This is a chapter in World Peace Efforts Since Gandhi, which is published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.
Humanity is currently facing its greatest crisis in human history.
I call it an evolutionary crisis, because the survival of the
human species is threatened with extinction. The large arsenals
of weapons of mass destruction, especially the thermonuclear weapons,
could be used in an all-out war that might bring about a nuclear
winter and the demise of the human race. I have faith that we
will learn how to solve our problems without degenerating into
such massive self-destruction; but we must recognize that given
current destructive tendencies such a catastrophic event is a
distinct possibility if we do not solve our problems in more peaceful
ways. I think it is very important for people to understand that
these dangers exist so that we will act to prevent them. In addition
to a sudden disaster from nuclear war, the environmental problem
of gradual pollution is making the Earth less habitable. This
danger is less risky, because we may have more time to reverse
the negative trends. Nonetheless, to prevent the increase of human
misery and to protect the Earth habitat, we must address ecological
concerns as well. The supply of fresh water is a major concern.
If we are not able to resolve conflicts over the distribution
and use of water, many wars could result, making the problem worse.
Likewise, conflicts over diminishing fossil fuels could cause
wars and possibly trigger mutual destruction.
Despite the outstanding efforts of Mikhail Gorbachev that helped to bring about an end to the Cold War and the nuclear arms race between the two superpowers, the United States has obstinately refused to disarm as it promised and is obligated to do by international law because of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT) Treaty, Article 6, which reads,
Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes
to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures
relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date
and to nuclear disarmament,
and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament
under strict and effective international control.
The recent (NPT) conference at the United Nations in May 2005
failed to make progress mainly because of US intransigence on
disarmament. Under Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton,
and especially under George W. Bush, the United States has proclaimed
itself the only superpower and is making strong efforts to attain
world domination by continuing to increase its military power,
arrogating to itself and its expanding NATO allies the authority
to be the police wherever their selfish interests are in contention
while neglecting or giving low priority to humanitarian crises
in poor countries, especially in Africa. The previous chapters
show this trend by the recent wars in Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia,
Afghanistan, and Iraq again.
No US president has shown more contempt for international law and treaties than George W. Bush. Since taking office in 2001 he has withdrawn from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, rejected the 1972 Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention ratified by 144 nations including the United States, alone opposed the UN Agreement to Curb the International Flow of Illicit Small Arms, withheld dues from the United Nations, rejected the International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty, disavowed Clinton's promise to join the Land Mine Treaty, blocked negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 for controlling global warming, declined to participate in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) efforts to crack down on off-shore and other tax and money-laundering havens, refused to join 123 nations pledged to ban the use and production of anti-personnel bombs and mines, withdrawn from the International Conference on Racism, opposed the G-8's International Plan for Cleaner Energy, enforced an illegal boycott of Cuba, rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, refused to rejoin UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) or contribute to its budget, rejected abolition of the death penalty in the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, declined to sign the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, violated the UN Charter and numerous treaties by invading Iraq, and failed to ratify the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the 1966 UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Bush II administration has used brutal force to overthrow the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti.
In 2002 the warmongering policies of George W. Bush went beyond even his 2001 proclamation of an endless war on terrorism everywhere in the world, when he declared the nations Iraq, Iran, and North Korea an "axis of evil." In reviewing the option for the first use of nuclear weapons, the Bush administration added the nations of Syria, Libya, China, and Russia and began implying that the US would even be justified in making "pre-emptive" strikes or even launching preventive wars of aggression in its national interest. Bush II also announced an expensive program to develop new nuclear weapons and a massive program to monopolize weaponry in outer space in order to gain complete military supremacy for world domination. These extremely dangerous and outrageous policies have been supported in the mass media and by many prominent politicians. Yet the belligerent attitudes of George W. Bush and his drive toward global domination and war with Iraq have stimulated great concern and massive demonstrations around the world.
