Why Violence and Why There is Hope too?

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Why Violence and Why There is Hope too?

By Skye Potter Hirst, Ph.D.

The conundrum of a living being committing violent acts is the source of much needed inquiry today. Why does a young man act out to destroy the lives of himself and others here in America? Why do suicide terrorist act around the world? Experts gather more and more facts about what we observe in their behavior to develop so-called "profiles," but the question looms large as to what brings these human beings to such a destructive crossroads in their lives? And what can we do about it? There has been no lack of trying to find solutions by many individuals and groups around the world.

I propose that as a society we are being given a push for change on many levels to address the potential and realized violent acts that are ever increasingly filling our world. There is hope in that a fundamental paradigm shift is occurring bringing with it new ways of understanding how we can affect a change of this magnitude.

The violence at VA tech and around the world is discouraging and hard to see in a positive light when viewed from a short-term perspective. Furthermore the short-term view leads us to try solutions that rely on using more force to stop the violence; more screening and searching; more sanctions against others, more troops in Iraq, better security systems for our homes etc. While these responses may make some of us feel safer temporarily, they lead more citizens of the world to feel victimized, alienated, and angry. In turn, we are actually making ourselves even more prone to more violence in the future. Being shocked at the loss of 33 lives in Virginia as the highest death toll in a mass shooting in our country is real and painful. It causes us to ask, how do Iraqis feel about 130 deaths from shooting and car bombing the same day... with no resolution in sight?

To see beyond this endless discouraging cycle of violence, force, and more violence, it is necessary to take a much longer view and to recognize the paradigm shift that is taking place while we are living out our lives at the beginning of the 21st century.

The old paradigm, which we, and dozens of generations before us, have lived our lives in has predominantly told us that we are each separate individuals, living short lives in a dangerous world, and that we must protect and defend ourselves in order to survive.

The new paradigm that is emerging turns all of this on its head and says that we are, at our core, living energy, deeply connected to each other and to the larger universe, capable of changing form but not ever being destroyed, having a temporary experience together on the planet earth in order to accelerate the development of our full potential, and that we can learn how to cooperate and harmonize with each other. As living beings we can thrive together, not just survive.

The dynamics of such a fundamental paradigm change include a period of increasing conflict and chaos as the old and the new paradigm compete for supremacy. This is what we are now witnessing.

Addressing issues of this magnitude cannot be solved one at a time as independent problems. What seems like an insurmountable complexity when viewed as independent problems suddenly begin to make sense when viewed through the emerging paradigm of living processes.

The Power of a paradigm

Paradigms are collections of assumptions about reality that individuals, groups and societies agree on. It's a worldview. Then we make up rules about how to function with that worldview.

Dominant ways of thinking, reasoning, acting and valuing evolved over 2500 years beginning with the fundamental beliefs and assumptions of the Greek philosophers. From those philosophical assumptions, laws of matter in physics and our modern day sciences were formed. Since these laws of matter are so dependable when dealing with motion and matter, our conviction has continuously deepened that reality is confined to what could be controlled by these laws. But regretfully, society grew to believe that these laws governed absolutely everything. There was a point in history when it was believed scientists had discovered everything there was to know. Imagine that!

Well a fundamental paradigm shift is occurring, now, which is bringing into question the singularity of those long held beliefs and assumptions. It is a shift, the likes of which none of us, living today, have experienced. Many people sense something is changing. And more people experience a sense of despair and hopelessness that comes from facing an accumulation of, what feels like, endless numbers of unsolvable problems. Violence can occur at such times when old ways are breaking down and new ways have not yet formed. A sense of "not knowing" can cause chaos and confusion.

This is all indicative of a fundamental paradigm shift.

Einstein pointed out that problems could not be solved by the same mind that created them. Under the old paradigm solutions to most of the social problems facing us today cannot be found, including that of the "why" of violence. However, instead of meeting confusion with violence we can recognize what is happening and transcend the need for violence, with responses different from fear. We can learn and evolve.

The new worldview is emerging at the consciousness level bringing forth "counter-intuitive" insights, forcing new thinking and methods to help us make this shift. A new science is ready to be born. With it opens the wisdom of centuries, and shifts in perception as we meet the challenges of such deep changes. And as complex as this all seems, such changes can occur in a single generation. The last time such a shift occurred was 300 years ago when Newton presented his calculus for explaining planetary motion. All sciences today are based on that calculus. It's time for a calculus for the living domain.

