Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

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Liberian Women Demand and Get Peace!

October 30, 2009

by Judith Hand

Liberian Women Rock!

Liberian Women Seek Peace 3

Liberian Women's Peace Movement

Are you a skeptic, quite sure it would be impossible to abolish war?  Maybe you think there is no way for a nonviolent strategy to succeed in changing how we live for the better if it means ending war.

Skeptics tend to feel nonviolence can’t work for a variety of reasons. In a great many cases it’s because they’re unaware of successful applications. The media do not place much emphasis on nonviolent successes. A remarkable contemporary example comes out of Liberia, a small country in West Africa.

Liberia isn’t a “natural” African nation. It was formed when freed slaves from America returned to Africa at the end of the U.S. civil war. This movement didn’t last very long, but it resulted in a country with a constitution, a democracy, and a name.

Things did not go well.  Over time, Liberia degenerated into a tyrannical dictatorship, most recently under the presidency of Charles Taylor. In 1999, a “second civil war” broke out. This set off the barbaric use of rape, mutilation, and murder, something seen elsewhere in Africa as well. Some studies indicate that 90% of Liberian girls and women would experience rape in the lifetime.

After eight years of this mayhem, social activist Leymah Gbowee had a dream one night and when she awoke, she decided to call the women of her church together to pray for the end of the war.

Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee

By the end of the meeting the women had pretty much decided that something more than prayer was necessary. They decided to begin a campaign, a nonviolent campaign, in which they would seek to have an audience with Taylor, to convince him to join in peace negotiations. They would wear white T-shirts and turbans, they would stake out the road along which his caravan drove each day, and they would stake out the market. They would not give up until Taylor conceded to see them.

Then a woman stood up to say that, the fact was, she wasn’t a Christian. She was a Muslim, and she knew a lot of Muslim women who felt exactly the same way. Women of the two faiths joined together and began their “action.”

Pray Devil Back to HellIt was said of Charles Taylor, who put on a great show of piety,  that he was so evil that he could “pray the devil out of hell.” An inspiring film entitled “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” documents how things worked out, including how the women of Liberia held their men hostage until a peace agreement was signed. But that’s not the end of the story. When it came time for the next election, the women of Liberia helped elect Harvard Educated Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the first elected women head of state on the African continent.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

At this time (2009), Johnson-Sirleaf and Liberia’s men and women struggle to build on this wonderful transformation in a land that is bitterly poor and crippled with a debilitating history of strife. But clearly, a determined and savvy application of nonviolence could cut through a nasty, brutal, violent civil war even in this day and age.

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Nonviolent Techniques Are Now Poised to Transform History

October 21, 2009

If the nonviolent techniques described by Henry David Thoreau and perfected by Mohandas Gandhi could change the world, why haven’t they already done so?

Hope or Terror - by Michael Nagler

Hope or Terror - by Michael Nagler

Gandhi taught that if we want to create a future that is nonviolent at all levels…in our homes, communities, and internationally…we have to “be the change we want to see.”  Well, the logical outgrowth of that premise is that to achieve a massive cutural and social transformation to a future in which humans at last live up to their great potential to live nonviolently and humanely, we’ll have to use nonviolent means.

But history seems to suggest that they don’t work. Certainly not on a large scale.  Sure a skirmish is won nonviolently here and there.  Women in the U.S. get the vote.  Racial segregation is ended in the southern U.S.  But our warring and violent cultures seem pretty much stuck on mayhem. One step forward and two steps back, right?

“To Date, Nonviolence Movements Were Before Their Time. Now They Are Poised to Change History.”  This essay by Judith L. Hand is devoted to the subject of nonviolent movements for social transformation … why they have so far failed to transform the world … and why they are poised to do so now.

Alice Paul

Alice Paul

 We learn a bit about:

  • nonviolence pioneers like the suffragist Alice Paul, Mohandas Ghandhi himself, and the extraordinary Muslim, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, often called Badshah Khan.
  • successful nonviolent actions around the globe, noteworthy since most folks are unaware of just how very many there have been.
  • how and why human nature has so far defeated the very best human attempts to end the extraordinarily bad habit of war, something most likely caused by putting hunter-gatherer males into a brand new environment, viz. settled living
  • how a series of major historical changes, from the Reformation to the invention of the Internet has brought us to a unique window in time during which we could at last transform our violent cultures, if we choose to do the work and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve succees.
  • how we have in front of us a vista of great hope.

