Monday, August 20, 2012


Wendell Berry offers an alternative to the age-old violence begets violence cycle: "escape from the logic of retribution"

Once again, I came across an essay by Wendell Berry by the title “Peaceableness Toward Enemies.”  Found in his book Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community, it is a reflection on America’s role in the Persian Gulf War (way back when).  Berry perceived then that war was unnecessary and more costly to global politics and ecology than we have yet to realize.

I think of this as the USA has surpassed 5000 troop deaths, more troop deaths by suicide, multiple thousands of casualties, and well over $1 trillion (and counting...) spent waging war in Afghanistan and Iraq:

“The idea of peaceableness toward enemies is a religious principle.  Whether or not it could be believed, much less practiced apart from authentic religious faith, I do not know.  I can only point out that the idea of the ultimate importance of individual lives is also a religious principle and that it finally became a political principle of significant power and influence.”

“Peaceableness toward enemies is an idea that will, of course, continue to be denounced as impractical.  It has been too little tried by individuals, much less by nations.  It will not readily or easily serve those who are greedy for power.  It cannot be effectively used for bad ends.  It could not be used as the basis of an empire.  It does not afford opportunities for profit.  It involves danger to practitioners.  It requires sacrifice.  And yet it seems to me that it is practical, for it offers the only escape from the logic retribution.  It is the only way by which we can cease to look to war for peace.”

“The essential point is the ancient one: that to be peaceable is, by definition, to be peaceable in time of conflict.  Peaceableness is not the amity that exists between people who agree, nor is it the exhaustion or jubilation that follows war.  It is not passive.  It is the ability to act to resolve conflict without violence.  If it is not a practical and a practicable method, it is nothing.  As a practicable method, it reduces helplessness in the face of conflict. In the face of conflict, the peaceable person may find several solutions, the violent person only one."

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