The crisis was worsened by the 2004 US elections in which the
Democrats nominated a candidate who supported the illegal war
in Iraq in order to try to defeat Bush. The election cheating
and fraud, especially in Ohio, were not adequately investigated
and reported by the major media. One can only conclude that the
United States, like Germany, Italy, and Japan in the 1930s, has
become a criminal nation. In June 2005 widely respected Amnesty
International published a report calling the US policy of detaining
people and abusing their rights a gulag.
According to WHO's 2005 world health report, eleven million children under the age of five are dying annually from preventable causes. More than half the people in the world struggle to survive on less than two dollars a day, and over one billion try to live on less than one dollar a day. More than 800 million people go to bed hungry. This extreme poverty throughout the world could be ended if the wealthy nations that are worth $30 trillion contributed just $150 billion a year. Yet the US alone is now spending more than $500 billion annually on the military. The AIDS epidemic is killing millions in Africa and is spreading in Asia. Minor wars rage in dozens of countries, and most people have little faith in their governmental leaders. Humans' use of fossil fuels is causing global warming, which is already beginning to affect weather patterns, melting of polar ice, and rising sea levels. This book is mostly concerned with the issues of war and peace and social justice; but we also need to work on solving all these problems.
Since the neo-imperialist policies of the United States are currently posing the greatest threat to world peace and stability, I believe that US citizens have a special responsibility and a great opportunity to help all of humanity by changing the policies of our government. The US and Russia have far more weapons of mass destruction than any other nation. Yet President Bush is hypocritically demanding that other countries, which are attempting to gain such weapons, cease doing so or face a pre-emptive war from the United States. This is not a wise nor safe way to keep other nations from developing nuclear weapons. In fact, such warlike behavior tends to stimulate other countries, such as North Korea, Iran, China, Russia, India, and Pakistan, to develop their nuclear arsenals so that they can deter the US from attacking them. How long will it take for people to learn that war is not the way to peace and justice? Those of us who understand this cannot afford to wait for foolish leaders to learn this lesson the hard way. The wise who care about the future of humanity must act to change these dangerous policies. This chapter explains ways to do that so that we can establish a world of peace and justice.
Naturally we must begin from where we are, which is a very difficult situation. We need to realize that this global emergency requires dedicated sacrifice by thousands and millions of people who are committed to make the changes needed. William James called it the "moral equivalent of war." In 1910 he wrote,
So long as antimilitarists propose no substitute
for war's disciplinary function, no moral equivalent of war,
analogous, as one might say,
to the mechanical equivalent of heat,
so long they fail to realize the full inwardness of the situation.
And as a rule they do fail.
The duties, penalties, and sanctions
pictured in the utopias they paint
are all too weak and tame to touch the military-minded.1
James went on to cite Tolstoy as the only one who suggested
turning away from worldly values enough. In other words, we need
to be more energetic in our efforts for peace than those who go
to war. This is certainly an awesome challenge; but what could
be more noble and heroic than saving human civilization from its
impending trend toward self-destruction?
I believe that Jesus gave the greatest call when he told people to seek first the sovereignty of God and not worry about food, clothing, and shelter, because one cannot serve both God and money. He advised those who would be his disciples to sell all they had and give the money to the poor. I believe that if enough people will actually do this, we will be able to transform our society to one that takes care of all without intentionally harming any. Renouncing violence means we must give up the special privileges that those with extra power have taken from others. We must accept equality with all people and work for the good of everyone. Most difficult, perhaps, is that we must learn to love our enemies and do good even to those who harm us. This does not mean that we should support their crimes; but instead of retaliating or punishing, we must seek reconciliation and justice for all. We need to learn how to trust the Spirit of goodness in all with the faith that even if we are killed or die after much struggle, that others will carry on our work until the good triumphs. We must purify ourselves by adhering to the way of love and its discipline of nonviolence. Such methods are not only the best; I believe they will also prove to be the most effective in the long run, because they reduce the amount of violence and injustice in the world.
