1 ₪ Prepare for peace

1 ₪ The first facet of the Venusian Peace Project is about pondering, understanding and creating worthwhile peace. (Not just avoiding bad war.)

NEWS UNDER THE SUN

“Nothing new under the Sun”, so say people who haven’t taken the trouble to really look around.

And I am not now talking about miraculous forgotten cities, old manuscripts in mysterious libraries or as yet uncharted islands. Even within the boundaries of our ordinary lives there are areas that are strangely neglected.

“Strangely”, when you consider how important we say they are to us.Three such areas that I have come across are party life (explored here), listening to music (explored here), and last but not least peace (explored right here!).

Considering how important peace is, or how important we claim it is, its domain seems to be built on old, stale ideas and stock (non)solutions.

I actually feel like an explorer into virgin territory here, exploring and trekking the exotic island of Venusian Peace. Sounds like an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, but this is no fiction.

THE QUEST FOR GOOD QUESTIONS

Unlike most people I do see world peace as possible. The way to it leads through intellectual and emotional paths, paths that are overgrown, unclear, confused. Asking earnest, to the point questions can help us to clear the path.

Questions like

  • What IS actually peace?
  • What is it not?
  • What is its relation to war?
  • Is there a larger spectrum, can we draw a map where war and peace (and stations in between) are placed in intelligent fashion?
  • Who’s “table” is peace? Are there other groups than politicians, diplomats and historians etc. who might give better answers, find better solutions to peace?
  • How can peace become as interesting, enjoyable, fun, exiting and enthusiasm-creating as war, or rather crypto-war (fighting, contests, debates, action movies and violent computer games)? Crypto-war is the competition, so let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that peace “has a chance” if it keeps remaining lofty but boring.
  • How can music, art and other Venusian activities help to make peace more substantial and distinctly attractive?

These are just a few non-traditional questions that could help us move forward. In short:

Ask better questions and ye shall receive better answers.

Repeating and ruminating the same old tired peace questions does not lead us forward. Let us think outside the board and explore really new (or long forgotten) paths…

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Words in the service of peace and harmony

Thoughts are things, this is an old (!) New-Thought concept, still alive and well. Thoughts and concepts also have different levels of quality, one could even say carats.

Imagine Christmas Eve when a quarrel ensues because one of the children thinks it unfair that his sister’s toy is bigger and more expensive. We tell the children that this is — childish. We inspire them to rise above that kind of thinking.

— Do not compare your presents in such a nitpicking, scroogy, mercantile way! Be happy for what you get, independently of what others get.

Adults regard this as a better, more mature way of thinking. Instead of comparing sizes and prices we can look at things from a higher perspective, something that also is needed in peace work and peace play.

So quite obviously there are different quality levels of thinking, perspectives with higher and lower carats. And this also concerns the terms and concepts of our everyday conversation and debates.

We talk about economy, democracy, growth, feminism, gender, leadership, industrial and developing countries, without making much distinction as to the levels of these words.

Simone Weil has an interesting perspective on this. She was a philosopher, a contemporary Christian mystic and almost (or actually) a saint, but what follows here is clear and tangible, practical enough even for a largely materialistic world.

AIM HIGH

According to her there are high, elevated words. Her examples are God, truth, justice, love, beauty, good.

And there are words coming from a lower, middle region: rights, democracy, persons.

She suggests that we as much as possible use the high words as guiding lights, not the lower ones. That might sound good in an abstract, religious way. But it also has a practical value in relation to peace and harmonious living on the planet.

All that is necessary is to confine ourselves to those words and phrases
which always, everywhere, in all circumstances express only the good.”

In other words, use only the elevated, high carat words.

So how can this be tested? Let’s follow Simone’s thought and see where it leads us.

TEST FOR SUITABLE WORDS

Weil is very much concerned with the poor and afflicted. In a world with enormous inequalities between poor and rich (“asymmetry” is a non-committal word for it) this is something very relevant. How do we address the afflicted? What do we tell them, using what words?

Simone: “The afflicted are overwhelmed with evil and starving for good. The only words suitable for them are those which express nothing but good, in its pure state.

So let us skip words of the middle region and go straight to the higher concepts.

— Sounds fine again, you say. In an idealistic, religious, philosophical way.

Well, being “philosophical” is doctor’s orders for a creature that calls himself Homo sapiens. So let’s go beyond surfing the surface of things and dive deeper. In the gym we understand the value of heavy weights; let’s lift some substantial thoughts.

The way to discriminate between higher and lower, Simone suggests, is to look at kinship, associations and corruptibility. “Words which can be associated with something signifying an evil are alien to pure good.

If a concept has a reverse, a dark downside, let’s be wary of it.

Such a word can be “person”. “We are criticizing a man when we say: ‘He puts his person forward’; therefore the person is alien to good.”

Clear enough. Putting personal considerations first — for example if you are the leader of a state, thus having the job of serving and helping your country — is considered base and low.

