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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Violence in pursuit of purpose

My throat-clearing yesterday, Buddhism and violence, was meant as a precursor to my next exploration:

Violence in pursuit of purpose.


Violence to some is abhorrent. I agree.

Violence to some serves no purpose.  To those I state, you do not understand.

All the universe for all time as we understand it is in a constant state of flux, by flux I mean energy and matter in transition. I won't describe this further but I instruct the reader to consider what any observer would see under Transport Theorem, how electromagnetic forces vary under Maxwell's equations, and of course the grandfather of all differential equations, the Helmholtz equations. If none of these awe you, then simply consider through Higgs waves (gravity) matter from across the universe is incessantly pulling on your every scrap of matter, from every direction, and will continue to pull on your remains once you cease to be whole.

There is no time nor space that is free from appearance or disappearance of matter. In fact, if you consider Lawrence Krauss' book

in fact matter can in deed appear from nothing. We can no more avoid transition than we can avoid death.

Buddhists do not fear death, if they understand, because to not accept death would be to not accept the aforementioned fact that matter and energy continues to flux without end. Even the universe, and everything in it, is posited to cease to exist at some eventual infinite moment we can only guess at. I won't mimic predictions here, because physics is incomplete at least because we can't explain dark matter. Not knowing what 70% of the universe's mass is makes any universal demise prediction as laughable as stating CO2 controls climate warming despite the fact that the trillion ton Sun, the solar energy forcing function, is discounted.

The second factor I would draw to your attention is the quest to know if mankind has free will. The great philosopher Immanuel Kant implored philosophers to work on three transcendental problems; the face of god, transcendental morality, and freewill of mankind in his Critique of Pure Reason. He also explained a lot about how other skeptics were practising more dogma than exposing it.

It's been almost 250 years since most philosophers ignored Kant, and soon with the help of MRI, CAT scans, and other natural philosophy (science) products we might soon explain the basis of that last problem faster than the entire field of philosophy could in 236 years of effort.

As Wittgenstein described, philosophers are expert at self-confusion. I digress.


Buddhists also do not hide nor deny the reality of death; any human that eats food is an accomplice to the death of other living things whether knowingly or not. No one escapes culpability. If you choose not to kill yourself upon learning this truth, then you choose of your own free will to accept your role in the death of other living things. Instead, Buddhists accept that sacrifice is necessary that we collectively may continue and serve a higher purpose. Death is not chosen, purpose is.

One cannot know right now if man has free will for certain. Let us make the case going forward with both possibilities.

To combine the two above factors:

If a man has free will he can choose to act, in some cases decide to act violently - to cause death to another living thing.

If a man does not have free will, he does not choose to act violently, but acts violently nonetheless. It appears in civil society that people do not randomly kill frequently enough, on the scale of billions, that this is not the predominant case.

All living things will die, to choose not to kill is to forestall their death until some future point in space-time.  In general, we choose not to act violently. That seems an odd way to describe it, but the fact that violence does not occur to us to be necessary is exactly the same as consciously deciding to act. I would submit that we subconsciously decide to not act - it doesn't occur to act -  more times than we consciously consider acting. But what accounts for an equivalence of the two ( choosing to not act (conscious) versus not choosing (unconscious) to act)? Logically, are they the same?

When one chooses to act violently, and one has free will, it is based on the reason that ceasing another's life at that moment serves a purpose. One has become aware of circumstances that make action purposeful. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are, it doesn't matter what the excuses are, nor the reasons. Conditions have changed that make violence important or necessary.  Necessary to whom? Necessary for what? Given above, are these even important?

To choose to end life is to purposefully change the condition of matter, now, in this moment, for a purpose. It cannot be otherwise as I have laid out. It could, in the case of non-free will violence, but as stated earlier that there are very few cases humans do that despite a multitude of compelling reasons one might ( greed, chemicals, boredom, apathy, pleasure, emotion, etc.). We decide to not act in almost all possible cases because ACTING SERVES NO COMPELLING PURPOSE.