Yet to transform the serious situation we face we must do more than simply live peacefully ourselves in loving relationship with those near us. To change governmental policies that threaten the well-being of all, we must work actively to transform our society by communicating and educating in every way possible and by demonstrating the ways of peace in our nonviolent actions that courageously challenge the war-makers and the war preparations. During the Roman empire Jesus demonstrated and taught the way of the cross, which was the punishment for non-Roman revolutionaries. Our current civilization is even more militarized than that empire was, and thus our efforts for peace and disarmament are punished by those in power also, usually by imprisonment. Yet I believe that these are the sacrifices our generation must make in order to redeem our civilization from the powerful who use violence. The rapid acceleration of modern technology and the destructive power of current weapons indicate that the fate of the Earth will be decided in the near future. Because of this danger, we cannot afford to wait for a gradual evolution nor sit back while the greedy plunder the Earth and endanger humanity. We must appeal to others to help and act together boldly with courage, if our civilization is to be saved.
Early in his presidency Dwight Eisenhower gave a speech in which he outlined what the policy of the United States should be, ironically a contrast to what it actually became during his administration, the huge military-industrial establishment he warned about in his 1961 farewell address. Yet in April 1953 Eisenhower prophetically said,
The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked
by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs.
First: no people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy,
for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace
and fellowship and justice.
Second: no nation's security and well-being
can be lastingly achieved in isolation
but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
Third: any nation's right to a form of government
and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.
Fourth: any nation's attempt to dictate to other nations
their form of government is indefensible.
And fifth: a nation's hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based
upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations
and honest understanding with all other nations.
In the light of these principles the citizens of the United States
defined the way they proposed to follow,
through the aftermath of war, toward true peace.
This way was faithful to the spirit that inspired the United Nations:
to prohibit strife, to relieve tensions, to banish fears.
This way was to control and to reduce armaments.
This way was to allow all nations
to devote their energies and resources to the great and good tasks
of healing the war's wounds,
of clothing and feeding and housing the needy,
of perfecting a just political life,
of enjoying the fruits of their own free toil.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched,
every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense,
a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers,
the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this:
a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants,
each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.
It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes
that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found
on the road the world has been taking.
This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.
Under the cloud of threatening war,
it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.2
Of course, the costs of bombers, fighter planes, and other
modern weapons in our time are much larger than then, and so the
stealing from the poor is that much greater. The millions of starving
children are the ones crucified by our neglect. Those deformed
by the birth defects that are caused by radiation or who die slowly
from its cancers are the ones who suffer from using nuclear weapons
such as depleted uranium or worse.
I believe that this emergency is an urgent call for us to act nonviolently to save humanity. War also destroys the humanity in those doing the killing. We must be guided by the divine principles of love, goodness, and justice; we must act for the good of everyone in the world; and we must make the sacrifices necessary wherever we may find ourselves. To sacrifice is to make something sacred. When we risk our lives and freedom to help save others, we are magnifying our souls and extending our love. On the back of the Nonviolent Action Handbook I published the following:
This book you are now reading shows how nonviolent actions have helped to bring about the end of slavery, votes for women, civil rights for minorities, an end to the Vietnam War, a limiting and resolution to the conflicts in Central America, and to a reduction in nuclear weapons. Now we need to unify our efforts in order to complete the task by bringing about the complete disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction, great reductions in national armed forces, and the use of international courts of justice to resolve all disputes between nations.
We can no longer afford to tolerate the ambitious and the greedy promoting wars that harm so many. The people who understand that nonviolent methods solve problems better than relying on massive national armaments for security need to act in ways that demonstrate these principles in order to persuade others that human beings can in fact solve conflicts without violence. We need to exert economic pressures with boycotts, strikes, and noncooperation with crimes against international law so that others will have to face the consequences of those crimes and so will eventually be moved to change wrong policies that harm people. We must act in solidarity with all the good people in the world who want peace and justice for all.
