The idea of world peace may seem like a crazy dream, but at the same time, war is a choice people make. We could get to a stage of not choosing war. Yes, it’s a long shot, yes, it’s naïve and optimistic, and yes, I support it wholeheartedly. Once upon a time, getting rid of slavery was a naïve and optimistic idea at best. Votes for women had the same issues. Before any radical change happens, it is almost unthinkable, but at the same time, it is only by daring to think such things that we can make radical change.
Peace One Day is the 21st of September – that’s a Saturday this year. It being so close to the autumn equinox, it’s very easy to simply include a contemplation of and dedication to peace in any autumn equinox ritual you were undertaking anyway. Granted, a few hopeful words shared in a ritual and a few prayers for peace are not going to change the world, but have a look at www.peaceoneday.org and consider the scope of all these many gestures and efforts combining.
Wars and conflicts do not suddenly come into being out of thin air. They are fed by resentment, jealousy and fear. We undertake to hate those who are different from us, and it’s not so very hard to go from there to violence. It is ordinary people who make holocausts and genocides possible by choosing to uphold, participate in, or tacitly support them. Hate speech, prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry all help to create a context in which violence and war can flourish. When we are hungry for power, when we need someone to blame, when we want to vent our frustrations… in small acts of aggression we beget violence.
Any dedication to live more peacefully and more harmoniously is a dedication to world peace. If we have a culture in which violence is considered cool or macho, we are more likely to have violence. If we see war as a reasonable way of solving problems, we won’t question our governments when they decide to start dropping bombs.
Wars are not good for us. The soldiers who are sent to participate suffer physically and psychologically. Many are there because it was the only paying work they could get, which does not make it a free choice, in my book. For every dead soldier you hear about on the news, there were a bunch of badly injured guys who barely survived the blast. I know about this because a friend of mine used to work as a nurse in a military hospital, trying to patch up the atrocious wounds you don’t get to hear about, but which are a routine feature of war zones. Wars do not only kill those who signed up to fight. There are always civilian casualties. Wars kill children, and I do not think anyone should be comfortable with the term ‘collateral damage’.
There is a huge environmental cost to war. Wars use a lot of energy, move a lot of chemicals about, and leave unexploded bombs to wreak havoc later. Wars in Africa have pushed species closer to extinction. War damages ecosystems and tears landscapes to shreds. The damage we do when we start killing each other far exceeds the specifically human suffering caused. War also tends to destroy culture, damaging ancient sites and buildings. A bomb cannot distinguish between a jeep and a piece of artwork. We bomb libraries, museums, zoos, schools, hospitals. War reduces us all.
And for what? A legacy of simmering resentment, a crushed people, a stolen resource, an extinction… The weapons dealers make a profit, the government ministers get to stride around feeling powerful and important, the media get exciting footage and a riveted audience. Is this really worth killing and dying for? Perhaps once, there was something a bit more noble and heroic about a few guys going out into a field and hitting each other with swords. There is nothing remotely heroic about dropping bombs on children, or sending young men out to be blown up by land mines.
We treat war as inevitable and necessary. It isn’t. If you do anything for Peace One Day, use it as an opportunity to think about what war means, where the conflicts lie in your own life, and how to be part of the solution.