Dove of Peace

The Path of Peace and Liberty

"There is no path to peace. Peace is the path." - Mohandas Gandhi

"There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo

The Non-Aggression Principle

This site is about a simple yet powerful idea called the Non-Aggression Principle. Like the symbol of the dove, it is an idea that embodies both Freedom and Peace.

The Non-Aggression Principle, or NAP, is the belief that individuals should be free to act as they choose with the exception that they may not initiate force, or the threat of force, against another person or their property. Like the Golden Rule, the NAP can be a beacon of light to guide each of us through the journey of a lifetime.

Liberty in watercolor by Tanya Hall

By the Light of Liberty..

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." - Plato

Advocates for peace and liberty often say that they have taken "the red pill". Borrowed from the movie The Matrix, the phrase encapsulates the idea of choosing to see the world as it actually is. Earlier generations would likely have made reference to The Wizard of Oz and "seeing behind the curtain" while even earlier generations may well have referenced Plato's Allegory of the Cave. In that story people are chained in darkness and can only discern shadows of the truth until freed to see in the full light of day.

To embrace the NAP is to truly see the world in a new light. And with that light it soon becomes clear that the State, with its foundational violence and endless lust for power, is the single greatest threat to our personal and social health.

It is hoped that, by exposing and opposing the State's wars and other aggressions, and by instead embracing and promoting the peaceful and voluntary exchange of goods, services and ideas among all peoples that we will move forward towards a cure.

..We Will Heal Our Culture

Healing

"Violence is a disease. You don't cure a disease by spreading it to more people." - The Game of Thrones

Whether it be the war on terrorism, the war on drugs, or the multiple wars against other countries, it is obvious that the State is addicted to violence. War is a disease. Like slavery, misogyny and human sacrifice, war is a disease of culture, a malfunction that prevents it from operating at its life affirming optimum.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that Western culture, and the United States in particular, has been gravely infected by the war disease. While Western culture has provided civilization with many great gifts, its proclivity for war is not among them. Although Western culture did not invent war, and it certainly does not have a monopoly on it, war seems to have stricken Western society severely hard the past several centuries.

Because war thrives on ignorance, apathy and fear, the cure for war will require knowledge, compassion and courage. By providing new perspectives, by promoting cooperation and voluntary exchange, and by identifying and resisting the foundational violence of the State, it is hoped that this site will help begin the healing and contribute to the cure.

Green Cross

First Aid

For those who are either new to the NAP or seek to know more, we have provided our fellow travelers with a Beginner's Guide to Peace. An overview of topics discussed can be found on the Guide page while the Resources page provides links to books, movies and other resources meant to inspire, inform and perhaps even transform.

Which Way? Which Way?

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Tales from the Trail

Observations and meditations on the path of peace.

Woodstock Poster

August 15-16-17: Lessons from Woodstock

"Three days of Peace and Music." - From a 1969 promotional poster for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

The Woodstock Nation

That was quite a party they had back there in '69. Some 400,000 young people made it to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair at Max Yasgur's farm near Bethel, New York. It was reported that another quarter million more tried to get there but were stymied by miles of nearly impassible roads.

The actual event took place some 60 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock, an artist colony that was home to Bob Dylan, Richie Havens and a number of other musicians at the time. The concert promoters had originally hoped to have the festival at a site close to Woodstock but politicians intervened and the promoters had to scramble to find another location.

From the reports I have read it was a remarkable event, the largest gathering of youth for peaceful purposes in the history of humanity up to that time. For many it was a life changing experience, not only for those in attendance but for those there in spirit.

I was but a small tyke at the time, not quite seven, so it was a number of years after that before I knew much about the event. Over the years, having watched and heard the concert footage and music and having read numerous interviews from those who were there and those that made it happen, I myself have drawn a number of useful lessons from the "gathering of the tribes".

Woodstock crowd

Peace is possible

While the documentary of the festival features a number of beautiful young women in various styles and states of dress, photos show that the audience was predominantly male, and the Vietnam War was undoubtedly on the minds of most of those men. The Vietnam War was running full throttle and, while it was not known at the time, the year 1969 would mark the peak of U.S. troop levels in Vietnam. Over half a million men were stationed there, with over a third of the U.S. troops in Vietnam being there non-voluntarily as draftees.

In contrast to southeast Asia, where young men were being forced to inflict horrific violence, the people in the small towns around the festival reported how peaceful the young people were. Part of this was likely due to the fact that most of the young people in attendance had been brought up in a culture that still taught respect for others and was not inordinately focused on perceived entitlements. Another factor may have been the relative absence of alcohol. While it was reported that a lot of weed was smoked during the festival, along with some use of psychedelics, after the first day there was relatively little alcohol available.

..but politicians often prefer war

22 Percent of the World's Prisoners

Unfortunately, despite its relatively benign nature, the ever paranoid Nixon demonized the use of cannabis in the years following the festival. Associating it with the antiwar movement, Nixon dramatically increased the criminal penalties for its use, igniting a war on drugs that would escalate through the Reagan and Clinton administrations to the point that the U.S. would eventually have the highest incarceration rate in the world. By 2013, with less then 5% of the world's people, the United States had 22% of the world's prisoners.

