me to affirm the critical importance of communities which combine action and ego-addressing Spiritual practice.I am inviting you to do a daily meditative practice which addresses ego. The rampant and blatant presence of injustice/violence is about ego, both individual and collective. Liz Gilbert [Eat Pray Love, p.157] tells of once meeting a woman almost 100 years old who said: "There are only two questions that human beings have fought over all through history. How much do you love me? And Who's in charge? Those two questions of love and control undo us all, trip us up and cause war, grief, and suffering." Both questions are about ego--individual and collective.
Injustice/violence is at a vibrational level reflecting the state of soul, individual and cultural. Peacemakers are not devoid of ego, of anger, of being oppositional. Our judgements about those responsible for injustice/violence belie strong egos. If we are to be effective peacemakers, true satyagrhahis, we must strive toward the inner realization of spiritual unity in ourselves.
In my opinion it is crucial that we do daily, ego-addressing spiritual practice. What we do affects everyone and everything. We are all related, we are all one. Our strength and security will never come from the outside! Our strength will always come from within because we are spiritual beings who are embodied.
Religions have failed to aid the majority of their adherents in realizing our unity. This realization comes from spiritual practice which wake us up. "Buddhism speaks of wisdom and compassion as being like the wings of a bird. One without the other, and the bird cannot fly. Wisdom without compassion is unsupported by wise action; compassion without wisdom can become idiot compassion." [Hoblitzelle, ibid. p. 167]
If we will not be overcome and consumed and paralyzed with sadness, fear and rage, we must move toward deeper joy and celebration. In time, with faithful persistence in daily, personal, ego-addressing spiritual practice, we can live in the moment, we can live in joy and celebration and we can respond effectively to the world in which we actually live.
Does this mean that we cannot take action until we achieve Gandhi's realiztion of unity within? No, of course not. What it does mean is that we all need to embrace a new focus, a paradigm shift regarding the importance of personal
transformation. This does not happen magically, but through practice. To this I invite us.
A Story and a Powerful Spiritual Practice
In Hawaii there was a facility for the criminally insane, at which there was much unrest, not only among patients, but also within the staff which was constantly turning over. A psychiatrist was sent to this hospital. He never saw a patient. But daily, he would open the file of a each resident, place it on his lap, and chant in Hawaiian: Ho-opono-pono. [accent on underlined syllables] The gist of the chant is: I’m so sorry. I love, you. Please forgive me. I thank you. The staff of the facility slowing began to stabilize and in five years all the patients became well, and the facility was closed. The psychiatrist in the story understood that we are all one. He also understood that expressing regret, love, asking forgiveness and giving thanks, clear the soul–resolve bad karma, if you wish. Owning, letting go, forgiving, compassion, love are basic to all authentic spiritual traditions. Holding on, grasping, harboring resentment is always destructive to the soul and will
eventually invade the body.
Liz Gilbert writes: "As smoking is to the lungs, so is resentment to the soul. Even one puff of it is bad for you." [Eat Pray Love, page 186][There is a CD of this chant sung by Celeste Yacoboni which you can purchase on her website:www.HowDoYouPray.com I would be happy to sing this chant onto your voice mail if you do not have or do not want to get the CD - 216-651-4362] -18-
Two poems by Mavlana Jelaluddin Rumi
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
Empty of it's furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
They may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
The Breeze at Dawn
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Try to stay awake!
Choose a path to take, even if you don’t know where you’re going.