I watched a short video a couple days ago, simply a camera panning over the ruins of a city block in Gaza, lingering on the remnants of people’s lives. A laundry basket. A child’s toy. The title of the video was, “There used to be a city here.” Normally, an article that begins with a video like this would go on to cite statistics on casualties, arguing a case for the Palestinian cause, or perhaps for a ceasefire or a humanitarian corridor. Or maybe it would be to dismiss the video as a propaganda ploy. I won’t do any of these. The video made me sad, but it was the comments on the video filled me with the urgency to write this essay.
Ought we not, from time to time, open ourselves up to cosmic sadness?... Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that is its due, for if everyone bears his grief honestly and courageously, the sorrow that now fills the world will abate. But if you do not clear a decent shelter for your sorrow, and instead reserve most of the space inside you for hatred and thoughts of revenge - from which new sorrows will be born for others - then sorrow will never cease in this world and will multiply. And if you have given sorrow the space its gentle origins demand, then you may truly say: life is beautiful and so rich. So beautiful and so rich that it makes you want to believe in God."
Etty Hillesum died at Auschwitz in 1943.
The economy is faltering so the war machine is ramping up. As it accelerates forwards it pumps up the hate cycle. People need to be not only brave and courageous, but also self-aware enough to realise that they are being manipulated to hate.
The extremes on our humanity spectrum seem to be in play, and if we can say there something good can come out of this, then perhaps it's the undoing of those extremes. We've normalized a lot of pathology in our culture and we're now facing that is a very visceral, image-laden way. What have we been agreeing to?
These things are not inevitable. It's not just part of the human experience. That's BS.
Maybe enough of us have had enough, or soon will, to break through that model.
I echo what Ash D wrote, what is being left out of your discourse are the dynamics of power and where our agency lies, especially as citizens of governments of the west, and in your case as an advisor to someone trying to be President of the USA. Over the past several days I have been to Robert Kennedy Jrs. Twitter (X) feed, to see whether he can bring himsefl to do the basic thing of calling for a ceasefire, and alas, silence. Why can't he bring himself to do something so obvious ? You previously wrote about your perception of his compassion, and yet we find people like Cornel West, Marriane Williamson calling for a ceasefire. What kind of compassion cannot ask for a ceasefire when innocent people are being slaughtered by the thousands, supplied and supported by the governments that supposedly represent us. If he can't do this very basic thing, then I have to say, I doubt your assessment of his compassion and I think you would be better served working with someone like Marriane Williamson.
They are going to need to be stopped the same way south Africa was, by the whole world cutting off trade, arms, and everything from Israel. For too many years their wars have been funded by the west. It needs to stop. I don't know if there will ever be full peace on the section of land. So odd it is "holy", it's more like holy shit the horror. I don't see an end, but I think it starts with an actual full on embargo of everything. And a massive amount of aid to what's left of Palestine. Peace feels like a dream, but it is a nice cozy dream we should work towards.
I also as an American think we need to limit our aid to humanitarian aid, stop giving out weapons, it's always under the guise of helping people but it's a lie, it's to further capitalist imperialist ventures.
"In fact, I take my own initial bewilderment as a sign that I am on the right track."
Yes. I just came across a fantastic quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne to this end:
"A man's bewilderment is the measure of his wisdom."
(-- published in the new broadsheet newspaper, County Highway)
I suggest you listen to Walter Russell Meade on Honestly for a very balanced and insightful account and factual history of the region.
We are not dealing simply with two governments gone awry. We are dealing with a factious death squad called Hamas posing as a legitimate government supported by a rogue Arab country hellbent on wiping Jews from the planet, spawning wars all over countries like Syria and Yemen, causing perpetual division between people’s of the same culture living together, who are indoctrinated to hate and kill each other every day, who have no care in the world how atrociously they kill and if that killing is of their own innocents so long as the goal of wiping out all those opposed to them is achieved.
Jewish people have opened their hearts. And they have been brave. Even when being gassed and put in ovens. Diplomacy and humanitarian efforts have been ongoing for decades to no avail. Even the Arab nations of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey cannot help. Iran and it’s allies are radicalized to the point of closed black hearts.
The question is and should be not about bravery, because quite frankly we are way beyond that (there has been too much bravery asked of suffering people far too long in history). The question is simple as you naively and ideally put- how do you open a dark, closed heart? The answer is much more complicated. And, I humbly suggest it has everything to do with something also simple yet complex - money. The structure of money, the power of money, the pyramid of money systems and how we organize ourselves around it. This is the root of all oppression.
