Some people equate “peace” with weakness. War is the accepted norm. There is a cynicism about applying the values of our founding fathers — equality, justice and the common defense — to ALL people on the planet. Applying the Golden Rule is considered optional. However, it is necessary for our survival. We are trapped in this spiral of self-dependence and lack of trust. Real progress will never be made until we reduce this level of fear.
Violence is not power, violence is a weakness. It is a tool of cowards and bullies. It does not create control, it releases chaos. The culture of violence needs to be replaced, not overwhelmed with police powers, not corrected with underfunded agencies, not locked up in a jail cell, not treated as somebody else’s problem. It’s our problem.
Sixty five million years ago, a mass extinction event was initiated when an asteroid hit the earth. Now another mass extinction event is in full swing at the rate of 25,000 species every year, and we are just beginning to see that humanity’s effect on the planet is not much different than that of an asteroid.
In the middle of this eco-system catastrophe, there is another kind of collapse, a collapse that may not necessarily be negative. I compare it to the dissolution of the caterpillar so that a butterfly can be made from it. Our democracy is in a crisis, when those at the center of government seem to be unresponsive to the people. Many people wish for greater moral, legal, and intelligent behavior in our government. Our security is being threatened, and our economy is being drained of approximately $425 billion, by the direct and indirect consequences of violent conflict in our homes, our streets, our schools, and our prisons. The direct cost of US military involvement in violent conflict is currently $666 billion, which includes not only the Dept. of Defense but also defense-related spending in other departments, such as the nuclear weapons programs in the Dept. of Energy. The healthy growth and development of children, the prosperity of adults is at risk. The dream of a united humanity seems very distant.
I feel a deep despair sometimes about the future threats that my family is facing. There is a fear, a hidden panic, an anxiety-filled darkness, an exhausted waiting for the dawn with that wordless question: what’s next? We all seem to know what it is that we do NOT want.
It’s the craziness of the world that drives us to become sane. It’s the darkness that allows us to see the stars. What would happen if we decided to reach for the stars, express what it is that we DO want, discover our own innate ability to create it, and act accordingly? Are we strong enough to really look deeply at the problem of violence in our world?
What are we waiting for? When we get stuck on viewing war and violence as a problem, we become its victim. We get depressed, angry, and see ourselves as victims of a world gone wrong. Blame carries with it an assumption that those being blamed will not change their behavior, it keeps the situation static. This inhibits our ability to respond creatively, and we actually become part of the problem. Let’s get moving, let’s see the opportunity here to be response-able, resourceful, powerful. When we adopt the attitude that everyone has something to contribute, then the ensuing dialog will create the opportunity for change.
I used to be a violent -thinking person. I was victimized by domestic violence and school-yard bullying as a child, I was terrorized by the prospect of nuclear annihilation in the 1950’s, and I became an angry, explosive, suicidal teenager. I saw that the cause of the violence I was receiving at the hands of my father was no different than the cause of the violence between nations: the inability to communicate. Violence is a form of non-verbal communication that says “Get away from me, I don’t want to talk to you, I can’t deal with the feelings.” We know that skillful diplomacy, extended dialog, can prevent the violence that we rationalize as “punishment.”
I see things differently now. I learned how to be non-violent by re-learning how to perceive and how to talk. Now I have discovered that there are more than a few million — many million — people just like myself, who care deeply about integrity, authenticity, respect for others, and the future of humanity. America, and the rest of the world, is waking up. The strength and power of this great nation that I love and call home resides in the hearts and minds of its ordinary citizens, the people. The people are sick and tired of all the violence.
I am optimistic, because we, the people, are waking up. There is a rebirth in progress: the house of rigid, self-reliant, hierarchical, authoritarian, institutional, and male-dominated structures is being replaced by flexible, interdependent, horizontal, nurturing, familial, and female-guided networks. Giving up John Wayne in order to be Johnny Appleseed. Have you felt it? My definition of “family” has expanded to include all of humanity. I wonder if you see family in the same way as I do?
America’s appearance as an imperial dominating force in the world has some severe problems associated with it. Through our technology we have led the world to the brink of total interconnectedness as well as to the brink of total annihilation. In doing so, we have painfully discovered that we have a greater responsibility than to just ourselves. We need to stand back as a nation and ask ourselves, are we going toward a world that works for only a few, or a world that works for everyone? Is there any other way to adapt to the threats that we face? The time has come for us to reinvent ourselves. If we are to survive as a culture — even if we are to survive as a species — don’t you think we must use our real strength and real courage to relate to people instead of trying to dominate them?
In the last 40 years we have developed new technologies of cooperation that are based on the deep recognition of the equality of all human beings’ needs. Experiments in social change have been conducted, data has been collected, and the results are in. As a creative and intelligent people, the American people are now able to be as effective in addressing the sources of violence as in reacting to its symptoms. This is the new adventure in democracy! There is a silent, nonviolent, and underground revolution in progress in America.