What does this mean in practical terms? As Gandhi often pointed out, not cooperating with evil is as much a duty as cooperating with good. Thus if our government is using our taxes to prepare for and execute wars, then in order not to be complicit with those crimes we must withhold our tax money. In the United States more than half of federal income tax is spent on war-related activity. Does this mean that one will be put in prison for refusing to pay one's taxes? Actually, so far people are not being imprisoned for simply refusing to pay federal income tax. Those who cheat on the income tax may be prosecuted and imprisoned. When someone honestly and openly refuses to pay, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may attempt to confiscate the tax they think is owed by attaching wages or property. However, there are restrictions, because they are not allowed to leave people completely destitute. Therefore only those with significant assets or a large income are in much danger of such confiscations. Many people, like myself, simply do not make enough money to owe any income tax; or the tax is so small that it is not worth the trouble for the IRS to try to collect it. Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness has said that not paying federal income tax is a spiritual discipline. The American colonies began their revolution by refusing to pay the taxes to the British empire that were imposed to pay for its imperialist wars.
I recommend that people take the advice of Jesus, who was crucified for telling people not to pay tax to Rome (Luke 23:2). One can give income over the taxable level, which is usually around what is called the poverty line, to nonprofit or charitable institutions that are tax deductible. This helps improve society while at the same time prevents the government from having resources for war-making. I envision a large movement of people, who dedicate themselves to the good of all humanity and so live in community with others by sharing their wealth that is beyond the taxable level. The examples were set by Buddha and his followers, Jesus and his disciples, the monasteries in the Middle Ages, the Franciscans, Gandhi's ashrams, and others. I foresee that such groups could form charitable organizations in which all the employees would be earning less than the taxable level; but by living in community they would have everything that they need. In contrast to corporate charities such as the United Way, which pays huge salaries to its executives and spends much of the money donated raising more money with junk mailings, advertising, and so on, these spiritually disciplined charities would be able to guarantee to donors that a much larger percentage of the money they contribute will actually go to help people in need or for the educational purposes of the institution.
This peace and justice movement will make it clear that having great wealth that is not used to help others is in fact being in complicity with imperialist domination, which is designed to protect the interests of the wealthy. People, especially in the United States, must choose whether they serve the almighty dollar or whether they want to dedicate their lives to the love and sharing that Jesus the Christ demonstrated and taught. We must expose the hypocrisy of those who claim to be Christians and yet support right-wing politicians who promote imperialist wars and oppress the poor while favoring the rich who contribute to their campaigns. This great struggle between those who use violence and those who do not is part of the conflict that Jesus predicted would precede the second coming of the Christ. I believe that the cosmic Christ is in every soul, because the soul is part of God. In my opinion the second coming of Christ is when it comes to the awareness of each person. That is why Jesus warned people not to follow those who said the Christ is over here or over there; but the second coming of the Christ will be as obvious as lightning from east to west, because when a person realizes that the Christ is within, one can never be separated from that reality.
People can be creative in resisting the militarism of our society. Military bases and weapons manufacturers and researchers are near almost every community in the country, and there are overseas bases as well. Demonstrations and protests can be organized, especially in times of war. I believe that extra efforts need to be made in communicating and educating people in the schools, churches, civic groups, by media, art, music, and so on. Nonviolent protests that result in arrests are also very effective; but they are not the only ways to persuade people to change. Einstein said that we need a chain reaction of awareness. Nonviolent action is most effective person to person. Those who do not wish to take time from work to protest or risk arrest can contribute money to peace education and support others who are making sacrifices. As the peace and justice movement grows and expands, strikes and boycotts become even more effective. Meanwhile efforts can also be made to influence the politicians and to elect those people who will lead society toward the reforms needed.
In this phase of the nonviolent revolution the sacrifices of
committed individuals and groups and the massive educational campaigns
catalyze society to elect reformers to high offices in the government.
