Refusing to Tolerate Passive Violence

Last week I read an interview of SGI President Ikeda published in an independent New Zealand news wire called Scoop. The article, titled “Peace On Earth: An Interview with Daisaku Ikeda,” takes the form of five questions and the answers to these questions as written by Daisaku Ikeda. I was especially interested in Question Two: Passive Violence, as I believe it relates to our society here in the U.S.. Scoop co-founder and interviewer Alastair Thompson, poses the following question to Mr. Ikeda: What is the role of individuals in eliminating passive violence? President Ikeda goes on to describe the “Pyramid of Hate” created by the Anti-Defamation League. The Pyramid of Hate shows biased behaviors, growing in complexity from the bottom to the top. At the bottom is 1) bias; 2) individual acts of prejudice; 3) discrimination; 4) bias-motivated violence; 5) genocide. The point is that when the kinds of behaviors on the lower level(s) of the pyramid are treated as acceptable, societal conditions can escalate until it reaches genocide. This is meant to demonstrate that broad social divides and conflicts do not happen overnight – they take years to build up.

The other important point that President Ikeda makes in this section is the idea that it is important for us as members of a democratic society not to tolerate even behaviors on the lowest levels, such as bias, prejudice and discrimination. This is part of the belief that if we tolerate this type of “passive violence,” then it is no better than if we behave that way ourselves. In other words, as founding Soka Gakkai President Makiguchi states:

The root malady of contemporary society lies in not distinguishing failure to do good with doing good, viewing the former as somehow different from doing evil and acceptable as long as one does not violate any law. This is why egotism and hypocrisy are running rampant.

– “The Complete Works of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi”, V 10 p 29

violence, nonviolence, buddhism, passive violence

This makes me think of our current politicians who have managed to accomplish very little during the past several years, yet receive their salaries nonetheless. I’ve heard and read about many Congressmen and Congresswomen who seem to share extraordinarily hypocritical views, particularly with regard to women, minorities and the LGBT community. This is a very specific example of “passive violence.” Congress certainly isn’t breaking any laws (at least not that I’m aware of), yet when we look at the lower levels of the Pyramid of Hate, especially the bottom three, I can find incidents of biased, prejudicial and discriminatory behavior in many members of both the House and the Senate, in addition to the institutionalized racism and discrimination that is part of our society.

We live in a democracy (although it seems to more closely resemble a plutocracy), and I expect more from the U.S. Congress. While they may not be criminal activities, hypocrisy, discrimination and dishonesty make me angry. I hope we can improve our society and our politicians by refusing to tolerate passive violence.


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