Posted by: David M. Hazen | October 5, 2015

This violence will end.

This violence — whatever violence comes to mind — this culture of violence has been in place for thousands of years. I inherited those underlying, invisible assumptions about how to resolve conflict. I was whipped, punched, slapped, insulted, ostracized and victimized. I had nightmares of being incinerated by a nuclear weapon. I learned how to intimidate others with a gun when I was only 8 years old. I learned how to yell, hit and bite to defend myself. I learned how to wish other people dead, and I helplessly witnessed their explosive and bloody deaths glorified on the big screen. I became a violent person, not by choice but by default.

There are only a few degrees of separation between any one of us and the shooters. They are the mirror to our shadow side, the persona of our angry, powerless, despairing, blaming and traumatized selves that wants one and only one thing: real, permanent security. The shooters demonstrate how in moments of stress and injury that can no longer be tolerated, the ultimate tool for returning to stability is violence, no matter how short-lived that satisfaction may be. So intense is the need for security, the need to be right, the need to be powerful, that any sacrifice of self or others becomes worthwhile.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 11 thousand homicides and 21 thousand suicides by firearms in 2013. The CDC terms violence an “epidemic,” the same as any other disease, and it is a dis-ease, a profound discomfort. Let’s reflect on the fact that the number of suicides is nearly twice the number of homicides. What kind of disease related to a loss of stability and security would cause someone to kill themselves, to perceive themselves as the enemy worthy of death? In what way are they broken, exactly?

I have wanted to kill myself, several times. I became obsessed with the belief that I had caused irreparable damage to, and become a burden to, the people around me and would never be able to contribute anything positive to their lives. I had become my own worst enemy. Since then, I have learned the term “toxic shame” to describe what I was thinking, and I have observed toxic shame as the basis for not only suicide, but also homicide, which is simply the shame turned outwards into “toxic blame.” This is what is broken: a belief, a story about ourselves that is absolutely intolerable. What is so horrifying is that we almost all have this same story, and we all try to repress it with incredibly clever strategies.we have met the enemy

We try to satisfy our need for security with anger, overwork, shopping, eating, sex, gambling, drugs, alcohol, care-taking others, thrill-seeking in person or as a voyeur, or any number of other gambits, all of which are only temporary and cyclical. These strategies, taken together, form the culture of violence in which we are entangled. The violence is directed toward ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and our planet home. The instability of our physical environment has become a mirror and metaphor for the overheated insecurity within ourselves.

We have become profoundly uncomfortable, our needs for security have not been met, and we are literally bouncing off the walls within our prison of toxic shame. With increasing frequency we are witnessing the walls of our jail — the powerlessness of our governments, institutions and ourselves. After thousands of years, do we know any alternatives to violence begetting more violence?

The despair that we feel in the present about shooters, police brutality and refugees — that despair is the cutting edge of our collective desire for a world without war, without poverty, without racism — a world beyond imagination for most of us. We know what it is that we do not want. Despair begs us to answer the questions, what is it that we really do want, how would we know when we had it, how would it be measured, and what baby steps are we willing to take in that direction?

This violence will end. This is truly the end of the world as we have known it to be. Contained within all of our collective pain is the insatiable desire for connection, inclusion, mutual support and contribution to each other’s lives. This is the new story. Call it love, call it peace, call it nonviolence, call it a world that works for everyone, over the last 70 years or so the self-conscious construction of organized efforts to co-create a new story about ourselves has only increased in momentum and popularity. Networks of networks are becoming synchronous in goals and actions. We are learning how to become our own best friends, forgiven and accepted just as we are, full of potential blessings for the world, worthy of a life of harmony.

Measurements of human resilience, happiness, security and prosperity are now correlated with self-management of our emotions, attitudes and attention. It has become common knowledge that a relaxed and playful, even child-like, attentiveness to problems will generally lead to more satisfying results. Millions of people globally have abandoned the old story in search of a new one, and no, we are not finished. I may have broken the story of overt violence in my family yet the shadow of violent thoughts remain. Nobody else can replace my old story with a new one but me, yet every other person on this quest is creating the permission and encouragement for me to do so, and every baby step that I take reflects that same permission and encouragement back to them.

