Sunday, August 03, 2003

So I've been reading Thich Nhat Hanh's book "Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames", 2001.

On page 52 I read:

Whenever the energy of anger comes up, we often want to express it to punish the person whom we believe to be the source of our suffering. This is the habit energy in us. When we suffer, we always blame the other person for having made us suffer. We do not realize that anger is, first of all, our business. We are primarily responsible for our anger, but we believe naively that if we can say something or do something to punish the other person, we will suffer less. This kind of belief should be uprooted. Because whatever you do or say in a state of anger will only cause more damage in the relationship. Instead, we should try not to do anything or say anything when we are angry.

When you say something really unkind, when you do something in retaliation, your anger increases. You make the other person suffer, and he will try hard to say or do something back to get relief from his suffering. That is how the conflict escalates.

So wise. So true.

Punishing the other person is self-punishment. That is true in every circumstance. Every time the United States Army tries to punish Iraq, not only does Iraq suffer, but the U.S. also suffers...

Uh oh.

I'm beginning to remember why I left my Buddhist practice community.

...Every time Iraq tries to punish the U.S., the U.S. suffers, but Iraq also suffers...

Now who's being naive?

…The same is true everywhere; between the Israeli and Palestinian...

Okay, enough! It is NOT the same. Thich Nhat Hanh is completely ignoring a little matter of self-preservation. The Israel-Palestinian conflict is not some lover's tiff. This is such an unbelievable oversimplification of a complex issue.

As an Israeli I am not angry with the Palestinians. I am far too busy trying to defend myself and make sure I survive. I am angry with the Europeans and left-wing Americans who refuse to accept that Israel is in real danger of annihilation in this region and has a right to defend its citizens and itself from those who would destroy it, by whatever means. I am even angrier with those Europeans and left-wing Americans who refuse to accept Israel's right to exist at all. And most of all, I am angry with myself for being taken in by the Palestinians' promises in the early nineteen nineties that they really meant to put down their arms for all times and negotiate a peaceful compromise with us that would allow us all to live here side by side in peace (Although this doesn't mean I don't think we should keep trying. We should, but carefully).

But, to slightly rephrase something I said earlier on today, I have a few anger issues nearer to home, before I can take on the biggies.

I can't believe I'm fisking my spiritual teacher here. Is that a big no-no or what? Luckily he has mastered the compassion thing. Unlike me.

By the way, I'm still reading the book. It's really a lovely book, very helpful on a personal basis. He hasn't got into bigger issues again, so far (I'm on page 90). But he should steer clear of dabbling in world politics. He couldn't bring peace to Vietnam, where they were more likely to understand his teachings. Why should he think he could make a difference elsewhere?