Politics divides, music can unite

Woodstock era buttons

Prior to the festival, many people had feared, or had been encouraged to fear, that the violence that had occurred the previous year at the Democratic Party convention in Chicago would reignite amidst such a large gathering. What was missed at the time was a full understanding of the divisive nature of politics and the power of music to unite.

Chicago Convention Riots

During the campaign leading up to the 1968 presidential election, candidates Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy had both strongly spoken out against the Vietnam War. Tragically, in the midst of his rising popularity and on the very eve of his primary victory in California, RFK was silenced by a gunman. Incredibly, although the overwhelming majority of Democratic Party voters had voted for an antiwar candidate, at the convention in Chicago it became clear that the apparatchiks of the Not-So-Democratic Party were going to choose the pro war Humphrey, demoralizing the antiwar community and escalating tensions already heighten by the assassinations of RFK and Martin Luther King Jr. the previous year.

Power corrupts

While the festival received overwhelmingly positive reviews regarding its peaceful nature afterwards, the organizers had to deal with an unexpected threat before the concert even began.

Yippie Button

The Yippies (Youth International Party) were an anarchistic political group that was largely focused on opposing the Vietnam War and decriminalizing cannabis and other drugs. They often used street theater and pranks to draw attention to their cause. While generally nonviolent and having no official hierarchy of leadership, one of its founders, Abbie Hoffman, seemed inordinately attracted to the spotlight. Drawn into the political circus that was the Democratic convention the year before, Hoffman and seven others had been arrested and charged with inciting a riot, a riot which many believed was actually initiated by the police.

While awaiting his trial prior to the festival, Hoffman made a spectacularly ham-fisted attempt to insert himself into the festivities. Joel Rosenman, one of the organizers of the fair, describes what went down:

"I went to see Abbie on his request-an invitation one doesn't refuse. I said, 'Look Abbie, I know you'd like to make a kind of big presentation at Woodstock, but it isn't that kind of a show, it's rock 'n' roll and it's really a weekend of peace and music,' and he said, 'I don't give a damn about that, you guys write a big check to my organization, and we're cool.' 'What are you talkin' about?' 'Here's what I'm talkin' about-$10,000.'"

The Who

To ward off disruption the organizers cut the check. I find this episode particularly appalling as I am actually very sympathetic to much of what the Yippies tried to do. By embracing the growing mass media and using art and street theater, the Yippies had attempted to bridge the gap between the flower children, perceived by many as self centered and hedonistic, with the hard core antiwar and anti-government movements.

Ring of Power

Unfortunately the Ring of Power, in this case attention and fame, proved too difficult for Mr. Hoffman to resist. Apparently not content with the coerced payoff, Hoffman further disgraced himself by jumping onto the stage during The Who's set to harangue the audience for enjoying the festival while a friend of his was in jail for two joints of weed. Displeased by the interruption, Pete Townsend, who later expressed his sympathy for Hoffman's cause, knocked the usurper off the stage for violating, in Townsend's words, "the sanctity of the stage".

The world is not black and white

Magic Bus

While the first Woodstock festival has been called "a gathering of the tribes", some critics over the years have complained that the audience was overwhelmingly white, insinuating that racism was somehow at play. This is a ridiculous notion. While the audience was generally light in complexion, that largely reflected the ethnicity of those in the immediate and surrounding areas. Additionally, the musicians they had come to see and hear were a diverse lot representing a number of different musical styles and heritages. The music portion of the fair was bookended by acoustic guitarist Richie Havens and electric guitar marvel Jimi Hendrix, with stellar performances from Sly and the Family Stone and Carlos Santana. The first day of the concert featured classical Indian music by Ravi Shanker, interspersed among a number of folk acts such as Joan Baez whose husband had recently been jailed for resisting the draft.

B.B. King

In contrast to that time, the recent outrage over cultural appropriation is puzzling. Musicians, painters, writers and other artists have long borrowed bits and pieces from numerous cultures. In the 1960's George Harrison became intrigued by a musical instrument, the sitar, while on the set of the movie "Help" and ultimately introduced millions of Beatles fans to Indian music. Likewise members of the Rolling Stones, the Animals and numerous other bands in the U.K. were huge fans of African American blues music and integrated elements of that music into their style of play. This in turn generated a greater audience for a number of older blues players in the United States.

Earth From Apollo 11.jpg

Additionally, like music, science and technology progresses from new discoveries and inventions from people all over the world. The Apollo moon landing that had taken place just weeks before the Woodstock festival had benefited greatly from contributions by German and other European scientists. To criticize someone for embracing positive elements of another culture seems unnecessarily belligerent, intentionally provocative and contrary to a spirit of peace and brotherhood.

