Zizek posits that “Western Buddhists” can absolve themselves of any responsibility for changing their environment – and Knabb charges that “engaged Buddhists” will avoid even the mildest confrontation. Whilst I still believe in what I’ve written here and here about the possibility for social change, I am now forced to consider that any course of action would necessitate some violence. Indeed, even if we were to have our Mindful Revolution, would the current powers-that-be allow this? And if not, would that then make violent confrontation inevitable?
One to ponder.
Certainly, political change can be effected peacefully, at however glacial a pace. But utopian ideals aiming at the complete and utter transformation of human behavior tend to be unstable and combustible when exposed to the reality of gaining, holding and exercising power in a realm of competing interests and limited resources. The idea that violence can, should, or will be completely abolished on all levels of society from the personal to the political is probably just an ideological fantasy. An individual, say, can easily enough abstain from violence with consistency, but attempting to make it a normative principle for society as a whole makes me recall John Gray’s admonition that attempting to get everyone to believe the same thing is itself a reliable guarantor of conflict. Complete renunciation of violence will likely always be the prerogative mainly of monks, hermits and other social outliers.