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Copyright 1986 by Takashi Yogi. All rights reserved. Revised second edition 1998
This text may be freely distributed in electronic and paper versions with the following provisions:
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This text was published in a paperback version. (Currently out of print.)
Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 86-90220
Alternating Currents Press
Capitola, CA 95010
[The printed version of this book is arranged backwards.]
Yes, this book is arranged backward. You may think it is wrong. Unconventional, yes, but not wrong (or right). There are many alternative arrangements; this one would be normal for Japanese or Hebrew.
This book is about changing our way of looking at human behavior, about getting out of ruts that lead to perennial conflicts. It deals with attitudes that affect all relations, from interpersonal to international.
I invite you to try something unusual. Look at life backwards, upside-down. Temporarily suspend your judgment that this is all wrong. We have spent much time trying all the right answers to the question of conflict. Perhaps we have overlooked some alternatives.
Part 1 Foundations
Part 2 Person to Person
Part 3 Society
Part 4 The World
Truth is an illusion. The basic concept of truth is misleading because it tantalizes us with an object that we can never quite reach. Truth is like a rainbow. We all agree that rainbows exist, we can photograph them and explain their existence scientifically, but we can never touch one. Similarly, truth as an absolute, unchanging thing is always out of reach. Sometimes truth seems to be firmly in our grasp. The scientific truth of the indestructibility of matter was established for more than a hundred years and was confirmed by countless experiments. But the nuclear age changed this truth. The problem with truth is that it does not come in neat packages that one can find and keep forever. Many people want that kind of certainty and seek politicians and religious leaders who will supply it. But truth in matters of religion, morals, and politics is more vulnerable to change and interpretation than scientific truth. At this point someone is likely to mention counterexamples such as, "This fruit is an apple," or "Two plus two equals four." These are merely truths by definition, which are different from debatable statements such as, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Mathematics consists of elaborate games in which we can make any rules we want. For example, 11:00 plus two hours equals 1:00; eleven plus two equals one. This is not merely a philosophical argument. Truth is useful illusion when we need to count apples, but it can be a dangerous illusion when it is used as a weapon. We use it to convince ourselves that we are right and that others are wrong. Sometimes the issue is trivial, as in arguments over the right way to mount a roll of toilet paper. At other times the disagreement leads to international war. In both cases the problems arise when both sides assume that they alone are right. These conflicts are perpetuated by the notion that there is an objective truth and that the erroneous side needs to change or be forced to change. The purpose of this book is to suggest alternatives to a right/wrong view of the world. The book starts with the individual and proceeds to interpersonal, familial, societal, and international relations. The basis for international peace is the relation between individuals. If two individuals cannot resolve their conflicts, how can they promote international peace, which is a much more complex problem? This book does not advocate or condemn any political, economic, philosophical, or religious system. One reason for writing this book is to reduce polarization between opposing groups, which blocks communication and wastes resources in perpetual conflicts between people. The consequences of conflicts are more serious now than in the past because modern technology enables us to fight each other with devastating efficiency. Yet we try to resolve these conflicts with primitive methods. There must be a better way. This is not a book of theory. The challenge is to find practical ways of interacting that work for real people with all their imperfections rather than dreaming about a utopia composed of perfect people. The final test is, "Does it work?" I have tried the ideas in my own life and can answer: Yes.
The concept of good and bad is pervasive in our culture, along with the often equivalent concept of right and wrong. These words are taught to us from infancy and reinforced with punishment and reward. Children hear fairy tales of the destruction of evil stepmothers, witches, and wolves. The dichotomy of good/bad is so familiar that we often don't realize that the distinction is artificial and arbitrary. Movies and television are major contributors to our notions of good and bad. The almost universal plot is: bad guy does some evil deed; good guy destroys or punishes bad guy. This plot is the core of countless westerns, war movies, and crime movies. The hackneyed formula works by exciting our sense of outrage at the crime and then resolving the problem through justice and punishment. We don't realize that our feelings are being manipulated because it is so easy to hate the villains. The use of good/bad labels is common in our language. We refer to rain as bad weather, although the same rain brings joy to farmers. We have a good night's rest, have a bad day because the car runs badly, have a good supper, and watch a bad movie. An example of how our language reinforces our values is the way that words associated with light are positive, but words associated with darkness are negative: enlighten, bright vs. denigrate, gloomy. The good guy always rides a white horse. A useful alternative concept can be borrowed from Buddhist cultures, which see equal benefit in apparent opposites: light/dark, rain/sunshine, life/death. The popular concept of good/bad is useful to society; it promotes behavior that conforms to the norm. But this concept is simplistic; life is too complex to fit into such neat categories. Every good thing has a bad aspect. For example, automobiles provide transportation but pollute the air. Real people don't fit the television stereotypes of completely good or completely bad people. Another problem arises when we try to distinguish good from bad. A person's definition of "good" depends on culture, family influences, religious background, education, and social class. Universal agreement on what is good is impossible. Morality based on religion formerly had much influence on social behavior. Social upheavals during the 1960s significantly reduced the influence of religious morality and produced a revolt against authority, especially among young people. The result has been a moral vacuum: the old morality is rejected, but there is nothing to take its place. Many people are advocating a return to morality based on religion, but this system offers no incentive to a non-religious person. Why be honest if you can steal and not get caught? The usual answer is that it is wrong to steal, and you will be punished severely if you are caught (or you will eventually be punished by God). This answer is ineffective for a person who doesn't believe in God or the possibility of being caught. Although this book is written from a non-religious viewpoint, it is basically compatible with religious belief. I have no quarrel with religion and hope that religion will fulfill its tremendous potential for enrichment of life. Religion can provide meaningful answers to moral questions, but these are exceptional. The usual answers are based on authority or belief, which are irrelevant to non-believers. Regardless of the shortcomings of religious morality, it did serve a useful function. Life would be chaotic without some system of values. But agreement on religious morality is improbable, even among religious people. So we are faced with the problem: what is a suitable replacement for morality based on religion? The approach of this book is to explore attitudes rather than hunt for better sets of rules. Any set of rules is too rigid to cope with the diversity of the human species. So we abandon the search for rules and accept diversity instead of trying to suppress it. The problem changes from (1) How can we make people conform? to (2) How can we make it possible for non- conforming people to live peacefully together? With the latter approach, we regard diversity as an asset, as fuel for creative art and science. A diverse society is also more interesting than one composed of clones. One could argue that allowing diversity inevitably leads to conflict, and that rules and force are needed to preserve order. But who will make the rules? History is full of bloody conflicts over this question. All the combatants believe that they are right, and the most powerful eventually impose their version of right on the others-- at least temporarily. Trying to suppress diversity by force seems to require conflict. Solving the problem of conflict requires more than a refinement of our sense of right and wrong. Simply seeking truth will not suffice. What is needed is a complete change in our perception of the world from a fragmented collection of conflicting elements to an integrated whole. This new perception sees people as unique individuals, but recognizes that what benefits one benefits all others because there is no separation of welfare. An integrated world view is far from obvious. The world is full of people fighting each other, and some groups seem to be exploiting other groups. Survival seems to require competitive strength and protection of one's own interests. To make some sense out of this jungle requires a fresh look at the process of seeing. The next chapter carefully examines our perceptions: how we learn to perceive, the relation of perceptions to reality, and how perceptions affect our actions.
How wondrous this, how mysterious! I carry wood, I draw water. Ho Koji
The efficiency of human visual perception was not fully apparent until scientists tried to duplicate its functions with computers. They quickly found that computers had trouble distinguishing simple objects and were easily confused by irrelevant features. The superiority of human vision over computers is due to perception: visual information is filtered and modified to make sense in the context of experience. Perception applies to all our physical senses. It is also used to process abstractions, such as words and ideas. Perception is extremely useful to us because it enables us to process complex information. The same information would be hopelessly confusing to a computer, which may have good vision, but poor perception. Although perception is useful to us, it often causes us to reject valuable information. For example, our sensitivity to the smell of leaking gas decreases with prolonged exposure. We also reject information and ideas that seem irrelevant or "bad." We need to remind ourselves constantly that the world we see is created by our perceptions and that the real world may be quite different from the world inside our heads. Believing often precedes seeing. Sometimes perceptions do more than create reality inside our heads; they change the external reality. The story of Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha illustrates this phenomenon. Don Quixote's romantic perception, combined with poor vision, caused him to see windmills as enemy giants. He looked at a ragged prostitute and perceived a pure, noble lady. But strangely, the perception transformed the woman, who realized what she could be. The same process often works in real life when people unconsciously conform to other people's perceptions of them. Children are especially obliging in matching the perceptions of parents and teachers. Perceptions are important because they are the framework of meaning that connects all the experiences of one's life. Otherwise life would be a confusing jumble of unrelated events. One can choose one of many possible perceptions of the world and make the world fit that perception. For example, if one perceives the world as a dangerous place full of evil people, one can find ample support for that view in any newspaper. Every reported crime and atrocity supports the perception, and anything contrary to the perception is rejected as exceptional. Our perceptions strongly influence our behavior, and habitual behavior in turn reinforces these perceptions. For example, the perception that spiders are repulsive may lead one to kill them. This distasteful task reinforces the perception. We can easily become slaves to perceptions that work against us. It is difficult to change habitual behavior, such as smoking, drinking, or overeating, when the perception that controls the behavior remains unchanged. One hopeful aspect of perception is that it can change instantly, even after many years of entrenchment. Examples of such change are found in religious conversion and in response to crisis. When a boy partially paralyzed by polio first went to high school in a wheelchair, he hated the stares he received. One day his perception changed: "I suddenly realized I had a choice. I could feel ugly, crippled, and helpless when the kids stared at me, or I could feel like a star. I wanted to be the star!"
