The peace movement is extremely important for our increasingly troubled and violent world, particularly at a time when the world leadership is strangely getting less and less cautious about the world being led into the most dangerous situations. Those who contribute sincerely and honestly to the peace movement, standing for truth in difficult conditions, are among the most noble persons on our endangered planet.
While the peace movement comprising tens of thousands of such noble persons worldwide is so good and so necessary, it is still far from being as strong and steady as needed. It rises and subsides with the urgency of several issues it takes up, while much more continuing activism is needed, keeping in view the continuity of most urgent issues like weapons of mass destruction ( WMDs). How can the peace movement become more effective?
It is important to clarify at the outset that here by peace we mean peace with justice. It is only peace with justice which has real significance; peace without justice is like peace of the grave. Situations and relations of injustice inevitably involve simmering or silent violence, if not open or more visible violence.
While all honest peace activists understand this linkage, for various reasons they may not always be able to take this forward in their own work. Strengthening this linkage of peace and justice in various ways will strengthen the peace movement.
Given the present day most pressing realities, it is also very important to integrate the peace movement more clearly with environment protection. War, preparations for war, weapons race and militarization are also the biggest avoidable polluters. On the other hand, destruction of environment creates conditions for many kinds of conflicts. While climate change can destroy earth’s life nurturing conditions within a few decades, use of about 5% of existing nuclear weapons can do this within a few days. Hence clearly there are very strong reasons for movements for peace and movements for environment protection to work together in close cooperation.
Violence is a huge cause of distress in daily life. There is a strong need for peace at various levels, at the level of an individual, family, community and workplace. If the peace movement is able to meet these needs then it can get the support of a very large number of people. These concerns and the support-base should be linked to the pressing need for national and world peace.
At present thousands of small, sincere efforts are already contributing to peace at individual and community levels, but these often lack a holistic and wider vision of peace which can enable these to link to issues of critical importance like disarmament and elimination of weapons of mass destruction. If such linkages can be established, the peace movement can become much more broad- based, with strong ties to communities at various levels.
Many individuals find it difficult to be at peace in their daily life. This is often because of the perpetuation of commonly held views which cause instability, stress and conflict. To give an example, the desire to dominate others in close relationships is a common trait. The desire for excessive consumption and accumulation and willingness to achieve this at the cost of others is another related trait. The inability to give to even close relationships what a person desires from these, or the tendency of extracting without giving is another problem. The inability to recognize what needs to be done to achieve a state of peace while all the time yearning for it, or to be hyperactive without doing much that is actually useful in social terms are other conditions that are common enough.
All this contributes to problems at the level of family and community, leading to strained relationships and accumulation of stress, culminating often in highly distressing situations of violence, abuse and various addictions. Statistics relating to domestic and sexual violence, street violence, violence at workplace and school, bullying, child abuse, substance abuse, several mental health problems in various societies can be alarming.
Similar attitudes, when linked to racism as well as various social biases and phobias, lead to wider social violence as well as suppressed social violence, experienced as groups. These can at times lead to civil war like situations or wars with neighboring countries, related also to unfortunate historical legacies and the willingness of various narrow interests to whip up sectarian animosity for self-gain. These can be further manipulated and worsened by bigger powers for their own narrow gains, or perceived gains.
At the highest level the tendencies of dominance and pursuit of narrow interests, as reflected in big power rivalry, can threaten world peace with the willingness of world leaders to cause a lot of destruction in this pursuit, supported by followers (with ties based on narrow nationalism or various other false propaganda based alignments) who are guided by similar values in their own social relationships.
The challenge before the peace movement is to integrate the very real need for peace at these various levels ( individual, family, community, workplace, nation, world) in such ways that millions and millions of people, particularly youth who have their future before them to protect, are drawn to the peace movement, and millions of people actually experience reduction of distress and increase of happiness from the improvement of their social relationships as also the linkages of peace efforts to justice. As word spreads rapidly about this, the numbers of supporters and activists of the peace movement continue to grow and ultimately the peace movement becomes strong enough to achieve important results for world peace and elimination of weapons of mass destruction.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, A Day in 2071, Man over Machine, Protecting Earth for Children and Earth without Borders.