On August 5th, 2012, a man who I used to be walked into a Sikh Temple and murdered six people before taking his own life. He was a white power skinhead, who wrote and performed violent racist music, just as I was and did two decades ago. My voice, my lyrics, and my aggression helped construct the environment that led to the homicidal suicide of Wade Page. Following my lead, he practiced hate and violence until it had consumed him, taking the lives of a grandfather, sons, brothers, fathers, and a daughter, sister, and mother.
Taking responsibility for my role in a mass murder hate crime, I recorded a video response. There was a solemn urgency to answer such an offense to the humanity we all share. To answer questions: How could someone do this? What can we do about it?
The very succinct answers are the practice of hate and the practice of kindness respectively.
The video was seen around the world as part of a concerted response of compassion and forgiveness inspired by the wonderful Sikh community and their engagement with spirituality.
As I write this there are 30 comments, almost all being very thoughtful and supportive. But one with a username that clearly conveys his suffering under the spiritual slavery of white supremacy challenged it:
Peace can only be achieved through violence Arno, thats how the world works. It’s not a utopia
Blinded by his own attachment to impossible fundamentalism, non-sequiturs like “peace through violence” are the only things that seem to make sense. My old friend struggles desperately to extract himself from the simple truths of human existence, then seethes to cast his suffering to me and the rest of his world that defies all of the lies that he constructed an identity around. Truths strangely uncomfortable to him: i.e. just as freedom really is free, peace cannot be enforced. As weighty as any law of physics is the truth that violence can only beget more violence. Throughout human history, there hasn’t been a single act of violence that brought peace about. There have been countless transitions of violence, from world war to relatively less violent conditions, but any situation that requires violence or the threat thereof to attain or maintain is simply a continuation.
My old friend’s suffering is all too common. Without the courage and strength to conceive otherwise, it much easier to condemn the notion of peace as foolish and impossible. It takes an immense amount of work to reach the level of spiritual fitness that can not only envision peace, but practice and manifest it at will.
Not utopian at all.
Peace is a state of being. Its pursuit is an ongoing process that waxes and wanes as everything does. A goal that can only be attained in the moment. Instances of peace evoke and nourish like instances. All of our great human family can just as readily inspire and uplift each other as we can do harm. And as mindless as that harm can seem, it actually takes an insatiable amount of energy to flee far enough from our human core to hurt people. It is a willful decision to turn backs on brothers and sisters, to attempt separation from common values. We all need compassion. We all have the ability to give it.
At any given moment peace exists between human beings all over this planet that we share. At all levels of relationship, from personal to global, there exists states where people not only coexist, but also care for each other.
People love each other.
Concurrently, struggle and sadness comes and goes. Sometimes by act of Nature, sometimes by poor choice, joy yields to horror. Our conscious existence as dynamic and impermanent as everything is. Yet, the human capacity to love is as innate as anything else we’re capable of. Each being is blessed with the responsibility to be mindful of what we choose to practice. We can practice kindness. We can practice compassion. While many may live in spite of this truth, as more people honor it by practicing peace, those unmindfully practicing greed, fear, ignorance and suffering the subsequent consequences can be guided towards a healthier path.
When we choose to smile at the world around us, and open our hearts to all that life brings, all of the most wonderful aspects of being human are cultivated and shared.
Not a distant Utopia at all, but one that is as constant as the impermanence that brings it about. This practice of peace carries immense power from the best of times to the worst. In the face of hate and violence forgiveness and compassion shine. From the most miserable atrocities in history has sprung our most magnificent love for each other. Every time. No matter the depths of inhumanity, there have always been other humans to open their broken hearts in response.
This human ability to love is Utopia. It is always there to engage with, the moreso as we become mindful of not only how to bring it about, but also of its temporal nature. It will be lost as well as found. It is our gift to be able to look for it.
Be mindful of what you seek old friends and new.