The Systemic Sickness of War and Violence – Personal and Collective Healing

November 25, 2012

We Are Not Worth More ­– They Are Not Worth Less

As the globe quakes from the weight of violent and selfish human activity, sometimes that energy rocks through my body, mind and soul with such force I feel nearly paralyzed by it. It is like slipping into low-level depression, accompanied by feelings of inadequacy and shame. Perhaps those of us in the U.S. are regularly vulnerable to the pain of multiple wars being waged in our names – 390 military interventions since World War II in over 100 nations, while bombing 28 of them. Then with each violent intervention, such as the U.S. diplomatic support for Israel’s most recent terror and murders committed against the trapped 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza, with U.S. weapons no less, we are more likely to experience acute episodes of anxiety and grief.

When I experience these episodes, it is difficult for me to focus on anything, follow through on anything, or even look at and respond to emails and phone calls  – a kind of paralysis I mentioned above. These moments are sometimes accompanied by bouts of crying with no warning. I ask myself, “Is the end for me, or just a temporary time to stop and allow all these feelings to have their space and time deeply within, without judging them?”

And this latest violence by Israel is a mere emulation of the open U.S. policy of assassinating human beings in a number of far-off countries with unmanned missile-firing drones, diabolical nearly beyond comprehension. Knowing that the big winners of this warring behavior are all those who make huge profits from expenditure on weapons of war, protected by our political system dependent upon such expenditures, is sheer maddening. Eisenhower, in 1961, initially called this the Military Industrial Complex, but it has now expanded to include manufacturers in virtually every Congressional district, thus Congress itself, the President, academia, the banks, communications, intelligence, the security industry, transportation, etc.

At any rate, I don’t know how many people might be experiencing similar feelings of angst, shame, or inner turbulence. I know other veterans I have discussed this with share similar pain. Sometimes the memory of our own participation in dreadful acts of war, knowing we were pawns as we participated in the murder of innocents, brings an inner pain so unbearable as to be beyond words, even as those same experiences have provided us an awakening, motivating us to be relentless truth tellers in a land of make-believe.

As a lay student of eco-psychology, I am increasingly aware that everything is connected with everything everywhere, at every moment, a truth that Martin Luther King, Jr. described thus: “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I often say, “We are not worth more; they are not worth less,” and the “they” is all life outside of ourselves – the birds, bees, butterflies, moss, rocks, etc., in addition to all the human beings in their respective cultures, and that of all other species as well.

Survival now requires attention to not only social and political justice, but also ecological justice, and justice for our inner child. Historian, philosopher and novelist Theodore Roszak (The Voice of the Earth, 1992), believes we have been ignoring the most important inner voice of all – the “ecological unconscious.” The greater ecological realities of which we are an integral part constantly penetrate our psyches, both its joy and pain. But the voice of the earth expressing her pain (from our assaults on her) seems to manifest in our tensions and dis-eases. Rozak proposes “eco-psychology” as a solution to the shortcomings of both psychotherapy and environmentalism, and, I would add, to our seeking social justice.

I believe this holistic, ecological consciousness is involved in all efforts for healing. The greater socio-economic realities, of which we are an integral part, whether conscious of them or not, surrounds and tweaks our psyche, just as our assaults on the earth do. Massive injustices are occurring everywhere on the planet, most connected to imperial policies of the United States and other “first world” nations. Painfully, this imperial plunder is empowered by our own insatiable greed, or the American Way Of Life (AWOL). The voices of the poor and oppressed, and those being terrorized because they cry out for bits of justice and dignity, become part of our inner voice – the injustice consciousness. Consequently, their cries manifest in tensions and dis-eases within us. We are in fact all one, as quantum physics suggests, and as many indigenous peoples have tried in vain to teach us.

Thus, serious healing necessarily requires a holistic understanding and integration of personal with social and ecological health. And I am reminded again that I need to address my inner child who is crying to be loved unconditionally, something that was often lacking in my early years, such that I can integrate that grounded-ness with a feeling of adequacy as an adult person, and join all the wonderful people striving for a world of simplicity and justice for all.


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