My article that asked if the Golden Rule was optional provoked a number of comments. There were those who agreed, and then there were those who argued that it was a nice sentiment, but dangerous and unrealistic. One suggested that perhaps it would be safe to consider when "the others" embraced it first.
It seems curious how we send people off to war, even when we know that many will die, and accept that as a rational thing to do. But the suggestion that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, or that we confront aggressors with nonviolent civil disobedience, is met with the objection that this is an irrational suggestion that would merely permit bullies and sociopaths to take over the world.
Why do we think war is rational, or that it saves lives? The twentieth century, the pinnacle of the modern era, opened with World War I, in which nearly twenty million died. It was not long before World War II consumed much of the world, a war in which an estimated fifty to sixty million died. Include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and multitudes of separate atrocities, and the twentieth century adds up to the bloodiest in history.
If aggressors had been met with non-violent civil disobedience, what evidence is there that the death toll would have been any larger? All these wars didn't spare the last century from more than its share of bullies and sociopaths.
What is being missed here is the important distinction between power and control.
Control is achieved through the use of attack, might, strength, force, coercion, violence. The tools of war, violence and other modes of attack can help us impose and maintain control. What we fail to recognize is that discord, disunity, and disharmony are the inevitable outcomes. It often leads to more death.
The term power, on the other hand, can be used to describe that quality possessed by those who draw others to join with them of their own free will. It is gained through integrity, honesty, respect, extending forgiveness and generosity, by doing unto others as one would want done to oneself.
Power poses no physical, mental, or emotional threat. It has within it the strength of harmony, balance, and order. Power is constant, unwavering. The energy of power expands as it is shared. One with power knows peace, as did Buddha and Christ.
The Civil Rights workers who engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and brought legal segregation to an end in the Southern U. S. were exercising power. When the Selma police sought to control them with police dogs, water hoses, and clubs, the difference between power and control was obvious to people around the world who saw the clash on television. In the end, those attempting to exercise control lost to those exercising power.
One with power can expose force for what it is--brutal and destructive. This is why those exercising power can use peaceful civil disobedience to defeat forceful attack.
Mahatma Gandhi, barefooted and wearing a loincloth, led unarmed people and forced the British to surrender India by trumping control with power. How does this occur? A person dwelling in Oneness can overcome fear--our fear being something we each are able to master. Those who are free of fear are not subject to control, disarming those who need to impose control.
Yes, those who engage in nonviolent civil disobedience must know that those who seek control may kill some of them. When we send young men and women to war, this doesn't stop us. Why should it stop us from practicing the Golden Rule?
Also posted on GenuineJustice.com.