Be prepared

The producers of the show had hoped that more than a hundred thousand people would show up for the festival but told the locals they only expected 50,000. In the end more than a half million people either made it to the site or got stuck in traffic trying to get there. Needless to say, food, water, sanitation and other services were quickly overwhelmed. Torrential rains added to the discomfort.

"Be Prepared" is the Boy Scout motto. While I was never a fan of the uniforms and other paramilitary elements of the organization during the years I was a member, there were a number of useful skills and values that I either learned or had reinforced by that group. Being self-sufficient was one of those skills, and it is something that can be a benefit not just to oneself but to others as well. Those that arrived early with tents, sleeping bags and supplies likely faired far better then later arrivals. Not only were they better prepared for the rain, they were in a much better position to help others in need, to share a blanket and a meal.

Volunteer

VoluntarySociety

No, I don't mean join the military. In fact, I prefer you not do that. What I am talking about is extending a hand to help others in need, whether they be your neighbors or cold hungry strangers.

During the course of the festival there were numerous examples of people pitching in to help. In an interfaith effort a number of ladies from the Jewish Community Center of Monticello joined together to pay for and assemble 30,000 sandwiches which were then distributed by the Sisters of the Convent of St. Thomas. Meanwhile members of the Hog Farm commune, relying on numerous volunteers and funds from the concert promoters, did their best to provide "breakfast in bed for 400,000". In addition to staffing the kitchen and distributing food, other volunteers helped to staff the medical tents, providing basic first aid and calming those tripping for the first time.

I should make a distinction at this point between volunteering as a charitable act and Voluntaryism, a philosophy that I also support. Voluntaryism is based on the Non-Aggression Principle and holds that all forms of human association should be voluntary. A purely voluntary free market, with its demonstrated ability to benefit millions without coercion and violence, is a great example of Voluntaryism in action. Likewise, when difficult circumstance arise, as they inevitably do, Voluntaryists believe that the best response is a charitable response, not one that relies on the harsh hand of the State.

There is no free lunch

VoluntarySociety

While many of the multitude received free food, medical attention and other services, it still had to be paid for. This was done through the generous donations of labor by thousands of volunteers and by financial contributions from hundreds of supportive townspeople. Additionally, while hundreds of thousands of concert goers were pleased when the promoters declared it a free concert, John Roberts, the chief financial backer of the festival, found himself $1.5 million in debt at the end of the festivities. In addition to all of the unexpected costs and the lost revenue from not charging for tickets, the backers faced dozens of lawsuits from surrounding dairy farms for the interruption to their milking and delivery schedules. In the end, although it took eleven years, Mr. Roberts made sure that all debts were paid in full.

I love Gravy, as long as it is Wavy

Wavy Gravy at Woodstock

"We must be in heaven man!" - Wavy Gravy at the Woodstock festival

While Abbie Hoffman had seized the microphone at center stage to berate the audience, co-emcee Wavy Gravy, member of the Hog Farm and the "Please Force", embodied the spirit of the festival and projected a feeling of harmony, cooperation and happiness. He made people understand that we are all in this together, and that we can all benefit by helping each other out. While preparation is certainly important, being able to appreciate and enjoy the present, no matter what the conditions, is vital to living fully. We should always make now the best possible now.

Further Explorations

An excellent book on the trials and tribulations of the medical staff charged with keeping 400,000 people healthy can be found in the book Woodstock '69: Three Days of Peace, Music, and Medical Care.

The book Woodstock: Three Days that Rocked the World by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsury, provides a great summary and set lists for each of the artists that performed at the festival along with historical context and a discussion of the impact of the festival on later events.

Notes

Quote from Joel Rosenman, page 139 of the book Woodstock: Three Days that Rocked the World by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsury, forward by Martin Scorsese.

Picture Credits

Woodstock promotional poster at the Museum at Bethel Woods, photographed by Andrew Lesko

The crowd at Woodstock. Photo by Derek Redmond and Paul Campbell, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

"US Justice" - image by Andrew Lesko.

1960's era buttons on display at the Museum at Bethel Woods, photographed by Andrew Lesko.

Chicago Democratic Convention riot, 1968. Original source unknown.

Yippie! button.Photo by victorgrigas, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

The Who. Photograph by Heinrich Klaffs. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Ring of Power. Composition by Andrew Lesko.

Psychedelic bus display at the Museum at Bethel Woods, photographed by Andrew Lesko

B.B. King. Public domain photo of B.B. King in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1972. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Earth from Apollo 11. Public domain photo. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Sharing a blanket. Public domain photo by Mark Goff, August 15 1969. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Voluntaryist banner. Public domain image by Marpescz. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Woodstock tickets. Public domain image anonymous. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Image of Wavy Gravy speaking at the Woodstock festival, 1969.

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A really bad, terrible, truly horrible idea

"Never underestimate the power of bad ideas. They must be refuted again and again" - Lew Rockwell.

Carpenter Ant

Invaders

Ants, members of one of the most wildly successful families of animals ever to inhabit the planet, are remarkably humble creatures. Normally staying close to the ground, when not borrowing under it, their typical behavior is to be as inconspicuous as possible. It is in their best interest to remain hidden, and that is usually what they do.

