It is time for the movement’s contribution to world peace to be recognized and, at the same time, for justice to be restored.
by Marco Respinti*
*A paper presented at the webinar “Living Together in Peace with Tai Ji Men,” co-organized by CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers on May 16, 2022, United Nations International Day of Living Together in Peace.
An article already published in Bitter Winter on May 27th, 2022.
One of my mentors, the late Italian Catholic social thinker Giovanni Cantoni (1938-2020), founder of the group Alleanza Cattolica (Catholic Alliance) and a master in witticism, used to say, “I am just an introduction.” Fond of chronologies, timelines, maps, bibliographies, and footnotes, what he meant was that “well begun is half done.” If in writing or speaking you properly introduce your topic, set limits and boundaries, and define your object, the main task is already accomplished. It can be considered a version of the Latin locution “rem tene, verba sequentur,” “define your subject matter, words will follow,” which, in the 4th century BCE, Roman rhetorician Gaius Julius Victor, in his “Ars rhetorica,” attributed to the great Marcus Porcius Cato (234–149 BCE), aptly known as Cato the Censor, Cato the Elder and, above all, Cato the Wise. Cato’s words were even defined “praeceptum paene divinum,” an “almost divine command.”
As I try to imitate the wisdom of the wise without belonging to their lot, I wish today to be an introduction myself—an introduction to the concept of peace. I am in fact convinced that, if we define the subject matter correctly, the right words will follow fluently.
Our subject matter is peace—but what is peace? Peace is the most desirable of all human conditions. It is a promise of Paradise. When all human worries and griefs will be over, we will participate in the fullness of being with no unrest, anxiety, or disturbance. For believers, this is our ultimate goal. It is also part of our nature. Peace is our fate because peace is our origin. Our human nature is made out of peace, and peace is what we are made for. All troubles are in fact caused by the disruption of our original condition, which is both our origin and our destiny.
Peace is then quite a serious thing—something that may be cast in doubt today, if we consider how this precious word is too often misused.
Peace is the opposite of war, in a broader sense, but it is not just the absence of war. History is full of societies where no war was fought, and that yet were totally unpacific at the same time, even wretched and ravaged. Recent examples are Nazi Germany before 1939: no war, but no peace either; Soviet Union after World War II, no war (at least within its boundaries), but no peace ever; Mainland China today: no war, but no real peace.
Only deeply peaceful men and women can build a truly pacific society, one that would be able to resist and last. This concept may seem obvious, but it is frequently misunderstood. Misunderstandings happen when some think that to achieve peace it is enough to stop war. It is not so—unfortunately, because peace would be, if not easier to achieve, at least easier to understand.
Table of Contents
Movies and Lunches
Peace is in fact a spiritual condition, which may serve as the foundation of a virtuous society. For the believer, it is also a gift from God. To be enjoyed, it should be desired, searched for, and requested.
Yes, first peace should be dreamt of, hoped, and wanted. Secondly, it should be cultivated, nurtured, and fed. Thirdly, it should be taught, and communicated, and passed on, even by pedagogical osmosis. What I mean is that we should educate ourselves and others, starting with our own children, to be peaceful people. Now, to be peaceful people means to be God-fearing, law-abiding, family-dedicated, hard-working, and life-enjoying. They should seek fulfillment of their own individuality and at the same time regard themselves as part of an organic community.
Peace is not granted, and we should never take it for granted. Peace needs to be defended. If you forgive, one more time, my passion for the good movies of the old days, let me recommend the great 1953 John Ford (1894–1973) movie “The Quiet Man,” starring John Wayne (1907–1979). The main character is an Irishman called Sean Thornton, who would like to live a good life but is compelled to go through rough and difficult times. This is a necessary passage to reach the peace he aspires to. It sometimes happens. When a revolution disrupts the order, a counter-revolutionary action is necessary to restore peace.
Again, there are plenty of historical tales, but nothing shows it better than the present situation in Ukraine. Peace is not just the absence of war, because for Ukrainians a “Russian peace” means only deprivation of liberty, violence, and death. Ukrainian patriots have to fight a defensive war of resistance to reinstate and preserve peace.
Here we reach a key point. I would like to use again a quote by Augustine of Hippo (354–430) which I have mentioned before in our Tai Ji Men webinars. “The peace of all things is the tranquility of order. Order is the distribution which allots things equal and unequal, each to its own place (“De Civitate Dei,” 19, 13, in Philip Schaff [1819–1893] et alii eds., “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I, Volume II,” 1885: T&T Clark, Edinburgh, transl. Rev. Marcus Dodds [1834–1909]). Let’s repeat it once more: true peace is full justice.