    Gandhi and Khan

    Gandhi and Khan

Having offered hope, however, the essay provides a warning, warning_signintroduced as follows:

“With all of this positive promise going for us, the very worst thing we can be is complacent, so buoyed by the positive that we overlook the negative, and thereby ultimately loose the struggle. Nonviolence is a powerful positive force. Equally powerful negative forces arrayed against us never sleep. They don’t take time out for vacations. They certainly don’t take time out to smell the roses. Principle among these I would list the spreading sickness of terrorism, the persistence of ignorance, the ease of sloth or indifference, the potential social and cultural breakdown as negative consequences of global climate change assail us, and the extraordinarily motivating force and deeply entrenched culture of violence and greed. We are in a race, a terrible race, and the stakes could not be higher.”

Treat yourself, educate yourself, with this interesting, informative, and hope-filled essay.

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Budgeting and War

October 18, 2009

Abolishing war is a massively complex project: the simple designation – Shift Our Economies – covers and lot of ground. In fact, each of the AFWW 9 cornerstones does so. This newsletter zeros in on one of many critical things that must be on our economics “to do” list: budgeting and spending, using the United States as an example. The principles apply, however, to the budgets of all nations, and even the budgets of our individual lives.

Government Spending

Government Spending

The above pie chart lays out the U.S. Budget – discretionary and non-discretionary – for 2009. The segments from the dark blue at the top right going around clockwise to the peacock blue at the bottom left are nondiscretionary spending (social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment/welfare/other, and servicing national debt). These are allocated by law and the spending on them is not optional.

The remaining pie slices are discretionary spending – other things considered sufficiently important to allocate tax money to them.  It is in discretionary spending especially that we learn what our priorities are.

U.S. Discretionary Spending

 

U.S. Discretionary Spending

U.S. Discretionary Spending

What the U.S. spends on war—creating new weapons, producing them, waging wars, caring for the damaged lives of warriors afterwards—is the U.S. military budget, in red and call “Pentagon.”  It is the budget of the Defense Department (or perhaps more correctly called by its original name, the War Department).

The X stands for “emergency” war funding and other “black” projects that are not officially in the Defense budget.

What is spent on preventing wars—foreign aid, diplomacy, education, spreading democracy, nurturing ties with allies—is found in the green sliver at the bottom left and called “International Relations.” It’s the budget of the State Department. It’s the amount the people apparently feel is worth putting into avoiding wars.

Note that the small white wedge to its left is what budgeters feel it’s worth spending to end one of the big causes of war, hunger.

Any person who looks at this allocation and who knows that what you spend your money and time on is what you really care about and who knows that you cannot create a peaceful future by military means immediately knows at gut level that these proportions are totally out of whack if not insane.  They are not rational.  They are way more likely to lead to more wars. Sane people do not want wars—unless they stand to benefit greatly.

The problem is proportion, not eliminating the country’s Defense Department. Our strategy must include living in the world as it is now as we work toward positive transformation. The democracies must remain strong and orderly in a world where opponents want to destroy them. One of AFWW’s cornerstones, for this reason, is called “Provide Security and Order.”

Realistically, the world needs, and into the foreseeable future will need, armed peacekeeping and peacemaking forces. It would be better if this was done by a well-funded international body, but the United Nations so far doesn’t’ adequately fill that task. It often falls to the United States, perhaps with allies, to provide serious peacekeeping services, and these are part of the “defense” budget.

For example, U.S. military ships across the globe are critical to suppress rates of piracy….an increasing problem. Another example: many nations keep their military budgets low and can focus on other priorities (we’d like to think, worthy ones) because they have a defense treaty with the U.S.…they count on America to assist if they are invaded. This has even allowed some to voluntarily take advantage of unilateral demilitarization, most notably Costa Rica.  There is no question that someone has to pay for peacekeeping, and some of what the U.S. spends serves that worthy goal.

To repeat, the question is proportion. The current U.S. budget woefully lacks foresight or any evidence of a serious intent to prevent war. Which means, we need to be asking the question, “Just exactly who benefits greatly from the making of war.”  We need to “follow the money”—the money trail and the desire for power.

And we need to be honest and hard-nosed as we search. To abolish war, we must first understand its true causes.  A major stumbling block, or barrier, in the search for what is true, is our strong human proclivity for either mass shared fantasy or mass self-delusion. The possibilities for its expression for either good or ill cannot be overstated. One delusion shared by many is that by making war it is possible to secure and maintain peace.

