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Thu

01

Mar

2007

Waging Peace: Being at Peace
Thursday, 01 March 2007 20:57
by ddjango

In the Wikipedia, peace is defined as follows:

Peace is a state of harmony, absent open hostility. This term is applied to describe a cessation of or lapse in violent international conflict; in this international context, peace is the opposite of war. Peace can also describe a relationship between any parties characterized by respect, justice, and goodwill.

More generally, peace can pertain to an individual relative to her or his environment, as peaceful can describe calm, serenity, and silence. This latter understanding of peace can also pertain to an individual's sense of himself or herself, as to be "at peace" with one's self would indicate the same serenity, calm, and equilibrium within oneself . . .
There are many different definitions and interpretations of "peace". The definition given here is most attractive, I think, because it speaks to both a global aspect and a personal aspect

In these pages, I have written often about the necessity of personal action and practice being the foundation of global peace, rather than the other way around. In the US, unfortunately, government in general, and peace specifically, seems to be something that is something that someone else or something else does while we are going about our lives. We appoint/hire "representatives" to make them happen, then express our satisfaction/praise or anger/disappoint every two years in the electoral process.
I hope it is obvious that this just isn't working for us. In the previous five parts of this series I have only briefly laid out evidence that the forces of war have continuously outpaced those of peace and have created a more sturdy framework for escalation of the former. At the same time, because many of us (including yours truly) have received rewards from the pursuit of war, militarism, and capitalism, those same "many of us" sense the pursuit of peace must needs the sacrifice of much of that comfort and convenience.

Creeping into the middle of all this is a pervasive sense that war and its tragedies are inevitable, so "what's the use?" "Why should I risk the material comforts I have if no body else will risk them; I'll just keep what I have until the inevitable apocalypse takes place."

Again, let me say that I personally am easily the victim of this thinking. I'm white, American, and, all things considered, pretty comfortable. I'm also nearly sixty years old, so I won't have to endure war much longer. Why shouldn't I reap the benefits of post-capitalism and militarism in my final years. I've worked hard for many years and deserve to keep what I've gained.

My personal response to my own fear - for that is what it truly is - must be a moral and spiritual one. It has nothing to do with whether I think I'll achieve heaven. I actually have no idea whether heaven or god exists. All I really know is that I must take personal responsibility for myself insofar as it benefits not just me but all other human beings. For me, this not a "tit for tat" position. It is not because I hope that other humans will do unto me as I do undo them. I can't guarantee that. But I do guarantee that taking such responsibility gains more spiritual comfort than the material rewards do. I find that I am at peace and such peace is never at the expense of anyone else's.

What I wish to do with these words and with my own spiritual practice is lay out some alternatives to war. I cannot judge. I cannot convince you to follow these ideals. That's your choice, and, if you take it, your responsibility . . .

First, I beg your indulgence while I tie the themes of my prior parts to this part of my series.

On February 8th of this year, former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney made a speech before the assembly of the Kuala Lumpur Peace Conference, entitled "The World Can't Wait, Won't Wait, Isn't Waiting." Before I excerpt it, I remind you that it was McKinney who filed a bill in the US House of Representatives, just before she left Conress, calling for President Bush's impeachment:

It is among the greatest pleasures of my life to have been invited to participate in this Conference dedicated to peace. I look forward to joining the international community of activists dedicated to change based on the principles of dignity, justice, self-determination, and peace for all the peoples of the world.

Everyone in this room and every participant in this Conference is here because we want peace. Peace and justice.

And these principles of peace and dignity, justice and self-determination were embodied in the policies pursued by our host, The Honorable Tun Mahathir, while he was Prime Minister of Malaysia. In fact, it was Tun Mahathir who put Malaysia on the map for me when he stood up to the world's economic powers and refused to cash their check of dependency. Instead, Tun Mahathir returned their check and said out loud for the entire world to hear that Malaysia would chart its own course. As a result of that singular act of pride, self-determination, confidence, and independence, Malaysia boasts a strong economy and a legacy of uncommon independence.

But, Tun Mahathir has also learned that such independent thinking, and confidence in the people comes at a personal price. For while his message ricocheted around the world and struck me, an African American woman steeped in the Old Confederate South of the United States, the people we fight for are rarely in a position to reward such acts of courage. Yet the powers that be always seem to be able to exact their punishment. So oftentimes, where there is courage, truth, compassion, belief in the people, and a solid sense of right and wrong, there is also aloneness, vulnerability, or deep disappointment.

But instead of abandoning the struggle, we come together at this important Conference to commune with each other, learn from each other, give love and support to each other, recharge our batteries, and continue our work on behalf of what is right in a world currently filled with so much wrong.

