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Finding Peace

by on June 3, 2020

Finding Peace

by Marco M. Pardi

There is no such thing as perpetual Tranquility of mind while we live here; because Life itself is but Motion and can never be without Desire, nor without Fear, no more than without Sense.”

Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan.

I do not want the peace which passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” Helen Keller

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are open for comment. If you do not feel like commenting, you might pass this along to someone else, perhaps someone you intensely dislike.

If you are not deeply troubled by current events going on in the United States you are likely not breathing. As such, you are not concerned about breathing in Covid-19, the lethal virus our Dear Leader assured us was a “Democratic hoax” and would disappear “like a miracle”. You are not concerned about the tear gas breathed in by increasing numbers of peaceful protesters. Least of all you are not concerned about the greatly increased air pollution generated by the roll back of the Clean Air Act and other environmental safeguards under cover of the other headline issues. No need to check your pulse; you need a heart for that.

By now some readers have assumed I have not found peace. But then, the people who read this site and especially those who comment are of the cerebral type, so no surprise there. What has initially surprised me are the ways increasing numbers of people have adopted as means of finding peace. Turn off the television; watch the knitting channel; meditate; watch porn videos; read a superficial novel; go on an isolated vacation; etc. But all of these are inherently selfish. The common denominator is: Don’t speak out, don’t get involved. These are coping mechanisms, they are not solutions.

Meditation is excellent in the proper context, but it should lead to something beyond the self. And, I was never a fan of vacations, even when faced with “use it or lose it”. Vacations too often are just a different source of stress.

Some Christian people have increased church attendance. But wasn’t Jesus put to death at least partly because of his strident resistance to oppression? How can these people call themselves Christian if they just seek the selfish acquisition of momentary peace?

I communicate with a wide variety of people. Ordinarily that exposes me to several different subjects and perspectives. But now, beneath those surface discussions there is a tension, an often unspoken Keep Calm and Carry On which is increasingly threadbare. The nationwide, and now international explosion over the killing of George Floyd is not outrage over the killing of one man; it was the explosion of rage over generations of this treatment. But this is not simply a “racial” issue; it is the clash of the Haves vs the Have Nots. And I’m not talking just about money or material goods. I’m talking about opportunity.

Early on in this current situation we may have hoped it was “the last straw”. But the deep undercurrents of a centralized ethic held by a very small minority of “Americans” are rising up in response, voiced by a call from the minority winner of the last Presidential election for the American military to act with violence against the American people. This is the man who mocked police for guarding a suspect’s head while he was put into a squad car. “Slam ’em in there! Rough ’em up!” This is the man who told his rally audiences to beat up demonstrators; he would pay any legal costs.

If this call for the military is heeded, and acted upon, there is no predicting the outcome. And coping mechanisms are mere band-aids on the deep psychic wound of uncertainty. When we do turn on the television, put down the novel, or return exhausted from a “restful” vacation what will our world be? Will we have to convince ourselves we live in freedom? Must we chant patriotic freedom mantras to make it so? Or should we drop that pretense altogether?

Check out Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Presented in a pyramidal graph, the basic need second from the bottom is Safety and Security. What safety and security are we feeling today? Without the satisfaction of this basic level we cannot find peace, no matter the daily litany of lies told us by Our Dear Leader and his minions.

Some years ago, toward the end of a long and highly varied career with the federal government, I realized I needed to reclaim my humanity. And the best way for me to do that was to return to college teaching, even if only part-time. I did so during the Bush administration and most of Obama’s two terms. I enjoyed helping students discover themselves and develop the confidence to move forward into careers, of whatever kind, with understanding and self esteem. But health uncertainties caused me to withdraw from teaching in 2014. Now I wonder, over the past three years of frank and outright greed, hatred, and looting of the public funds and of the aspirations of so many, how I could stand in front of a class and honestly encourage them to find peace in their self confidence and in their developing wisdom.

Many people know I have a long history in the study of Thanatology and many years in its application. This also has been beneficially useful in conversing with friends and relatives about the one reality we hold in common. But recently I’m hearing, among some who are dealing with serious medical issues, a growing hymn of “Why should I fight to remain in a world of ecological destruction and greed driven political viciousness? This is not the world I would want to live in.”

Do you have a coping mechanism for that? We’ve heard the promises and assurances before, only to see the situation worsen as we turned our attention elsewhere. Some new series on Netflix. A Hollywood divorce scandal. The SuperBowl. What will do it for us this time? What will bring us peace?

Come November, unless the regime – including the stacked Supreme Court – succeeds is suspending elections we may vote the entire collection of vile grifters and Fascists out of office. But then, what have we accomplished? Will we have found peace, or only silence from those who still live among us? Yes, we can “change the system” through legislation. But we can legislate actions, not feelings and beliefs.