We have no choice but to let go of the notion that “we” is a word that does not include “them,” the crazy and hysterically dangerous ones, that we are somehow on a polarized continuum with a void in the middle. One of the most ancient principles of martial arts is to become one with your enemy, become empathic in the most extreme way, defeat your own urges to become angry and impulsive, and to never be where your enemy can hit you. To do this takes training and practice at focusing the mind and removing all fear. Then what is left is only a dance: no struggle, only effortless movement. The enemy — if there is such a thing — and in this case is an entire belief system — becomes exhausted, loses energy, and collapses under its own weight.

To summarize, what are our options for transcending this culture of violence? 1) each one of us individually seeking nonviolence in our own thoughts, words, and deeds, 2) each one of us seeking connection with others who walk the nonviolence path, 3) collectively discovering and constructing a local nonviolent social structure, 4) networking with other groups, globally, who are also moving outside the status quo, 5) making the network and structures visible, 6) in a moment of crisis, offering the alternative to the status quo directly and be prepared to take no for an answer, 7) while waiting for all this to happen, keep breathing, praying, singing and dancing.

Said with love,


Posted by: David M. Hazen | April 10, 2015

The mechanism of a miracle

(originally written in December, 2007, and still relevant)

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.

                       — Albert Camus

When I left the meeting of the Eugene Peace Coalition last Monday, I was feeling weary, discouraged, confused, sad, and distressed.  How can such good-hearted people not see their own good hearts?  The anti-war movement has always had the option of pulling off a magic trick, and has sadly held itself back from exercising its own power of imagining into existence the joy, wonder, and fulfillment of people working together in community. 

On the way home, I heard on the radio an old folk song about being on this small green planet flying through space, and I thought about how when we are ready to fall asleep in our beds, we are in a moment of stability and security, unaware that we are racing through space at 40,000 miles per hour.  We often don’t see the big picture, the background of stars and galaxies in which we rest.  Fortunately, this is not a problem for us.  It seems natural, right, harmonious, secure. 

On the other hand, when we resist and focus on the power of a shadow government, there is no harmony.  We are in a moment of instability and insecurity.  If we could see the background in which we lie sleepless with anxiety, we might see a different perspective on our struggle.  Our insecurity is part of the problem. 

War continues and threatens to engulf the world in what might be the end of most life on this planet, including the lives of those who wage war.   We are looking into the abyss with a great deal of understandable anxiety, bordering on terror and panic.  This is the time when many people ask themselves, “What the hell am I doing here?” 

Indeed.  What the hell are we doing, why are we here, what is our goal?  If the activists in the anti-war movement are successful in stopping this war, even preventing the next one, is that the end of the anti-war movement?  Or is there something beyond?   In the struggle to tear down the giant, the war, the war-producing system, the domination system, I think something has been overlooked:  whatever you imagine could replace domination.  Suppose the war ended tomorrow, suppose Bush, Cheney — the whole rat pack — were removed from office, disgraced.  Where would we be?  What could be next?  Would the domination system actually be gone?  What about global corporations? 

It gets to be a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it?  I hear the voice of weariness clinging to shreds of hope coming from Lynn and Gordon, and I’m sure many others feel the same way.  Wouldn’t it be great if we had a miracle?  I am asking you to look for the mechanism to co-create what will appear to be a miracle to anyone who hasn’t seen the mechanism.  Miracles are simply shifts in visible reality where the relationship of cause to effect are not visible.  The anti-war movement is already producing a “miracle,” and I am sure it is not the one we wanted.

The anti-war movement remains oppositional in its strategies, and the opposition does not lose, it gains strength from the struggle.  If you scream every day at teenagers not to have sex, use drugs, or get pierced, try to guess what they are going to run out and do.  When classroom teachers believe in their students’ potential, and then encourage and support high standards of performance from their students, guess what occurs.   Our attitude, our position, our angle of attack, our definition of the problem determines the outcome.  Could it be that when you expect to do battle with a powerful, dark and sinister adversary, you have unwittingly defined yourself as a victim and martyr in the bargain? 

