Looking for an enemy to slay

Sometimes I get a little mushy.

Well… what I mean is… if I’m not careful, I can let a homely and warm Mark Twain style adventure story, like The Peanut Butter Falcon, make me tear up.

Or, in this case today, some perspective about standing in other’s shoes might just make me less ornery. Damn it!

That is precisely what the overview below by Kai Brach, about a particular essay, did to me. Definitely, taking pause to reflect on this can help melt away some of the internal divides we let build up inside:

An essay that has really stuck with me for the last couple of weeks is Charles Eisenstein’s Building a Peace Narrative.

He argues that all of our thinking centers around a war narrative – our need to identify and defeat the Bad in order for the Good to flourish. The war narrative dictates not just how we fight actual wars, it shapes our approach to most problems: whether it’s ‘fighting’ a cold, ‘killing’ weeds, ‘beating’ our political ‘enemies’ or ‘defeating’ negative traits within ourselves.

Here is the basic template of war thinking. First identify the cause of the problem, the culprit, the perpetrator – find something to fight. Then, control, imprison, exclude, kill, humiliate, or destroy the bad guy, the culprit, the cause, and all will be well. And the better able we are to do this, the better human life is going to be.”

Eisenstein gives plenty of examples of how this war thinking has penetrated our minds and how it guides our relationships, our politics, even modern science. We rely on war thinking to form identity: “People who gain their identity from being on Team Good in the war against Team Evil, actually need Team Evil. They need the other side. It’s like two cards leaning against each other and propping each other up. When ‘evil’ is taken away, there is a crisis, a kind of political vertigo, and a desperate rush to find a new bad guy. … We default to a fight first because we’re so used to seeing the world in terms of good and evil. So a fight becomes the default, reflexive response.”

The antidote to the war narrative is a peace narrative, a new way of thinking about ourselves and others that requires “deprogramming from condemnation, from, ‘which side are you on?’” Rather than judging its symptoms, a problem seen through the peace narrative becomes an invitation to better understand its underlying causes:

It starts by asking, Why? Why is he so greedy or why is she pro-fracking or why is he violent or why are those people – you know who they are – pro-this or anti-that? What story informs their belief system and what state of being co-resonates with that story? What is their experience of life? All we judge, we begin to investigate as symptoms. We ask, for example, ‘Where does greed come from?’ That question opens up insights, understanding, and new possibilities for change.

At the centre of the peace narrative lies what he calls ‘inter-being’ – the recognition that every time we apply war thinking, we actually fight and hurt ourselves: “Holistic thinking understands that everything is intimately related to everything else. That everything is a part of everything else. That to exist is to be in relationship. That we are not separate individuals, but are interdependent both practically and existentially. That we are inter-existent. Therefore, anything that we see as an enemy is part of a constellation of relationships that includes ourselves.”

It sounds more fuzzy and ‘up there’ than it actually is. If you read his essay in its entirety, I think you will agree that his peace narrative approach offers a very compelling new way of looking at ourselves and how we relate to the world around us.

There is a lot I want to quote, but do yourself a favour and give the whole essay a read. It’s long but rewarding. It got me excited about diving deeper into Charles Eisenstein’s work, including his books, which I will share more of here in the future. – Kai

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