Any day now I will get a call for testing to see if I’m a bone marrow donor for a dear cousin, the youngest of our generation. With even successful chemo (which she’s been given a 15% chance of surviving) the transplant might raise her odds to 50% after the chemo. I will not find peace in her ordeal, but I will find a measure of peace in my trying to help. And I am looking after my own health. As I’ve said before, I was born into Mussolini’s Fascist Italy and I do not want to book-end my life dying in yet another Fascist dictatorship.

Pax vobiscum. Marco

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14 Comments
  1. Dana permalink

    Marco, the questions you’ve asked are critical. I live, work with, and serve people who prefer to escape, staying completely uninformed and uninvolved. I try not to judge them though admittedly it’s difficult at times.

    But, balance is also crucial for many and I am able to find moments of peace. I was granted no absolutely safety or security from conception through my teenage years. I turned to music, nature, books, and even some television programs for momentary escape. If I didn’t have those avenues I’m certain I would not be here today. But as we know there is no such thing as complete peace, safety or security for any human being.

    I can agree with your thoughts about a vacation – more stress. Given the opportunity, when I had dogs my idea of a “vacation” would have been staying home with them.

    Being “happily uninformed” these days can be dangerous – even life threatening. It also can be frustrating trying to carry the information load for others.

    Your students (including me) were fortunate to have you, and any imagined students today would be as well.

    Like

  2. Thank you, Dana. Unfortunately, too many people choose to remain uninformed. And then there are those who, thinking themselves “enlightened”, claim to remain aloof from earthly, temporal concerns. While here we cannot insulate ourselves with contrived mantras, or prayers, and yet consider ourselves moral beings.

    Thank you for mentioning the students. I truly wish I could be among them again.

    Like

  3. From a Reader: Yes, things are shit right now. But this is not new in history – just new to me and most other people who have lived in non-war areas over the last 75 years.

    Reconstruction will occur at some point (hopefully in 2021). I think people are starting to be active – just a little at a time. My friend, for example, became the head of a design company (they make promotional t-shirts and pens – things that end up in landfills mostly) and knowing that her industry is a huge creator of garbage, decided to start sourcing from companies that don’t package promotional material in individual plastic wrap (she said we don’t need to plastic wrap every give-away, a cardboard box is fine) – it’s a little, but a lot of people doing a little makes an impact.

    Here’s an report in good practice in reconstruction:

    https://www.google.com/url?q=https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5c6bdb23ed915d4a343cb9dd/494_Good_Practice_in_Post-Conflict_Reconstruction.pdf&sa=U&ved=2ahUKEwjA8Yjci-bpAhVyQt8KHS5DDCQQFjABegQIChAB&usg=AOvVaw3x_tBvUffREalNhHlN12SQ

    Nothing in this report isn’t really common sense (I know common sense doesn’t exist… but my critique of this article is that it is another academic piece that someone wrote to describe what should be common sense, if it existed).

    What will make this period of reconstruction different is a few things: 1. we have the internet (in somewhat censored capacity, but still.), 2. COVID-19 exposing inequality, corruption, and dismantling the supply chain so previous methods of business have no option but to adopt and reinvest in local sources, 3. momentum of the George Floyd protests and Me Too movement.

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  4. Thank you, Reader. Your comment about war torn countries is appropriate in several ways. I remember returning to Italy in 1950, four years after leaving at the end of the war. Walking around beautiful Florence I saw several homes and buildings raked with bullet holes and artillery damage. Roads were still being rebuilt. But the worst part were the savage recriminations, street beatings and lynchings, and complete distrust of civil government that, fortunately, I did not witness.

    I fear this current regime will not leave power quietly, nor will there be peace and understanding extended to them by all of those who oust them from power. We will have a long process to work through as we recover from this unusually subtle but often flagrant dictatorship. The regime may not be in office for long, but they will be a growing force within our society unless and until we make great efforts at eliminating their social poisons.

    Like

  5. From a Reader in Africa:

    We are here watching TV on what is going on in the USA and it is striking to see the similarities with what I saw in North Africa during the Arab springs. I am narrating to XXX how the Arab Spring started in Tunisia 18th December 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest Police’s unfair treatment and corruption. By then XXX and the girls were in Tanzania, but they arrived in Tunis on 3rd January 2011. But a week after their arrival the protests started in Tunis almost three weeks after Sidi Bouzid. We stayed indoors for two weeks and the schools were closed for about three weeks. But things turned so quickly, by then President Ben Ali fled the country. In the same month similar protests started in Egypt, Libya and all of North Africa.

    What I’m seeing now in the TV in USA is very similar with what I saw in North Africa. President Ben Ali attempted to use Special guards and army to dominate peaceful demonstrators, but it backfired, likewise to other Presidents in North Africa like Mubarak of Egypt and Ghaddafi of Libya. The army ended-up protecting the people and allowing them to continue their protests peacefully. The tV station was 2 kms from our house in Tunis. The army was patrolling the area, day and night. One night I stepped out of the house to see what was going on the neighborhood. I met with army officers and told me they were guarding the TV station. They also shared their contacts in case there any problem because they were guarding the area 24/7.