So let's tackle the subject of why living beings become violent. Consider your own assumptions about reality as we go.

A commonly held assumption is that only an "exceptional" person would act so violently as did those at Columbine, VA Tech or the insurgents in Iraq. Such acts only occur by those few who are troubled or dis-eased or deficient in some manner, or at the very least, troubled with mental illness or substance abuse. In this way, we separate ourselves from such people. We, of course could never be like that! In this very thought we isolate ourselves from that person and in so doing, we isolate that person even more; as a type of cancer to contain, control, destroy or punish. The belief is that those living beings can be controlled or perhaps even eliminated. Therefore we keep focusing on "those people' out there allowing a shadow side to develop which can loom like a monster in a closet that we don't want to open. By doing do so, we miss the opportunity to know ourselves and learn.

From the above assumptions, the acts we as a society have typically chosen, focus on what we can do outside ourselves, "out there" to feel safe:

  1. How do we put up enough physical protective devices to alert us to such individuals or groups of individuals?
  2. How do we put in place safety measures for managing the chaos after it happens, or ways to contain it before it spreads or affects a wider area?
  3. How do we pass laws so we can stop such people from getting their hands on weapons that will destroy lives?
  4. How do we identify such people, put laws in place to give police enough latitude to arrest such "troubled' people before they do something to hurt themselves or others, preemptively?
  5. How do we avoid having such people in and around anyone of us, by isolating them further?
  6. How do we learn more about their behavior so we spot it sooner, to do "what" isn't evident as yet?

Consider the old paradigm assumptions about reality:

Life is violent by nature. Reality is confined to what is observable as facts, properties of separateness, fixity, consistency, and tangibility, with measurable components, the existence of an object reality outside of us that we learn about through our senses and map it into our brain through memorization of facts. There is a scarcity of everything, therefore we survive by being the fittest, winning, getting it right to avoid the negative consequences for getting it wrong or losing, competing for resources, gaining control of resources, measuring and rationing out of resources to the deserving. Supremacy becomes essential. Imitation of what is perceived as the winner leads to conformity and distain of what is unique. We move to eliminate competition at whatever cost. Suppression, control and punishment can be successful means for controlling the behavior of other living entities especially if you are the strongest and the best. Thus military actions of war are useful acts. Everything happens by cause and effect, like a machine, like cogs in a wheel. All the variety of life functions as separate parts with no will, and it is subject to power of force and control by the supremely powerful.

From these assumptions everyone might have the potential for violence if there is enough suppression given enough time and a context that doesn't allow basic needs to be met causing deep feelings of powerlessness, isolation and an inability to find effective acts in order to live.

Human experience is showing us the old assumptions are not working. They are not proving to be dependable when applied to life. However, new assumptions about reality and what is living are emerging. New discoveries coming about from biophysics and energy studies of living organisms (i.e. while they are alive) just may help us here.

In the second part of this article I will be sharing how a new paradigm is forming. One that is saying we are, at our core, living energy, deeply connected to each other and the larger universe, with a purpose for being. Through this awareness we may begin to feel hope for change.

Life is Not able to Act Effectively

A growing number of researchers are beginning to conclude that the universe is living and fundamentally harmonious, including living entities that intuitively know how to be in harmony with themselves, with others, and the universe. Current discoveries about living processes reveal wholism, an all-connectedness producing a tremendous variety. To deal with this variety, life requires a wealth of diversity in us. Our major job in life is to harmonize this variety, not to compete or fight. We cannot be true to our purpose in life if we fall into the trap of competing and fighting or even worse, living our lives as someone else dictates

However, such inherent knowing is overpowered by old paradigm assumptions of the need to achieve safety through conformity by force, control or punishment. By and large, people are less and less able to act in ways that are self-fulfilling and have meaning to them. They are forced into compensatory behavior beginning with childhood, within families and then schooling that function from old paradigm assumptions. Then people move into jobs that further alienate them from their own knowing and strengths. When their lack of fulfillment becomes unbearable, many of their processes stop. There is a loss of "time sense." The sense of fixity or inability to find any effective acts that help them change the stuck ness, inevitably leads to some form of abhorrent behavior. It might be depression leading to suicide or other forms of self-destruction, an inner violence or self-loathing. Or the eruption may occur outwardly as they erupt as a last resort to try to change their sense of powerlessness. When the controls are used widely enough to increasingly deny freedom, the eruptions will become pervasive and epidemic throughout society. A society comprised of people who feel isolated, sensing a fragmented world with no meaning and little ability to find effective acts, becomes violent in many ways.