Without clearly defined goals, the movement tends to wander in multiple directions.  The fractured pieces of the anti-war movement seem to struggle for hegemony, criticize those who are unwilling to be arrested, hate those who think wars are necessary, fight for control and defeat of the shadow government, and yet somehow still expect something positive (is it peace and love?) to spring forth from — from where?  From angst?  Would someone please explain to me how being against something is a goal.  I assert that working for the absence of something is not a goal at all, but a strategy for an undefined goal.

The anti-war movement has declared war to be a problem and attacks “war” without including the big picture.  The presence of a shadow government or evil people is not the big picture, those are simply alternative strategies for reaching the same undefined goal.

The warrior believes in peace through the strength of domination.  The anti-warrior believes in strength through the peace of cooperation and understanding.  Are they not both talking about the creation of stability and security, survival?   The big picture is that both groups are on converging tracks toward the same goal no matter if they can see it or not.   The desire for security and stability is becoming a very clearly defined and overriding priority, and when it becomes clear enough we will see a quantum leap into solutions that work for everybody, including the people we may currently consider to be idiots.   When the anti and pro-war activists are able to define and communicate their goals to each other as equals, war will cease to be a problem.  Now that would be a miracle, wouldn’t it?

Product designers will tell you that any problem is composed of four parts:  an unrealized but clearly defined goal, barriers to the goal, resources for resolving the problem, and alternative courses of action.   When all parts of the problem are completely defined, the solution appears, and I want to say here “as if by magic,” yet there is no magic to it when you understand the mechanism that remains hidden in the background.   

We ignore background phenomena constantly.  That is a natural part of being human.  The anti-war movement seems to be unaware that a quantum leap into fearless cooperation by millions of people worldwide is making that shadow government obsolete, ineffective, and powerless, at “40,000 miles per hour” to boot.   We are, and always have been, individually and collectively, a self-healing, self-correcting organism in search of stability, just like every other organism on the planet and the planet herself.  This is the unseen background to the attack on war.  We are at war with ourselves, externally, brother against brother, and internally, mind against heart.  Easy to say, hard to extricate ourselves from — today.  Just give it a few more days.

Think of the winds of change.  We have the world-wide internet, cell phones reaching into isolated corners of the world, artists communicating transcendent feelings with video and music,  a huge grassroots defiance of the politics of fear and control that is expanding exponentially,  years of research and development in the field of conflict resolution,  the inexorable pressure of the mass extinction event otherwise known as “global warming,”  the humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union, the imminent collapse of the United States, and the growing awareness that forcefully grabbing resources results in a net loss of resources. 

When it comes to alternative strategies to create peace through strength or strength through peace, the list can become very long.  For openers, how about promoting family harmony with domestic violence prevention programs?  That’s a form of strength and a form of peace.  When we start teaching parents and children win-win solutions to conflict in the home, valuable lessons are generalized to other conflicts and an important piece is added to a culture of peace, stability, and security.   

I submit that building a culture, an infrastructure, of peace is a concrete, specific, and achievable goal of the anti-war movement.  If the movement were to focus upon it, it would happen quickly because it would accelerate what is inevitable and in harmony with the other changes occurring on the planet.  It would seem to be magical.  We would all sleep better at night.

Today, the space for conflict resolution without violence has been researched, tested and designed, but the prototype has yet to be built.  When we can see a detailed vision of steps towards peace, and each step follows a logical sequence, then the visions of war and violence begin to lose their validity.  It is like building a birdhouse.  When the space is ready, the dove of peace arrives.

I see that we are in an upward spiral of knowledge and abilities that will establish something like a Department of Peace, which would elevate nonviolence to the status of a national mission, and passage of such a bill in the US Congress would signify the end of history, the violent “history as we know it,” and the beginning of a new story.  We will promote the healthy growth and development of children worldwide; prosperity and safety for adults; as well as cooperative learning and problem-solving.  Such genius will flower that sometime in the future as we look back at the current state of humanity, it will seem as if we were like the dodo, and we will wonder why and how we were saved from extinction.  Can you imagine that?

This is the mechanism of a miracle.  Einstein said “imagination is more important than knowledge,”  because knowledge often falsely limits our field of possibilities in the guise of being right, true and correct.  What America and the world needs right now is a loving, loyal seeing-eye dog with the imagination to lead us into a positive future.


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