Thursday, August 23, 2007

Truth and Reconciliation, Part I

Sometimes it is harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night (1896 - 1940)

Fitzgerald knew a little something about pain. And he knew a little something about succinctness too - Gatsby was less than 200 pages if I recall. The last 5 years of my life took, well...5 years for me to live through. Francis Scott summed up those 5 years in 14 words. Pain and shame have been the name of my game. And I have come to be so familiar with them, that opportunities arose for me to let go of them and I didn't want to. I knew them inside out, pain and shame, they had become friends to me. They filled me with a familiar warmth when someone asked me where I was and I couldn't find the courage to tell them that I didn't know. People would ask me where I was, and my first instinct was to tell them the truth - that I honestly didn't know, that I'd gotten lost and needed help - but there was the pain and the shame tugging at my sleeve. I'd look down at them and they'd whisper 'Just tell a fib. It doesn't matter' and it seemed to make so much sense. And so I'd lie, just a little one, here and there, and for a while afterwards things would be better. I wouldn't have to think about being lost, or people wondering after me. But the plan had a flaw. Little things never stay little for long. They grow, everything struggles to grow, to be more than what it is. Bacteria, children, lies. Small things grow, that's just nature...tbc...

Monday, August 06, 2007


Some people respond only to confrontation - it reassures them that they were swayed by those who are worthy and strong. Still others respond only to violence; violence is the only meaningful method of discourse to them and all other forms of communication are merely preamble. When met with such people, violence is not only expedient and necessary for preserving greater peace - it is the only responsible course of action.
- Turbo

So I wanted to express some thoughts on the nature of violence. Violence is something that humans have been doing for a long time, and something that we've been refining and purifying for a nearly as long. Combat and physical conflict is the human behaviour with the longest unbroken lineage of historical data, we know a lot more about how people killed each other in the past than about family structure or social conventions. Violence is part of what it is to be alive; it is part of our heritage both socially as humans and genetically as animals.

Thusfar, one might conclude from this cursory introduction that I was a homicidal maniac on the level of a Harris, Klebold or Cho - someone who thinks that humans should express themselves through violence in a spectacular, horrifying way. On the contrary, because violence is something that some people are so resoundingly comfortable with, it is incumbent upon the remainder of us to familiarize ourselves with the methods to which such people resort, and to prepare ourselves to use violence in a responsible way. That's the key, the line that no one says, that I've never seen written down anywhere in the literature on conflict, from Sun Tzu to von Clausewitz to Bruce Lee to military generals in the US armed forces. Violence in a responsible way. That one clean punch that ended a fight before someone pulled a gun. Kicking a drunk friend in the balls to stop him from driving. Bombing a facility after a special forces ground team had reconnoitred the area for civilian personnel. Its the stuff that people just don't bother with, that would take to much time and effort and risk to undertake, the stuff that makes further suffering less likely. 'A facility was bombed in northern Iraq today. US special forces evacuated all the non-combatants from the area before levelling a known insurgents' headquarters.'

That is what stops war and violence in the acute, non-talking phase. Precision, accuracy, control. Some say it can't be done. I contend no one has ever tried. No one has ever bothered making a science, a study of stopping violence. Not through consultation or mediation or peacekeeping but through the judicious, responsible use of violence. Today everything is a study in excess. He comes with his fist, you bring a knife. He brings a knife, you bring a sword. He brings a sword, you bring a gun. He brings a gun, you bomb his house. A tendency towards excess that has led us to that ultimate expression of violent excess, the atom bomb. Kill everything. This tendency towards excess in violence comes from the same thing that causes excess in anything: not knowing enough about what you have and about the best way it can be used. Contrast this way of thinking to a physician's use of chemotherapeutics to kill cancer. Cancer kills everything indiscriminately, chemotherapy kills too, it just kills selectively. The answer isn't bomb the patient - cancer gone. Selective toxicity to destructive cells. Selective toxicity to violent people, violent situations...tbc

Friday, August 03, 2007


He may be mad, but there's method in his madness. There nearly always is method in madness. It's what drives men mad, being methodical.
- GK Chesterton

Plans. People make them, modify them, act on them. People write them down, amend them, scratch them and make new ones. My problem with plans is that by and large, they work. If they didn't, people wouldn't use them. And I wouldn't have to worry about not really having one and not really wanting one. But since they do, I do worry and I have to want one. So here is where my plan begins. But first some goals. I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I want to be a world class martial artist. I want to be a writer. To be those things, I'm going to have to practice a little every day. Thus, this weblog. I think a lot, and I have a lot to say, and I don't particularly need someone to hear what I say so, this weblog exist for the purpose of putting my particular plan in action. Over the coming months I will reveal more and more about the plan to myself. But the sheer brilliance of this endeavor lies in the fact that maintaining this weblog will ensure the success of the plan by having me constantly addressing and readdressing the plan. Sounds simple doesn't it. I figure as long as my brain keeps working the way its been working for the past 26 years, this log won't go long without tending. And my plan will gather no moss. So, the preamble at an end...let me tell myself a story.