Grace Tasting awe, I am kin to all that is. Take. Eat in grateful wonder. Marybeth Webster
Much of education deals with making distinctions. We start with colors, numbers, and letters and later learn finer distinctions, such as differences between reptiles and mammals, between paintings by Raphael and Leonardo. All this emphasis on dissecting the world and placing the parts into the proper pigeonholes obscures the whole and the interrelations between the parts. Integration puts all the pieces of the world back together. It is a difficult task, which requires a view of the whole without blurring any of the details. It is like looking at the earth from space and seeing every tree in every forest. Integration is a worthy challenge to the human mind, which can see atoms within galaxies. An integrated view of the world requires a temporary suspension of our habit of focusing on differences. The differences are all too apparent. So we will require a bold leap of imagination to choose a perception of an integrated world. This perception does not separate the interests of one person from those of another, but it maintains the differences between individuals; each remains unique. Using this perception, we seek ways of allowing these individuals to live freely together without conflict. The integrated view is contrary to the prevalent world view that separates people into conflicting groups. The first step in the solution of these conflicts is to quit making artificial distinctions that segregate people: capitalists/socialists, liberals/conservatives, cops/robbers, right/wrong. These simplistic distinctions ignore both the uniqueness of each person placed in a group and the common humanity that defies grouping. The result is like blurred tunnel vision. The process of making group distinctions is the problem rather than merely making the "right" distinction or choosing the "right" side in a conflict. The integrated world view is based on the interdependence of all human beings. This would be more obvious for a "world" comprising two people stranded on an island. Assuming that there are adequate resources for both, we can easily see that their interests are in common. When we expand this interdependence to a world of over four billion people, the connections are not so obvious. One aspect of interdependence that is not obvious is the interaction between a person and the object of the person's action. In physics, Newton's second law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Imagine that you are in a small boat and try to push another boat away with your hand. Your boat will move backward in the process. Similarly, there are really no unilateral actions by people on other people or even objects. We are not fixed in place physically or emotionally. Because we are sensitive human beings rather than robots, we are affected by each of our actions, even if no one else is aware of the action. For example, a person who embezzles money without being caught must live with constant fear, guilt, and self- deception. All our actions become part of us. At this point the integrated world view is still idealistic and needs to be translated into practical solutions to real problems. How do we deal with criminals or people like Hitler? What about inequity and greed? These questions will be dealt with in later chapters. But first we need to go from integration to acceptance.
Done Too Soon Jesus Christ, Fanny Brice, Wolf A. Mozart, Humphrey Bogart, Ghenghis Khan, and on to H. G. Wells. Ho Chi Minh, Gungha Din, Henry Lewis, and John Wilkes Booth, Alexanders: King and Graham Bell. Ramakrishna, Mama Whistler, Patrice Lumumba, and Russ Colombo, Karl and Chico Marx, Albert Camus. E. A. Poe, Henri Rousseau, Sholem Aleichem, Caryl Chessman, Alan Freed, and Buster Keaton too. And each one there has one thing to share. They have sweated beneath the same sun, looked up in wonder at the same moon, and wept when it was all done for being done too soon. For being done . . . Song by Neil Diamond
An integrated view of the world leads us to accept ourselves and all others as members of the family of humanity. This approach differs from the usual practice of judging people as good or bad and accepting or rejecting them. The difference is that acceptance deals with people as they are rather than as they should be in comparison with some standard. Acceptance is similar to the engineering concept of fault- tolerance. A fault-tolerant system is designed to cope with imperfection in itself and in its environment; it does not depend on perfection. A leaf is an example of fault-tolerance. If an insect destroys the central vein, the leaf continues to function by using secondary veins to bypass the problem. If the leaf receives inadequate sunlight, it will grow toward the light. The human body, with its marvelous capacity to compensate for adversity and abuse, is an excellent example of a fault-tolerant system. The automobile has evolved into a fairly fault-tolerant machine; it can withstand some problems such as dirt in the gasoline or brake failure. Fault-tolerant engineering is a more reliable approach than attempts to build perfect machines and restrict them to ideal environments. Similarly, acceptance does not require perfection in ourselves or others. Acceptance is not blindness or blurring of one's vision, but rather a widening of perspective, which sees a person from many views. It studies background and motivation, which lie beneath the surface behavior. In contrast, rejection is usually based on a narrow view that focuses on some undesirable quality. Rejection is often a reflex rather than a conscious choice. We tend to shun automatically people who have an irritating trait, such as body odor or talking too loudly. But we need not judge and reject the whole person simply because of our inability to deal with some part of the person. Acceptance allows us to see the whole person instead of being distracted by minor parts. Acceptance does not exclude careful evaluation of people, such as political candidates, potential mates, and employees. The evaluation may lead one to conclude that the person is unsuitable, but the person is not rejected as "bad." Acceptance is not naive optimism but a realistic approach that deals with all people, even those who don't match our expectations. For example, a responsible parent may have to decide whether it is safe to let a teen-ager drive. If the answer is no, the parent could discuss the reasons and suggest remedies, rather than reject the teen-ager as a "bad" driver. Acceptance emphasizes the uniqueness of every person. Instead of dealing with stereotypes of people, we need to observe individual characteristics and adapt our relation to custom-fit the individual. We can use our ingenuity to find ways of interacting that compensate for "negative" qualities, or even utilize them. For example, stubbornness is the same as perseverance from another perspective. The adaptive aspect of acceptance is not the same as analyzing people in order to manipulate them. Manipulation seeks to exploit people solely for one's own benefit; acceptance seeks to benefit both parties. Acceptance implies active efforts to improve situations rather than passive toleration and resignation. Acceptance concentrates on control over one's own life rather than control over one's environment and other people. For example, if you are visiting someone and the room is too cold, you can put on a jacket rather than turning up the thermostat or blaming your host. Changing our environment may be appropriate at times, but it is only one of our options. When we blame circumstances for our problems, we are often stuck because we are powerless to change them, but we insist on getting our way because we are right. Acceptance gets us out of this rut by allowing us to make choices rather than merely reacting to our environment, past and present. The focus shifts from blaming to: "What can I do to solve the problem?" Assertiveness can be compatible with acceptance, but acceptance goes further by recognizing the needs of the other person. An example of assertiveness with acceptance is, "I understand that this store's policy prohibits refunds, but I don't want to be stuck with this defective merchandise. Is there anything you can do to help me?" This approach can be more effective than a rigid insistence on being right, and allows the other person to respond without feeling quashed. People respond to acceptance because it satisfies two complementary human needs: (1) to be part of the whole and (2) to be uniquely different from the whole. Acceptance says, "I like you for what you are: a unique person." Rejection does the opposite: it ostracizes people for being different from some norm. The complementary needs satisfied by acceptance can be expressed as society/individual or as security/ freedom. These complements are often placed in opposition, but satisfying both needs at the same time is usually possible. For example, an individual can be recognized by society for unique contributions, while the individual acknowledges the support of the society. Freedom without security is useless, and security in a police state is a sad trade for freedom. Acceptance gives a person both the security of society and the freedom of individuality. Acceptance must be unconditional to be effective. Otherwise it is merely an impersonal transaction in which "good" behavior is rewarded by approval and "bad" behavior by rejection. A person subjected to this treatment quickly realizes that the behavior is valued rather than the person. In contrast, a person treated with unconditional acceptance learns trust when "bad" behavior does not result in automatic rejection. Unconditional acceptance provides continuity and strengthens relationships. The hardest part of the concept of acceptance is that it applies to all people: your neighbor that tried to sue you, the thief that stole your stereo, rapists, child molesters, Hitler. Unless you are willing to see these people as valid members of the human race, you have not yet accepted the concept. Acceptance is a revolutionary change in attitude toward the world. When you hate and reject anyone, your world is still a fragmented collection of good and bad people, and you cannot see people clearly. When we focus on "bad" people as the problem, we are distracted from the root causes that produce the problem. Acceptance allows us to deal effectively with all people, even those who hate us, those who seek to exploit us, and those whose actions we despise. An open attitude to all aspects of life is an additional benefit of acceptance. When we accept other people, we naturally become open to new ideas, insights, sensations, and experiences. Then our perception of the world will change from a hostile environment to a harmonious one. We will no longer feel alienated from people simply because they are different from us. Ordinary people will suddenly look beautiful, and even the meanest grouch will become interesting. Then we will realize how much joy we have missed through rejection.Chapter 6
Greyhound Bus 7515 No cold. No stifling heat. Painless. Wrapped in a steel shell we move through life feeling nothing. Takashi Yogi
