NONVIOLENCE AND PRIVILEGE

Last remaining color in garden

“You are an entitled dog!”

“What do you mean, I’m entitled? I hate that word.”

“You are an entitled dog, Aussie. You do whatever you want when we go on walks, you run after deer, I call you, you don’t listen to me so I have to go looking for you. You just do your thing!”

“Of course, I do my thing—not because I’m entitled but because I’m FREE. This is a free country and I’m a free dog.”

“No, you are an entitled dog. The rules of the game don’t seem to pertain to you.”

“That’s because I’m free. Free to be me. Free to let go of all your rules and behaviors.”

“That’s not what freedom means, Aussie. It doesn’t mean being ignorant or letting go of everything you’ve ever learned, as if you’re living on an island instead of with people. You know, Aussie, after Bernie died, some people referred to him as the freest man they ever met.”

“Because he did whatever he wanted?”

“No. Whatever he chose to do, he always worked inside a framework of rules and regulations, he couldn’t have achieved anything otherwise. What they meant, I believe, is that at any moment he could let go of conditioning, bear witness, and respond in some unexpected way. It’s what often made him funny because he surprised you. But he didn’t run away or not face the consequences of his decisions. There are consequences to what you do, Auss.”

“Like what?”

“Like that I have a bad cold from walking you yesterday afternoon. It was very windy and cold, you ran away, I waited a while till you came back while the freezing gusts went right through me, and a few hours later I got sick. Didn’t get up from bed today till 4, and then only to feed you.”

“An excellent reason to get out of bed. But you didn’t walk me!”

“Because I’m sick, Auss. You reaped the consequences of your actions. Freedom doesn’t mean we’re free of consequences. For instance, it’s hunting season. You could get shot when you chase deer.”

“I’m wearing my orange vest. Besides, I’m into nonviolence, I’m a pacifist dog. Don’t kill deer, just like to chase them.”

“Many people nowadays say they’re into nonviolence, Aussie, like it’s the thing to do. But Gandhi and his followers went through strict training in order to engage nonviolently. So did King and his people. Nonviolence doesn’t mean disengagement or just commenting on social media, it means taking specific actions addressing the situation that don’t cause physical harm to others. That’s not easy to do.”

“But you’re a Buddhist, of course you’re into nonviolence.”

“Not this Buddhist. Some 20 years ago I was walking with a dog—”

“Me?”

“You weren’t even born then. No, it was a neighbor’s dog, and suddenly a big German Shepherd ran down the hill and attacked the dog that was with me. She was very sweet and gentle, and now she was yelping in pain. I was sure he would kill her and without thinking I grabbed whatever lay nearby—it was some dried corn stalk—and hit him on his back with it.”

“You hit the dog?”

“Aussie, it wasn’t even a stick, it was a stalk that you’d barely feel on your furry back, but it caused him to back off and return home. But it could have been a heavy stick that might have hurt him, I acted quickly and automatically to save her, and I could have hurt him, too. That’s how I realized that I’m not trained to act nonviolently. That takes discipline, which I didn’t have then and don’t have now, either.”

“You hit the dog? You’re a brute! You’re savage! You’re a killer.”

“I didn’t kill anyone, Aussie.”

“You could have. You could have.”

“Maybe, I’ll never know. But I got some insight into how I behave when push comes to shove, when I feel my back against the wall or someone I care about is in big trouble, and nonviolence isn’t it.”

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