Unless we take special care, we can be easily flimflammed. War supporters use the media to distract our attention to superficial or even made-up causes—trunks and leaves—so that we don’t see the sustaining roots: a lust for power, dominance, and control over other people, usually by controlling vital or desirable resources. In warring societies, that drive characterizes a small minority, nearly always men, who are willing to kill to achieve dominant status and are able to convince others to support their agenda. They are the generators of war, a tail that has been wagging the dog for millennia.

It’s time for the people, who in the end do the suffering, to spot these war mongers among us early on, and immediately deny them access to the tools of war. Once the blinders are off, it’s surprisingly easy to recognize them: they are anyone who in essence says, “In order to ‘solve this problem/keep us secure/protect liberty/give us access to the resources we desperately need to survive/spread the light of our religion/et cetera’ we must go kill those other people.” Not talk to them, or negotiate with them, or share the world’s natural wealth with them, or allow them to live as they see fit so long as it is in peace—no, we must kill them.

Our budget priorities reflect our intention.

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GORT, Climate Change, Abolishing War

October 15, 2009

It’s strange but true that most things are not all good or all bad. We humans can take lemons and make lemon meringue pie.  Here’s the story that goes with the picture below.  In the classic film “The Day the

GORT and Klatu

GORT and Klatu

Earth Stood Still,” Michael Rene played a spaceman who comes to earth, accompanied by a robot he calls GORT.  

     We learn as we watch that GORT has enormous, ominous powers. The spaceman’s task is to deliver the message that the other inhabited worlds that are space voyagers have conquered war (if they ever had it), and they do not tolerate the existence of any planet capable of spaceflight that will not renounce war.

     And the stunner at the film’s end is when the space messenger explains that he will leave, but he will leave GORT behind – that GORT is a kind of galactic policeman, and if the earth does not end the practice of war, GORT will eliminate the planet. Given what the spaceman has already demonstrated that GORT can do, the threat is frighteningly believable.  It’s a powerful message.

     If a viewer is a positive thinker, he or she leaves the theater feeling that at long, long last, humanity will grow up and end war. The point here, however, is that it takes this threat from without to make us behave, to make us pull together.

    On good days, when I’m looking for any possible positive spin on Climate Change, I’m praying that the onrushing environmental disasters we face may serve as our GORT and force us to pull together.  North, East, South, and West. Because we will pull together or civilization as we’ve known it could very well collapse.  The last Polar BearCollapse has happened to other societies who doubtless thought they would last forever, and sometimes for the same reason although on a smaller scale…their activities eventually altered their resource base so extensively that they perished.

    Many organizations are working to avert the collapse of our global social order as we face the oncoming tragedies which, regrettably, it is already too late for us to avoid. Nobel Prize winner Al Gore works tirelessly to enlighten and spread the word. There is the Clinton Climate Change Project, and 350.org, and others. Just Google “climate change.” In fact, here we are today, on International Blog Action Day (www.blogactionday.org) highlighting this enormous challenge.

     The raison d’être of A Future Without War (www.afww.org) is to explain, using the perspective of evolutionary biology, why we make war and what will be required of us once we commit to abolishing it. Such a massive paradigm shift, arguably as huge as the Agricultural Revolution, will require what can perhaps best be described as massively distributed collaboration by millions of people and organizations. Even if everyone were to agree that the cause of ending war is worthy, long overdue, and the only sane way for us to proceed into the future, how can we possibly unite so many?

AFWW Logo - 9 Cornerstones

AFWW Logo - 9 Cornerstones

     This is the greatest challenge for AFWW: to convince masses of us that abolishing war is possible, that it’s worth the effort it will take, and then unite us into concerted and focused action.  

     So is there any possible reason to hope that anything could convince millions to unite to end war?  The resources we spend on wars of all sizes—on research for new weapons, on designing and manufacturing weapons, on purchasing weapons, on the waging of wars and the incredible expense of clean up afterward—all of it is frankly grotesque.  As a means of resolving conflicts, war is ineffective and obsolete. 

     It is also dangerously counterproductive to cultural survival. We urgently need those resources, financial and intellectual, focused laser-like on efforts to fend off already visible and ever worsening effects of climate change. Ending war is good business (for all but munitions manufacturers and the war industry). It’s great humanity. Using the resources we now waste on war to fight the worse effects of climate change may in fact make ending war essential to the survival of quality of life for others than just the elite few who will, when all around us collapses, retreat to luxury, defended enclaves.