Accepting ourselves should really precede trying to accept others, but it is much harder. Harder because our perceptions of ourselves seem so real. Who else knows as much about me as myself? But these perceptions of ourselves are as fallible as our perceptions of the world. We accumulate these perceptions in response or reaction to parents, teachers, spouses, and associates until we are unable to see ourselves clearly. The major benefit of accepting others is acceptance of ourselves. We tend to view ourselves as critically as we view others, or more critically, since we can't easily hide "faults" from ourselves. Habitual criticism of ourselves destroys our sense of self-worth. Insecurity of self prompts constant comparisons of ourselves with others in attempts to prove our worth. Acceptance of ourselves relieves us of this burden; we do not have to be perfect or better than others. As with acceptance of others, acceptance of ourselves does not mean passivity, resignation, or illusions about our capabilities. Accepting ourselves means dealing with our limitations without labeling them "bad." We can devise ways to bypass these limitations without trying to be perfect. For example, we can deal with impatience by changing situations that provoke impatience rather than simply trying to be patient. Accepting ourselves acknowledges responsibility for our lives and keeps us from the trap of blaming circumstances and other people for our problems. It also gives us more options since our happiness does not depend on changes in circumstances and in other people. Notice the difference in the following statements: Resignation: "I'm miserable but I can't do anything about it since he is to blame." Acceptance: "I don't like this situation and will do what I can to improve things for all who are involved." Accepting oneself is a prerequisite for coping with the external world. It gives one a sense of personal center, which is unperturbed by external turmoil. This stability comes not from rigidity or insulation from adversity, but from flexibility: the ability to adapt to one's environment without losing equilibrium. Flexibility comes from a sense of our uniqueness and self-worth that is not based on perfection, but on being human. The resulting inner peace cannot be destroyed by insults or stolen from us. We can create this peace for ourselves, within ourselves, whenever we choose, regardless of external circumstances. We can use this inner peace to transform the world.Chapter 7
The basic concepts of integration and acceptance have been covered in the preceding section. Now comes the hard task of finding practical replacements for the traditional methods of making decisions. If we reject rigid rules of conduct, we need to use our new freedom responsibly. How does one decide moral issues without a fixed set of rules that define "right and wrong"? The answer is a pragmatic one: does it work? Will your decision give you what you want? The crucial question is: what do you really want? Do you want the million dollars or do you really want the happiness and security that it promises? Enlightened self-interest is needed to make decisions that truly benefit ourselves. This goes far beyond mere selfishness, which is usually self-destructive. Enlightenment means awareness of the unity of all people and objects. It shows that harming others to benefit oneself is an illusion. Enlightenment is an expansion of our view to encompass ourselves, others, society, the world, the present, and the future. Enlightenment does not come easily. It requires education, experience, and a willingness to study all the effects of a decision. We are not born with enlightenment; an infant's vision includes only self and the present. A child may want to eat only sweets for lack of awareness of the effects on nutrition and dental health. Experience is often a poor teacher because the effects of a decision may be irreversible when the lesson is finally learned. We can use education to learn from the experience of others and to avoid dead-end paths. Many of our actions that are intended to exploit other people actually harm us most. For example, lying is dangerous for the liar because the liar may start believing the lies. The rationalization needed to accommodate the lies distorts perception; the ability to separate illusion from reality suffers. For example, a person hiding an extramarital affair may fool herself into thinking that no one is hurt by the deception. She may thereby continue a compromised life instead of taking action to improve the situation. Notice that lying is not labeled "wrong." Sometimes lying may be the best decision, for example, to save another person's life. It may seem that we are back where we started. Lying is prohibited by the Ten Commandments, one of the "rigid rules." The crucial difference is that with enlightenment the incentive for behavior comes from the individual, not authority, belief, or fear of punishment. In the Bible, this is the difference between living under the law and living in grace. The behavior may be the same for both external rules and internal choice, but the attitudes are completely different. Enlightenment allows us to bypass a problem: the lack of agreement on truth. Disagreements need not produce conflict if at least one of the people that disagree realizes that there may be more that one version of truth and that they can coexist. In the Japanese language, "You're wrong" translates into "It differs". Conflict arises from our perception that disagreement must produce winners and losers, or sometimes, compromises where both parties are partial losers. An alternative to conflict is to allow diversity in individual versions of truth, but to remind ourselves constantly that using our freedom to hurt others also hurts ourselves.Chapter 8
Richard Cory Whenever Richard Cory went down town, We people on the pavement looked at him: He was a gentleman from sole to crown, Clean favored, and imperially slim. And he was always quietly arrayed, And he was always human when he talked; But still he fluttered pulses when he said, "Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked. And he was rich-- yes, richer than a king-- And admirably schooled in every grace: In fine, we thought that he was everything To make us wish that we were in his place. So on we worked, and waited for the light, And went without the meat, and cursed the bread; And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, Went home and put a bullet through his head. Edwin A. Robinson
Selfishness really does not exist. It is only an abstraction, given apparent substance by the magic of language. Attempts to produce selfish acts are doomed to eventual failure because the world is one entity, and attempts to subdivide this unity are futile. There are many who seem to have succeeded in being selfish by amassing great wealth and power. One such person was the first emperor of China, Ch'in Shih Huang Ti, who could afford to engage 700,000 workers for 36 years to build his tomb. He was so insecure that he changed sleeping quarters every night for fear of assassination. There are many other examples of frustrated attempts at selfishness, from King David to Howard Hughes. Wealth and power failed to provide happiness and security. Attempts at selfishness are not reserved for the rich and powerful. Wealth is relative. What is more important than the level of wealth is one's attitude toward other people. Unfortunately the acquisition of extraordinary wealth or power tends to produce an attitude that justifies the disparity between groups. A person at the top tends to forget that the support of many people make that position possible. It is easy to inflate one's own value based on social class and lose sight of the basic interdependence of people. Unselfishness is as much an illusion as selfishness. It supports the notion that one can sacrifice one's own interests solely for the benefit of others. What is overlooked is the intangible reward that a person receives for an act that benefits others. Personal satisfaction is worth the price of pain and poverty. Even the ultimate gift of one's own life is not given grudgingly; it must have its own special motivation. Many gifts packaged as unselfish acts are attempts to keep people separated. Philanthropy and charity are often used to appease exploited people. The intent is to keep them dependent on the donors and therefore powerless. But their discontent usually leads to eventual revolt. No one benefits from attempts to hoard resources. There are many people who think they are being unselfish when they allow others to mistreat them. The advice columns are full of martyrs complaining about their miserable treatment from relatives and friends. They have valid cases, but they trap themselves into thinking that they are helpless victims. Perhaps they continue being martyrs for fear of being rejected if they were to be firm with their oppressors. How does one determine the limits of generosity and accommodation? One's own needs have to be filled before one is able to give to others. For example if a person neglects her health, she will eventually be helpless rather than helpful. If one neglects one's own needs, the help given to others is likely to be tainted with resentment. If one cannot give freely and joyfully, one probably is not able to give. Both selfishness and unselfishness are attempts to ignore the interdependence of people. People cannot be isolated by mental or physical walls. We can neither steal from others without hurting ourselves nor give to others without benefiting ourselves.Chapter 9
Driven by the winds of life past I chose not where I sailed Often cast on rocky shores or becalmed in mid-ocean Cursing those who set my course. But now I will steer my own destiny Tacking against the wind or running before it Secure in raging tempest or calm I dance with wind and waves. Takashi Yogi
Expressing anger was quite popular as a therapeutic method a few years ago. People were pounding pillows, beating each other with soft bats, and screaming to ventilate hostility. Free verbalization of anger was encouraged, and repression was regarded as unhealthy, like a capped teakettle on the verge of explosion. The sanction of anger by some therapists increased the social acceptability of expressing anger, especially anger prompted by injustice. We are constantly subjected to actions that provoke anger; life is full of thorns-- careless drivers, shoddy merchandise, late trains. There is no shortage of ignorance and arrogance. But do we want to respond to every provocation with anger? Anger may be fully justified, but it can be an option rather than an automatic reflex. By constantly exercising our freedom to get angry, we ironically become slaves of our environment. Anger appears in several forms. A common one is "righteous indignation." We feel that we are right and the other person is wrong. Another form of anger comes from a feeling of powerlessness, a perception that we have no control over an uncomfortable situation. Anger often results from a misconnection between stimulus and reaction: "She makes me angry," rather than, "I allow myself to get angry over what she does." Prevention is an alternative to anger. Choosing not to get angry is quite different from ignoring or suppressing anger once it arises. Understanding the other person is an effective preventive measure: Why do people do what they do? What are their backgrounds? Are they aware of what they are doing? I have found that many people stumble through life like a rock crashing down a hill; it is more useful to get out of their way than to curse them. Another preventive measure is to focus on solutions rather than on blame. For example, when we encounter a careless driver who cuts in, we can often change lanes rather than honk and curse. Powerlessness is replaced by personal action: What can I do to compensate or to solve the problem? Even when we can do nothing, we can keep the annoyance from ruining our day. Another way to prevent anger is to develop a sense of our uniqueness and our relation to the world. We tend to focus so closely on our own lives that we lose our perspective of the whole. A wider perspective in both time and space would prevent distraction by adversity. A secure feeling of our own self-worth as members of the human family would make us less vulnerable to insults. A sense of humor can help one cope with many minor injustices. Life is too short to spend much time getting angry because someone left the cap off the toothpaste. Anger is often prolonged by a desire for revenge, which persists long after the injury and quietly poisons one's life. Acts of revenge don't dissipate the anger; they usually result in escalation by the other party or in feelings of hollow victory. Many people see forgiveness as an antidote to the problem of anger and revenge. Forgiveness often works, but it is a poor alternative to acceptance. When forgiveness requires apology or restitution and the other person refuses, we are stymied. Forgiveness maintains the concepts of right and wrong; it is basically an act of condescension rather than of understanding. Forgiveness is difficult because we are asked to erase what we consider wrong. How can we forgive an atrocity? Acceptance bypasses anger, revenge, and forgiveness and allows us to focus on recovering from the injury rather than on the misdeeds of the other person. When we discard the concept of "wrong," there is no need for forgiveness. There is nothing "wrong" with anger; it is a natural human emotion. Anger can be useful as a signal that calls our attention to problems and can be a catalyst for need changes. The danger is that we allow anger to control our lives and steal our emotional and physical energy. Life is too precious to squander on anger.Chapter 10