Occasionally, though, something very strange occurs. Sometimes carpenter ants get hijacked by a parasite and, rather than staying close to the ground, they instead act like zombies. With their brains surrounded and controlled by an alien invader they climb to the top of the nearest plant and clasp to the bottom of a high-up leaf with a deathlike grip. Exposing themselves to the world, the ants soon find their typically short lives cut even shorter as their bodies are liquidated and consumed by the parasite.

Zombies

Amazingly, the parasite causing this behavioral change is a deceptively simple-looking life form known as the "zombie-ant fungus", a member of an ancient kingdom of organisms that are neither plant nor animal. By controlling the ant's brain and muscles, the fungus drives the ant from the safety of the ground to a height more conducive to the distribution of fungal spores. Having reached its desired destination, the invader then feeds on the ant's body, growing the spores that will propagate its own genetic code at the cost of the ant's life.

Losing Their Minds

Tragically, our culture has also been hijacked by a lethal and invisible killer, and I am not talking about the coronavirus. Like the parasitic fungus that plagues the poor carpenter ant, the destructive force infecting our society is also deceptively simple in appearance yet is driving human behavior in an utterly destructive direction.

The parasite that has infected human society is not an organism in the typical sense but is instead an idea, a seemingly benign but ultimately destructive idea. It is an idea that has been around for centuries, one that has infected many cultures and has been called by many names. Often it is referred to as "the necessary evil". It is the belief that "the ends justify the means".

Nazi Zombies

Very Bad Endings

This idea has been used to excuse all nature of evil, from experiments on unsuspecting citizens to the caging and killing of humans for the expression of an unpopular idea. Unknown thousands of captives, without trial or counsel, have been tortured in American run black-op sites across the globe and millions of citizens in the U.S. alone have been imprisoned for the possession and distribution of plants and compounds used by humans for millennia. The necessary evil argument has been used to justify the starvation of hundreds of thousands of children and the invasion and destruction of dozens of countries and cultures. The idea that "the ends justify the means" is a destructive and deadly virus of the mind, one that has infected Americans and the people of many other nations.

Inoculations

As has been shown by history, if you make the "end" grand enough, whether it be a promised paradise in heaven or a heaven on earth, a great many can be deceived into justifying nearly any evil. Knowing the past, however, we can inoculate ourselves against this and other horribly destructive ideas.

All actions have consequences, and the means one chooses creates the ends. To suggest that war is the path to peace or that the torture of human beings is the road to knowledge is to torture the meaning of words and to make war on the English language. A careful study of history shows that the promised ends rarely are what were promoted and the means are often much more costly and destructive then described. In the end, evil is not necessary and the ends rarely, if ever, justify the means, particularly when practiced by the State. It is time to rid our minds, and our culture, of this truly terrible and destructive idea.

Further Explorations

Those interested in a scientific explanation of how a fungus can turn an ant into a zombie can find an excellent research article at the Journal of Experimental Biology. Those interested in a literary discription of how power can turn humans into zombies should read the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Nonfictional examples can be found in nearly any history book.

Picture Credits

Carpenter Ant. Photo by Judy Gallagher, April 19, 2015. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Zombies. Photo by Joel Friesen. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Hitler Youth. Berlin, Germany, May 1, 1933. Photo by unknown photographer. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

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El Greco Saint Francis

Love

Like our modern era, the 1960s was a time of great change and turmoil. It was also a very idealistic time, and if one were to choose three words that embodied that idealism they would likely be Peace, Love and Freedom.

In contemporary times we libertarians continue that idealistic tradition, having much to say about the benefits of liberty and the need for peace. Unfortunately, seemingly little gets said about love. Hoping to help remedy that shortfall, here is my first brief entry on the mysterious and fascinating topic of Love.

When I was 16 I thought a lot about love. A big fan of The Beatles, I really embraced their positivity. "I love you, yeah, yeah, yeah" and "I want to hold your hand" were hooks that had captured me when I was 12, and as I grew older I began to exam the decade from which they arose. Tracing the Beatles' history and then the history of other musicians, I learned about the Summer of Love in 1967 and the Woodstock music festival of '69, dedicated to three days of peace and music.

Unfortunately much of the rest of that turbulent decade is more remembered for its violence and rage, in the U.S. and across the globe. Without a doubt, in the midst of the riotous violence at home and the destructive wars abroad, there was certainly a deep yearning in America for both peace and love.

The Kiss - Rodin

What do we really mean by love, though? It certainly seems that love has something to do with a strong attraction or affinity for something, or someone. We talk about loving a song, loving our mates, and loving our brothers. Christians will tell you that God is Love and the Beatles told us that Love is All You Need. All of this was a bit confusing to my sixteen-year-old self. Fortunately I was helped by some kind members of a Christian youth group called Young Life that was allowed to visit our high school back in those days. It so happened that love was one of the topics at a weekend retreat they were hosting. Over that weekend I learned that there are many kinds of love and that this was understood way back in the time of ancient Greece.

