From Issue: 952 [Read full issue]

Establish Others

We can stop the vicious cycle of attack and counterattack, strike and counterstrike that holds the world in thrall today if we learn to appreciate the wisdom of restraint toward the enemy. We have witnessed the result of hard-line policies inspired by a righteousness that can see only worst in the enemy. We have seen the danger of ruthless retaliation that drives people to despair, ignores their needs, and refuses to take their aspirations seriously. We have become aware that when people feel that they have nothing to lose, they resort to hopeless, self-destructive measures.

In our global village, everybody is our neighbour, and it is essential to make allies of our enemies. We need to create a world democracy in which everybody's voice is heard and everybody's aspirations are taken seriously. In the last resort, this kind of "love" and "concern for everybody" will serve our best interest better than short-sighted and self-serving policies.

Retaliation is likely only to exacerbate the hatred and violence activated by the threat mechanism. On September 11, 2001, for example, there were demonstrations and expressions of sympathy for the United States in countries all over the world, including Palestine and Iran. If there had been a nonviolent and openhanded response to the attacks on the Twin Towers instead of a military offensive, might the outcome have been different? Remember Confucius's words: if you seek to establish yourself, then seek to establish others. Humiliating the enemy can be dangerous. The harsh conditions inflicted on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles after the First World War gave birth to the conditions that helped to bring Adolf Hitler to power. We need to find a way to ensure all peoples enjoy the treatment that we wish for ourselves. We have to try to look carefully and deeply into our own hearts and thus learn to see the sorrow of our enemy.

Compiled From:
"Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" - Karen Armstrong, pp. 180-188