An early, first conclusion of this “introduction to peace” of mine can be now drawn adapting two famous American sayings. The first is a popular aphorism, probably circulating since the 1930s, going like this: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” It reminds us that everything has its price, and nothing is done for nothing. Peace also has its price, and that is dedication, stubbornness, respect, a clear mind, a genuine spirit, the purity of the heart and self-sacrifice. The second has been attributed to President Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), but also to a variety of other famous authors. While the father of this quote remains uncertain, as well as its exact syntax, its message is self-evident: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Since liberty is the pre-condition of peace, let’s then repeat that, as Sean Thornton and Ukrainian freedom-fighters teach us, the price of peace is eternal vigilance.
“War in absence of war” used against Tai Ji Men
The title of today’s webinar is “Living Together in Peace with Tai Ji Men.” My two-cents reminder of the true nature of peace hoped to illustrate it. The response of Tai Ji Men dizi to more than 25 years of blatant persecution and slander by such a powerful adversary as a government, or some of its corrupt branches and officials hiding behind the magnitude and might of an entire state, has been an equally long pacific resilience, endurance, patience; in one word, peace as an answer to a senseless war.
What have in fact Tai Ji Men dizi done for more than a quarter of a century in front of injustice and violence? Every single day for more than 25 years they walked without fear in the face of evil. They touched many lives, and made them better. They answered evil with good. Tai Ji Men preached and lived the peace of the heart, and taught it to everybody, inside and outside their fold, resisting opposition and slander.
They did not pretend to be able to bring heaven on earth, but in their own way announced a Paradise, as they announced peace as the most desirable of all human and social conditions. They devoted their own time, work, and money to this noble project. The Federation of World Peace and Love, established by Tai Ji Men’s shifu, Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, testifies this, beginning from its very name.
Tai Ji Men had and has also to bear and endure the false peace of a mere absence of war. Using the power of taxes, which is a system theoretically devised to help and support citizens, some corrupt branches and officials of the Taiwanese government declared a “war in absence of war” against Tai Ji Men, which caused them pain and suffering and loss of peace, while the persecutors smiled and even laughed.
But when the prosecutor arrested Tai Ji Men’s shifu, shimu, and dizi, used violence and brutality against them, and the Taxation Bureau seized their property and sacred land, a real war was declared against Tai Ji Men. And Tai Ji Men resisted and reacted without shooting a shot, without beating anyone, without any assault or act of terrorism, in brief without not the slightest instance of violence. They resisted, but peacefully.
They knew the essence of the Sean Thornton story, even if they had not seen the movie “The Quiet Man,” they knew and know that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” and that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” So, they resisted injustice as best as they could, challenging rogue bureaucrats in courts of law, demonstrating in the streets, and calling for international attention on their case. They did all this peacefully, because peace as the spiritual pre-condition of every good thing is a tenet deeply rooted in the Tai Ji Men’s creed.
A true story
I love stories, and here is yet another one.
There was a Swedish entrepreneur, whose brother died in 1888 in Cannes, France. A French journal got it all wrong, and published an obituary of the entrepreneur, thinking him dead instead of his brother. The words in the obituary were as harsh as they could ever be. The man was called a “merchant of death,” who “became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.” The Swedish entrepreneur was so impressed that he started worrying about his legacy. So, in his last will he decided to assign some his money to the public recognition of peace in the world. You have already guessed whom I am referring to. The Swedish entrepreneur was Alfred Nobel (1833–1896). He had invented the lethal dynamite; and he established the Nobel Peace Prize. As the Smithsonian Magazine put it, sometimes sloppy journalism is the source of good.
In early February 2022, two of the most important groups of the Uyghur diaspora were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their tireless work, done through personal suffering. They are the Uyghur Human Rights Project and Campaign for Uyghurs (good friends of mine, if I may add).
Nobel Prizes are awarded each year. There is enough space and time both for our Uyghur friends and for Tai Ji Men. I now appeal to all who cherish and treasure religious freedom and liberty, justice and peace, καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός, kalòs kai agathòs, or “the beautiful,” “the good” and “the virtuous” of Classical Greece all in one, as well as friendship and charity, considering all these as the best gifts that one can give others in life. Let us nominate Tai Ji Men for the Nobel Peace Prize. Let us appeal to parliamentarians and academics, for only them, as rules require, can nominate Tai Ji Men for the Nobel Peace Prize. And let us also call the Taiwanese government to openly support the candidacy of these Taiwanese patriots who never did any harm. By supporting this proposal, the government will clearly demonstrate that the suffering that some of its corrupt branches and officials caused and cause to Tai Ji Men is only a sad mistake.