     So….A Future Without War is hoping that perhaps Global Climate Change may be our GORT.

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Budgeting and War

July 15, 2009

Abolishing war is a massively complex project: the simple designation – Shift Our Economies – covers and lot of ground. In fact, each of the AFWW 9 cornerstones does so.

This newsletter zeros in on one of many critical things that must be on our economics “to do” list: budgeting and spending, using the United States as an example. The principles apply, however, to the budgets of all nations, and even the budgets of our individual lives.

Spending

Spending

The above pie chart lays out the U.S. Budget – discretionary and non-discretionary – for 2009. The segments from the dark blue at the top right going around clockwise to the peacock blue at the bottom left are nondiscretionary spending (social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment/welfare/other, and servicing national debt). These are allocated by law and the spending on them is not optional.

The remaining pie slices are discretionary spending – other things considered sufficiently important to allocate tax money to them.  It is in discretionary spending especially that we learn what our priorities are.

Discretionary Spending

Discretionary Spending

What the U.S. spends on war—creating new weapons, producing them, waging wars, caring for the damaged lives of warriors afterwards—is the U.S. military budget, in red and call “Pentagon.”  It is the budget of the Defense Department (or perhaps more correctly called by its original name, the War Department).

The X stands for “emergency” war funding and other “black” projects that are not officially in the Defense budget.

What is spent on preventing wars—foreign aid, diplomacy, education, spreading democracy, nurturing ties with allies—is found in the green sliver at the bottom left and called “International Relations.” It’s the budget of the State Department. It’s the amount the people apparently feel is worth putting into avoiding wars.

Note that the small white wedge to its left is what budgeters feel it’s worth spending to end one of the big causes of war, hunger.

Any person who looks at this allocation and who knows that what you spend your money and time on is what you really care about and who knows that you cannot create a peaceful future by military means immediately knows at gut level that these proportions are totally out of whack if not insane.  They are not rational.  They are way more likely to lead to more wars. Sane people do not want wars—unless they stand to benefit greatly.

The problem is proportion, not eliminating the country’s Defense Department. Our strategy must include living in the world as it is now as we work toward positive transformation. The democracies must remain strong and orderly in a world where opponents want to destroy them. One of AFWW’s cornerstones, for this reason, is called “Provide Security and Order.”

Realistically, the world needs, and into the foreseeable future will need, armed peacekeeping and peacemaking forces. It would be better if this was done by a well-funded international body, but the United Nations so far doesn’t adequately fill that task. It often falls to the United States, perhaps with allies, to provide serious peacekeeping services, and these are part of the “defense” budget.

For example, U.S. military ships across the globe are critical to suppress rates of piracy … an increasing problem. Another example: many nations keep their military budgets low and can focus on other priorities (we’d like to think, worthy ones) because they have a defense treaty with the U.S. … they count on America to assist if they are invaded. This has even allowed some to voluntarily take advantage of unilateral demilitarization, most notably Costa Rica.  There is no question that someone has to pay for peacekeeping, and some of what the U.S. spends serves that worthy goal.

To repeat, the question is proportion. The current U.S. budget woefully lacks foresight or any evidence of a serious intent to prevent war. Which means, we need to be asking the question, “Just exactly who benefits greatly from the making of war.”  We need to “follow the money”—the money trail and the desire for power.

And we need to be honest and hard-nosed as we search. To abolish war, we must first understand its true causes.  A major stumbling block, or barrier, in the search for what is true, is our strong human proclivity for either mass shared fantasy or mass self-delusion. The possibilities for its expression for either good or ill cannot be overstated. One delusion shared by many is that by making war it is possible to secure and maintain peace.

Unless we take special care, we can be easily flimflammed. War supporters use the media to distract our attention to superficial or even made-up causes—trunks and leaves—so that we don’t see the sustaining roots: a lust for power, dominance, and control over other people, usually by controlling vital or desirable resources. In warring societies, that drive characterizes a small minority, nearly always men, who are willing to kill to achieve dominant status and are able to convince others to support their agenda. They are the generators of war, a tail that has been wagging the dog for millennia.