To act is to become directly involved in the state of flux of the universe, to take possession of the course of events for another living thing. Humans are moral enough and purposeful enough to know how rare those conditions are.  But that also underlines why violence is important when those unique conditions exist.

Even the cognitive dissonance people would feel about intervening, to act to defend, to act to attack, to act to hunt, to act to kill, are all conscious awareness events that an imperative purpose has arisen. This is not just instinct, it is not just reason. It is the unmasking of a purpose for violence.

That doesn't mean violence can't be for evil purposes. That doesn't mean violence can't be self-serving. It means that - from a holistic mindful perspective - it alone exists outside the means and the ends.

I am urged to remind you that inside Buddhism one can find nihilism - anarchy - and chaos if one chooses to interpret all I have said strictly on these facts alone. Even Machiavelli might find these ideas acceptable.

But the teachings of the Buddha more than any other implore all to remember that the state of all beings is suffering and finding ways to become more enlightened is the ultimate goal, not possession and not passion. All those evil nihilistic aims have a purpose which is roughly outside the scope. If you are killing for sport, for territory, for gain, you are not Buddhist in the slightest, you are not enlightened in the least.

On the other hand, killing to prevent murder, killing to reduce global unhappiness or increase global happiness, killing to prevent evil committing atrocities, to defend the defenceless, these can all be interpreted within the eightfold path.

For example, Samma-Kammanta  (integral action) means acting with integrity. "Right action" if you learn it in the West. Acting according to understanding, acting along the beliefs of Buddhism includes respect for all living things. What is more respectful than acting to prevent harm to others?

Samma-Sati (complete awareness ) can make you aware of impending suffering or evil about to be committed against the defenceless. 

In fact, most of these are easier to interpret these paths in Buddhism as complimentary in a capitalist society than Samma-Ajiva ( right livelihood ). Right livelihood expressly forbids exploitation and yet exploiting some advantage is the essence of commerce. To my mind, you are a more noble Buddhist wielding a sword than peddling a cart. But that is not my role to judge others, perhaps those same businessmen also conduct charity.

To act violently with purpose in the eightfold path it must conform to the following:

1. It must not be personal, it must not involve anger or other emotions arising from a familiarity of the target. That would be a crime of passion. The reason you are acting is because you are nearest to the danger or able to respond.

2. It must not be profitable, the loss of one is a loss to society and must always be the least worst option outweighed by the sanctity or survival of other life. If you need to shoot at something to prove your mettle or show your worth, hunt humans THAT SHOOT BACK. They are far more dangerous than any predator.  Pick up a rifle and join a civil war. Fight for something and risk dying for purpose. We will all join you shortly.

3. It must not be glorified. There is no trophy, no recognition because that is fulfilment of lusting and passions are never for the greater good. I don't shoot trophy animals. I don't revel nor parade what I do for anyone on earth.

4. It must not be without purpose. There must be an obvious, immediate purpose that waiting, stalling, negotiating, bribing, or any other mollifying action cannot solve.

5. It must not be indiscriminate. To act without focus is itself committing evil.

6. It must be impending. To act now means there is no other choice.

7. It must be completed swiftly. One mustn’t increase suffering of the target by not completing the act.  I shoot vermin that risk my friend's horses.  If those vermin are hurt and I can reach them I smash their heads in without the slightest hesitation. Last week I hit one through the neck and he was wounded writhing on the ground. Often they run into the hole to die, but this was a case for a coup de grace. If you can't imagine smashing your target's head in to end suffering, then don't begin violence in the first place. I sleep fine because I am at peace with my purpose but I'm not proud of it either.

Violence is always abhorrent, it is always the lowest of human effort and it tarnishes more than it burnishes. There is nothing great in violence. No one violent is great because of it.

But to not act violently when the cost is great is to invite more suffering and tragedy onto an already suffering mankind.

Violence with an enlightened purpose can coexist with the eightfold path.