All those who are committed to peace are once again passing through a sad phase of introspection regarding why they cannot be effective enough to check what is very clearly a very alarming phase of further drift towards militarization, that too at a time when the world can least afford it due to very serious worries relating to pandemic and climate change. The fact that we are sad does not mean that we are not active, in fact several people in the peace movement are extremely busy doing what they can, but realistically they realize, or must realize, that what they can do just now is not strong and effective enough to check the more powerful forces driving the drift towards militarization.
Didn’t we feel the same at the time of the Iraq invasion? In fact some of the veterans of the peace movement even had the sad realization then that the peace movement had become weaker than at the time of some of the Vietnam protests, having moved more towards one-day protest gatherings, meant to be symbolic rather than policy-changers, as the policy makers could also see clearly.
Hence the big question—what can we really do to make the peace movement more durable, consistent and effective, so that we do not merely criticize and lament the relentless militarization, we can actually check this, stop this, even reverse this.
Before we explore this all-important question, let me assert and clarify beyond doubt that when we speak of peace or peace movement in short, what we really mean is peace with justice and with at least certain levels of equality. Peace without justice is a meaningless concept, as injustice and high levels of inequality always have seeds of violence within them.
With this understanding, let us see how a strong, consistent and durable peace movement can be created in our deeply troubled world. It is important to understand that the peace movement cannot just be seen as a response to a crisis or escalation of a crisis, rising and declining with the crisis, but instead must be seen as a constant and strong resistance to the widely pervading violence which can be constantly seen at so many levels in various human societies.
It must be clearly and widely understood in various contexts that violence, injustice and dominance, as inter-related phenomenon, constitute the biggest cause of distress in world. This can be seen right within the family, in the form of gender violence and even violence against children. This can be seen in schools in the context of bullying. This can be seen in workplace violence. This can be seen in the form of shocking levels of crime, but perhaps even more so in the many times more unreported conflicts over wealth, property and various other aspects of relationships. Even the levels of sexual violence (or deceit) are shockingly high, in fact much higher than what is registered in crime records. Then there is the violence in everyday life based on faith, ethnicity, caste, region, gender and other identities.
All this violence (and relationships of dominance) causes distress. While the distress of the person who suffers violence is widely understood, much less understood is the loss of sensitivity and hence the decay of the perpetrator of violence. In some studies suicide tendencies have been found to be higher among those who bully compared to those who are bullied. Both the recipient and the perpetrator of the violence suffer, although in different ways. Hence the use of the phrase ‘Burning on Both Ends’ for this phenomenon, which was also the title I gave to a small book I wrote on this subject.
With such wider understanding of key linkages, there must be significant presence of continuing efforts in all societies to check violence and relationships of dominance as an ever continuing process, with a big contribution of voluntarism. This should become the core of the peace movement so that the peace movement is everywhere, contributing to reducing distress in local contexts.
Side by side, there should be efforts to reduce important causative factors of violence like substance abuse and particularly alcohol abuse, the gun culture, private possessions of firearms and excessive exposure to violence in media and popular culture.
As distress is reduced, more and more people are attracted to various aspects of this peace movement as participants and volunteers.
Hence peace activists get much better chances to reach a much larger number of people to establish key linkages of various forces at work and to link this grassroots peace movement with the wider issues of disarmament and a future free of war and weapons of mass destruction. In particular this should be taken up as a youth program with promise of a more secure future. It should be emphasized that without world level peace and disarmament it will become much more difficult and perhaps impossible to resolve the very serious environmental problems (led by but certainly not confined to climate village) in a divided, hostile and militarized revolt.
Hence with such continuing efforts with a very strong grassroots base, it is possible to create a peace movement at world level which can be much more effective. While this is needed in all countries, some of the more important countries and regions which need to be prioritized include the USA, China, Russia, Ukraine, India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil, the European Union and UK.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include A Day in 2071, Planet in Peril, Earth Without Borders, Protecting Earth for Children and Man Over Machine—A Path to Peace.