It is possible to turn a screw with a knife and to cut wood with a screwdriver, but it is much more efficient to use the proper tool. Neither tool is "bad," nor is the misapplication "wrong." There may be times when the best tool for a job is not available, and a substitute has to be used. We can choose our tools for living. All behavior has some utility. Getting angry, excessive drinking, overeating, lying, withdrawing, being depressed, and being stubborn all satisfy some need. But many times the need can be satisfied by using some other behavior that has fewer undesirable side effects. For example, a person may lie to shield a fragile ego from embarrassment. A sounder approach might be to use acceptance to improve one's self-image so that one is less vulnerable. Understanding the motivation behind behavior is useful in personal relations. Demands for change of "bad" behavior are usually ineffective since the behavior obviously satisfies some need. A demand usually produces a defensive reaction which makes change unlikely. Trying to force change in another person is usually a waste of effort. Even when force seems to work, it produces resentment and sometimes sabotage. Unconditional acceptance is more effective than force because it is non-threatening and is the best environment for growth and change. If the other person does not change, an attitude of acceptance will often suggest ways to bypass the problem without condemning the other person. Many people live in reaction to their environment instead of choosing the direction of their lives. They are happy only when conditions are comfortable, angry when they are mistreated, and depressed by the emptiness of their lives. These people should not be faulted; they learn to accept these conditions through years of attempted control by parents, teachers, employers, and perhaps a spouse or two. Others are trapped by poverty, exploitation, poor education, or addictions. Constant reaction against external forces absorbs all the attention; independence never develops. We are all in this predicament to some extent; our choices are never completely free. Those that are blessed with the resources to make choices are responsible for improving the lives of those who have few choices. The most important choice is whether to blame ourselves, others, and our past for our problems, or to accept responsibility for the quality of our lives and the lives of other people.Chapter 11
Tenderness What can I do What can I do Much of what you say is true I know you see through me But there's no tenderness Beneath your honesty Right and wrong Right and wrong Never helped us get along You say you care for me But there's no tenderness Beneath your honesty You and me were such good friends What's your hurry? You and me could make amends I'm not worried I'm not worried Honesty Honesty It's such a waste of energy No you don't have to lie to me Just give me some tenderness Beneath your honesty You don't have to lie to me Just give me some tenderness Song by Paul Simon
Much of the problem with marriage is due to excessive idealism. Couples strive toward an ideal that is almost impossible to attain. This romantic ideal is based on several myths. One is compatibility: the ideal mate is similar to oneself. The reality is that opposite personalities are quite attractive, and compatibility is not essential. Many marriages of vastly dissimilar people succeed, and marriages fail between people who read the same books, share the same hobbies, and agree on politics and religion. People use computers to find their ideal mate and are puzzled by the divorce a year later. Another myth is that a successful marriage requires doing the right things, such as being neat, considerate, helpful, cheerful and dependable. A rare marriage may consist of such a pair of angels, but earthly marriages are much more likely to succeed when both people acknowledge that they are not perfect and are willing to make allowances. "Happily ever after" describes another myth. It offers the false hope that marriage will make us complete and provide continuous happiness without disagreement. Marriage usually magnifies individual problems, and intimacy provides abundant opportunities for disagreement. Total unconditional acceptance is the first step in a marriage. This precludes any demands for changes and recognizes the unique value of a person. Acceptance means accepting the real person, not some idealization. Acceptance is unconditional and continuous; it does not depend on the behavior of the other person, nor is it suspended in times of conflict. This acceptance is the string of continuity that holds a relation together through rough times. It is also the perfect environment for growth. People are perverse-- they resist change when it is demanded but often change voluntarily when there is no coercion. Unconditional acceptance is not the same as unconditional surrender, the sacrifice of oneself for the sake of harmony. Acceptance recognizes the needs of both persons in a relationship. The separation or opposition of interests is artificial; mutually satisfactory solutions can usually be found. For example, when creative chaos conflicts with compulsive neatness, a private room may be a solution. Dissatisfaction with a marriage is often felt by only one person. The other may be preoccupied with work and may not notice the problem until confronted with an affair or a demand for a divorce. Dealing with these cases is difficult because of the resistance of the spouse, who feels threatened by the changes. The resistance is only increased by demands such as "You are wrong and need to change," or "Get counseling or I will leave you." Even if counseling is accepted, the resisting person is likely to remain defensive. A more effective message might be, "I think you are wonderful, and I would like to stay with you. We can work out our problems together to make life better for both of us." Acceptance can work in a relation even when only one person practices it. This distinguishes it from other methods of conflict resolution, such as compromise, which require the cooperation of both parties. Many marriages are stalemated by the stubborn refusal of one person to negotiate and the equally stubborn demand of the other that negotiation is necessary. When acceptance is used by even one person in a relation, it breaks the cycle of action-reaction fighting. This cycle feeds on blame, punishment, and revenge; acceptance shifts attention from these to ways of satisfying the needs of both parties. One person can initiate change by finding ways to satisfy one's own needs without blaming or threatening the other. For example, a woman oppressed by housework can hire help rather than insisting that her spouse share the burden. Acceptance will not save some marriages. Divorce may be the best answer for both, and acceptance can ease the difficult transition. Forgoing blame and recognizing each other's welfare can benefit both parties. Bickering over possessions is costly; the person who wins pays the heavy price of continued bitterness from the other. Fights over custody of children usually harm them more than any inequities of custody. Punishment and revenge hurt both parties. Acceptance and integration of interests promotes healing of the wounds. I see some problems with present marital counseling. Much of the emphasis is on changing behavior rather than attitudes. Techniques such as fighting fairly, expressing anger, and communicating needs are useful, but they don't satisfy the basic need for acceptance. They deal with the mechanics of a relation, but leave the old concepts of right and wrong unchanged. Couples learn that there is a right way and a wrong way to fight. Fighting fairly is comparable to the Geneva Convention for the humane conduct of war. Both are preferable to barbarity, but abolishing the conflict would be much better. Communication is important but can be misused to convey only negative information. The messages are received as bad news: more problems that demand attention. The recent emphasis on free expression of our needs overlooks the reception of the message. Unless the expressions are accompanied by assurances of acceptance and non-coercion, they will probably be resisted or ignored. Another problem with our communications is the lack of affection and appreciation when the situation is normal; all messages are alarms. Mis- communication can destroy a marriage as surely as non- communication. Many marital conflicts are symptoms of deeper problems. Lack of empathy, recognition, autonomy, or affection can become manifest as perennial fights over money, chores, or trivia. An attitude of acceptance can help us to focus on the needs of the person instead of the surface complaints. For example, the complaint, "You spent too much for groceries" may be a symptom of insecurity about one's job. An attitude of acceptance allows one to respond to the real needs instead of defending or blaming oneself. The resolution of conflicts is impeded by the concept of winners and losers. This view keeps the combatants from working together toward solutions that benefit both. There are usually more than two solutions to a problem, but the mutually beneficial solutions are obscured by a stubborn insistence on being right. Being right is a lonely place. We isolate ourselves by using truth to build walls around ourselves, and we use truth as a weapon to attack vulnerable spots. The typical marital fight is an escalating exchange of insults that possess enough truth to be devastating. Both sides are losers in the war. An alternative to marital conflict is to merge the welfare of both parties and to realize that what benefits one also benefits the other. This does not mean joint checking accounts or merging of personalities. Autonomy and uniqueness are to be cultivated. Both individuality and cooperation can flourish in an environment of acceptance.Chapter 12
