Feb. 10, 2011

Deep Peacemaking

"War" is organized mass murder, usually a violent conflict between governments. I use "peace" to mean the absence of war. I will not discuss other meanings of peace, such as tranquil feelings or resolving conflicts unrelated to war. Here peacemaking means anti-war activism.

The distinction I wish to make by using the terms "deep" and "shallow" is this: Shallow peacemaking is a reaction to a current war. It seeks to end a war already being fought. It is reactive rather than proactive. In contrast, deep peacemaking seeks to prevent the next war. The concept may be best exemplified by the Omni goal of "a culture of peace." Whereas ending the current wars and occupations may leave the conditions in place for more war, the idea of deep peace is to attack and debunk the mythology of the culture of war, and to replace it with attitudes and values conducive to peace.

What are some characteristics of a culture of war?

  1. Glorification of the State (central government.)
  2. Heroification of soldiers.
  3. Rallying behind rulers during crises.
  4. Holding the State to be above normal morality.
  5. Identification with the State.
  6. Considering "national honor" to justify aggression.

This list is of course not inclusive, but hits some of the most obvious ones.

Some of these are so engrained that we sometimes have trouble avoiding them. Identification with the State occurs whenever we use the term "we" to denote State action. I call this the "slave we." When you hear someone say, "We bombed Iraq," that person is using "we" in this slave sense, as a chattel slave might say, "We had to sell Tom down the river." This confuses a passive observer (or victim) with the ruler (or master), diffusing responsibility from the actual decision maker to others. "We" did not bomb Iraq; the rulers did, using some hired murderers to do so. 

Maintaining a culture of war requires that the myth "the people and rulers are one" be believed. Such tribal thinking may be hardwired into us since such attitudes had survival value during the 99% of human history when we were hunter-gatherers. This "slave we" attitude is hard to shake. Add to that the fact that the attitude is drilled into most people in government schools, almost daily reciting the oath ("pledge") of allegiance to the State since childhood. For a deep peacemaker, this is one of those enemies with outposts in your head. We must attempt to refrain from using this "slave we," for when we do we are legitimizing and promoting the culture of war.

Notice that by thinking of "us" versus "them" as defined by the culture of war, it is virtually impossible to see the true situation. It is the ruling caste of two States who are at war with each other. It is the people of each country who pay the price - both in terms of bleeding and dying and in terms of wealth destruction. The rulers are generally able to shift the costs to their hapless subjects. Thus, the war culture model is "us" (this State and people) versus "them" (the enemy State and people.) The deep peace model is: the people here versus this State’s rulers, along with the people there versus that State’s rulers. This model recognizes the true conflict, between people and their own rulers, along with the fact that the peoples of different countries are not in conflict.

The shallow peacemaker, in contrast, talks about how "we" shouldn’t have bombed or occupied them, thereby reinforcing the martial model, and inadvertently paving the attitudinal way for the next war. They in effect endorse and propagate the very attitudes which allow war to occur.

Another error shallow peacemakers often make is to validate the myth that soldiers are not morally culpable for their warmaking conduct. This assists the culture of war in its heroification of soldiers, diluting and adulterating the peace message. War is organized mass murder. Those who perpetrate organized mass murder are blameworthy. You cannot be both against war and for the perpetrators of war. You can be for people defending their home country - these are generally referred to as militia men or freedom fighters. Invading soldiers from a foreign country are simply hired murderers. Deep peacemakers tell the truth and call them that. They do not yield to political correctness or evade the truth in order to be inoffensive to everyone. Imperial soldiers are aiding and abetting organized mass murder, even if they are not on the front lines. They are to be morally condemned.

Yet, on a recent Omni Peace CD (Peace from the Hills) there are three songs which basically say (some more directly than others) that US soldiers have zero moral culpability for their conduct. To paraphrase, one says to support "our" mass murderers, bring them home. Another tells us not to judge those who join the murder gang, because organized mass murder may be right and you may be wrong. Another, the most blatantly illogical, says to honor the mass murderers but oppose mass murder. The same song then claims that an imperialist murderer is only "protecting his family." Here we have a peace song writer supporting the culture of war’s heroification of soldiers and total lack of moral culpability. Ironically, the CD was dedicated to an ex-soldier who is bicycling around the country courageously proclaiming his extreme moral culpability. His honesty demonstrates deep peacemaking, and has already had the happy consequence of helping to convince his younger brother not to join the murder gang.

Some peace activists may be uncomfortable telling the cold hard truth about the nature of what soldiers do. Perhaps reading or watching the testimony of the Winter Soldiers from the Vietnam or Iraq invasions or listening to Jacob the "Ride to the End" cyclist will help get them over their qualms. They need to realize that they are supporting the culture of war by denying imperial soldiers’ culpability. Soldiers should be ridiculed or vilified for their conduct, not honored or heroified. Instead of saying, "support our troops," we should be saying, "condemn the rulers’ hired thugs." Naturally, if someone "sees the light" and admits his part in the mass murdering, we can take that into account.

Glorification of the State and holding the State to be above human morality is so ubiquitous in today’s world that it is all but impossible to change in the short run. Probably the best we can do is to point out the assumptions behind glorification/above morality utterances. Knowing history can help in this regard. For example, pointing out that the last just war, the last truly defensive war, was the War of 1812 may be effective. All US wars since have been either outright aggression or provoked by US aggression - even WWII, which is the only remotely debatable case.

Deep peacemaking should not be confused with utopianism. Those that think war can be ended by local group hugs simply do not understand the institutional aspect of war. Even if 99.9% of all people were perfectly peaceful in personal conduct, the other .1% would be the ones who rise to the top in governmental hierarchies and foment war. People that would never assault their neighbors in person rally to their rulers when a crisis is manufactured. No matter how much people abhor aggression in their personal lives, most tend to "rally behind the flag" and support mass murder on a grand statist scale.

I call on you to boldly challenge the culture of war. Strive to eliminate the enemy’s outposts in your head. Don’t be afraid to speak the truth about peace, even though many will oppose you. Don’t adulterate your peace message with genuflections to the war machine. Tell it straight. If patriotism is unconditional positive regard for the State, then be unpatriotic and proud of it. Peacemaking is not for wimps.