Not too long ago, I was asked by Debra Sweet to endorse the activities of the American peace-seeking organization named World Can't Wait. They advocate the impeachment of George Bush and other Members of his Administration because in their view, the World Can't Wait.

I agree with them . . .

One way for the American people to demand accountability from their leaders and a return to respectability is to impeach the Bush Administration. However, the complicity of both major U.S. parties in this intensifying debacle is clear now that the Democrats have taken impeachment "off the table." And if the Democratic Congress, that owes its majority status to antiwar voters, votes to fund the war, then our mission will become very clear.

We will have to change the structure of U.S. politics because changing the people, clearly, isn't enough.

This is quite possible with the right set of circumstances. And the current elected leadership is helping to create those circumstances.

When the Presidential election was stolen in Mexico, defenders of democracy shut Mexico City down for weeks until the unrightful, new Mexican President was sworn in. After that, they formed a "parallel" government. And if Mexican defenders of democracy can do it, certainly American defenders of democracy can do it, too.

For us, nothing less than the soul of our country is at stake. But for the world, nothing less than the fate of mankind is at stake . . .
The day before that speech, Lee Hall, writing for Dissident Voice submitted "Homeland Security is Neither Ecology, Justice and [sic] the Politics of Borders."

Clips:
In a song often called one of the past century's greatest, John Lennon sang, "Imagine there's no country."

Is it easy? Should we try?

As it is, we interact with the world as citizens of countries, rarely questioning the nation's existence. The sacrifice of our children's blood proves it. Leaders talk of vanquishing evil, and we agree that outsiders officially constitute enemies. "We wish so desperately to split apart evil from good," explains Holocaust psychologist Richard Koenigsberg, "and that's when the killing begins." As an industry of news and foreign policy analysis steps in, treating the slaughter of human beings as a normal and inevitable part of politics, we learn to brush aside our natural reaction -- war is insane!

In October 2001, Donald Rumsfeld called terrorism "a cancer on the human condition" to explain the beginning of the massive bombing of Afghanistan, in which villagers were mutilated and killed in droves. Since the invasion of Iraq three years ago, hundreds of thousands have been killed; torture has proliferated and children have been jailed. Fear of the "cancer" allowed a critical mass of North Americans to accept diminished civil liberties, mass detentions, and cutbacks in basic services -- such as public transportation, needed to lessen our strain on fossil fuels.

Imagine people from varied areas of social activism investing our collective energies into humanity's prospects for transcending this cycle.

But how? When activists go forth to debate with positions that are not sane -- "Speak truth to power," goes the slogan -- they're arguing with the artificial power of authority, and they immediately feel oppressed. Perhaps the better way, rather than to oppose this artificial power, is to propose an alternative way of thinking. One by which we might cultivate our own power.

Organized human warfare appears to comprise a mere fraction of one percent of humanity's three million-year existence. Granted, this recent period fashioned our current social structure, with all its pressure to equate domination with success. Our treatment of other animals provides a harrowing model in this regard, for today they are objects of a dominion so complete we rarely think of ourselves as vanquishers even as we consume them. Laws constructed by and for the people refer to other animals as natural resources, scientific models, pets, food or entertainment. We've systematically obstructed our ability to perceive them as beings with their own interests and experiences.

Our schoolbooks are full of generals and cowboys, action figures who overwhelm the terrain, its inhabitants, and history itself. We exalt the pioneering spirit of the ranchers-these days, more accurately called the profiteering spirit of corporations -- while clear-cutting and predator control schemes wipe out countless animals. In a culture that takes violence for granted, no wonder we're so concerned about our rights. Yet we lack even the simple right to move freely across our own habitat . . .

You may say I'm another dreamer. But if we can imagine taking down our fences, we may well be capable of ensuring continued life on Earth . . .
I can imagine that. Can you? Please try. (Lee Hall, by the way, is best known as an ecologist and animal rights activist.

In one more "negative" incentive, here is some of Prison Planet's Alex Jones' "This Disaster is coming... and FEMA won't be there to save you!" . . .

Today, a strange paradox exists. The threat of terrorism has escalated, rogue nations are developing the bomb, weather patterns are behaving irregularly and gateways through biotechnology could unleash upon earth pestilence of biblical proportions. People around the world feel uneasy about what tomorrow might bring.

Yet many people, especially in America, are indifferent to the need to prepare for the unexpected.

One reason some neglect preparedness is a peculiar defeatism that says, "If bad things are going to happen, there's nothing we can do about it anyway." In a word -- dumb.

A second, more likely reason for failing to prepare has to do with how well off we are in the United States. We trust in our bank accounts to sustain us. Unfortunately, money sitting in savings and investments are useless if one becomes stuck in a landslide or other crisis.