Children are born self-centered; they are aware of only their needs. Infancy should provide security and total acceptance. This forms a solid basis for later social development. As children mature, they will become aware that their needs interact with the needs of other people. Sometimes these needs will seem to conflict, as when two children want the same toy. They need to learn that there is no separation between their welfare and that of others. Relations between adults and children are often hampered by the assumed authority of adults over children. When a conflict arises, the adult asserts authority, often overriding even a valid case presented by the child. There are certainly many cases where this resort to authority is necessary, but there is also the danger of misusing authority when more effective methods are available. Unfortunately many parents are so certain of being right that they persist in using methods that obviously don't work, and they blame the failure on the child. Unlike other oppressed groups, children usually lack control over their treatment. They resort to fighting back in subtle ways to sabotage the lives of their parents. Sometimes they wait until adolescence to revolt. Sometimes their resentment toward parents is transferred to society and persists throughout adult life. Children need acceptance as much as food in order to mature. The family should always be a refuge where a child has a sense of belonging. Rejection of children for misbehavior destroys this security and is a poor motivation for changing behavior. Acceptance does not imply permissiveness. Children need to be taught that their actions affect others and that manipulative tactics such as tantrums will not get them what they want. Maturation is the process of moving from external control to internal. If rules are always imposed on children by force, they will be poorly equipped to make the transition to independence. Children will be more likely to obey the rules if they participate in making the rules and understand the reasons for the rules. When rules are disobeyed, children should learn how they harm themselves by their actions. Children need to learn to accept responsibility for their lives and to choose their actions to benefit themselves and others.Chapter 13
Just once more Just one more nickel Pull the crank and listen for the sweet clatter of coins. Silence only the faint echo of the good times when life overflowed. Why complain? I still get enough to keep playing. Someday I'll get it. Do I really believe that? No. I should quit this stupid game. One more nickel and I'll leave. Takashi Yogi
Making the transition from judgment to acceptance is difficult because it requires a total change in one's attitude rather than minor changes in behavior. The whole framework of one's life needs to be rebuilt rather than merely patched. A lot of our training, education, and experience must be discarded in the process. On the other hand, the transition can be easy because the change in attitude affects all of our behavior. One does not have to try to change; change occurs naturally once one perceives the benefit of the change. The following are suggestions for easing the transition: 1. Notice instances when you judge yourself, other people, or things. Don't label yourself "bad" for judging or try to stop doing it. Become sensitive to the following words: good, bad, right, and wrong. Notice how often these words are used in ordinary conversation. 2. Practice observing other people who don't affect your life directly, such as strangers on the bus or people in supermarkets. Take special note if these people are angry or if they seem repulsive to you. Try to explain a person's behavior by fantasizing the person's history, such as an abused childhood, poor education, illness, or a recent divorce. 3. Study other cultures to expand your awareness of the diversity of "normal" behavior. 4. Learn unconditional acceptance from a pet animal.Chapter 14
I sense widespread discontent in the United States, which encompasses all groups: rich and poor, conservative and liberal, minorities and majorities. The banker worries that Brazil will default on its huge debt, while the Detroit autoworker wonders how she will feed her family when the unemployment checks stop coming. Pessimism prevails; the popular sense is that social conditions are getting worse. Some discontent and dissent is healthy, but there is a danger that dissatisfied people will react by blaming scapegoats and following any leader who promises relief. Social discontent spawns many proposals for remedies and usually produces polarization of opposing groups. Each group claims that their views are right, and defeating the opposition becomes the goal. Even when the fighting is not physical, there is much use of heavy verbal artillery in political speeches, the press, and the courts. Perhaps these conflicts indicate a vigorous democracy, but I wonder how much of it is necessary. We spend a great deal of energy fighting perpetual battles. These ideological battles often become violent, as in union/management and pro-life/pro-choice confrontations. Political warfare has some disturbing similarities to actual warfare: the labeling and depersonalization of the "enemy," the concepts of right-side/wrong-side and of winners/losers, and the reduction of issues to slogans. Conflicts keep us from using a valuable resource: group action. The power of people working together is one of the strongest forces in the world. People have an inherent need to be part of a group and can contribute prodigious effort. After a severe winter storm in Santa Cruz in 1982, there was an amazing amount of volunteer relief work. One man who helped dig mud out of a house remarked that the work was too nasty and hard to do for pay. The reward for such action must be social. Unfortunately, politicians and dictators know the power of group action and exploit it for their own purposes. I remember the awesome film records of Hitler being saluted by hundreds of thousands of ecstatic Germans, and I'm saddened by the waste of such tremendous energy. If we could direct such energy away from war and political conflict, we would have ample resources for solving most of the world's problems. This section of the book deals with some social problems in America as illustrations of an integrated view. Attempts are made to view issues from many sides. The aim is not answers, but meaningful questions: Is this really what you want? My view of issues is certain to be limited and biased, and I'm likely to be criticized by all sides. My goal is to widen the perspective and start dialogue between groups rather than search for the "right" answers.Chapter 15
I always feel uncomfortable with political rallies and speeches, especially when I agree with the views expressed. Most politicians love such occasions_ the receptive audience, the frequent bursts of applause. But I usually leave with a sense of loneliness rather than unity. What bothers me is the use of political power to win, the division of people into the forces of good and the forces of evil. Political action is an important part of a democracy, but I feel that it is seen by many people as a weapon. Political differences become power struggles in which the majority imposes its views on the minority. Democracy, government by the people, often degenerates into government by the majority, and the wishes of half the people might be ignored. The majority's best interests are served by being sensitive to the needs of the minority and trying to accommodate them. More use of consensus instead of majority rule can provide more equal representation for all people. Otherwise, ignoring minority protests often leads to power struggles in which the balance of power oscillates. An example of perpetual power struggle is the abortion issue. Abortion in America was largely unregulated until legislation in the 1870s banned it. Then the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973. Now there is considerable effort to reverse the law. Another problem with power politics is the tendency to focus on scapegoats. People such as Ronald Reagan or Jane Fonda are used as political dartboards, targets for our anger. Scapegoats divert our attention from the underlying causes of conflict. Assassination, political or physical, does not produce significant change, since the people behind the leader remain unchanged or become more determined to fight back. Blaming problems on other people is not very effective and obscures our responsibility as citizens. Political divisions are perpetuated by emphasizing differences between groups. People are separated into opposing groups, and any common interests are ignored. The other side is considered ignorant, misguided, or evil because they disagree with us. Racial conflicts are especially serious because it is so easy to focus on the trivial physical differences and ignore our common humanity. The division of people into conservative and liberal groups is one of the most prominent divisions in American politics. But the concept of monolithic groups is a myth. One can compile lists of views held by most people who would call themselves conservatives or liberals. But there are too many exceptions: people who support the ERA and nuclear disarmament but oppose abortion, people who favor prayer in schools but want to ban handguns. Therefore the words " liberal" and " conservative" do not define clearly distinct groups, and these labels need not keep people from talking to each other. Political change can be facilitated by an integrated approach. Political movements typically produce automatic reaction groups, but these people are less likely to fight if their interests are considered. Instead of using brute political power to overwhelm the opposition, it would be more effective to find ways to satisfy all parties. For example, legislation to end government subsidies for tobacco could include aid for farmers to facilitate a transition to other crops. There will always be disagreement on what is best for society, but this need not keep people from accepting each other and working on mutually beneficial solutions. I would like to see more acceptance of political diversity as a normal condition and as one of the great strengths of a democracy. Lack of diversity can result in mass political power, which is easily abused. An example is Mao Zedong's Great Cultural Revolution, which had millions of ecstatic followers waving his little red book. Such unity has a tremendous potential for destructive action with no counterbalancing forces. Unity is beneficial when it affirms the common humanity of a diverse group; it can be destructive when it is used to suppress diversity. The use of political power is an extension of our attitude toward interpersonal conflict. When we are disturbed by a neighbor's dog, we resort to calling the police instead of negotiating a solution. We win, but we lose a neighbor. Similarly, we often use political power as a substitute for open communication and negotiation. People seldom change their views in response to logical arguments. The investment in personal beliefs is too great; attack provokes defense and counterattack. Winning a debate does not imply change in an opponent. An alternative is to avoid the defensive reaction by using acceptance. When people are not threatened, when their views are respected and given a fair hearing, change becomes possible. The process of changing beliefs is more emotional than logical. Political power and compelling arguments cannot substitute for personal acceptance. I don't intend to disparage the efforts of political activists who are dedicated to improving social conditions. I hope to prompt them to examine attitudes that may be obscuring more effective methods of producing change. The prevalent methods of fighting political battles produce few lasting victories; the vanquished minority usually returns to fight. I would like to see political opponents accept each other as valuable counter- balancing influences rather than as enemies. You can't play tennis with an empty opposite court. There is need for more non-debates in which issues are discussed without a need for winning arguments. It is the need to win that keeps us all losers.Chapter 16