The most primal type of love considered by the Greeks is Eros. It is the deep physical desire to connect bodily with another, with "an other" who is somehow familiar yet mysteriously different. It seems a nearly universal attraction on our planet, present among animals large and small, a powerful force that has driven the evolution of life over the eons, the progenerative inspiration of passionate art and rapturous song.

Eros certainly commands a lot of attention from most sixteen-year-olds, but it is not the only type of love experienced by youth. Brotherly love, or Philia, is a type of love usually first experienced within a family. It is the natural bond between brothers and sisters found in healthy families. It is caring for your kin.

Brothers On The Beach

It is through kinship and family that we learn kindness, cooperation and trust, the foundations of friendship. Indeed, close friends have always felt like brothers and sisters to me, and though I may not have always been the best of brothers, the love I have experienced in friendships and with my actual brother has helped me to grow into a more caring individual.

Familial love is another type of love arising from within the family. It is the maternal and paternal love of parents for their children, and the love of children for their parents. To me it seems rather poetic that through Eros new life is born, and through the passionate union of a man and a woman a new kind of love is formed.

Parental love can be a powerfully strong form of love. On the surface the parent\child bond may seem to be a particularly imbalanced type of relationship, but those who have been parents know otherwise, for the power that a child can have over a parent is beyond description.

Indeed, the depth to which parents are willing to sacrifice for the children can be breathtaking and profound, and it may very well be that demonstrations of this inspired the ancient Greeks to define yet another type of love, that of Agape, or selfless love.

Agape was considered by the Greeks to be the highest form of love. It is a powerful and unwavering attraction to the good, the divine, the transcendent. It is a state in which the very self may seem to disappear. It is a love beyond which all words transpire. It is love without desire.

Father, Mother and Children

The Family versus the State

As can be seen, the family is both a primary source and a protective sanctuary for love in our society. Indeed, it is the very foundation of culture and community. It should not be surprising, then, that when we see turmoil and destruction of civility and culture in our world we often find a coinciding erosion of the family.

What is the source of this destruction? What is the force that would destroy the very foundations of love? What is this power that seeks to divide us, that pits man against woman, child against parent, brother against brother? It is not hard to discover, for those that have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Over the centuries it has become clear that only the State has the coercive power necessary to weaken and destroy the natural bonds of family and friends.

In the U.S. it was the State, in its various manifestations of federal and local power, that passed and enforced the racist laws that mandated segregation in government offices and places of commerce.

In the U.S. and other countries it was the State that passed laws prohibiting marriage between members of different ethnic and ancestral groups.

In modern times it is the State that destroys the charitable impulse, muting our natural empathy through fear mongering, destroying our natural desire to cooperate through trade barriers and tariffs.

And it is the State that starts and wages the wars that destroy homes, demolish families and create countless widows, orphans and refugees.

It should be obvious that war is the antithesis of love. It is a disease that strikes at the very heart of love. Ironically, those in power seem to have a great love for war. Perhaps it is because war can provide great power for those that crave it. For those of us that desire peace instead, who value freedom and the love of friends and family, we must resist the coercive and violent ways of the State and instead embrace the power of love. As Martin Luther King once said, "At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love."

Further Explorations

A more detailed look at the true nature of the State can be found in the chapter Treacherous Roads.

Picture Credits

The Ecstasy of Saint Francis of Assisi. Public domain image of an original painting by El Greco circa 1580. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

The Kiss. Public domain image of a sculpture by Auguste Rodin circa 1882. Downloaded from Musée Rodin, Paris, web site.

"Brothers on the Beach", from a photograph by Andrew Lesko.

Domestic Happiness. Public domain image of a painting by Lilly Martin Spencer, circa 1849. Downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

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Inns and Outs

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." - Jesus of Nazareth.

The Good Samaritan

Outsiders

One of the most popular parables of the New Testament is the tale of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritans were a group of people that lived in Judea at the time of Jesus. They rejected the idea that the only place that God could be worshiped was in the temple in Jerusalem. Because of this they were not highly regarded by the pharisees and a number of other Jews.

In the parable, Jesus tells the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who is robbed and left for dead. Two members of the priestly class see the suffering man but do nothing to help, not wishing to become "ritually impure". Eventually a Samaritan comes upon the man and, with a compassionate heart, binds the man's wounds, transports him to an inn and provides payment for his care. Through his actions the Samaritan shows that he is the one who is truly doing the work of God.

The origins of kindness

Sharing

All that we are, this very life we have, flows from an extended family that reaches deep into the distant past. We all come into this life through the efforts of our parents, and they by their parents, and their parents' parents, helped through the ages by supportive brothers and sisters, caring aunts and uncles, and wise elder relatives.

Our family is our earliest connection to others. These are our kin, the very origin of kindness, both the word and the act. From our family we learn to look beyond ourselves, to share, to care and to consider the needs of others.

Connections

Trace any family tree back several generations and you quickly find connections to dozens, hundreds, and eventually unknown thousands of other families. We are truly one human family, all linked together and dependent on one another, and increasingly so.