Perhaps the greatest reason why some people never plan for disaster is that they view the need to prepare for the unexpected as too complicated and costly. They imagine the back yard being dug up for construction of a massive bomb shelter and the basement crammed with row after row of dry grains and large containers filled with backup water . . .
Indeed, Prison Planet is a survivalist entity. I quoted it here, because war seems much more inevitable than peace, and, as Alex suggests, one should be prepared. After all, this is by far not an "either/or" situation, any more than George's Bush's "with us or with out us".

One of P!'s editors, Michael Sky, at Thinking Peace last December, wrote "Doing the Right Thing":

More than 3,000 young men and women have died in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11, and thousands more have been permanently scarred by the wars. All were volunteers, and for many 9/11 was the reason they enlisted. Because of that attack on America and the loss of so many innocent lives, a wave of young Americans were inspired to do their duty, go in harm's way, serve and protect, kill the enemy, do the right thing.

I guess most Americans feel a stirring combination of pride and appreciation when they hear such stories. I feel a depressing mix of fear and doom. Here's why:

Post-9/11 we consider it noble to track down and kill those responsible. We accept that in the process we will also take many entirely innocent lives. The price of war, we say, the blame lies with the terrorists for attacking us.

Once we accept that the events of 9/11 totally justify that thousands of young Americans enlist into the armed forces, train in methods of death and destruction, develop hatred for certain nationalities, races, religions, and/or ethnic groups, and then fly off to some other land where they can serve us by inflicting death and destruction on them, including, inevitably, the murder of obscene numbers of innocents and the mass demolition of civilian infrastructure, then we have assured, and justified, the next attacks on us.

Why is this so hard for Americans to understand? The people of Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered through an unending string of 9/11s inflicted for the most part by Americans and other outsiders. Should we just assume that their young men and women are so cowardly and ignoble that they won't do the right thing? . . .
An imperative, from Worker's World, "Opposition grows to U.S. militarism" by Sara Flounders:

Growing opposition to U.S. militarism is having an impact on the Pentagon’s aggressive war plans far beyond Iraq.

An example of the changing mood can be seen in the mass movement opposing proposed new U.S. bases in the Czech Republic and Poland.

In recent polls a clear majority of the population of those countries is opposed to U.S. bases there. By an overwhelming majority, people are demanding the right to decide on this dangerous escalation in a national referendum.

Thousands have signed their names to petitions and participated in rallies and demonstrations demanding “No to the Bases.”

The petition in Czech Republic states that the bases “would serve to reawaken the Cold War in Europe and could reignite a new arms race. It is unthinkable that a democratic country should make such a decision of such long-range impact, as the acceptance of foreign military bases on its soil, without an open debate. Neither the government nor the Parliament has the mandate to make such a decision alone.”

More than 40 organizations are part of the No to the Bases Campaign formed last July in the Czech Republic.

The approval of the bases seemed a foregone conclusion when the U.S. military started surveying for sites in Poland and Czech Republic four years ago. The missile shield would consist of radar sites and large missile interceptor silos. The radar would have the ability to monitor almost the entire territory of Russia . . .
Growing opposition to U.S. militarism is having an impact on the Pentagon’s aggressive war plans far beyond Iraq.

An example of the changing mood can be seen in the mass movement opposing proposed new U.S. bases in the Czech Republic and Poland.

In recent polls a clear majority of the population of those countries is opposed to U.S. bases there. By an overwhelming majority, people are demanding the right to decide on this dangerous escalation in a national referendum.

Thousands have signed their names to petitions and participated in rallies and demonstrations demanding “No to the Bases.”

The petition in Czech Republic states that the bases “would serve to reawaken the Cold War in Europe and could reignite a new arms race. It is unthinkable that a democratic country should make such a decision of such long-range impact, as the acceptance of foreign military bases on its soil, without an open debate. Neither the government nor the Parliament has the mandate to make such a decision alone.”

More than 40 organizations are part of the No to the Bases Campaign formed last July in the Czech Republic.

The approval of the bases seemed a foregone conclusion when the U.S. military started surveying for sites in Poland and Czech Republic four years ago. The missile shield would consist of radar sites and large missile interceptor silos. The radar would have the ability to monitor almost the entire territory of Russia.

I'm going to finish this piece, and this "Waging Peace" series, by pointing you to several sites and voices which lay out some resources for practicing peace at the individual/personal level.

Using these resources presumes that "these are not the end times."

Bob Koehler's "A World That Works for Everybody" at OpEd News:

Peace is a chant, a vibration, a leap of the human spirit into the 21st century and beyond. It's also HR 808 - radical common sense crafted into a bill and introduced this week into the new Congress by Dennis Kucinich.

