Sunday, November 21, 2004

War and Peace

i never noticed it when i decided to buy the book at the airport; i only realized the irony of it all as i was already reading the book!

today, on my flight back home, while waiting for my flight to be called, i browsed through the airport bookshop and came across a newsprint annotated version of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War". i had a whiteprint translated-from-the-original one years ago which i only read halfway through before i gave it to my brother who was joining the army. still, the half-a-book's worth of lessons served me well during the tempestous legal negotiation process with my ex after i left my marriage.

the irony is-- i am going home after a very rich weekend spent with likeminded colleagues and newfound friends at the Pax Christi Pilipinas first national general assembly! Pax. Christi. Peace of Christ. a movement for peace, for a better, more humane, more just world.

: )

sometimes i trip my self up. my conscious self does one thing, then my subconscious self does the opposite. heehee.

but it is not as polarized at it appears. maybe i need to learn the art of war to achieve the ways of peace too.

and reading the foreword and first few pages of "The Art of War" affirms that insight:

"Civilization might have been spared much of the damage suffered in the world wars of this century if the influence of Clausewitz's monumental tomes On War, which moulded European military thought in the era preceding the First World War, had been blended with and balanced by a knowledge of Sun Tzu's exposition on The Art of War. Sun Tzu's realism and moderation form a contrast to Clausewitz's tendency to emphasize the logical ideal and 'the absolute', which his disciples caught on to in developing the theory and practice of 'total war' beyond all bounds of sense.

... (Sun Tzu) believed that the skilful strategist should be able to subdue the enemy's army without engaging it, to take his cities without laying siege to them, and to overthrow his State without bloodying swords. ... (for he) considered the moral, intellectual, and circumstantial elements of war to be more important than the physical...

(Sun Tzu) did not conceive war in terms of slaughter and destruction; to take all intact, or as nearly intact as possible, was the proper objective of strategy."

*****

our general assembly was capped by a very honest and very touching talk by a priest based in Mindanao, of how the long-standing armed conflict between Filipino Muslim separatists and the government has caused so much suffering to thousands of men, women and children, and how this environment of "periodic war" (you learn to expect the wars almost like you expect the changing of the seasons) is creating a generation of children who see the world without anymore the innocence and trust and natural goodness one expects of children in otherwise "normal" and peaceful environments.

Father Bert's sharing caused lumps in my throat and tears to well up many times, because his sharing was not so much of teaching concepts but of telling the stories of the lives of the every day people he lives with and ministers to. (at one particularly heartbreaking point, i decided that someday somehow, i will try to get these stories out into the "mainstream" of public consciousness in the series of more children's stories i am still creating in my head.)

anyway, the whole point of the talk is that the idea of authentic reconciliation is a heartwrenching struggle, but then there is also hope.

i learned that, for authentic reconciliation to take place, the following must happen:

1. sincere, honest, open truth telling of personal stories (why one did what one did, what one felt because of what the other did)
2. repentance
3. forgiveness
4. restoration (and transformation) of the relationship

i asked some questions of the good Father:

1. what happens if despite one's efforts to tell one's truth, the other does not?
2. what happens if there is no repentance?
3. why is our court/legal/institutional/administrative arbitration/mediation systems structured in such a way that the questions asked do not encourage truth telling from the heart, but "truth" telling in terms of fact reporting, how many evidences one can present of one's innocence and the other's guilt, etc.? does not the system itself contribute to an atmosphere of war rather than of authentic reconciliation and peace?

there wasn't as much pat answers that i got as suggestions of how peace workers have been doing it in Mindanao so far, and more sharing and more thoughts for reflection. the good Father said, "it's all a struggle, both personal and communal, among us peacemakers. but the whole point is that there are alternatives to what we have been accustomed to in resolving conflicts. conflict is a necesary part of life and change. but conflict does not always necessarily mean that the only way of resolving it is through war."

and i learned about the concepts of retaliatory justice (what we have been accustomed to, how our bureaucratic and penal system is set up for) versus restorative justice (the kind of justice that not only sets things right, but heals brokenness... of individuals, of relationships, of communities.)

oh, so many questions...!

my mind is exploding.
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