At a time of increasing threats to world peace, a need often felt has been re-emphasized with increased urgency—our deeply troubled world should have a much stronger, much more broad-based peace movement, which works with continuity, instead of merely responding to crisis situations. Christmas may be just the right time to plan for this.
To make the peace movement much stronger and broad-based, it is important to understand and respond to the need for peace at various levels of society. Integral to this understanding is the fact that violence and relations of dominance (in which most violence is rooted), are the most important cause of distress. The peace movement must therefore make efforts to reduce violence and dominance at various levels of society and then also integrate these multi-layered efforts.
Firstly, there is the very pressing need for inner peace—this is also reflected in the alarming statistics on mental health and self-harm in many societies. While the professional mental health services help people in significant ways, the peace movement can also play a very helpful role, at the level of changing social and individual behavior and thinking patterns. This may be able to make a much more important contribution than is generally assumed. After all, statistical trends indicate that inner peace disruptions (in the form of increasing mental health problems and self-harm) have continued despite increase in mental health services, so this may be like providing the missing link.
Secondly, the intervention of peace movement will be very helpful in reducing violence at the level of family and community. Here again, despite an increasing police role, many societies have reported increase of this violence or its persistence at high levels. This includes domestic violence, gender violence, child abuse, bullying and worse at schools, large-scale violence at workplace, identity violence and discrimination based on race, class, caste, faith, color, ethnicity etc.
If a peace movement works with continuity and understanding to reduce this violence and various causes which result in violence, this can make a very important contribution to significantly reducing domestic and community violence.
Thirdly, there is violence at the national level between various regions and people, which can be a very serious issue in countries experiencing (or at risk of) large-scale civil strife. At times civil strife has resulted in loss of more human lives compared to full blown wars between two countries. Here again the peace movement working with continuity has a very important role in de-escalating tensions and finding solutions before the conflict moves to the stage of large-scale violence.
Fourthly, there is need for a larger role for peace movement in finding solutions to international conflicts before these can erupt in violence and war. A key aspect of solutions is to work with continuity on conflict situations much before these escalate. Another aspect of such continuing efforts is in the area of disarmament, with steady work needed to reduce conventional weapons and to push for treaties which reduce possibilities of use of weapons of mass destruction, with the ultimate aim of eliminating weapons of mass destruction.
The peace movement at these four stages should be vertically integrated, with each level drawing strength from the others, together resulting in the creation of a very broad-based movement. Those who are helped by getting relief from one form of violence can be motivated to contribute to reducing other kinds of violence as well. Thus potentially, efforts to reduce domestic or community violence can contribute to the wider efforts for disarmament as well.
Apart from such vertical linkages the peace movement should establish close horizontal linkages with other social movements, including those for social and economic justice and environment protection, women and youth movements, movements for animal rights and particularly for reducing all kinds of cruelty to animals.
Peace without justice has a very weak foundation, hence the need for close linkage of peace and justice movements is self-evident. As war, war preparations and arms-race are the biggest polluters, there are strong reasons for close links of peace and environment protection. Compared to the serious weather disruptions and disasters likely to be caused by climate change over a few decades, use of nuclear weapons can cause even worse impacts within a few days. Women suffer the most from the ravages of a violent society. The future of children and youth is endangered most by war and weapons of mass destruction. Animals helpless to protest against many forms of cruelty can expect to find more compassion in a world where the peace movement is strong and broad-based.
Thus peace movement should strive to become a very strong force worldwide by making use of these vertical and horizontal linkages. This will definitely contribute to reducing distress and dangers in our deeply troubled world, making it a safer and a happier place.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, A Day in 2071 and Man over Machine.