Thus it is very important that people work on the political campaigns
of those candidates who will make the changes. In the United States
the current political process has become so corrupted by money
that this is a challenge. People need to learn not to be overly
influenced by paid political advertisements. Again we need committed
individuals who will work hard to spread the word so that the
pervasive apathy and cynicism can be overcome; then more people
will vote. Fortunately the Internet and other modern communication
technologies can help us get around the domination of the mass
media by the huge corporations. People need to work to improve
the mass media, but they can also find alternative media such
as Pacifica radio that will tell them the truth and let them hear
the voices that are calling for peace and justice more than those
who have been bought by wealthy interests.
In the last twenty-five years the Republican Party has been taken over by the rich in order to implement policies to their selfish advantage even though they result in imperialist wars and greater suffering and hardship for the poor and middle class. Yet most of the politicians in the Democratic Party have also become subservient to the corporate interests of those who contribute to their campaigns. These two powerful parties that have become so similar have colluded to exclude other parties from getting a fair hearing in the media or in the formal debates that precede elections. Outstanding candidates from the Green Party have been excluded from these debates, and the winner-take-all system has marginalized this progressive party. Even when Ralph Nader was interviewed by the media in 2000, half the time was spent discussing how he was acting as a spoiler against the Democrats. In 2004 Nader ran as an independent and was generally ignored, as was Green candidate David Cobb. Thus I have suggested the strategy that progressive candidates can run in Democratic primaries in order to transform that party. A "green Democrat" has a better chance of winning a Democratic primary than a general election as a Green Party candidate. Then the green Democrat also has a better chance of winning the final election. After many such green Democrats are elected, this struggle may result in the Democratic Party splitting, and then there would be three major parties. Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is a major election reform that is urgently needed. I also have suggested amending the US Constitution so that the Senate could be elected by proportional representation to make it more democratic.
If we can get more of the poor and middle class voting, I believe that the narrow interests of the Republican Party will result in its being greatly weakened. I believe that people will eventually realize that the party of Bush really only helps the selfishness of the richest people and that its policies are not in the long-term interests of the United States or of the world. How long it takes before this revolution in consciousness takes place depends upon how bad things have to get before people learn but also on how well we can educate people that there are better ways. I believe that if we can learn from our wisdom, we will not have to suffer as much before we make the improvements. Let us work hard so that it does not take a limited nuclear war before people learn! We need political leadership that envisions a much better world and will bring about disarmament and justice for all.
Since the United States has the most powerful military forces
ever assembled and spends nearly as much or more on the military
than the rest of the world combined, this country can lead the
way toward disarmament. Despite the efforts of the Bush administration
to create a new set of enemies to replace the Communist menace
of the Cold War, the US is not really threatened by invasion from
any foreign power. The scattered terrorist enemies that have arisen
to fight the US are a direct result of the international crimes
of the US in what is called "blow-back." This is essentially
karma, the consequences of US foreign policy and its attempts
to dominate the world. I believe that if the United States elects
an enlightened president, that she or he could lead the world
to peace and disarmament. I recommend that this process of disarmament
be verified by an international organization such as the United
Nations; but because the UN is dominated by the five nuclear powers
that are the permanent members of the Security Council, I believe
that either the UN needs to be reformed to be more democratic,
or the people of the world need to form a democratic federal world
The new US president could call for a world constitutional convention so that representatives from every country could gather and draw up a constitution for a limited federal government that could oversee the process of disarmament and have three balanced branches of government to settle international disputes and protect human rights. Nations would remain sovereign over their own territories and would be free to choose their economic and social policies as long as they did not violate other nations or human rights. This world constitution would need to be ratified by all the major nations of the world before it would take effect. People could elect representatives to the world legislature. I have suggested that the executive branch could be headed by a council of nine presidents representing North America, South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North Asia, India, China, and East Asia. Elections could be held regularly, and the nine presidents would be elected by the people of their region. Each president would appoint one judge to the World Court for one nine-year term, one new judge being appointed each year. The judges would have to be confirmed by the legislators.
