Force majeur?

By Mathias Maurer, January 2017

Force has many faces. It can deprive us of our freedom, but also create something new and bring about change. It always – both in good and evil – crosses boundaries, be it fasting in order quite mundanely to lose a few pounds or with superior intent for divine reward. But it can quickly lose its human face when it is used as a justification and means to bring about an ideal – in extreme form for example in self-chastising bulimia or in a bomb attack.

Every person – consciously or unconsciously – exercises power when they act. If they exercise it against themselves or others in a loveless way they misuse their power, they become perpetrators of violence against themselves or others. Even self-control and radical denial can be forms of violence if I turn myself into the slave of my own principles, ignoring my own needs and those of others.

Violence is only possible when there are hidden or open dependencies which are abused. Violence arises from incongruence; when under the surface a different truth rules or the actual motivation for action is different from the stated one. They lead to the familiar schizophrenia of public and private action for which there are countless examples both prominently in the history books and documented confidentially in everyday psychotherapeutic practice.

If contradictions cannot be resolved in the long term, if reference and context are lost, if an inner emptiness spreads, simple answers are sought and unifying meaning must be created – by force if necessary.

Violence, then, always arises where the inner and outer, the so-called higher and lower, the earthly and divine human being does not integrate in a free and caring way. Because the higher human being is not compelled to react with violence when they encounter violence but can act in freedom. They can think back to their innate capacity for (self-) control.

If, however, we see human beings as intelligent animals which have no option other than to trigger inner and outer wars, if we see their violence as an instinctive natural necessity which can only be held in check with a supreme civilisational and political effort, it is only a small step to the response that freedom must be defended with force.

Mahatma Gandhi’s life reflected the opposite of that view. He said that the principle of “an eye for an eye” only made us blind and “if we want to achieve real peace in the world we have to start with the children”.

Such a start consists of setting boundaries for children. Children need role models for that. Goethe in the poem “The Mysteries” described what such role models have to do to come closer to this kind of peace: “The power that all beings holds in thrall, no longer binds the ones who of themselves can gain control.”  Then love can become a powerful experience.  


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