INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
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The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental HealthElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over a hundred published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He's currently the director of the Transpersonal Psychology Program at Akamai University. He has also written a number of self-published books, including Numberama: Recreational Number Theory In The School System, Modern Religions: An Experiential Analysis And Exposé, and The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. Elliot enjoys playing the piano, tennis, and ballroom dancing, and can be contacted at ben496@prexar.com. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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Violence Dialogue Response

Continuing Violence Dialogue with
Joe Corbett and Bryan O'Doherty

Elliot Benjamin

So I still advocate for peace—and not just peace as an end but peace as a means as well.

I very much appreciate the civil and respectful tone of the dialogue about violence that is currently taking place between myself, Joe Corbett, and Bryan O'Doherty. For a complete account of our recent dialogue essays on violence, see [1]. However, in this essay I will briefly respond to Joe's essay: Reply to Benjamin on the Usefulness of Violence and Bryan's essay: An Integral Use of Violence: A Third Perspective: Response to Joe Corbett and Elliot Benjamin.

First off, I appreciate Bryan's perspective of the “means justify the ends” in regard to the importance of “how” we achieve our ends. I agree with Bryan's argument against engaging in violence as a means of obtaining our noble objectives. And I must say that reading Bryan's essay made me more appreciative of his perspective that playing violent video games does not result in real world violence for “most” people, even though I still have my strong concerns about the possible negative consequences of this activity (and of media violence in general), especially for children and adolescents [2]. I will also take this opportunity to remark on the very strong difference of perspectives between Bryan and myself on the effectiveness of our involvement as citizens, inclusive of voting, in a political system that we both agree is extremely detrimental to the needs of many—if not most—people in the system [3]. But to focus on the issue that this essay is about, I don't agree with Bryan about his “top down” perspective on the gist of my alternative suggestions to Joe's advocacy of violence.

Specifically I don't see the Occupy movement as a “top down” movement. Certainly any social/political movement needs its organizers and facilitators, and there are various kinds of inspirational figures involved in these kinds of movements; some examples are Gandhi and King, and Van Jones in connection to the Rebuild the Dream movement [4]. But I believe the Occupy movement is at the far end of the spectrum for being a grass-roots, decentralized, “bottom up” movement without a single magnetic inspirational figure who has “led” the movement. And the Occupy movement is the dominant peace-oriented social movement (which I hope becomes much more political as well) that I see as an example of a viable—or at least potentially viable—alternative to Joe's advocacy of violence.

Moving on to Joe's essay, I must say that I find Joe's whole outlook to be—for lack of a better word—“scary.” First off, it is scary to me because his original essay on the use of “integral violence” (cf. [1]) is currently extremely popular and well read on the Integral World site. I don't at all see Joe's self-perception of “standing alone among the masses of bleeding hearts who romantically envision a would-be-utopia of non-violence” as he remarked in his recent response essay to Bryan (cf. [1]). Rather, I fear that some people are taking Joe's advocacy of violence and assassinating key leaders in the 1% quite seriously. Sometimes there is a thin dividing line between philosophy and social action, and I think to myself: what if some Integral World readers decided that Joe makes perfect sense and went out and killed a few billionaire bankers and industrialists who they believed were responsible for irreversible damage to the environment and massive economic suffering to people in need? Aside from the serious question of ethics involved in this act of violence, Joe agrees that this would likely result in the immediate response of “increased state oppression” (cf. [1]).

In regard to possible immediate violent responses and assassinations of liberal and progressive leaders by conservative militia-type groups, Joe appears to think that “a few dozen or a few hundred lives” sacrificed is well worth the effort. In this frightening (at least to me) scenario, I think Joe would be a kingpin player, having written the piece that inspired these assassinations of key leaders of the 1%, and I would think that he himself would be a supreme target of a return-assassination. But it seems like Joe is quite willing to sacrifice himself as one of the dozens and hundreds of victims, and I can admire his dedication and courage from afar. But then I get back to Bryan's perspective on the means justifying the ends, and it all feels so wrong and ugly to me that if this is the only possible way we can preserve our species then I start to think that perhaps it is time to end our species.

So I still advocate for peace—and not just peace as an end but peace as a means as well. I am certainly no historian, and I am much more comfortable writing about psychology, philosophy, and mathematics than I am writing about social systems and politics. I respect Joe's knowledge about politics and history, and I take no issue with his informative explanation of the violent communist undercurrents that enabled Gandhi's peaceful revolution to succeed, or King's realization that peaceful means may not always be possible, even though this was his preference. And I will also say that I was dismayed at seeing the brutal (and violent) oppression of the Occupy movement by the state. In fact it is just this kind of government wielding of power and suppression that enables me to understand and empathize with the extremity of the “integral violence” that Joe is advocating for. But I suppose when it all comes down to it, a philosopher expresses who he or she is in his or her inner core—and my own inner core abhors violence so much that I choose to not engage in what Joe advocates.

Joe equates the massive destruction and suffering caused by the 1% to be a deadly attack on the survival of our species, and I cannot disagree with him here. But once again I think that the most effective—and ethical—way to go about this is to tremendously expand our grass-roots social/political movements and integrate them into progressive politics, as I have advocated for previously (cf. [1]). As much as I understand Joe's arguments intellectually, I just cannot equate the 1% and Hitler, and I don't think we should be assassinating anybody.

As I said in my previous essay, I think the Occupy movement had a significant effect on making the whole Democratic party more progressive and getting Obama re-elected, and this is at least “something.” Much more is needed—I have no argument here. And yes I agree with Joe that we need to take control of the system and change the deadly course of how things are presently progressing. But I also agree with Bryan that violence is not the way to do it, at least not the way if there is going to be any humanity left in us when we look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning—after the deed is done.

Notes

1) See the following January, 2013 Integral World exchange of essays on violence at www.integralworld.net in order of their appearance: Joe Corbett, An Integral Use of Violence for Social Transformations; Elliot Benjamin, An Integral Use of Violence Would Lead to More Violence; Joe Corbett, Reply to Benjamin on the Usefulness of Violence; Bryan O'Doherty, An Integral Use of Violence: A Third Perspective: Response to Joe Corbett and Elliot Benjamin; Joe Corbett, Reply to O'Doherty on the Necessity of Violence.

2) See the following December, 2012/January, 2013 Integral World exchange of essays on the effects of media violence in order of their appearance: Elliot Benjamin, Killing Sprees and Media Violence: A Primary Culprit in an Integrated Perspective?; Bryan O'Doherty, Response to Elliot Benjamin:“Killing Sprees and Media Violence, A Primary Culprit in an Integral Perspective”; Elliot Benjamin, Media Violence and Mental Disturbance: A Case for Concern and More Research Needed; Bryan O'Doherty, Further Thoughts on Media Violence and its Possible Causal Relationship to Actual Violence: A Response to Elliot Benjamin.

3) See the following Integral World September, 2012 essays: Elliot Benjamin, Integral Obama: My Perspective on Terry Pattern's Controversial Integral Politics Initiative and Bryan O'Doherty, Just Say No: An Integral Approach to the 2012 US Presidential Election.

4) For more information about the Rebuild the Dream movement, see http://rebuildthedream.com




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