Music by Daniel De Togni, A Reflection by John Cobb
The two compositions below, one philosophical and one musical, were written independently. The authors do not know each other. But those of us in the world of process philosophy believe in bringing together disparate forms of wisdom and beauty into novel contrasts. For us "contrast" means harmony and intensity, not conflict. Indeed we think the whole of the universe carries within it an eros toward contrast, toward harmonious intensity and intense harmony. Always the contrasts are peaceful: flowers not guns. Philosophy such as offered by John Cobb, and "new classical music" or "new music" such as offered by Daniel De Togni. form just such a contrast. They enrich one another, inviting us to beget flowers not guns. (Jay McDaniel)
guns beget guns
Every now and again, in fact, quite frequently, an incident focuses attention on one of the ugliest features of the American character – our propensity to kill one another with guns. We cannot dismiss it as “human nature,” since we are far more murderous than are people of other industrialized countries. One reason and, one would think, the one easiest to overcome, is the widespread presence of firearms in our society.
Why do we do so little to control the ready accessibility of these dangerous instruments? We blame the gun lobby and perhaps the manufacturers and sellers. But that they are able to block political moves to control the sale and ownership of guns says something deeper about our culture.
Our nation was founded on gun violence. It was with guns that we killed the indigenous people and drove them off the land. Of course, they resisted, and this made settling new lands and living near the frontier dangerous. Of course, we blamed the indigenous people for this danger, and used their resistance as justification of genocide. Meanwhile we expected those living in real or imagined danger from the “savages” to arm themselves. This process continued for centuries.
Often the dangers of frontier living were more from lawless Euro-Americans than from the indigenous people. Long after the latter had been fully subjugated, violence shaped the self-understanding of frontier people. Those who wanted to live peacefully were often exploited by others, and there was often a real need for people to defend themselves. The belief that “law-abiding citizens" had the right to defend themselves came to be a part of widespread American self-understanding.
Even when there were no more frontiers in relation to the indigenous people, there was crime. Often criminals were armed. The need of people to defend themselves against such criminals was partly real, but to a large extent it was a way of justifying attitudes that were no longer appropriate. Of course, those who profited from the gun culture encouraged the continuation and even spread of these attitudes.
Like many evils this one has been self-re-enforcing. Because it is so easy for others who might threaten you to get a gun, you need a gun to protect yourself. And if others get more powerful weapons, then you need more powerful weapons as well.
There is another factor supporting the gun culture. There are hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans who are deeply alienated from government, especially the national government. They see government as inherently the enemy of their freedom. They believe that if the government has all the weapons, there is no way left to defend their freedom and that the government will oppress them more and more.
Since it is unimaginable that private citizens could hold out long against the United States army, this idea that stockpiling weapons safeguards their freedom is hard to take seriously. But at the fringes of American society are those who feel that the possession of military weapons gives them leverage against the incursions of the government. Any effort of the government to restrict their acquisition or possession of these weapons only confirms their suspicions of its ultimate intention. And, of course, the occasional crackdown of the government on particular groups of opponents reinforces the hostility of others.
The majority of Americans know that the gun culture is destructive of their well being and would like to see a great reduction in the availability of guns. But they are not organized with the passion and intensity of conviction that sustains the gun lobby. From time to time the majority is aroused to action, but this public will has thus far proved no match for the persistence and organization of its opponents.
Is change possible? As a process thinker I certainly affirm that it is. Over against the self-fulfilling belief that one is threatened by armed criminals or even the government, there are self-fulfilling moves toward trust and non-violence. When the new “enemy” justifying violent self-defense is racially defined, for example, white fear of black lawlessness, the consequence is often discrimination against blacks that in fact leads to an increase of lawless violence. This vicious circle can be reversed when whites treat blacks justly and friendships are established across racial lines. Violence begets violence. Generosity begets generosity. Guns beget guns. Nonviolence begets nonviolence. The choice is clear.
When you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.
— Francis of Assisi
I vow to cultivate peace by refraining from acts of violence (both verbal and physical), doing whatever I can to protect others from violence, and working with others to end violence in society as a whole. — Rami M. Shapiro in Minyan
Once, when I was particularly depressed, a friend and pacifist from Holland told me something very beautiful: "The people who worked to build the cathedrals in the Middle Ages never saw them completed. It took two hundred years and more to build them. Some stonecutter somewhere sculpted a beautiful rose; it was his life's work, and it was all he ever saw. But he never entered into the completed cathedral. But one day, the cathedral was really there. You must imagine peace the same way." — Dorothee Soelle in Against the Wind