Where to begin?
First of all, calm down. If today you don’t find yourself a place away from the awareness of universal fratricide and your own role in it, then believe me it won’t be long and you’ll need serious stimuli in order to maintain this feeling and continue down the path of non-violence. We can talk about this another time, but for now let’s talk about the exit from the system of violence and the temptations that come with it.
This is the main principle, but there is also another. To exit the system of violence, you will firstly have to concentrate on the smallest components that make up your day, your life and your relationships with other people – in a way that you’ve never done before. In order to learn to understand the nature of the origin of things and relationships that surround you, in order to learn to value your own steps, words and actions – in terms of violence or non-violence.
And we will begin with the fact that we will understand: whether it is possible to stay where you are at this moment.
1. AWAY WITH AGGRESSION
What is the first criterion? Firstly, the level of aggression in your environment. Environment – in the broadest sense: from family members and close neighbours to the population and entire state.
These are fairly obvious things, but let’s talk about them quickly. Aggression in your environment isn’t always obvious, it isn’t always accompanied by a demonstration or the use of force; it isn’t necessarily manifested in domestic violence, crime, terrorism, dictatorship or militarism (although any of these signs clearly indicate a critical situation). Often it quietly smolders in society for years and decades, only rising to the surface from time to time. But even in this inconspicuous form it can always be recognised and felt.
For example, the elements of violence between people: an irritated response to certain topics, anger, abuse, rudeness, indifference, neglect, intolerance, prejudice, fear etc. Aggression is very often accompanied by intoxication – by alcohol, drugs, euphoria, strength, power, permissiveness. It’s often hidden behind external well-being and prosperity, closed off from the rest of the world by high fences and harsh laws, looking at others with contempt.
You won’t prove anything to anyone and you’re unlikely to stop someone. In reality you can’t remain a caring person in this type of environment for more than 3 minutes, maximum a few hours, until you’ll meet another hint of aggression or indifference which will be impossible to ignore. Then there are three paths you can take:
- You can try to stop the aggression – but often this will not be without responding threats and violence, either verbal or physical
- You can become a victim of it – not a victim in the highest sense, but rather in the most tragic and ridiculous sense
- You can become either an active or passive participant
But what about a peaceful outcome, you ask? Yes, it’s entirely possible. But only when you are constantly faced with violence: you simply won’t have enough internal strength.
Do you need one of these outcomes? Does your Heavenly Father, who gave you a special life and the ability to love, need them? Who spent 18-20 years raising you from a helpless child to an independent adult who can think for themselves? Or maybe it’s needed for your parents, who cared for you all this time, or for your children as a role model?
It’s unlikely. Therefore, if you happen to have been born or live in this type of environment – be it family, region, community, nation or state – the first thing to do is to leave to any peaceful place where you can relax and gather your thoughts.
But the non-violence that we know never runs away from danger! – you will object. – This is a real fight, only by peaceful means… Some Christians will add: the Lord did not call upon us to leave our homes and families. And they will be mistaken (MT. 10:34-39):
At the same time, it’s important to understand that ‘non-violence’ doesn’t mean that you need to stand in the way of Moloch and try to overcome it by any means necessary (even with your own life, which, once again, isn’t given to us to ‘burn’ in three days or three hours). It means, firstly, to be aware of your own strength and to act in accordance with it so that you don’t become the cause of, or a participant in, even more and worse troubles.
Therefore, don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that violence and cruelty exist in the environment you grew up in, that you are used to, that you are connected to. Just like people are different, so too are families, communities, regions, nations and states different. Conflicts and contradictions exist even in the sparsest environments, but sometimes they are insignificant and sometimes ironic, but other times they completely surround you, becoming an integral part of your life no matter what you do, no matter what steps you take.
But how can we determine the highest level of aggression? How can you know the moment when you need to leave your home environment? When is too early, but when is too late?
There is one unmistakable sign that works regardless of external conditions.
2. AWAY WITH BITTERNESS
This is a sign of your own feelings of anger, irritation, or indifference to people. Your environment, place of living, friends, family and community can gradually, almost unnoticeably, harden you. Compare yourself now with how you were a month ago, a year ago, 5-10 years ago. Or even better with when you were a child. You’ll notice that if we don’t attach importance to violence within our lives from the beginning then with time we start to see our participation in the moral and material support of threats, crippling and murder as the norm and do not try to change this situation.
Once you accept the logic of threats and violence, it’ll become harder and harder to distance yourself from it. Even harder still if there’s people in your environment to whom you’re very attached. Usually they ‘slow down’ the understanding of the situation through their passive behaviour, which is often condescending, exculpatory or distorted in its judgement.
Don’t waste your precious time and don’t delve deeper into the atmosphere of violence. If you feel that your environment is embittering you, if you see that you can only participate in existing relationships if you are indifferent to the bloody foundation of them, if the signs above – irritation, indifference, anger, abuse, neglect, intoxication – began to appear within you, then don’t waste any time: take those who don’t like violence and leave the environment as soon as possible.