I predict that a Department of Peace will become law when the will of the people is finally recognized by the lawmakers. I have no doubt that it takes great courage for a congress-man or woman to be among the first to recognize this growing sentiment. Our representatives, fortunately, have objective data to show that Oregonians favor a Department of Peace by a ratio of 2:1, in a survey conducted in April of 2005 by the Oregon Survey Research Laboratory at the University of Oregon.
Great accomplishments are always preceded by great vision. We have the communication tools to offer this. Now is the time to offer a vision based on what has already been created: practical solutions and methodologies for ensuring that conflicts are resolved without violence. The economic benefits of violence reduction is extremely attractive right now. The “peace dividend” of an economy based on building an awareness of nonviolent conflict resolution would be in the trillions of dollars, many multiples of what we are wasting on attempts to suppress and control violence.
I like the legislation that would create a Department of Peace because of its comprehensive, sweeping approach to educating us in the ways of nonviolence at all levels, domestic and international. The Quakers also have a plan called “The Peaceful Prevention of Deadly Conflict.” The Mennonites have proposed “3D Security.” The Physicians for Social Responsibility have legislation in the House for “SMART Security.” These proposals overlap and echo each other. They represent what a dedicated community of visionaries can provide. There are many small communities like them that are beginning to interconnect and grow in strength and numbers. The wave of revolutionary change in how we interact with the world is coming.
The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency by Richard Nixon did not begin our commitment to the environment, yet it raised it to a much higher level of national priority. And so should it be with the interests of peace. Violent conflict resolution, wars, could become a quaint, although tragic, historical fact. Just imagine what the Defense Department could become, like the Maytag repair man, with almost nothing to do except control the occasional emergency with a budget the size of the current Department of Education.
I am asking you to investigate and come to your own conclusions. We don’t get hard answers unless we ask the hard questions. What are the root causes of violence? Is it a moral problem or a public health problem? What is nonviolence, really, and how is it useful for resolving conflict? Who has used nonviolence, and how effective is it?
How adventurous are you? Americans have been infused with a willingness to explore and grow, an adventurous spirit from even before the time of the Revolution of 1776. That revolution formed in the minds of the people years before it erupted in Lexington, as John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson, and I quote:
“What do we mean by revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.”
Before Columbus set sail for the New World, he had to believe there was a land mass there to be discovered. Before we sent a man to the moon, someone had to believe it was possible. Before slavery was abolished, very few people thought it was possible. Before women got the vote, very few people thought it was possible.
Someone had to imagine not necessarily how it could be done, just imagine that it was possible. Our greatest obstacle to world peace is in our own minds. When we believe it is possible, we imagine the goal, we set our feet on the path, and we set the possibility in motion. Taking one step at a time, we arrive at our destination.
As the Roman philosopher, Seneca, once said,
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”
Think about this: who holds ultimate power and control in any country, who decides to cooperate, regardless of who thinks they are entitled to be at the center of government? Who? The people!
Who will bring moral, legal, and intelligent behavior to those at the center of the government? Who? The people!
Who will bring restorative justice, reconciliation of enemies, peaceful conflict resolution, and true security to our world? We, the people!
Who will bring healthy growth and development for children? Who will bring the prosperity that results from cooperative learning and problem-solving? We, the people!
Who will bring the strength of a united, inclusive, beloved community out of a diverse humanity? We, the people!
There are many ways for you to become involved in creating a change for the better.
Pick up the phone, talk to the staff of your members of congress, send a postcard. They know they live in a bubble of corporate lobbyists, they WANT to hear from you! Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, has said,
“The current crisis in our democracy has less to do with Congressional failure to express the will of the people and more to do with failure of people to express their will in a meaningful way.”
Join the movement, any movement, the one that harmonizes with your passion. Donate money, donate time, donate your talents. As Gandhi said,
“Whatever you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
Many small efforts, many small ripples of change, will create a tidal wave of change. Speaking of change, the other kind that jingles in your pocket, no successful movement went forward without the energy of money to solidly support it, so be loose with your change while you’re making change.
Get the attention of the media, express yourself in writing or however you do it — marching in a parade — create public exposure to the idea of a peaceful and prosperous future. Hope and optimism are just as contagious as gloom and doom, so keep it upbeat.
Finally, I want to ask you to read our literature about the Department of Peace legislation, go to the Peace Alliance website that’s on the literature, learn how a bill becomes law, listen to the online speeches of Marianne Williamson, Willie Nelson, Walter Cronkite, or Dennis Kucinich, then talk to your local team leader about what you can do to help.
We, the people, are waking up. The time has come to stretch, move, and play a part in creating a better world for ourselves and those who will come later.