Another manifestation of the same manipulated delusion that there’s a “left” and a “right” on the political spectrum, a species of “you’re either for us or against us”.
Maybe the silver lining in all the mess that’s been the 21st century so far is that more people will start to wake up and free themselves from their intellectual and moral indolence, and stop being herded like sheep.
Thank you Charles for another essay with more helpful ideas as I try to cope with the sadness and anger I feel about what is happening in our world. I appreciate your compassion, and articulating thoughts that help me see and think past, "what is fair", "what is right", "what to do" and just be present to the grief that I feel. I was with my family last night celebrating the 40th birthday of a young man along with his parents and loved ones. I woke up this morning with sadness for the Israeli and Palestinian mothers and their sons, and the horrors so many of them continue to experience. The challenge for me is to look for and nurture the seeds of good that can arise in this moment and resist the pull towards despair and rage.
"Look what happens to the scale when love holds it. It stops working." Kabir c. 1440-1518
I still don't understand why we cannot and should not have an immediate ceasefire when Israel is multiplying deaths of innocent people by the thousands? Do you really think this activity is going to dismantle Hamas and not give birth to another round more dangerous than them? Do you really think Israel is actually even trying to destroy Hamas?! If they did, then why not pressurize through an International coaltion and start with getting Qatar to handover Hamas leadership (who all reside there). If not, they can send Mossad in and do a hit job as they've done in the past. What does the displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank currently happening through Settlers with Govermment support have to do with Hamas (the PLO governs there)? Its not even about the hostages, they could have negotiated their release ages ago, especally as Hamas only asked for their women and children prisonsers in Israel in return for the women and children initially. It seems to me to be about revenge, or worse, its about solving the "Palestinian problem", completing the Zionist project and a new Nakba. Some of the imagery and dehumanization of the Palestinians is straight out of Goebbel's propaganda, I even saw a picture of a Palestinian being depicted as a rat, and Israel as a Hawk. Talk about unresolved trauma coming round in circles.
I have long thought that there must be a day in every German's life when they learn about The Holocaust. I wonder what that is like and whether there is any personal or national shame. Though doubtless even Hitler can be justified - it was only the Nazis...
Likewise, in the future, every Jew will one day in their life learn of the Genocide being inflicted on the Palestinians in their name. I wonder how that will feel? Is it any different? Dead is dead and Genocide is Genoccide, whatever the unifrom.
"Never Again" is already happening in the space of a single lifetime, this time perpetrated by the descendents of the previous victims. As Mark Twain allegedly said; History doesn't repeat, but it often ryhmes.
I would say: don’t trust anything you are told, and even less anything you see. This is not the reality. The reality is what is silent inside us and brings us peace, once we put our mind at rest.
“Peace is not the opposite of violence. Peace is the opposite of hate”.
These words speak volumes. I’ve uncovered a chart which categorizes the human condition.
The X line is drawn between Narcissistic and Empathic
The Y line is drawn between Gullibility and Discernment
Narcissists rely upon the gullibility of other people to gain their footing.
Empaths rely upon discernment in order to protect themselves and to maintain a moral compass.
When I was working with a therapist to help heal some deeply rooted issues involving my wife he encouraged me to nurture and explore my empathic side. It led to a journey toward healing and fulfillment. This is a road we all must tread on if we can ever hope to see peace in our world, both internal and external. And it requires the willingness to let go of our beliefs and accept the possibility that we’ve been led astray. Seeing the consequences of not following this path, the only certainty that comes up is destruction and despair. Please join me in this process of choosing love over hate and knowledge over ignorance. It’s our only chance.
I think the piece I am consistently hearing you leave out is power dynamics. I appreciate your idea in this third way both-sides could initiate peace idea that predicates on the foundation that humans are fundamentally good. And most are certainly well meaning at the very least. But you're failing to discuss power and oppression. You're discussing these things like each side are equal parties in a conflict. When dealing with he-said-she-said with a narcissist abusive predator husband and an abused wife, when there is a power dynamic, do you still discuss each side like they are peers? Because if so, you are living in a very delusional reality, one you're capable of because of whiteness and overall privilege. Like Kwane Ture says, "you can have injustice and peace, isn't that right?". See this clip: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CyiFuGHMCyr/?igshid=MTc4MmM1YmI2Ng==
If humanity doesn't heal the wound of Palestine, then the way of Palestine will be the way of humanity.