3. FINAL DESTINATION
It doesn’t exist. There is no place or person free from violence on this Earth. Instead there is a priority: a peaceful sky over us. But our task remains to learn to keep this in our lives.
This in turn means learning to keep our distance from everything that involves violence. Don’t run from it and don’t go to the ends of the earth, but always stay in a relatively calm place, in an environment for life without bitterness, surrounded by people who aren’t inclined to violence but rather to work. In any case, the closest place and people, as a rule, are not far away from you but are inconspicuous and will be hard to recognise.
Here are several signs that you can use to see if you’re surrounded by such people in such a place.
A. Daily interaction with the exact number of people you can interact with
Realise that the majority of people who pass you everyday – loved ones, friends, acquaintances, neighbours, colleagues, partners, visitors, travelers – are too many people for you to pay attention to. It’s enough to stop indifferent and irritated relations with them – the harbingers of anger and aggression.
In the thick atmosphere of society everyday indifference will be all around you in such quantities that you simply cannot cope with them without responding in the same way (and often to your nearest and dearest friends). A person can only lift that which is not too heavy for him, and we can only cope with a certain amount of evil which is equivalent to our own strength.
Therefore, as you can see the atmosphere around you has become rather thin, the number of people is equivalent to your perception, but your involvement in relationships with them (work, friendly, neighbourly, etc.) is proportional to your strength – it’s time to stop.
B. Natural habitat
An unnatural way of life in an unnatural environment is exactly what any type of urban life is. And the reasons for this are obvious.
A rural environment is a place chosen for comfort for people in direct contact with the surrounding world. The city, on the other hand, grows in the place of villages in a way that is convenient for the city, it doesn’t care about people or about the environment. The priority is always given to forming the city – there are a few options: power (Washington), mediation and finance (Zurich), industry (Detroit), the extraction and processing of resources (Kemerovo), science and education (Cambridge), and also, at a stretch, art (Vienna) – even any combination of these. A person always comes ‘in addition’ to these basics, forced to fit in and run with it, sometimes for their whole life.
The one-sidedness of the work, instead of it being fully-fledged, the terrible interconnectedness of people instead of mutual aid, the large concentration of material goods, amenities, resources, technology with complete dependence on external sources of food, light, heat – all this together creates not just an artificial, but completely distorted environment that perfectly fills your day from early morning until late evening. But it chooses the simplest and main things that a person needs for life: water, earth, sun, friendship, and love.
Filled with movement and ‘life’ this environment will always remain infinitely far away from the main law of life – love – only contributing to alienation from the world by a lack of understanding of foundations and values, isolation of people by residential blocks, social barriers and levels of wealth, indifference to relationships and distortion of the very essence of trust and love.
Therefore, the second sign is when natural sources of food, water and heat surround you instead of people-workers.
C. A calm and even environment – social, economic, geopolitical
Only a rare kind of person can survive without society. And it’s not about autonomous life skills but the strong human need for communication.
Therefore, think, think, think! Everything has a meaning: national characteristics, the political climate, the economic situation in the region, the level of infrastructure development and attractiveness of the chosen area for development. Keep your distance from any social and economic ‘movement’ so that you don’t become an unknowing participant in accompanying conflicts. Avoid disputed border areas of contention, active and potential sources of natural resources and deposits. Be careful of empires and superpowers – in addition to their natural bloody defense of their territories, they generate permissiveness, impersonality and enervate and liberate people. But also beware of closed micro-communities where there’s no place for fresh air, free thought or strangers.
At the same time, don’t go to the extremes. This is the most real disregard for life and its Creator: ‘wandering’ around the country or around the world in a constant search for a suitable place and suitable neighbours – instead, be grateful for your life, for being healthy, for the bread and shelter that you have now. And if at this given moment you don’t have a haven then don’t waste time: study. Prepare yourself for freedom from violence, namely, prepare yourself for work.
What won’t help you: artificial, specialist environments: adherence to the least violent (on first inspection) groups of any kind (religious, migration etc.). It’s dangerous firstly because of the lies and contradictions as, after all, you’ll have to share their beliefs, views, ideals that always stand above true love for other people. Very soon you’ll be faced with the choice between your own path and the interests of the group and this can be quite tragic if you need to take on new responsibilities and a new way of life.
What will help you: people who are ready and able to work. Workers. Like-minded people or not it doesn’t matter. Near or far it doesn’t matter. But those who can teach, suggest things, and support you. They are the answer to the question of how to start your exit from a dependence on violence, or if it isn’t clear what to do, who to turn to, where to go… You can act at your own risk or you can remember people you have met throughout your life and try to understand what each of them can teach you to work. Find them and if you’re right they won’t refuse to help you.
Remember: At the beginning you won’t go ‘to’ but ‘from’. You’re not looking for a better life, but are moving away from an impossible life. You may be accused of fleeing from reality, but where, if not in the real world, will your path of non-violence lead you?