Can pictures of us show Iraqis that all Americans are not like the ones killing them?
October 17, 2004 6:25 AM   Subscribe

The intent was to send a friendly message to people. We're not their enemies and they're not ours.' The Fellowship of Reconciliation, a peace organization around since WW1, instrumental in helping to create many of the most famous and effective social service and nonprofit organizations (ACLU, SCLC, etc), and their latest endeavor, IRAQ photo project. We are one family. When one person suffers, we all suffer is just one of the messages in the photos. Can empathy help, or has the situation gone too far?
posted by amberglow (14 comments total)
A surprisingly old, yet relevant quote from their pages:
Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.
To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.

--Theodore Roosevelt, April 19, 1906
posted by amberglow at 6:38 AM on October 17, 2004

Neat photo project. It would be even neater if all the image linkes weren't dead.
posted by fleener at 7:37 AM on October 17, 2004

the photos work for me. and thanks for that great quote.
posted by quarsan at 8:11 AM on October 17, 2004

"Sorry we removed a murderous dictator, we'll make up for it by trying to triple the civilian casualties in the months between now and the time you get to participate in democracy"
posted by Mick at 12:18 PM on October 17, 2004

> a murderous dictator

Hey now, enough with the Bush bashing! He only killed 15,000 innocent civillians in Iraq and only 1100 soldiers have died so far. I mean, he's far from Stalin.

As far as the "one family" stuff, it stinks of limp-wristed looney left crap. Is it so hard to realize that every nation has its conservative, moderate, and liberal elements? That its leadership rarely reflects its peoples? That all french people arent beret wearing atheists?
posted by skallas at 2:38 PM on October 17, 2004

I once knew a killer, an assassin. A sniper. Starting as a military man, he evolved into a private contractor, then a mercenary. The best way of describing him was a man 'surrounded by ghosts'. Little different from a serial killer. In his entire career, he had never talked to a single person he had killed.

He hadn't a slightest care that they were people. Unlike in the movies or TV, he was indifferent to their lives and deaths. And it would not have mattered if he had met them, known them, talked to them at length. He could not be persuaded of any value to human life. Of the misplaced egoism most westerners have been raised with that places human life at the apex of things.

It would be wrong to ascribe negative emotions to him. He was amoral, asocial, and unemotional as a machine. Projecting feelings onto him was a waste.

I mention him as not atypical in the world. The idealistic shower such people with affection and empathy, and hope against hope to light a spark within them, to make these people *more* like them; and nothing comes of it. You cannot persuade a machine to have emotions, to care, to be more like you. Not individually, and not in group therapy.

I persuaded him to die peacefully of throat cancer, instead of in a volley of police bullets in a mass murder, an act of which he was fully capable. I did not do this out of empathy for him or his potential victims. And I did not persuade him that it was a moral wrong, or that hugs and group therapy and empathy would change his mind.

Instead I used his own, cold, machine-like methodology. And were I to be unsuccessful in this persuasion, I would have been the assassin, with him as my victim. No other course would have been so conclusive. And had I reached that decision, anything he said, any belated expression of emotion, any value to his life, would have been unimportant. Meaningless.

He would not be my enemy, nor I, his. But I would have killed him. It is the way of the world.
posted by kablam at 5:26 PM on October 17, 2004

Wow, kablam. We have a throat cancer ninja in our midst. We should trade stories. Did I ever tell you about my quart of blood technique?

Nice link, amberglow. The stupidity of hoping violence will stop violence never fails to amuse.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 6:56 PM on October 17, 2004

"The stupidity of hoping violence will stop violence never fails to amuse."

Because Hitler was stopped by empathy. If only we had given Peace a chance.

When my one of the women from our self defense class let me know that violence (hers) had prevented violence to her (a rapist) I know that my first thought was that violence had dam sure prevented his violence.