Labels are convenient and useful, but easily misused. They are useful because a word or two can refer to a complex mental image of an object, idea, or person. This process is so automatic that it can be a hindrance. Labels can be misused to keep us from actually seeing an object or person. For example we can stop seeing birds or flowers once we have learned to identify them by name. We see a mental image of a rufous-sided towhee instead of the bird itself. Labels are an important part of the process of perception. Perception takes raw sensory information and filters it to make sense in the context of experience. Labels are used to catalog these perceptions, and can substitute for the perceptions. For example, seeing the word "maggots" can produce instant revulsion for most people. Even when one is actually looking at maggots, the label takes precedence and blocks the perception. Labels become dangerous when we use them to avoid seeing and feeling. Labels such as nigger, gook, queer, bitch, pig, and redneck are used to avoid dealing with people. Even more civilized labels such as conservative, Communist, and feminist can be used in the same way. When people are labeled, they become stereotyped objects. Labels play an important part in racial discrimination. Physical racial characteristics are used as the sole basis for attaching a label with its stereotypes. The label replaces the unique person, and it is much easier to mistreat interchangeable objects; if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Discrimination uses labels to avoid looking at any features that reveal a common humanity. Labeling is often the first step to violence toward people. One horrible example is the Nazi extermination of Jews and other minority groups. I find the Holocaust frightening because it shows how easy it is to kill people who have become objects. It is important to realize how a small shift in perception can result in atrocities. The prologue to the Holocaust was centuries of persecution of Jews by Christians. For example, St. John Chrysostom in the fourth century preached that "The synagogue is worse than a brothel... it is the den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beasts."* Similar prejudice was promoted by countless Christian clerics. As a result, people became accustomed to the labeling of Jews as subhuman and deserving of their treatment. Once Jews became labeled as vermin, the plague of Europe, it was easy to exterminate them as one would kill rats-- an unpleasant but necessary task. The Nazis were not monsters; they went home to wives and children. If the experience of the Holocaust only teaches us that Germans can be especially cruel, then the lesson that cost six million lives is wasted: that all of us have similar potential for inhuman action toward people whose humanity is hidden by labels. *Malcom Hay, Europe and the Jews, Beacon PressChapter 17
An all too familiar story: A car driven by a drunk collides with another car. A innocent woman is killed and her child is paralyzed for life. Her husband survives, and the drunk has only minor injuries. How does one deal with this tragedy and with the feelings of anger that result? The victims are often dismayed when the guilty party gets less than the maximum punishment. How much punishment will satisfy the need for justice? Life imprisonment? Torture? Death? Our concept of justice is often a disguise for legalized revenge. There is a prevalent feeling that those who cause suffering should be made to suffer some form of punishment. In former times, torture and mutilation were often used. We no longer approve of such barbarity, but the feeling remains. People often object to attempts to rehabilitate criminals through programs such as job training because such programs might benefit the subjects rather than increase their suffering. Why should people who do wrong be treated well? Revenge does not heal the wounds of tragedy; it merely exhausts the victim's use of the guilty party as an object of blame and anger. What if a person is severely crippled by an earthquake while hiking in the mountains? There is clearly no one to blame except perhaps God, the Devil, or oneself. It is more useful to concentrate on recovery rather than anger and blame. The same is true for injury caused by crime. Even after a person's need for revenge is satisfied, there is still the need to cope with healing the wound itself. So revenge is merely a distraction that slows the healing process. Most of the need for revenge stems from the need of the victims for recognition that their anger is legitimate. So the punishment is really symbolic since there is usually no possibility of full restitution or "eye for an eye" type of justice. Victims are often satisfied when the punishment is the maximum possible under the law. Justice is a lofty ideal that is seldom achieved. There are millions of innocent victims of crime, war, genocide, and persecution. How does one find appropriate justice for the deaths of six million Jews? Preventing a repetition of the crime by correcting its causes is more appropriate than seeking justice after the crime. Our efforts to control crime seem to rely on punishment, which is supposed to correct antisocial behavior in the convict and deter others. People are processed by the penal system like cars on an assembly line. They "serve time" and are supposed to be made safe for society. The great number of repeat offenders points out the failure of the system. The public is justifiably outraged by these criminals and demands longer sentences and the death penalty to solve the problem. Our prisons are overflowing, but the problem remains. Another attempt to control crime is protection: if we can't eliminate crime, at least we can protect ourselves. People carry guns and Mace, install deadbolts and window bars, and buy insurance and elaborate alarm systems. The streets are avoided at night, strangers are eyed with suspicion, and wealth is measured in number of keys. At some point, these measures become a reverse prison; we lock ourselves up for security. Are we willing to trade freedom for this kind of security? The fear and anger of citizens is understandable. Security has a high priority, and people will take extreme measures to get it. People are often willing to ignore constitutional rights of others and sacrifice personal freedom in order to stop crime. Any attempts to change the way we deal with crime has to acknowledge the fear of most citizens. For example, legislation to ban handguns is futile as long as people think that the police are incapable of protecting them against crime. Our reliance on police and punishment obscures methods of crime prevention which may be more effective. Tremendous time and money are spent in dealing with crime, but eliminating the causes of crime receives scant attention. Part of the reason is belief in the concept of "bad" people who choose to commit crimes. The only way to deal with them is to eliminate them or separate them from the "good" people. A more effective approach is to recognize that all people have the capacity for social or anti-social behavior and that the environment largely determines which predominates. Tracking down causes of crime requires searching through many layers. A drug addict may be stealing in order to buy drugs. Threats of punishment are obviously futile; this person has no choice. It is probably more effective to deal with the problem of drug addiction before dealing with the stealing. One could try to stop drug traffic, but it is better to go a step further and ask why people become addicted in the first place. What is the environment in our homes and schools that promotes drug dependency? How do these people feel about themselves and society? Soon we are forced to look at our basic values and attitudes. Making fundamental changes in the law enforcement system is difficult because it requires a change in attitude and a complete re-structuring of society. Present attempts to control crime, such as more police, more prisons, more guns, and more severe sentences, are short-term approaches that are extremely costly and inefficient. Rape is an example of a crime that receives much attention while its causes are largely ignored. Women are justifiably angry that their lives are haunted by fear. Attempts to defend against rape, such as self-defense, increased police patrols, and more effective prosecution, are useful but do not address the basic problem. Rapists are being produced at least as fast as they are being caught. Women will remain vulnerable as long as we avoid examining the family and educational influences that are conducive to producing rapists. As long as we view rapists as aberrations rather than the natural result of societal influences, we will be plagued by them. Part of the problem of crime goes back to our basic concepts of laws and rules. These concepts come mainly from childhood, where punishment is threatened for misbehavior. But children soon find that clever action can escape punishment and win admiration from peers. The message they get from television is not "Crime does not pay," but "Only the stupid ones get caught." Children are seldom taught that their actions can harm themselves. When I was caught embezzling my milk money as a child, I was severely punished, but there was no mention of the harmful effects on my health from buying candy with the money. Most people view law as an external force. They avoid exceeding the speed limit because they fear a ticket, and they cheat whenever they think they will not get caught. There is no awareness that the law is designed for their safety; there is no sense of internal law. These same people can be found driving at 65 in a fog because it is the presumed legal speed. The basic alternative to crime is a healthy society in which every person is accepted as a part of society. Crime is the result of an attitude that separates one's own needs from those of society. Most of the violent crimes arise out of anger toward self, toward society, toward authority. People who feel that they are nothing and are treated as if they are nothing will try to fill the void with drugs, alcohol, money, violence, or power. Nurturing a sense of self and one's inherent interdependence with society is the long-term solution to the problem of crime.Chapter 18
The battle over abortion seems to be an endless conflict. The opposing sides are strongly polarized. Both sides are convinced that they are right, and there is almost no communication between sides. The only hope for resolution of the conflict is for both sides to accept each other as human beings. There is no hope as long as pro-life advocates picture the opposition as unfeeling murderers, and pro-choice advocates stereotype the others as ignorant fanatics. There will always be disagreement on abortion, but we can try to reduce the enmity between sides. Each side can begin by listening to the feelings of opponents instead of arguing in defense. We can accept other people even when we strongly disagree with their beliefs. This acceptance recognizes that their beliefs are sincere and as valid for them as our beliefs are for us. The abortion conflict has been intensified by improvements in medical technology. The survival rate for premature babies is now about one-half at 28 weeks (1986), which is the usual time limit for abortion. Some premature babies have survived birth at 23 weeks. So we have a situation where many abortions are technically equivalent to infanticide since the fetus may be capable of living outside the mother. Much of the conflict over abortion could be resolved by shortening the period available for abortions. The issue of abortion changes as the timing of the abortion changes. At one end of the time continuum is abortion immediately after conception. This would still be opposed by religious people who also oppose contraception, but many others would accept it because a fertilized ovum hardly looks like a human being. At the other end of the continuum is abortion just before normal birth. Most people, including pro-choice advocates, would oppose this case because it really amounts to infanticide. So for many people, their view on abortion is a matter of timing. Late abortions form a small percentage of all abortions, but cause the most problems. These cases involve more medical risk, more emotional trauma to both the mother and medical personnel, and the possibility of survival of the fetus. Eliminating late abortions may be one way to ease the conflict. Abortion involves medical risk and is traumatic even if one accepts its necessity. What pro-choice advocates really want is not necessarily abortion, but the right of women to control their own lives. Abortion is reluctantly chosen only after rejection of all other possibilities. One solution to the conflict might be provided by technology: a semipermanent contraceptive method that is completely effective without serious side effects. Such a method would eliminate most of the need for abortion. Intrauterine devices came close to providing a solution, but unfortunately had serious side effects and were not completely effective. Much more work needs to be done to find more effective contraceptives and to reduce the need for abortions. It is clear that the controversy will not be resolved by ignoring those with opposing views. The abortion issue is extremely complex. It involves morals, emotions, civil rights, medical considerations, and our basic attitudes toward life. It is in the best interest of all sides to discuss the issue rather than fight.Chapter 19
