Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Violence of Not Seeing: Guest Commentary

I am bringing you a guest commentary today from Rabbi Michael Lerner, who is the editor of Tikkun, an interfaith Jewish magazine. This was passed along to me by a member of our congregation. Rabbi Lerner is based in Berkeley and I ran into him a few times when I was there. He is always thought-provoking.

This commentary is quite timely given the economic crisis in our world, the "Occupy" movement that seems to be gaining steam, and the failure of Congress to reach a deal on debt and taxes. You are free to disagree with Rabbi Lerner, and you free to leave your remarks in the comments section below. But please consider.

The Violence of Not Seeing
By Rabbi Michael Lerner

We need to ask ourselves, "What is it in the way that we are living, organizing our societies, and treating each other that makes violence seem plausible to so many people?" It's true, but not enough, to say that the current violence is a reflection of our estrangement from God. More precisely, it is the way we fail to respond to each other as embodiments of the sacred. 
We may tell ourselves that the current violence has "nothing to do" with the way that we've learned to close our ears when told that one out of every three people on this planet does not have enough food, and that one billion are literally starving. We may reassure ourselves that the hoarding of the world's resources by the richest society in world history, and our frantic attempts to accelerate globalization with its attendant inequalities of wealth, has nothing to do with the resentment that others feel toward us. 
We may tell ourselves that the suffering of refugees and the oppressed has nothing to do with us -- that it's a different story that is going on somewhere else. But we live in one world, increasingly interconnected with everyone, and the forces that lead people to feel outrage, anger and desperation eventually impact on our own daily lives.... 
Most people don't act out in violent ways--they tend to act out more against themselves, drowning themselves in alcohol or drugs or personal despair. Others turn toward fundamentalist religions or ultra-nationalist extremism. Still others find themselves acting out against people that they love, acting angry or hurtful toward children or relationship partners. 
It seems baffling to imagine that somehow we are part of a world system which is slowly destroying the life support system of the planet, and quickly transferring the wealth of the world into our own pockets. We don't feel personally responsible when an American corporation runs a sweat shop in the Philippines or crushes efforts of workers to organize in Singapore. We don't see ourselves implicated when the U.S. refuses to consider the plight of Palestinian refugees or uses the excuse of fighting drugs to support repression in Colombia or other parts of Central America.... 
I categorically reject any notion that violence is ever justified. It is always an act of de-sanctification, of not being able to see the divine in the other.... We need a return to the most basic Biblical ideal: that every human life is sacred, that the 'bottom line' should be the creation of a world of love and caring, and that the best way to prevent violent acts...is to turn ourselves into a society in which social justice, love and compassion are so prevalent that violence becomes unnecessary. 

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