Poets, prophets and sages through the ages have commented on the connections among all peoples and even among all things. John Donne expressed this idea beautifully in the following poem:


Cosmic web

No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Healing the divisions

Politicians rule by dividing. Wise men heal by uniting.

We live in a world artificially divided into us versus them. Unnecessary destruction, cruelty and death are tragedies whether they happen in foreign lands or in one's own home. Instead of division, let us be guided by the Non-Aggression Principle and its embrace of both liberty and peace. Let us liberate ourselves from hatred and fear, whether the source be antiquated religious ideals of purity and separation or the venomous propaganda and active aggressions of the State. It is time to truly embrace peace among all nations and all people.

Further Explorations

Breaking free of harmful cultural practices and beliefs can be difficult. We explore these ideas further in the chapter Going Off Road in our free online book Beginner's Guide to Peace.

Picture Credits

The Good Samaritan. Detail from a painting by Balthasar van Cortbemde (1647). Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Fifty-fifty. Photo by Herbert E. French (1922). Public domain photo downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

Cosmic connections. Top left image shows distribution of galaxies, bottom right shows neurons. Image of galaxies is from the Max Planck Society's Supercomputing Center in Garching, Germany. Image of neurons is from Paul De Koninck, Cervo Brain Research Center. Composition by Andrew Lesko.

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Bodhisattvas

“We are the authors of our own destiny; and being the authors, we are ultimately, perhaps frighteningly, free.” - Śāntideva

Waking up to the NAP

Guanyin-Bodhisattva

I recall first learning about Bodhisattvas during a field trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, some years ago. I was a student teacher at the time and the museum guide was showing our group a number of artfully carved statues from East Asia. Several of the more graceful figures he identified as Bodhisattvas. The guide informed our group that Bodhisattvas are highly regarded in the Buddhist tradition. They are beings that have attained enlightenment but postpone Nirvana in order to guide others to their own enlightenment.

I found both the concept and the statues beautiful. I do not completely understand the nature of Nirvana, but given the serene depictions of Buddha in the hundreds of pieces of art I have seen, it must surely be something wonderful.

The elimination of suffering is central to Buddhism, and Nirvana is the state of liberation from this suffering. It is said that Buddha was one who awoke to the reality of this world and the nature of suffering and spent the remainder of his life sharing this knowledge with others. Like Buddha, Bodhisattvas are compassionate teachers. The word compassion literally means "to suffer with", and these guides, by postponing entry into Nirvana, are in essence sharing in the pain of others with the ultimate goal of liberating all beings from suffering.

Buddha Knowledge

Like Bodhisattvas, libertarians are people who have awoken to reality. Guided by the Non-Aggression Principle, we have been liberated from the illusions of authority and aggression. We understand the foundational violence of the State. This foundational violence causes needless suffering through war, unjust incarcerations and the tremendous waste of resources. This is an observable reality that somehow remains hidden to the vast majority of people.

Rather than living in ignorance and fear, we libertarians embrace knowledge and compassion. We seek peace, liberty and the free and voluntary exchange of goods, services, and ideas.

In the "City of Brotherly Love" I discovered the Bodhisattvas. It seems appropriate for me to continue their tradition, to educate, to liberate and to minimize, if not eliminate, the suffering we see all around us.

Picture Credits

Guanyin-Bodhisattva: Baltimore Museum of Art; Padmasambhava, Demon-Taming Teacher: Freer Museum, Washington D.C. Photos by Andrew Lesko, with modifications.

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School Of Athens

A Matter of Perspective

One of the great innovations in the art of painting was the development of perspective. Largely absent in ancient art where important figures were portrayed larger in size and with little depth, experimentations in perspective that began with the ancient Greeks and were refined by the Chinese blossomed in Renaissance Europe. Instead of depicting flat and oddly proportioned bodies, canvases came alive as painter magicians combined the ingredients of vanishing points, foreshortening and sfumato, the effect of atmosphere over distance.

One beautiful example is Raphael's "The School of Athens". It not only demonstrates a mastery of depth and perspective, it also captures the vital energy of philosophical discourse that had occurred many centuries earlier in ancient Greece. Epicureans and stoics, Platonists and atomists, cynics and skeptics enthusiastically discussed and debated the nature of reality, the purpose of life, and the best ways to live.

WhereDidWeComeFrom

In contrast to that time, some elements of our culture seem particularly flat, especially with respect to political discourse. Without depth or dimension, a false dichotomy of right versus left prevails, with little or no awareness of what's up and what's down, or where we came from, or where we are going.

The mainstream media, seemingly lacking a wider perspective, overly focuses on the personalities of those who seek power, making them look larger than life and distorting their importance. They overly fixate on the win-lose nature of politics, cheering on the contest with little questioning of the destructive nature of the game itself.

Venice

The people in power, in turn, seem incapable of seeing beyond a single dimension. Lacking any depth of understanding regarding the win-win nature of free trade and voluntary social interactions, they instead fixate on military and other coercive "solutions", inserting aggression into the normally consensual relationships of commerce and community. They have no real sense of beauty, principle or moral virtue, seeking only victory to gain power and to rule over others.