The American worker is one of our most under-utilized resources. Traditional industrial organization makes a sharp dichotomy between labor and management that is detrimental to both. Labor and management have been traditional antagonists, and the two forces have roughly balanced each other in the recent past. However this arrangement is becoming outdated as new developments put stresses on both sides. It is time to restructure our industrial society to benefit both labor and management. One basic problem with the traditional labor versus management system is that it separates the welfare of the workers from that of the employers, ensuring conflict between the two groups. These conflicts can harm both groups by reducing productivity and profits. Workers have traditionally used strikes to force employers to improve working conditions and wages. These strikes have often been long and costly to both sides. This tactic is becoming outdated as foreign labor, automation, and high unemployment shifts the balance of power in favor of employers, who can now afford to fire workers with impunity. Workers need motivation to do their best. This motivation comes from a sense of acceptance: being a uniquely valuable member of a group. Most American companies discourage acceptance by separating workers from management and by trying to suppress individuality. Conformity is enforced by threats, and valuable feedback from workers is ignored. Workers have scant influence on policies and are unlikely to feel any loyalty to the employer's interests. It is not surprising that many workers do the minimum work necessary under these conditions. Most workers are not inherently lazy and sloppy; the source of the problem is mismanagement. Managers have their own problems such as increasing foreign and domestic competition, poor work quality, and recurrent recessions. One way to meet these challenges is to promote the welfare of workers. Fair wages, decent and safe working conditions, and a voice in policy are conducive to maximum worker effort. Arrangements for substantial sharing in the profits of the enterprise can improve morale and provide flexibility in hard times. The huge disparity between the wealth of owners versus workers has to be reduced before workers will identify with company interests over their own immediate needs. For example, workers would be unwilling to accept lower wages in a recession when the company president's multimillion-dollar income is untouched. Automation, which has been called the second industrial revolution, is likely to produce major changes in society. We are faced with a situation in which owners can maintain production with very few workers. While this may seem to be a boon to owners, the resulting unemployment will become a problem for everyone. Unemployed workers are not an asset to anyone, and industrial output is worthless if people cannot afford to buy it. One approach to automation is to oppose it in order to keep people employed. Another is to use it to free people from the drudgery of industrial production and allow them to engage in more meaningful activity. Drastic social changes will be needed in order to use automation to benefit all people. Working as a means of survival will have to be phased out as machines take the place of many workers. We will need to re-evaluate our basic concept of work for wages. Society will have to be modified to distribute the abundance produced by machines to all people as a natural right rather than as a reward for work. Society will have to face the difficult task of providing alternative activity for many people who no longer have to work, and education will have to play an important part in filling the void. There is presently a great deal of attention in American business on power and profits. The interests of workers and the public are ignored in the rush to produce short-term gains through maneuvers such as corporate takeovers. Intense competition is producing cheap mediocrity instead of excellence. These conditions are detrimental to everyone. Money and resources have no intrinsic value; they have meaning only in the context of other people. The entire material assets of the U.S. would not be very useful to one person in isolation. Attempts to hoard resources and exploit people are doomed to eventual failure. There are presently enough resources in the world to provide everyone with abundance. The challenge is to use those resources to benefit all people.Chapter 20
It is popular in some circles to proclaim the evils of colonial powers and dictators and to side with revolutionary groups. People with this perspective tend to overlook abuses of power by revolutionaries. Almost every successful revolution is marred by excesses. Examples are the bloody aftermath of the French Revolution, the Stalinist sequel to the Bolshevik Revolution, and the anti-intellectual purges of China's Great Cultural Revolution. These flaws cannot be excused by arguing that the revolutions produced beneficial changes that were needed. These problems are not coincidental; they can be expected because revolutions produce change by force. When the opposition to the force is overcome, there are no balancing forces to prevent abuses of power. Military victory is only part of a revolution. What follows is the difficult task of building a new order from the ashes of the old. There is physical and economic chaos, and the remnant opposition is a constant threat. The victors will be tempted to continue using force to protect their hard-won victory. Therefore, we often see martial law, censorship, and political imprisonment in revolutionary regimes. Some may argue that revolutions are necessary evils to produce changes; you can't make an omelet without bashing a few eggs. But there are a few historical exceptions to violent revolutions. One is M. Gandhi's successful non-violent campaign to end British colonialism in India. Another is the movement led by M. L. King to end racial segregation. Both of these efforts produced profound changes without resort to violence by the proponents. Revolutions are no longer isolated conflicts; most of them are now fought on an international stage. Arms and aid are often provided by major powers with hopes of benefiting from the outcome. So what seems a simple solution to oppression usually turns into a protracted and costly struggle. One advantage of non-violent change is that there is less threat to the ruling class than with revolutions. Changes in behavior are demanded rather than the destruction of people in power. The ruling class, including those sympathetic to change, is unlikely to consider compromise and negotiation when their lives are threatened. Violent action usually produces entrenchment of policy; retreat is unlikely. Backing an opponent into a corner and then demanding change is likely to produce defiance rather than cooperation. Change can be made more palatable when proponents consider the interests of both sides in a conflict.Chapter 21
The Unknown Soldier You press the trigger the man disappears. One less enemy soldier_ so far away that you never saw his face never knew who he was. Did he like chocolate ice cream? Was he married? Maybe he enjoyed playing the saxophone and was an expert restorer of old clocks. What made him laugh? Who were his friends? Could you have been his friend? Do you care that you have killed someone you didn't know? Takashi Yogi
There are no winners in any war. The mutual suicide of nuclear war is only the ultimate example of the futility of war; even conventional war has only losers. One side may seem to be a winner because the other side surrenders. One side may be declared the victor even when it suffers staggering losses, as in the victory of King Pyrrhus over the Romans or the Russian loss of 6 million lives in WW II. The concept of winning a war assumes that the interests of both sides are separate, but this is artificial. We live in a world where gains and losses are shared internationally. A depression in one country affects the entire world. Art, literature, science, inventions, natural resources, and people are international assets. When we consider the contribution of one German, J. S. Bach, to the world of music, we can begin to imagine how much the world has lost in the millions of German dead. We also have to list the material losses, the paintings, cathedrals, and manuscripts that were destroyed. The greatest loss to the "winning" side is the victory itself. It reinforces the use of war as an acceptable way of resolving disputes and thereby perpetuates war. Victory justifies all the mis-perceptions that are necessary to fight a war: that one side is right and the other wrong, that the enemy is inhuman, that there is no alternative to war. War numbs our sensitivity to other people by separating us from others emotionally and physically. This separation has increased with the development of weapons. Armed with a sword, a man had to face his enemy in order to kill him. The distance between combatants has increased with the invention of the bow, gun, airplane, and intercontinental missile. It is now much easier to ignore the humanity of the enemy when millions of them are represented by mere dots on a computer display. We kill another person, ignoring the person's humanity and uniqueness, and thereby devalue our own humanity and uniqueness. It is remotely possible to reproduce a great painting or reconstruct a bombed cathedral, but a person appears only once and is gone forever. Wars are perpetuated by a stubborn faith in the concepts of right and wrong. This blinds us to the equally fervent beliefs of the opposing side. Armies never march under the banner of evil or aggression; God, homeland, justice, and honor are usually invoked. Once the first shot is fired, every soldier is convinced that the enemy is wrong. The issue of right and wrong is meaningless in a war. An example is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has become a series of retaliations. The list of atrocities is so long that it is meaningless to ask which side struck first or which side is more justified in its actions. Another example of perpetual conflict is the war between the British and the Irish Republican Army. These conflicts and many others like them will never be resolved by arguments over which side is right. The only hope is for both sides to realize that fighting benefits neither side. There is a disturbing symmetry in both sides of the Cold War. Each side has ample weapons to obliterate the other side, and any increases are quickly matched. Each side is distrustful of the other side and sees the other side as being the obstacle to peace. Each side has a list of aggressions committed by the other side that prove that the other side is intent on domination and can't be trusted. The result is a precarious stalemate. War is a logical extension of our use of force to solve problems. We use force to make children eat their vegetables, to keep students from smoking marijuana, to keep rapists off the streets, to keep other nations from infringing on our foreign resources. Force