This is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s 2013 book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.” Through the several years I have been serializing this book on my radio show, I have frequently been astounded at how each month’s chapter seems to speak to current events. “Hate” is no exception.
You can buy Charles’ book, and read other writings of his, by following this link.
He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee.
To humanize an opponent might be challenging to allies who are still inhabiting a Story of Hatred. They might interpret the new view as softness or betrayal. “How could you excuse those people?”
A friend of mine, a military veteran committed to peace, told me the story of a friend of his who had the opportunity to serve as the personal chef to none other than Dick Cheney, a man whom millions of liberals perceived as an awful human being, a soulless, duplicitous, conniving warmonger. My friend, expecting confirmation of this view, asked his friend what it was like working for Cheney. “Wonderful,” he replied. “You can tell a lot about someone’s character by the way they treat the help, and he always treated me with warmth, dignity, and respect, even though I was only a cook.”
This is not an endorsement of Dick Cheney’s political views or conduct. The point here is that a perfectly decent human being, harboring the same basic motivations and fears as any other human being, can do awful things in one context and admirable things in another…..
….Hold on. Maybe I am saying this only because I am naive. Maybe my soft, coddled upbringing has blinded me to the reality of evil and the need to fight it with force. It is certainly true that I have not experienced firsthand the worst of what human beings can do to each other. But let me offer you the story of the South Korean activist and farmer Hwang Dae-Kwon. Hwang was a militant antiimperialist protester in the 1980s, a dangerous activity during that time of martial law. In 1985 he was arrested by the secret police and tortured for sixty days until he confessed to spying for North Korea. He was then thrown into prison, where he spent thirteen years in solitary confinement. During this time, he says, his only friends were the flies, mice, roaches, and lice that shared his cell, along with the weeds he met in the prison yard. This experience turned him into an ecologist and practitioner of nonviolence. He realized, he told me, that all the violence he had endured was a mirror of the violence in himself.
His number one principle for activism is now to maintain a peaceful heart. At a recent demonstration, a line of police equipped with riot gear was marching toward the demonstrators. Hwang walked up to one of the police and, with a big smile, gave him a hug. The policeman was petrified—Hwang said he could see the terror in his eyes. Hwang’s peacefulness had rendered him incapable of violence. For this to “work,” though, the peacefulness must be genuine and deep. The smile must be real. The love must be real. If there is an intent to manipulate, to show the other up, to highlight the brutality by contrasting it with one’s own nonviolence, then the power of the smile and the hug is much less strong.
music: Georgia Whiting, “My Back Pages“
The Nice: “My Back Pages” (I may not have time to play this extended cut on the air, but it’s a very imaginative restructuring of the song, and definitely worth a listen!)