REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE IN THE SEASON OF PEACE
It is a weird time I must admit. Around me are the trappings of the holiday season all talk about the season of “peace” and the wishes for a “happy new year,” while we are publishing Mark’s latest blog from “hell hole.” Mark ‘s blog, as usual, is dark and bleak, telling the story of a guard who could not take the pressure and “ate a bullet” (i.e. taking his own life,) as Mark calls it, in the prison’s parking lot.
A new war is brewing in the Middle East with Israel violently retaliating for Hamas ‘ rocket launch into Israel. Over 300 Palestinians have been killed already—many are civilians. Hamas vowed to retaliate using suicide bombings… and so it goes on. Despite all the nationalist rhetoric and the demonstrations of protest, only few brave observers dare to admit that both sides are locked in a violent bargaining for a new ceasefire. Hundreds undoubtedly will be killed before a new “deal” is brokered. It too will be broken in few months or years, in this never-ending cycle of violence. Israel admits it can not or does not want to topple Hamas (since it does not want to occupy the Gaza strip.) Hamas is too weak to destroy Israel. So the result is periodic bloodletting, which of course can lead nowhere. The Israeli campaign is called “Cast Lead (Oferet Yezuka) a name taken from a kids ‘s Hanuka song about the “cast lead dreidel.” Hanuka is celebrated as a Jewish holiday of freedom.”
So what is the connection between all these manifestations of violence in the period of peace?
For me it reaffirms one more time that violence only breeds more and worst violence in a slowly escalating process. “What prompts a man to eat a bullet?” asks Mark in his blog. “This man is working on the row—men are being executed in an alarming rate… dying to live… living to die. And he, who has his freedom takes his own life right before the Christmas Holidays.”
I don’t know the reasons were that pushed officer “Wood” to end his own life. However I am willing to bet that working so many years in an environment of sheer violence and in such proximity to death made his radical choice easier. Where violence and death are the norm not the exception, I am sure that reaching for one’s gun is just a bit easier psychologically.
For generations Israel’s violence only helped to radicalize Palestinians making their violence more indiscriminate, Israeli violence helped to usher suicide bombing which in turn helped to usher more Israeli violence. The result of this process of mutual radicalization we can see today.
All three monotheistic religions believe in the concept of the end times and time of blissful peace. History is linear and the faithful will undoubtedly end one day in heaven on earth. But it was the pagan Greek who understood that history does not move in such a linear way. In Greek mythology the most gruesome torture is to be condemned for an eternal brutal present. So Prometheus is tied to a rock, doomed to have his liver eaten by eagles. But rather than a one-time event leading to his death, the liver will rejuvenate, inviting for ever the eagles to perform their gruesome task. Sisyphus was a king punished in Tartarus by being cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again, and to repeat this throughout eternity.
So in this violent season of peace I remember not necessarily the Jewish “freedom fighters” that liberated the Jewish Temple, or the birth of Jesus Christ, but the profound warning of the Greek myths. Those who do not heed it are condemned to play a role in our never-ending violent present without the “relief” of either heaven or hell.