The new paradigm turns all of this on its head and says that we are, at our core, living energy, deeply connected to each other and to the larger universe and that we each have a purpose in the greater whole.

From a living process perspective… consider the following assumptions…

We are all connected through ways we are only beginning to know about… not just metaphorically, but energetically, electronically, with each of us living like single cells in a field of energy that connects us all. One person might be like a heart cell while another might be like a lung cell and so on in a cosmic living organism. We need each other. We each function with a uniqueness required to keep the whole alive and dynamic. Heart cells don't fight lung cells in a healthy body. But they each work collaboratively making individual choices to act in coherence with their purpose and that the fulfillment of their purpose contributes to the greater good of the whole organism. Each cell is autonomous, yet connected and relating to the whole organism. It is always choosing the most effective acts for itself and for the greater good of the whole organism. One without the other would be suicidal for the cell and fatally damaging to whole organism. New paradigm discoveries indicate that a "dis-eased" cell within the body comes about largely due to lack of communication, that it has in some way become cut off from information and awareness of the rest of the body. This isolated cell is not able to glean the wisdom from the wholism of the body and thus starts to function in an abhorrent manner. This living process gives us a vital clue to violence.

That is, we are each a cell in a larger organism, such as a family, community, or the world as a larger community. We are each autonomous beings, choosing the most effective acts, moment-to-moment; acts effective to be ourselves and to add to the greater good of the context in which we are most engaged.

Our modern day culture has focused on the self to the exclusion of being connected to the whole. What we have valued as an effective act or action has individually and collectively been influenced by these old paradigm assumptions about reality.

Such beliefs and assumptions have been transferred onto every aspect of our living, thinking, feeling and acting as a society. There is a belief that there is a scarcity of love. Some get it and some don't and we have to compete to win it. We think we have to be cleverer than the next person to win approval. We even buy things that we believe will help us win. Our collective creativity has been applied to making things to buy that will help us win; to help us get it right; to beat out the competition for what we perceive as a limited resource of approval. We have come to believe that we have to earn love and be the fittest to win it through force and controls, and careful planning and measurement and yes, even violence, to win. We have to know lots of facts to win. The one who knows the most wins. Measurement of who's the best becomes necessary to keep control. Knowing more facts will help us survive.

However, research has indicated that when someone reaches a point of violence, process stops. Time stops. There is no future.

Let's take the case of the young man at Virginia Tech who has committed such horrific acts of violence against others and against himself. With what little is known about this young man, it is already obvious that he lived in an isolated world. In whatever ways he shared his worldview; we learn that it was a dark and grim one. How long had he lived in this dark world is not clear. But what is clear is that for him, violence became the only action he perceived as effective. He reached a point where time ceased and process stopped. He came to a point where he focused on one thing only, and that was to break out of the pain of a world and long history of acts that he found hopelessly ineffective. It was then that he aimed at exploding the fixedness, the non-aliveness, and his breaking point comes with the high cost of destroying life.

The teacher who tutored him has received many emails from other teachers who say there are many troubled students of potential violence. This incident is a symptom of deep dis-ease coming from society's long held assumptions. And now there is the possibility that we can change and re-learn how to be in harmony.

The sooner we can understand and embrace the new paradigm in our own individual lives and in our societies as a whole, the sooner the period of chaos will be over. In the meantime simply understanding and embracing the new paradigm, and taking the long view, will help us individually to cope with current circumstances, and to choose the most productive responses in our own lives.

If harmony is fundamental to nature, what is life telling us about the choices we've made? We can begin now to make a difference with questioning assumptions long held that might be constraining our ability to see situations wholistically. If we are all connected, then what can we do as individuals or as a group that would address the feelings of helplessness, powerlessness of so many? It’s time to choose again with new awareness