The disarmament process could begin with a thorough inventory of all weapons of mass destruction, and then these could be eliminated in a few years with inspections verifying that the correct number were dismantled each year. Conventional weapons could also be eliminated over several years. Peacekeeping would be as nonviolent as possible, and volunteers could come from all nations but not too many from any one nation. If any group or nation tried to resist an arrest for a violation of world law, then the executive council could authorize whatever force might be needed to bring the violators to trial before the World Court. Thus national armed forces would no longer be needed. Each nation could have their own local police, but all international disputes would be under the jurisdiction of the world's federal authorities. In the early stages of the disarmament all military forces in foreign countries could be removed, and all weapons sales could be banned. I believe that diplomacy and judicial decisions can resolve the conflicts between nations and peoples when the unjust use of force or its threat is removed. The world legislature could pass laws banning the weapons of war. As long as nuclear power plants exist, all nuclear materials could be monitored by world inspectors. All military bases would be closed and could be converted to university campuses, hospitals, and other productive uses. This is only a brief sketch of what would need to be a very carefully designed process.
At the same time as we are working for peace and disarmament,
we need to be making efforts to bring the world into a more harmonious
balance by correcting the social and economic injustices, by providing
the charitable resources to alleviate the suffering, and by preserving
the ecological integrity of the environment to protect human health.
Recent inequities perpetrated by predatory capitalism through
the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), and the powerful nations of the North have
aroused cries of protest from the poorer peoples of the South.
The expanding movement for global justice needs to be supported
by conscientious people everywhere so that trade can be not only
free but also fair and responsible to the needs of the people
and their environment. Letting the rich continue to exploit the
poor in order to become even richer and more powerful while the
poor become weaker and more miserable is not an economically sustainable
situation. Therefore the exploited need to organize and work to
improve their situations while those who care about them need
to help educate and persuade the powerful to be more just and
charitable in their economic policies. The processes that govern
trade should not be controlled by the powerful few in secret but
should be open and democratic for the benefit of all.
The rich and powerful nations, such as the United States, which uses a third of the world's resources and produces proportionally as much pollution, need to be responsible by accepting and adhering to global treaties that are designed to prevent global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, reduction of fisheries, and pollution of air, water, and land. More enlightened governmental policies will subsidize and encourage sustainable energies while taxing all forms of pollution in order to make corporations accountable for the consequences of their actions. These progressive policies will make our civilization much less dependent on petroleum, coal, and nuclear energy.
I believe that we have the intelligence and technical skill to make this Earth a paradise for all if we will stop wasting so much of our human and material resources on destructive military activities and the ruthless pursuit of excessive profits. The challenge humanity faces in the next generation or two will probably decide the fate of the Earth for centuries to come. Will we use our wisdom and move back from the brink of disaster? Will we join together with others and work for the good of all so that our children and grandchildren may enjoy a bright and happy future?
To summarize, here are some of the things that we can do to make this world a better place. We can pray and meditate for peace in order to exude that peace to others. We can examine our lives and our conscience to see how we can correct our faults, improve ourselves and do more to help others. We can study the issues of peace and justice so that we will make intelligent decisions and so that we can communicate well and educate others. We can work on projects with others that will benefit society. We can be frugal or spend our money in ways that are most beneficial for the world. We can have the courage to confront those who are harming others in order to persuade them to change their behavior. We can work with groups to organize people so that we can magnify our power and bring about major improvements in society and government.
By acting nonviolently we can heal the wounds caused by violence and transform our society; through the democratic process of world law we can keep the peace. May God guide us all, and may we all work together in harmony for a world that is best for everyone.
1. "The Moral Equivalent of War" by William James
in The Pacifist Conscience ed. Peter Mayer, p. 185-186.
|2. "Chance for Peace" address delivered before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953.
This is a chapter in World Peace Efforts Since Gandhi, which is published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.