    I really doubt whether Trump’s suggestion of using guards and army will help to end the protests!

    I’m also comparing how the media is covering demonstration in USA and how they covered the Arab Spring protests!

    All western leaders made press conferences urging North Africa to do the right thing. I don’t know if your European leaders or Canada will urge Trump to do the right thing!

    Anyway, just wanted to share the striking similarities I’m observing on USA and Arab Spring protest which all started because of police brutality.

    Like

    • Thank you, Reader. Your comments are most welcome. Having been in the military myself (and in Libya during the time King Idris abdicated to France) I have always thought the military would resist or simply disobey unlawful orders from the regime. So far it does appear the professional commanders of our forces are refusing to act against Americans. The National Guard, however, is another matter as they are what we call “week-end warriors”. I’m glad you pointed out the importance of the media, especially television. You must know our regime is attempting to curtail or even ban media which does not actively support it. I do expect this coming November to be violent, regardless of the election outcome.

      Thank you for taking the time.

      Like

  6. Ray Rivers permalink

    Marco – a very powerful message – one of self preservation when all around seems lost – though with the sprig of hope that allows us to indeed care for others and the future. Thanks for this.

    Ray Z. Rivers 445 Mountsberg Rd., Campbellville ON L0P 1B0 Home and Mobile – 905-659-2069 rayzrivers@gmail.com

    Like

    • Thank you, Ray. I read your column regularly, and though I often don’t know what to say I recognize we are fighting the same fight and I am so glad for that.

      Like

  7. “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” -Eldridge Cleaver

    This is one of my favorite quotes from back in the 70s. He also said “You don’t have to teach people to be human, you have to teach them not to be inhumane.” I grew up with “separate but equal”, which rarely was. I remember “colored” and “white only” signs above water fountains and on bathroom doors, and I remember wondering why; I even drank from a “colored” fountain or two to see if I could discern any difference. Of course there wasn’t except in the minds of the bigots who had set the standards and hung the signs. I can’t imagine a non-white child getting away with the same actions. It hurts my heart to know that this is a battle that still rages on. The laws have changed, but not the attitudes of so many.

    In the past three years, we have lost fifty years of social progress. It’s worse this time around, because we should know better, and because our so-called leaders are leading us down the path to total destruction.

    Like

    • Thank you, Rose. Your mention of the “colored” water fountains reminded me of the time I came back into the U.S. through Charleston Naval Air station and went to the city train station. I was puzzled by the water fountains and pressed the colored one to see what color it was. A very negative Twilight Zone we lived in.

      I think we can now see that legislation cannot make feelings and beliefs go away, it only regulates (if that) how we behave.

      Like

  8. I didn’t mean to miss the rest when commenting before. The best we can do is all any of us has a right to ask of ourselves or anyone else. I don’t have to think about it to know that you have always done your best in every circumstance.

    I get the distinction between Black Lives Matter and all lives matter. I get that every person, regardless of gender, race, or creed has a right to the same opportunities to make life all it can be. I get that we are all responsible on some level to help each other, even if all we can do is “do no harm”. I have taught these things to my children, and I weep to know that others have not done the same; to know that this many years later there are still those who consider themselves better than others. I am sad, and I am ashamed.

    My best thoughts go out to you and your cousin. Rose

    Like

    • Thank you, Rose. We are seeing the ugly underside of America. Maybe this time the momentum for change will continue, though I’m skeptical.

      Thanks, will inform you how things go with my cousin.

      Like

  9. Steve permalink

    Hopefully this is a moment of real growth built on a series of painful mistakes.

    I think escapism can be used as teaching moments. I played artists like Curtis Mayfield, Sly and the Family Stone and Gil Scot-Heron in the car for my kids growing up because they made incredible music and had a message.

    I’m not personally vested in most sporting events, but Kapernick’s taking a knee during the anthem at NFL events did start a conversation.

    The old Superman radio program was brilliant in the way it stripped the Klan of it’s illusions.

    We need innovative thinkers to use escapism in this vein and the push for previously unheard voices is growing stronger in many facets- kid’s animation , films, books and comics. We just have to support those that do it well.

    I’m very sorry to hear about your cousin. I hope she is able to get the help that she needs.

    Like

    • Thank you, Steve. I certainly agree that the message can be spread in all forms. I grew up listening to radio shows, too many to recall now. I sometimes wonder how they shaped my thinking and values. I was also an ardent fan of a comic book hero, Sgt. Preston of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police. Of course, I loved his horse and his dog and barely remember him.

      Thanks for mentioning my cousin. She is having a tough time, and may not live through the chemo. Will inform you as time goes on.

      Like

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