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Men’s Violence

Men’s Violence

by Steve Self

If you want peace on earth, begin in your own country.
If you want peace in your country, begin in your community.
If you want peace in your community, begin in your family.
If you want peace in your family, begin with yourself.
If you want to be peaceful, begin with your own heart.
– loosely from Confucius.

As the author of the stunning article Hate Crimes: A Rape Every Minute, a Thousand Corpses Every Year points out, much of the violence men commit on women arises out of control and authority issues. Men are trained by other men and by our culture to attempt and expect control.  We respect and admire those who demonstrate superior control over themselves, over life,  and over others.  The lone cowboy, the tough warrior, the stoic monk, the winning athlete, the powerful entrepreneur, the dominant financier; all these icons reinforce the fantasy of masterful control. And these days, “leadership” can occur as a buzzword within which the false hopes of control and manipulation continue.

Yet when we look honestly, we see we actually have no control.  Sometimes things occur in a manner which suggests effective control, but if we look deeper or take a wider view, we see this is no longer the case. Our perception of successful control is more projection and distortion. When events go awry, we react with frustration and often take this out on our partners, the women ( or men) who are often there to see the failure of control and reflect it back to us.  And we really, really do not want to see this.  The issue is not the failure, this is inevitable, it is the hidden, assumed, inherited and unexamined expectation of control. This is often an essential component of our identity and value as men, and it is a set up for frustration.  Plus, we usually lack the social and inner know-how, capacity, and willingness for experiencing our reaction to failed control, and for how to experience the realization of no control.

The issue of control, the expectation of control, the admiration of control, is central to traditional maleness.

When we look into our own heart, are we willing to meet the arising experience without trying to control it? Without trying to make it better, deeper, more profound, less painful, less unknown? Can we let go of analyzing, categorizing, contextualizing, and comparing? Violence begins with this fighting-mind in our most intimate heart. Here we begin our practice by opening awareness to the way it is.  We embrace our inner fighting as it arises, changes, dwindles and arises again. We become familiar with the ways we attempt control.  And we fail. Again and again our attention collapses and we notice we are thinking and manipulating, or perhaps just feeling dull and separate.  Then, without reprimand, we return to our breathing and open newly to whatever is moving in our bodymind awareness.

If we cannot stay with the inner violence of these conditioned attempts to control, if we cannot address and receive these reactions without enacting or suppressing them, we stand little chance of being nonviolent in relationships and in life.  Sure we might not rape or kill someone, but are we killing other’s views and manipulating their experiences, just like we fight with our own?  And our responses to the staggering weight of violence done by men to women, will just be more violence in our attempts to fix and control or mess with the experiences brought up by the linked article.

So we practice. And practice. And practice. Through this practice we begin to generate real courage, not based on stoic control, but based on our increasing capacity to open to and embrace whatever is arising. We practice facing our avoiding. We breathe with the fighting and fixing. We see the manipulating. We intimately experience the whole roiling mess.

We learn to meet violence without adding more violence, no matter how subtle.  This is a mindbody capacity, not just a conceptual philosophy to remember. Our actions arise from our growing clarity and capacity to be with violence. We become an example of how to move into and with the violence within and all around us, and from our direct experience of nonseparation in the midst of violence, we can find openings for peace in each moment.

Part of our practice is getting how it is: “Hate Crimes: A Rape Every Minute, a Thousand Corpses Every Year” (by Rebecca Solnit).

May your practice go well.

Steve lives in Durango, Colorado in the southern Rocky Mountains and does web design for a number of unusual clients. He teaches and trains in aikido and ki development at Durango Shin-Budo Kai Aikido (durangoaikido.com) where he is a 3rd degree black-belt. He is committed to sharing the power and joy of mind-body unification in health and well-being, relationships and conflict, business, and living.

Comments (2)

  • Jonathan Poppele

    Thank you for your thoughts on this, Steve. You offer us an excellent reminder that the true path to peace is found in the principle of non-dissension–opening to everything, including the violence we would seek to control.

    @jonathanpoppele

  • Jay Garces

    So Steve, looking at violence on the outside, and being a Buddhist martial artist, what would you have done on the bus when that Indian lady was raped and killed? See, I just can’t get with the whole “no violence no matter what” philosophy. I’m no 3rd degree black belt but I would have tried to resist these assaults, even if it meant applying a little hurt to the rapists. Total pacifism may be cool when you and your people aren’t the ones being violated. Openings for peace happen when violence is no longer an option.

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