Of course if your the kind of person who sees her self defence as the moral equivelent of his attempted rape then no doubt these signs make perfect sense to you.

posted by soulhuntre at 7:20 PM on October 17, 2004

soulhuntre - There are gradations of response : between apocalyptic nuclear retaliation and servile submission to violence : nuances of response which lie between such poles. You know this, surely, unless you are writing from a maximum security prison. So I have to assume that you have momentarily forgotten such a basic truth - or else that you are being dishonest.

Further, our choices do not always fall merely on one axis : that perception may at times point towards a failure of imagination.

And - can you kindly tell me where I might find such cardboard charicatures of people as you have described ?

kablam - that's a tale and a half. Many of us come to analogous points somewhere in our lives : this is never pleasant. "He would not be my enemy, nor I, his." - Arjuna asks Krishna, before battle, "How can I do this, take the lives of my fellow family ?.....and yet, I must."

amberglow - In the days immediately after 9-11, I wrote and circulated the following. I posted your link at the end of the statement which - somewhat disturbingly now - prefigures much of that came to pass in the following several years, and which casts a stark light on those choices not made and paths not taken.

I got emails...."What group are you with?"

No group.

[ written September 13, 2001 ]

"All life on earth is interconnected and interdependent. On all levels: biological , emotional, political, spiritual. Please reflect on this, for there are very, very few living who understand the deep of ramifications. I do not count myself among them. And those who act on that understanding are fewer still.

Life on Earth is now viewed by modern biology as heavily symbiotic - from the cellular level to to the macrocosm some have taken to calling Gaia which somehow maintains stable parameters of those things we take for granted - oxygen and nitrogen levels, temperature levels, rainfall patterns. At the global level, nutrients are cycled and wastes removed. We are provided for. There is a delicate balance between competition and cooperation. But it is cooperation and interdependence - and even compromise - among and between organisms and species which allows for the current density of life on Earth. The regions of greatest species diversity on earth are the great rainforests which also have the most complex webs of interreliance.

The time has come for us to all learn the deep lessons of interconnection. We can no longer deny connection between the personal and the global. Violence, destruction and killing for no purpose whatsoever, and in the service of ideology, is a denial of interdependence and interconnection. Those who chose to destroy the World Trade Center chose, in their anger and pain, to deny interconnection. We are now called to prevent our responses to this terrible act of anger from stoking further cycles of revenge and retaliation. The grief, the anger over the loss of our loved ones can be addressed through revenge, perhaps. But there is another way, a better way. A miracle which we can allow to happen in our hearts by which those feelings of loss, and rage can turn to sympathy and compassion for all victims of violence wherever they are. In New York City, at the Pentagon, in Israel and on the West Bank. In African and the developing world. Everywhere. Human suffering wears no national flag.

In our hearts, can we change this anger into love and compassion?

Amidst the pain of terrible loss, this is a hard miracle to accomplish. Still, there are victims of violence on all sides of national and ideological boundaries. And If we extend love, compassion, aid, to those victims of violence - regardless of ideology - a miracle can occur. We have all witnessed these miracles in our lives, those times when violence seemed immanent but was miraculously averted, through an act of trust as someone extended a hand a friendship and asked the question "why would you want to have an enemy when you could have a friend?" This is a question, if asks in deep sincerity, melts anger into love.

We are called to humbly ask those around the world who hold such terrible anger towards the US and the West the questions - " what gave rise to this terrible anger?" "what role did we play in giving it birth?" and "Are we innocent?" - we put these questions to those who hate us so, who are our enemies. Could they ever become our friends?

Ultimately, human suffering ignites such violence. Terrorism is the cry of rage of the powerless. The terrible disparities in wealth and power in and between nations on the earth fuels this rage. All life on earth and is connected and we are called to try and learn of our connection, of what possible role we have played in sowing the seeds of anger and hatred which led to this terrible act of anger, denial, and destruction.