is often used as a substitute for analysis, persuasion, negotiation, and incentives. I am not condemning the use of force as "bad"; I am pointing out our exclusive reliance on force to make others do what they don't want to do. The use of force is so common and accepted that alternatives are usually overlooked. Force is so tempting in its direct effectiveness that we ignore the consequences to both parties. We get immediate compliance from a child by saying, "Go to bed or I will spank you." We also got immediate obedience from Stalin in 1946 when we said, "Stay out of Iran or we will use the A-bomb." The child may store resentment until retaliation is possible as a teen-ager. Stalin retaliated in 1949 by getting his own bomb. War is seen as necessary when diplomacy fails. In examining this assumption, we need to ask why we would consider war against some countries and not others. War with Japan or Germany, our recent enemies, now seems extremely unlikely. Even serious disagreements in trade policy will not result in war with these countries. Yet we continue a Cold War against the USSR, a former ally. The difference lies in our mutual fear of domination and not in shortcomings of diplomacy. This fear prompts a continuing arms race and conflicts in Third World countries such as Viet Nam and Afghanistan. Some people may oppose wars of aggression but argue the necessity of defending against attack. This distinction is mostly conceptual. In practice, the requirements and actions are nearly the same. Heavy militarization is needed for defense, and provocations can readily be found to justify defensive retaliation. In an age of "pre-emptive strikes" and "launch on warning" of missiles, it is pointless to ask whether the missiles were defensive or offensive and which side fired first. Much attention has been directed toward the problem of nuclear war. Nuclear weapons bring new urgency to the problem of war because of the threat of mutual annihilation. The seriousness of this threat cannot be overstated, but the weapons are only the results of attitudes that would remain even if all nuclear weapons were destroyed. The present wars over US/USSR domination in Third World countries would continue. The prospect of fighting a non-nuclear World War III is a dismal alternative to nuclear holocaust. Focusing on the nuclear weapons is not sufficient, and disarmament is highly unlikely as long as mutual fear and reliance on force remain. Wars are comparable to childish squabbles. One child snatches a toy and is hit in retaliation. Then the fighting escalates until an adult intervenes. In international conflicts there are no interveners; we need to resolve our conflicts without resorting to fighting. War is primitive behavior that has acquired respectability through centuries of use. It seems ironic that we are using the most advanced technology to engage in Neanderthal behavior. Unlike childish fist fights, our fights can be vastly destructive. It's time to grow up. Additional Comments 1997: Drastic changes in the Soviet Union occurred after this chapter was written. Many people in the US saw this as a victory of capitalism over communism. So the war mentality continues. We came very close to annihilating the world and wasted enormous resources on a conflict that had no substance. The end of the Cold War has not produced peace. Our stockpile of nuclear weapons remains. We will find new enemies such as China, Iraq, and Cuba. We have made small progress toward peace; our basic attitudes toward conflict remain unchanged.Chapter 22
What can a country do if it is attacked? Is war the only option? Many will admit the senseless waste of war but argue that there is no choice but to fight back. Part of the answer to this quandary is that there are many ways to prevent an attack. One is to avoid being a threat. Military power and defenses are open invitations to attack. Formidable defenses such as the French Maginot Line are tempting challenges. Another way to prevent attack is to adopt a more integrated world view. Attempts to exploit a country eventually fail and often lead to war. The harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty planted the seeds of discontent that allowed Hitler to rise to power. We need to promote more interdependence and cooperation among nations rather than competition. A free flow of commerce, culture, visitors, and ideas can reduce the narrow nationalism that tends toward war. A country without military defenses can still resist domination by an aggressor. The concept of civilian-based defense has been developed by Gene Sharp.* He cites several cases where unarmed citizens succeeded in using non- cooperation to resist foreign domination. This is not the same as guerrilla warfare or partisan activity, which are underground forms of war and usually produce increased repression and reprisals. Non-violent resistance poses risks, but the mass casualties and physical destruction of military defense can be largely avoided since there is no need to bomb an unarmed country. This lack of military resistance does not mean victory for an aggressor. The will of people is stronger than any physical force; people determined to be free will never be enslaved. The path of non-violent action is not easy. Suffering and even sacrifice of our lives may be required. The difference between this price and that of military solutions is that we need not compromise our principles or numb our sensitivity to people. We can fully believe in our cause because the nobility of our means matches that of our goals. The power of non-violence is based on the humanity of people and not on the force of weapons. It appeals to oppressors to join their subjects as members of the family of humanity. *Gene Sharp, Social Power and Political Freedom, Porter Sargent PublisherChapter 23
The Last Pelican Gliding effortlessly Majestic motion without movement Wingtips almost touching the molten-jade sea Climbing silently with slow, powerful strokes Then the dive! Wings folded just before the splash. It gazed at me with sage face. Wisdom distilled from eons of survival. "Remember well what you have just seen; it will never be seen again. For I am the last-- you have destroyed all the others. Learn from our dying that all life is one-- we live or die together." The pelican unfurled its wings and flew out to merge with the timeless sea. Takashi Yogi
There are no easy solutions to the problem of conflict. Quick and simple solutions only aggravate the problem. It is time to give up our use of force without understanding, time to find more effective and lasting methods. Permanent solutions can be found only by changing our attitudes toward ourselves and others. The problem is not "bad" people, groups, and governments, but our attitude, which sees them as the problem and seeks to suppress or eliminate them. We do not have to wait for society and the world to change in order to achieve peace for ourselves. We can find inner peace immediately by accepting ourselves and others as part of an integrated world. This change in attitude will affect how we perceive the world's conflicts and how we deal with them. This will be the beginning of the slow process of healing the wounds of conflict. The healing will start with the individual and spread to family, friends, society, and nations. Part of my optimism for the viability of this attitude of acceptance is based on a faith in the basic humanity of all people. This humanity dies hard. It glimmers faintly even in hardened criminals, mass murderers, and torturers, waiting for acceptance. If my faith is unrealistic-- if people can become completely unfeeling robots-- then we would do best to resign ourselves to protecting ourselves from them with more locks, police, guns, bombs, and missiles. But we have already exhausted history trying this approach and have only increased our insecurity. It's time to try something else.
Where did I get all this? I'm not really sure. I gave up trying to separate my thoughts from those of others; they are hopelessly intertwined. The notion of an original thought is a fiction. We harvest on ancient soil cultivated by our countless predecessors. I owe perpetual debts to numerous authors, such as Dosteyevsky, Thoreau, Hugo, Steinbeck, Saroyan, and LeGuin; playwrights, such as Shakespeare and MacLeish; movies such as Kurosawa's Red Beard and Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy; and songwriters, such as Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen. I will admit that I did not research the field to see if these thoughts have been published; I will know eventually. I stole the core of my thesis, unconditional acceptance, from Christianity. It is a gem buried under a vast overgrowth of dogma, and most Christians would not recognize it. I welcome them to reclaim it. Other concepts, such as oneness and non-discrimination, came from Zen Buddhism. But what about love? Some may have noticed the absence of this word. I avoided using the word because it has a wide range of meanings for various readers. Many times I feel a sense of warm connection to other people that I'm inclined to label as love. But this feeling is personal and difficult to transmit through language. I think I have described what love is without using the word itself. Unconditional acceptance transcends mere attraction and pleasant feelings. It allows us to feel a connection with people who are outwardly repulsive and hateful. It allows us to overcome all the barriers that keep us apart. What I have described is a design for relations in an imperfect world. The principles of the design apply equally to individuals or nations. Acceptance provides continuity to carry us through lapses of enlightened behavior in ourselves or others. The design is flexible enough to accommodate differences in values. I have tested the design in my own life and have found that it works. It not only resolves conflict, but also prevents many conflicts. It worked where other approaches failed. I remain imperfect, but my life is no longer preoccupied with conflict. My hope is that others will continue the refinement and application of these ideas. I welcome your criticism and comments. The basic ideas are simple, but the implications are manifold, and there is much work to be done in translating the ideas into practical action. There are no quick and simple answers to the problem of conflict, but we can begin to lay the foundation for peace between individuals and nations. I wish to thank Marybeth Webster, Herbert Moore, Harriet Jacoff, Lea Wood, and my wife Carol for their valuable criticism and support. Takashi Yogi Box 525 Capitola, California 95010 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://members.cruzio.com/~yogi/ About the author: I was born in Okinawa in 1942 and narrowly survived the horrendous final battle of World War II that cost the lives of over 190,000 people. After the war my family emigrated to Hawaii. I studied physics and worked as an electronics engineer in California. When life in Los Angeles became oppressive, I went to live for a year in a small cabin without electricity and plumbing. Another year was spent studying music while living on about $15 a month. I had been struggling for over seven years to save a marriage that seemed hopeless. During a marital fight, I was hit by some tangerines, which shocked me into realizing that I could choose not to retaliate and that I could return love instead of hate. That was the start of this book, which is the product of six more years of search for a workable solution to conflict. Marital counseling helped somewhat, but I kept failing in spite of trying very hard to do the right things. During my search, I noticed that international disputes were similar to my personal turmoil, and I widened the scope of my quest. The result in not truth; all I can claim is that it works for me. I hope it is useful to you as you find your own path.
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