Where does peace begin?

In a world addicted to war, with ubiquitous violence, soaring military expenditures, vast material resources and scientific brains sucked into the war machine, and warring madness in the media, how do we build peace? Religion now seems more the source of violence – thanks to George Bush’s claim to God’s direction in his Shock and Awe attacks. (Remember Operation Enduring Freedom raining death on Afghanistan?)

Mahatma Gandhi famously observed: “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” There’s a perceptive hymn that opens with “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me …” Peace must, I think, come from inside us, from a centre of stillness and aliveness in which we rest. From the practice of centering comes a humble awareness of being connected with Earth and with others, a sense of who and why you exist: to care and to share your life, treasuring and nurturing it.

In the press of urban life, for most people, busyness – the ceaseless round of things and doings that trap people in getting and spending – crowds out that stillness and peace. Email, the phone, meetings, lectures to give or attend, articles, books, to write or read, protests to make, demonstrations to attend, the pressure for peace activists never ends.

Grounding in inwardness is no mere religious option. Many meditative processes (Yoga, Qigong, Tai- Chi, and so on) lead people into such spirituality. Building peace requires the inward strength found in being centred, however people achieve that centredness.

Science for Peace founding president Eric Fawcett spent his retirement on two things: becoming an accomplished pianist, and learning and practising yoga. He was increasingly caught up in yoga, and just before his terminal illness was pleased that he was about to become a yoga master. Yoga is one of the many ways of being spiritually centred. Distinguished former diplomat James George, in his acclaimed book Asking for the earth: waking up to the spiritual/ecological crisis (Saftesbury, Dorset: Element Books Limited,1995) — which has a preface by the Dalai Lama and a foreword by Maurice Strong — says that only through centredness will we experience the interconnectedness that brings peace with ourselves and others. Centredness will, he says, release the values of humanity, of heart, and conscience (love, compassion, joy, equanimity) within a global perspective. And he cites Carl Jung, that “the work of saving the world has to begin by changing ourselves,” and Mahatma Gandhi, that “We must be the change we wish to see in the world” (See pp.108, 148).

To achieve peace within and between nations is not rocket science. In the 21st century we have a great deal of knowledge about techniques and processes of conflict management, mediation, negotiation, inter-positioning, accompaniment. These means to prevent, interrupt, and stop the drive for power from escalating to destruction and war are being employed. Techniques of anger management are even taught in public schools.

But peace can only begin with rejection. Our society has to reject war and violence. But for centuries Western governments and societies have pursued the preparations for war that naturally lead to warring. Years ago, Allan Newcombe, of the Dundas Peace Research Institute, on the basis of close study claimed where war would break out could be predicted by the extent of arms build-up in countries. Leaders driven by lust for power and possessions, with the tentacles of weapons’ manufacture like an octopus strangling society: is that the mirror image of the United States?

To move towards peace, the agenda of many citizen organizations must undo the mesh of destructiveness by achieving abolition of weapons step by step, stopping the war machine’s access to resources of taxes, deconstructing the lie that patriotism requires youth’s dedication to killing, developing such instruments of peace as non-violent defensive national forces, international humanitarian law, non-violent international enforcement capability, world government by citizens. These are dreams? There will be no life on earth — given nuclear weapons of apocalyptic potential and space weapons of doom – if we and our descendants don’t end war. Warring madness? Choose justice, sharing, and caring, and believe that a different world must be born. Peace is possible!

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ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)