All of humanity on Earth plays a role. The casting of blame and the firing of missiles will not help us to discover the roles we have played in fueling violence. Accusations and missiles will not help the world. But the sincere attempt to discover what role we play personally will.

We have come to the point in human history when denial of interconnection is no longer a viable possibility, a workable way for life to continue on this earth. The biological systems which support life on Earth are rapidly eroding and the decline in these systems, together with climate disruption, threatens to trigger feedback loops by fueling human conflicts around the globe, the destructive potential of which - amplified by new technologies - grows with each passing year. The destruction of the World Trade Center is merely a terrible foreshadowing of what will soon be possible, a foreshadowing of the widespread destruction which small groups will soon be able to cause. The spread of new technologies of mass destruction demands that we work with love and compassion to resolve the global conflicts which fuel such violence. Military responses, violent responses cannot help us with this. And police state methods will not prevent further, more terrible, acts of violence. They will merely lock us into postures of anxiety and fear. There is another way. Another path we can choose at this crossroad. The way of love, compassion, nonviolence.

This work demands of us personal sacrifice - to address the terrible imbalances in wealth and power which threaten to incite the conflicts and wars of the 21st century. It is important to recognize that we all have already participated in for more terrible destruction. It is now recognized at the highest levels of scientific authority that human activity is disrupting global climatic stability. In the year of 1998, the hottest year in the last 1,000, three hundred million were driven from their homes, worldwide, by weather disasters. Millions died. We are now all complicit in mass destruction, at some level, whether we chose to acknowledge this or not.

Those who destroyed the World Trade Center were terrorists, yes. But through the current American refusal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, through our consumerism, our industrial processes, our economic system, and our unilateral use of military force around the globe, we also could be accused of causing death. Our violence is indirect, yes. But the violence intrinsic in our acts is painfully clear to much of the rest of the world - which increasingly views the US as a rogue nation. We must act in love, not in fear, denial, and arrogance - these stances will only provoke more violence.

The time has come to break cycles of violence and retaliation by extending love and compassion, by starting dialogue. We can no longer rest in the illusion of isolation. That illusion is gone. We are now called to admit the violence in our own hearts and to release it, to just let it go. To take a deep breathe, and let it go. To let love enter in and to extend that love to our enemies. This is not an easy thing. But it is the only thing we will lead us to a better tomorrow

Peace and nonviolence resource: The Foundation of Reconciliation "
posted by troutfishing at 7:59 PM on October 17, 2004

But to answer your question - I do not think the situation will have gone too far until the earth itself has been reduced to a blasted, blackened cinder.

As long as there is life, there is hope for a better way.

The price to be paid for that better way, though, do grow greater in proportion the swelling of hatreds. Still, I believe we can change the balance at any point in the process.
posted by troutfishing at 8:05 PM on October 17, 2004

I choose to believe that.
posted by troutfishing at 8:05 PM on October 17, 2004

yup. and maybe this is the "always darkest before the dawn" part, hopefully.
posted by amberglow at 8:09 PM on October 17, 2004

"can you kindly tell me where I might find such cardboard charicatures of people as you have described ?"

Look in the images of "aplogy" to see people who are both cardboard charicatures and completely oblivious to your concept of graduated response.

To say that violence is not always the best response, or even often the best response is reasonable. To say that one must suffer any attack and never use violence in order to let peace "break" the cycle is stupidly one dimensional IMHO.

Peace at any cost always results in your destruction... if you want that go ahead. Those of us with an urge to survive will not mourn your passing much.
posted by soulhuntre at 8:50 PM on October 17, 2004

"images of "aplgy" " ?

soulhuntre - I'll repeat - show me this great mass of willing pacifists ready to lay down their lives. You're gesticulating at thin air - or at images in your own head.

I've got an urge to survive alright - and I interpet that last quote of yours as an implied threat, one which I will not quickly forget.
posted by troutfishing at 3:51 AM on October 18, 2004

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