Let me describe for you, as best I can in this brief space, the heave of emotion this piece of legislation and the campaign to support it have set off in me the past few days. For this I thank and blame the Peace Alliance, which held a conference in D.C. over the weekend in support of the bill - well, it was half conference, fact-dense and nitty-gritty, brimming with info on bullying and suicide and war; and half revival, alive with music and global religion, full of God and Buddha and the spirit of the Founding Fathers and Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Jane Addams and Susan B. Anthony and many others . . .
Huffington Post, "Tens Of Thousands Protest Bigger US Military Base In Italy", February 17, excerpted:

Tens of thousands of Italians under heavy police guard protested on Saturday against the expansion of a U.S. military base that has divided the center-left government.

Leftists who last year voted for Prime Minister Romano Prodi, an Iraq war opponent, turned out in droves to decry his approval for U.S. plans to expand the military base in the city of Vicenza, home to the 173rd Airborne Brigade . . .
From The Times Online (UK), February 7, "Giants meet to counter US power "Giants meet to counter US power":

India, China and Russia account for 40 per cent of the world’s population, a fifth of its economy and more than half of its nuclear warheads. Now they appear to be forming a partnership to challenge the US-dominated world order that has prevailed since the end of the Cold War.

Foreign ministers from the three emerging giants met in Delhi yesterday to discuss ways to build a more democratic “multipolar world”.

It was the second such meeting in the past two years and came after an unprecedented meeting between their respective leaders, Manmohan Singh, Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin, during the G8 summit in St Petersburg in July.

It also came only four days after Mr Putin stunned Western officials by railing against American foreign policy at a security conference in Munich . . .
I have quoted these do suggest that there is a groundswell of global movement of opposition to militaristic US governmental policies and in that a resource for pacifist Americans. We may be able to join that movement if we can ignore our own spiritual narcissism and realize we can't go it alone . . . but maybe we don't have to. Where declining reliance on American materialism occurs, we may find strength in global pacifism.

Briefly:

At Tom Paine, excerpted from Alternet February 8, by Phyllis Vennis, "How to Prevent a War with Iran":

To stop the looming war with Iran, Congress needs to pre-empt the possibility of the White House launching an attack. The secret weapon is the Boland Amendment . . .

In 1982, angered by a White House secretly escalating an unpopular war in Central America, the House passed the Boland Amendment, a rider to the Defense Appropriations Act of 1983.

The amendment was crafted by Massachusetts Congressman Edward Boland, and was designed to cut off funds the CIA and other intelligence agencies were using to carry out sabotage attacks in Nicaragua and to support the anti-government Contra guerrillas. The Senate had a Republican majority at the time, but even members of President Reagan's own party were outraged when he launched his Contra-backing warfare without even notifying Congressional oversight committees . . .

I'm going to end here. You need to do some work on your own. I will mention that there are many resources for study and action for peace. There are several on P!'s sidebar here. Some others are easily accessible: American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Antiwar.com, and War Resisters League, to name a few. I can only hope and encourage you to join them and the millions of Americans and movements in other countries and . . .

As always,
Be at peace.

This is the 6th and final part of the "Waging Peace" series.
Part 1 is here;
Part 2 is here;
Part 3 is here;
Part 4 is here.
Part 5 is here.
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Brilliantly Crafted, Brilliantly Dangerous
Your comments are brilliant and disciplined. They logically undo any offense one may mount against your well constructed arguments and numerous illustrations. You lay, as your foundation, the nobel quest of peace and immediately conquer the supposed high ground all the while subly attacking America. What is peaceful about that? Is your attack justified since you are sufficiently illuminated above the simple minded and ruthless warmongering America? War appears in many disguises and venues. Perhaps the most clever charade is "Peace." Ill thoughts are the roots of war. The skillful use of benevolent words can manipulate the gullable and the astute of humankind to side with the meritorious notion of peace causing people to distain the apparent opposite of peace. America? The resouceful provocation of contempt is not the conduct of the peaceful soul, rather the human emotion of contempt acts as a harbinger to justify war. A war against the symbol of war, under the banner of peace, who can argue against such a declaration? It's still war. Your arguments are well crafted. The best I have ever read, except for Ghangis Khan's Treatise, "Peace before War." ?A world without countries? Is that not a world as one nation? Sounds a lot like a "New World Order" to me. My father, on a number of occasions, warned, "Never trust a man with an IQ over 50." Maybe he said a 150...whatever. Peace.

One more note before I dispense with this communication. A young man emailed me responding to my last comments of the condemnation of communist leaders, by kindly informing me that there is no such animal as a communist. I didn't know that...One would think, by now Karl Marx would have produced at least one communist from all of the "born again" socialist in the world since 1848.... JD
 
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