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Do not respond with counter-force

How should you respond when someone ridicules, intimidates or harms you?

Recently in Grand Junction - and throughout the nation - political signs, a non-violent expression of belief, have been met with violence, stolen or broken - even where they stood next to homes. Sometimes, even, ridiculing signs have replaced them. Who would not feel fear having their homes violated in such a way? It is "creepy" to know an intruder was so close to your home, and has harmed something which represents your values! Who would not feel injured, seeing a symbol of their political belief mistreated?

Worse, citizens are being intimidated at the polls, on the streets - by their neighbors! - and thus, by degrees, come to distrust and then feel afraid of their neighbors. Political distrust so easily ferments into religious and racial tension!  And recently, even at the offices of political parties, neighbors are being threatened and verbally abused by their neighbors.  In some states, this has evolved into the destruction of political offices, even by such dramatic means as firebombs.  Even here in Grand Junction, those working at the offices of political parties have been intimidated, the leaders of political parties threatened with harm.

All this violence represents intentional acts of counter-force. It is impossible to say one or another side "started it." But worse, the counter-force is sometimes made against a party who is not actually responsible for the harm, and this escalates and expands the violence.

The desire to win this election is very strong; cheating is being observed from all sides.  This, despite the fact that no one doubts that cheating is a bad strategy: whoever cheats to win risks defeating a worthier opponent to win something which they are not worthy of.  They risk losing the justice, the very Democracy, which they were fighting for.

But is the use of force any less unwise?  Those who use force and violence risk counter-force and counter-violence - and ultimately losing what they strove for.  Who is certain they have sufficient strength and guile to overcome their opponent?  Force is just as bad a strategy as cheating.

In Democracy, there are those who seek to change the status quo, and those who seek to maintain the status quo. This opposition is natural in Democracy. But if one side or the other succeeds in changing or defending the status quo without obtaining the consent of their opponent, transforming the beliefs which motivated the opposition, the change will last only so long as sufficient force exists to command the obedience of the opposition.

Each opponent believes their way alone is "right," and other ways are "wrong;" by such dubious moral arguments, they equate the "rightness" of their beliefs with Justice; they will "Justify" the use of force to obtain their "win" - forgetting their true objective to obtain the consent of the opposition.  It is easy to lose sight that the consent of the opponent - not their domination - is the objective,.

When an opponent reasons that force is required, they will aggressively bring that force in one of five ways: an attack may be brought upon their leadership, the implements of their force, the means of their strength, symbols of their belief, or upon the opponent directly. These objectives are met by three aggressive forces:

  • "Harm" is the attempt to destroy or weaken the opponent so that opposition is impossible. But even if an opponent were destroyed, their consent would never be obtained - this is not achieving the goal, this is not Democracy. Destruction is a form of force. And therefore results in similar counter-force. 
  • "Intimidation" is the attempt to compel obedience of an opponent through fear of harm. Obedience is not consent.  This does not achieve the goal.  Intimidation is a form of force. Even if an opponent is dissuaded by fear from objecting, this is not consent, this is not Democracy. Intimidation is a form of force which results in either similar counter-force, or Harm.
  • "Ridicule" is the attempt to ignore or ridicule an opponent so as to deny their opposition.  Though ignored or ridiculed, the opposition still exists.  Ignorance is a form of force. This is not obtaining consent, this is not Democracy. Ignorance is a form of force which results either in similar counter-force, or Intimidation, or Harm.

These three aggressive forces result in a counter-force known as Resistance; such resistance always results in counter-resistance, more force. Which results in further resistance, more force.

Force, used aggressively or defensively, relies on strength, and strength eventually weakens. It is a mistake to trust to strength, to trust to the use of force, which will ultimately tax your strength.  Consequently, a defender will attempt the use of dialogue, reason, debate and similar discourse as non-forceful means of obtaining the consent of an opponent. As the candle burning all night long illuminates the facts in a book better than the firebomb ever could, so too is the peace of a long, quiet conversation more compelling than loudly chanting threats.  The effort you use in attacking your neighbor (or defending against them) is wasted: it does not accomplish the goal, and it hinders the accomplishment of the goal.

However, there are times when dialogue is impossible, and when the opponent will not debate or reason toward compromise. This requires using the force of truth: there is no counter-force for the force of truth; truth is an ultimate weapon, the means for success.  Demonstrating the wrongness of an opponent's position by a test works much better than demonstrating with signs.  Permitting the wrongness of the opponent does not require you violate your conscience.  When a home is sold, it is no longer your property: even if it is used in a way that is contrary to your beliefs, you are not responsible for the actions of the next owners.

Consider, too, it is much easier to discuss an issue with a friend than an opponent; a strong, wise and honorable person is listened to, and even sought for advice: a poor person is never asked for a loan, or business advice; a wealthy person is always pestered by relatives, friends and strangers for loans and advice.  Whoever has bad credit is never offered credit cards; if they desire credit, they will improve their finances.  It is not necessary that the wealthy person force their wisdom on someone else, by presenting an example, they enrich the community.  A weightlifter who is weak is rarely sought for as a trainer.  An honorable person is trusted.  Who would vandalize the home of their best friend?

We should not blame the victims, but support them and rouse their courage: their injury has woke them to tremendous work ahead.  Yet if they can succeed in building friendship, respect and love, they will succeed in their political objectives as well: for that is the objective of both parties, governing by consent.

It has become the necessary and urgent business of every citizen to meet their neighbors in the happiest of circumstances, to build trust and compassionate concern for each others' welfare, to build respect for each other, to educate each other and strengthen each other.  Let us demonstrate our strength, wisdom and honor; let us rebuild trust and admiration for our neighbors.  Trust is regained only slowly - and we must be patient enough to rebuild that trust.

More will be gained by helping each other than by attacking each other.  There is nothing to be gained by the use of counter-force, except harm, fear and dishonor.