Finally there are the citizens. Often misinformed but nonetheless willing participants in the political process, they flail back and forth within the narrow confines of left and right, seemingly distracted by the smallest of issues and unable to see the bigger picture. Blocked in their desire for peace and prosperity by forces they cannot see, they fixate on small obstacles but perceive them as insurmountable barriers. Lacking perspective, they are unable to see alternate paths forward.

Nolan Chart

As long as people are locked into the false dichotomy of left and right, they will forever be unable to see the fuller, richer reality. By extending our vision by even one dimension, however, we can become aware of details previously hidden. By distinguishing between personal freedom and economic freedom, for example, we can map out a richer and more vibrant landscape in which to discuss politics. Opponents that once seemed radically different, such as the National Socialists (Nazis) of Germany and the International Communists of the USSR, are revealed to be closely related when viewed from a two dimensional perspective. Instead of being viewed as extremes sides of a left-right dichotomy, we can more easily see the similarities of these two authoritarian systems that severely restricted both personal and economic freedom, each destroying the lives of millions.

Picture Credits

"School of Athens" by Raphael, c. 1509-1511; "Where Did We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" by Paul Gauguin, c. 1897; "Return of the Bucentoro to the Molo on Ascension Day" by Canaletto, c. 1733-4; "The Nolan Chart", from a diagram created by David Nolan in 1969.

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A Vision for Peace

Sermon On The Mount

Jesus said "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God". This vision, spoken from the heart during the Sermon on the Mount, is one of my favorites. Indeed, I have wished for it all my life. Unfortunately what I have seen instead is one war maker after another rewarded with power, usually by inciting fear and hatred. They slither into new wars, squeezing those they are supposedly defending to pay for ever more destruction. The end result is always more sorrow and suffering, the opposite of what is promised.

This does not need to be. There are millions of good Christians in the world, perhaps even hundreds of millions, who seek to live the words of Jesus. They live lives devoted to charity for the poor, help for the downtrodden and peace and good will for all. A dedicated number of them continue to this very day the difficult task of purging the world of human slavery, continuing work that first began to bear fruit in the early 1800's. In the UK it was devoted Christians, encouraged by enlightened humanists, who successfully pushed for the abolition of slavery throughout the British empire, ending the terrible institution without resorting to war and decades before the brutal and unnecessary US Civil War.

With regards to war, I have no doubt the Christians will play an important and perhaps even decisive role in ending that plague as well. As with abolition, it will no doubt require sustained and unyielding effort.

Roman Coin - Four Horsemen

A Time for Action

The time has come to end the wars, and to end them now. On this there can be no compromise. Just as "Who will pick the cotton?" was not a valid argument to support slavery, "How can we protect ourselves without military interventions?" is not a rational argument to support US military involvement in at least seven openly festering wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen ) and perhaps others not fully reported, boiling just below the surface.

Ending the wars will require strength. Unfortunately there is weakness within the Christian community. In many places, and in many nations, it has been hijacked by the State. The most famous hijacking, of course, occurred many centuries ago when the Roman emperors decided to stop killing and persecuting Christians and instead co-opted the popularity of Christianity to its own ends during the waning days of that empire.

Roman Coin - Two Faces

Jesus said that one cannot serve two masters. Unfortunately it seems that many churches have forgotten this lesson, allowing symbols of the State into houses of worship and even putting them in places of honor. It seems that some have even come to idolize the flags and symbols of the State, all the while applauding the endless military "interventions" and turning a blind eye to their global destruction and misery. Meanwhile, the State works tirelessly to push its war agenda while tens of millions are distracted by modern day gladiatorial games. The current emperor has certainly made it clear that the State's war anthem is not something to be opposed or criticized during these games.

It is time to recognize that the State is not our master. It is time for Christians and secularists, Jews and Gentiles, to break free of the State and join together to support peace, liberty and the end of all wars. We must stop being seen as willing participants or even promoters of the State's wars of death and destruction. I believe this is something we can and must agree on.

Further Explorations

A more detailed discussion of these topics can be found in the Beginner's Guide to Peace referenced at the top of this page. An explanation of how the State hijacks religion can be found in the chapter called Losing the Way while a discussion of how to repair the damage to our culture can be found at Going Off Road.

Picture Credits

Detail from "Sermon on the Mount" by Carl Bloch, c. 1877; Roman coins c. 225-212 BC, provided by Classical Numismatic Group and used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

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Charity

"Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance." - Francis of Assisi

Caritas Romana (Roman Charity) by Johann Carl Loth

Perceptions

An old man suckles at the breast of a young woman. How should we view this image? Is it a dirty picture? What does that even mean? Should we be squeamish or outraged with regard to the act it depicts, or can we charitably think of a situation where such an act would be appropriate?