It’s time for the people, who in the end do the suffering, to spot these war mongers among us early on, and immediately deny them access to the tools of war. Once the blinders are off, it’s surprisingly easy to recognize them: they are anyone who in essence says, “In order to ‘solve this problem/keep us secure/protect liberty/give us access to the resources we desperately need to survive/spread the light of our religion/et cetera’ we must go kill those other people.” Not talk to them, or negotiate with them, or share the world’s natural wealth with them, or allow them to live as they see fit so long as it is in peace—no, we must kill them.

Our budget priorities reflect our intention.

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War is a Racket

July 15, 2009

“How is it possible,” Tolstoy asked, “For people endowed with reason and conscience to be deceived by argument so manifestly irrational and directed by the self-interest of the privileged few?”

War is a Racket

War is a Racket

In 1935, a U.S. Marine Corps Major General, Smedley Butler, wrote a fascinating book that really hasn’t been bested, although time and circumstance are catching up to some of it. Butler certainly knew his subject. He was awarded two Medals of Honor and at the time of his death, in 1940, he was the most decorated Marine in history. He was one of the first to describe the working of the military-industrial complex about which U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower would later offer a warning.

Butler’s book title: War is a Racket.  Here is a quote from it:

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious … It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

Find the full text here: http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

Some other relevant words of wisdom have come down to us from our even deeper past:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 6:21

From a contemporary perspective, this admonition speaks to the power of the subconscious mind. If we consciously and rationally apportion our resources to reasonable defense and equally to a concerted effort to put an end to wars, the very act of putting our money to that desirable end will affect us so as to keep our hearts, and our efforts, focused on an ending-war goal. We need to reassess our spending priorities, shift our entire economies if you will, so that our primary focus is kept on abolishing this obscenity, not planning for new ways to fight and kill.

Albert Einstein is said to have defined insanity as “doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”  This typically evokes a chuckle. But it also rings true. We cannot continue to devote the greatest bulk of our discretionary national wealth, in amounts grossly out of proportion to what we spend on the projects designed to avoid wars and resolve conflicts nonviolently, and expect to get a different result. The military budgets of too many countries are grotesque in their waste on buying war weapons and maintaining standing armies (for an example, using the U.S. budget for 2008, see Budgeting and War) . It’s time for the veil to be lifted from the face of our budgets, time for us to realize that continuing on this path is a form of mass delusion.

Unfortunately, the unholy duo of money outlined by Major General Butler has in our time has become an unholy trio: the military-industrial-corporate complex.

“No sane person seeks a world divided between billions of excluded people living in absolute deprivation and a tiny elite guarding their wealth and luxury behind fortress walls.  No one rejoices at the prospect of life in a world of collapsing social and ecological system. Yet we continue to place human civilization and even the survival of our species at risk mainly to allow a few million people to accumulate money beyond any conceivable need. We continue to go boldly where no one wants to go.”
David Korten
When Corporations Rule the World

David Korten is a brilliant economic thinker. His series of books provide both historical background on the development of corporations and their contributions to environmental and political woes, and also an economic vision for building a better future:
When Corporations Rule the World
The Great Turning
The Post-corporate World
Agenda for a New Economy

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Who Profits?

July 15, 2009

To abolish war, we must prevail over its causes. We can lay a solid foundation of good works: for example, attacking poverty, empowering women, establish and actually using internationally recognized bodies to resolve disputes based on laws, fostering a global sense of family and oneness.  Ultimately, though, it will come down to money.  Want to know who the top fifteen weapons sellers are?

The top fifteen biggest sellers of weapons in the world in 2008, in descending order *
• USA
• Russia
• Germany
• France
• UK
• Spain
• Netherlands
• Italy
• China
• Israel
• Belgium
• Sweden
• Switzerland
• Ukraine
• Canada

* List taken from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2009: http://armstrade.sipri.org/arms_trade/toplist.php

Let us not be naïve. When the world’s people begin to seriously choke off the money flow at the highest level by ceasing to support wars with their taxes or their bodies, the struggle will grow seriously dangerous. Courage will be required and tested.

Those who profit most will fight with every possible legal, and illegal, means. Manufacturers, sellers, buyers, middlemen bankers, heads of government. To see the face of war’s most determined supporters and peace’s most deadly opponents, follow the money. Money undergirds the urge to power and domination that is the very heartbeat of all war mongers.

The hope of the world is that there is a thing more powerful than the forces of greed and power-lust—the world’s people when united.