Monday, 14 June 2010

Pain and Pacifism

You may already know that I can be somewhat obsessive at times. My latest guilty pleasure has been the Japanese anime series, Naruto. The number of episodes is currently sitting at 384, plus 6 movies, all of which I viewed in less than four months. My Firefox persona is currently a dark and brooding drawing of Kakashi's eyes, sharingan uncovered. Oh, yes. Definitely a tad obsessive.

It took me longer to read through Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution. My sister just wrote a blog post on his book, but it's a potent enough piece of work that I feel the need to comment on it, as well. It's difficult to ignore what he has to say.

Claiborne is very anti-violence (or, as he prefers, very pro-love). I don't know if his pacifism is of the extreme type that would prohibit him from attacking a guy who is trying to rape a girl, but I feel fairly confident to say that he would at least exhaust every creative idea to distract and confuse the would-be rapist before he would resort to any sort of violence against the guy to help the girl. He visited Iraq in the heat of the war to spread God's love and and protest the war.

I don't feel, at least at this point, that I can label myself a pacifist and honestly mean it, but he makes strong points against war and capital punishment. At one point he talks a bit about Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the Oklahoma bombing incident. He claims that McVeigh had set out to kill those people because he wanted to show people in America what they were doing to people in Iraq. His hope was that everyone would come to understand the pain and grief that they were causing and that they would repent of it and become advocates of nonviolence. Whether or not this is entirely accurate hardly matters. It's a really interesting idea.

I found it particularly thought-provoking because the current story arc in Naruto (I'll admit to reading ahead a bit in the manga) deals with pretty much the same idea. The current antagonist is named Nagato, but goes by the alias of "Pain". I suspect the meaning of his alias is intentional, though probably a little more hidden to people who speak only Japanese and not English.

Naruto is a ninja in a town with an economy kept afloat almost entirely by the mercenary activity that Naruto and his comrades engage in. Just to be clear, Naruto is the protagonist. His only desire is to protect his friends and become the ninja leader. As far as we can tell, this ninja town accepts mainly "ethical" mercenary assignments, like being bodyguards and rescuing cats. I say "mainly" rather than "only" because there's also an ANBU black-ops division in the town that will sometimes perform assassinations and other, well, black-ops. Naruto's sensei, Kakashi, used to be a member of ANBU. But that's beside the point.

The point is that Nagato, aka Pain, has lost a lot due to violence and he blames the ninja villages for the considerable bloodshed and pain that he has had to undergo. He attacks Naruto's town and razes it to the ground, killing large numbers of ninjas and civilians both. Yet all the while, he claims that he is an advocate for peace. It turns out that Nagato believes that only if everybody comes to feel as much pain as he has will they come to understand and deplore violence. Only then will there be peace.

Naruto just gives him the raised eyebrow and screams "WHERE'S THE PEACE IN THIS??!!", referring, of course, to the massive body count, and then proceeds to attack Pain, intent on bringing his killing spree to an end.

Who would have thunk this show actually has a large comedic element to it?

I don't want to say that the situations surrounding Nagato and McVeigh are the same because Nagato is a cartoon and McVeigh and his victims were real people with real lives. The motives and ideologies, however, are spookily similar, though I suspect that Naruto is much more honest and well-intentioned than any government.

So in these cases, who's the more peace loving? The government/military, or the terrorist? Who's the better role model? Maybe both are hopelessly deluded. Whatever other thoughts McVeigh and Nagato provoke, it drives home two points: First, people don't respond to violence with peace. They respond with more violence. Second, this is really, incredibly sad.

Shane Claiborne on McVeigh: "The government that had trained him to kill, killed him, to teach the rest of us that it is wrong to kill. Dear God, liberate us from the logic of redemptive violence."

1 comment:

art said...

How does one enforce peace? I was first thinking this is similar to those who kill abortion doctors to prevent further murder but after contemplating, I don't think it is the same. Those people are vigilantes, not idealists.

If you kill one person, you are a murderer and the scourge of society. If you kill thousands, you are a conqueror and a mighty war hero.