24 September 2012

Bread-love and bomb-hatred

It is easy for people to bomb, it is harder to resist bombing, i.e. not ‘resist’ in the sense of erecting a shield or taking cover but of opting not to bomb.  Easy to destroy, harder to built. Easy to hate, harder to love.  We live in an easy world and we are an easy species.

Yesterday I saw a series of protest pictures where the demonstrators hugged and kissed those who would stop them, i.e. the police.  We’ve seen the solitary figure that stopped the tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and flowers being pinned on bayonets by anti-war demonstrators.  Today I received the following email, a short note about something that happened some time ago.

‘I was in Edinburgh when Blair decided to join Bush-and I remember the lines of thousands of protesters-all the way from Glasgow to London's parliament in very inclement weather. And I remember Michael Northcote's sermon in my little church- 'if we have to bomb Afghanistan let us bomb them with bread not with fire!' The whole congregation stood up and cheered-a very unusual happening in an Anglican church. Truly amazing. They were good people.’

There is a fundamental issue-dodge when contemplating war.  What is it for?  There is an invariable licenser: ‘For the people’, i.e. the people who are to be subjected to all the horrors that war is made of.  No one says, for example, ‘We are moving in because we want their oil, dammit!’  No one says, for example, ‘I need a war to whip up patriotism, make people forget their own miseries and vote for me!’  No one says, for example, ‘War is an advertisement for the arms industry’.  No one says, for example, ‘We are dealing with a national impotency syndrome and need to show the world that we can do it!’ 

The people of Afghanistan did not have any quarrel with the Soviet Union.  They didn’t have any issue with the people of the United States of America.  George W Bush decided to bomb that country because he (said he) believed Osama bin Laden was hiding there.  Barack Obama continued from where Bush stopped.  If countries had license to attack countries ‘thought to be’ giving refuge to terrorists and drone attacks and other attacks on suspected hideouts morally justifiable even though these locations might be full of people who had nothing to do with terrorism, then it is a green light for countries to bomb Washington DC to kingdom come.  London too.  Happily the rest of the world is sane, or seems to be sane; it is quite possible that what’s stopping them is lack of the necessary hardware. That’s scary, isn’t it?

What then is this fascination with fire?  The USA wanted to kill Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.  Done and dusted.  So why are these countries still seeing so much bloodshed? Why fire instead of bread?  It’s simple.  There is no love here. No generosity.  The US military training includes a quaint (and telling) element: soldiers are taught (yes!) to smile (yes!).  The President of the United States indulged in a voyeuristic ritual of the most disgusting kind when Osama bin Laden was captured and killed in cold blood.  And that was in Pakistan, even as US forces were bombing Afghanistan.  That’s not bread. That’s not love. 

So when will the world see a shower of bread or rice?  When will love be recognized to be thicker than greed?   When will flowers be shield enough to stop bullets? When will innocence be a shelter no drone can pierce?  When will the sanity of people like Fr. Michael Northcote best the insanity of the Bushes, Blairs and Obamas?   When will culture and civilization muzzle the economy and markets? 

On Sunday morning I was on a radio show where the ‘what now?’ of post-election situation was discussed.  I quoted what I thought was one of the most honest and powerful ideas for an election campaign which did not take off because the candidate, my friend Anuruddha Pradeep decided to back out at the last minute.  I suggested that all elected representatives make a simple personal resolution: ‘I cannot stop corruption, but I pledge that I will not be corrupt; I know I can’t stop wastage but I will not waste; I know there will be theft, but I will not steal; I know there will be arrogance, but I will not be arrogant’.  That’s a lot of bread to shower.

We can’t stop the bombs.  We cannot replace bomb with bread or rice.  But as individuals we can make the comparison.  That’s bread/rice living.  It is far better than bomb/bullet death-dispensing.  Who knows, the idea might catch on for history does not sanction nor forbid, as the saying goes .