The image shown is from a centuries-old painting by Johan Carl Loth. Completed in the second half of the 17th century, the title of the work is "Caritas Romana", or "Roman Charity". The painting portrays a scene from a popular story that goes back millenia, all the way back to ancient Rome.

The story is about an elder man named Cimon who is imprisoned for illegally burying his father. Sentenced to death by starvation, his daughter Pero visits him in prison and secretly feeds her father from her bosom. Eventually spotted by a guard, the sentry is moved to tears by the charitable act. In the end, both the father and daughter are freed.

Generations ago the deed depicted in the painting was considered to be an excellent example of familial piety and a noble act of charity. The scene has been depicted numerous times in classical European art. The story likely originates from an even older version featuring an elderly mother as the prisoner.

The presumption of innocence

Innocence

There is a concept in philosophy called the Principle of Charity. The basic idea is that one should always interpret other people’s statements in their best, most reasonable form, not in the worst or most offensive way possible.*

In our current time there seems to be a rising number of people primed to be offended, who mistakenly believe that the smallest verbal mis-queues are grounds for punishment. This is not a new phenomenon but one that seems to be intensifying.

Perhaps this is because we are losing our connections to each other. Part of this may be technological. Studies have shown that feelings of isolation and depression increase with time spent on social media. Part of it may be educational. The teaching and promotion of victimhood seems to be increasing in intensity as students are taught to see oppression from everything but the State. It is certainly political. The ruling class loves it when the public is distracted by arguments over microaggressions as the State wages war against people at home and overseas.

Viewing others in a positive light

Caritas Romana (Roman Charity) by Johann Carl Loth

Are these people in need because of misfortune, or are they there as a natural consequence of their own negative actions?

The truth is that no one can fully know the journey that another has traveled.

One characteristic of charity is kindness in judging others. The Apostle Paul said it well:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

It is said that charity begins at home. This is probably true because all charity must begin with a connection. It can be an empathetic connection like the emotional pull of family and friends or a logical connection based on an understanding of the benefits of cooperation and mutual aid. When connections are very strong giving is not a sacrifice but a necessity. Truly, with the closest connections it can feel like one's own heart will break if one cannot give generously and help others when they are in need.

Further Explorations

The puritanical willingness to use the violence of the State to enforce one's own view of morality has long existed in the U.S., to the misfortune of many. More information on this phenomenon can be found in the chapter Losing the Way in our free online book Beginner's Guide to Peace.

Credits

* Principle of Charity - Definition is from the book "The Coddling of the American Mind" by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

Caritas Romana (Roman Charity). Painting by Johan Carl Loth (1632-1698). Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

A Portrait of a Tyrolean Girl. Painting by Knaus Ludwig (1874). Public domain image downloaded from ClassicArtPaintings.com.

Charity. A woman with three children huddled in front of the church of the Madeleine in Paris. Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1865). Public domain image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

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Absolute Horror

"Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality." - Edgar Allan Poe

Total Destruction

Dresden

The penultimate episode of the Game of Thrones left millions of viewers horrified. They witnessed the senseless and utter destruction of a beautiful city occupied by hundreds of thousands of civilians. The Queen, it seems, had lost her mind in her lust for the throne.

As much of any fantasy movie or series can, the Game of Thrones revealed a historic reality often ignored. That reality is that civilians are not just the "collateral damage" of brutal wars but are very often the targets.

The included picture shows what was left of the German city of Dresden after a massive firebombing by Allied forces. In a series of four raids, from February 13 to the 15th, 1945, the "good guys" carpeted the city with bombs and incendiary devices. They did so with the intent of utterly destroying the city, and its largely civilian population, by fire and suffocation. After waves of bombing the city was engulfed in a firestorm so fierce that it sucked the oxygen out of the bomb shelters and basements sheltering people hoping to survive the fire. The end result was the death of 25,000 and the creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees. An even more horrific conflagration was inflicted on the inhabitants of Tokyo less than a month later, the damage there totaling 100,000 civilian deaths and over a million homeless.

The targeting of civilians did not end with the unnecessary and utterly insane bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but has continued into the modern day. The turn of this century was marked by the U.S. and "allied" bombing of water treatment plants in Iraq and militarily enforced blockades of chlorine and other materials needed for clean water in that country. Ultimately these acts by the Bush-Clinton team led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

The reality is, as insane as the actions of the Dragon Queen were, the fantasy world of the Game of Thrones cannot compete with the real world, a world where criminals such as Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and Bill and Hillary Clinton walk free with little or any hint that they might someday pay for the war and other crimes they have committed.

Further Explorations

A more detailed look at how the war makers deceive us can be found in the chapter Dead Ends.

Picture Credits

Photograph of Dresden by Richard Peter, 1945. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Downloaded from Wikimedia.org

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Traveler Advisory

War-Biohazard

War is threatening to become pandemic across several large regions of the globe and there are signs that we are on the verge of a world wide epidemic. Careful planning and extreme caution are advised.

The war disease continues to shorten the lives of hundreds of thousands each year, both directly and through destruction of basic social services.

Please visit Antiwar.com for daily updates.



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