“Democracy”, an immensely popular and viral word and concept, also needs to be looked at. “We can speak of an abuse of democracy; therefore democracy is alien to good.”

Nothing shocking here; we knew this. Democracy has a reverse, a downside, and many stupid and downright awful things can be committed in its name.

“Rights” are next. “To possess a right implies the possibility for making good or bad use of it; therefore rights are alien to good.

Now, rights (The Rights of Man) are considered holy by many. Which in effect means that we are not inclined to actually THINK about them, just sing AMEN and HALLELUJAH. Again not a very sapient thing to do.

Simone perceptively points out the nuances of the word “right”. (My underlining throughout.)

The word “evokes a latent war and awakens the spirit of contention. To place the notion of rights at the center of social conflicts is to inhibit any possible impulse of charity on both sides.

The word does not bring charity or generosity, it rather helps us (and often we do not require pressing) to move into conflict, competition and strife. Maybe even war.

A longer quote.

Thanks to this word, what should have been a cry of protest
from the depth of the heart has been turned into a shrill nagging of
claims and counter-claimsThe notion of rights … has a commercial flavour, essentially evocative of legal claims and arguments.

“Rights are always asserted in a tone of contention; and when this tone is adopted, it must rely upon force in the background, or else it will be laughed at.”

This bargaining spirit was already implicit in the notion of
rights which the men of 1789 so unwisely made the keynote of their
deliberate challenge to the world.”

BETTER THAN RIGHT

So the word “right” brings into our discussions (which are perhaps already directed towards personal or group advantages) a shrill note, a commercial flavour, a bargaining spirit. It is often plain egoistical.

There is also a difference in carat between working for the rights of others and ourselves. The former activity can be driven by a genuine sense of justice coming from the heart, while the latter can be an official formality, or egoistical hunt for personal gain.

Clearly the difference is not that hard to see.

–Good enough, you say. What word should we use instead?

Good is not a bad word. Simone herself suggest “justice” as a higher concept. I do not fully agree. For me that word sounds very vague and it is not a clear concept. Very often it is aligned with, almost a synonym to, rights.

I would suggest that a concept like fair-play could be better than rights. Why? Because it takes both sides into consideration, and also appeals to our sense of justice, not just points to a set of legislative rules and regulations.

When considering peace, moving towards cordial harmony rather than egoistical discord, the question of right words is not marginal but central. Harmony is higher than discord or dissonance  – which can be a matter of just letting things devolve into entropy and emotional-intellectual chaos.

Harmony demands much more: heart, attention and true intelligence, which partly means discrimination. So let us, in the name of peace, even Venusian peace, discriminate between high and low, mercantile and truly humane words.

POSTSCRIPT:

One can discuss not only the building bricks (words) but also the manner of speaking / writing. Writing can be more or less including or excluding, populist or elitist. 

My aim is basically always to write for, not the masses or the specialists but the intelligent laymen — those who ARE stressed by information overload but still not so averse to thinking outside the box that they want everything to be instant, pre-chewed, totally painless and soundbite-y. Bon appetite.

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Prepare for what you want, not its opposite

1 ₪ Prepare for Peace  Let us start our odyssey by looking at language.

Instead of opposing war and fighting against war (also a war), we can pave the way for peace by removing obstacles to it. This first one in Latin.

Si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war.

This is such a sad case of idiocy. I think Latin is a glorious language. I once tried to learn it but my active disinterest in and aversion to grammar stopped me.

However, Latin conveys an automatic aura of profundity to words. Said in Latin, nonsense gets away with being nonsense.

Si vis pacem… this sentence has a nice paradoxical ring to it. People love to quote it. The paradox + the Latin makes this a hip meme; mouths feels intelligent when mouthing it.

But what is really being said? That if you want peace, prepare for its opposite. In some instances where certain values are to be defended, it is relevant. But it’s a lousy truth. For if you want war, you will of course prepare for war, too. Whatever your goal, you will prepare for war.

Gosh, how the military-industrial complex loves that logic!

Don't disturb. We are preparing for peace!
Don’t disturb. We are preparing for peace!

So, prepare for war in all cases and what do you get? WAR!

“Prepare” is an interesting word. When we prepare a dinner we are going to eat what we prepared.

We don’t think that we can prepare tomato soup and then eat Wiener-schnitzel. But that’s exactly what we imagine when we prepare for war and expect peace.

Let’s rewrite this. If you want peace, prepare to think hard. Cause the war impulse is so ingrained with us, so sneaky, so manipulative, that it will find all kinds of excuses for itself.

Some of them in fancy Latin.

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Seven obstacles to peace

What stands in the way of peace? Here are seven obstacles. Actually there should be one more, let’s give it number zero.

0) “If you want peace, prepare for war” (Si vis pacem, para bellum, no less idiotic for being said in Latin). And if you want war, prepare for war (!?).

Seems we are always preparing for war. How on Earth is that going to give us peace? We get to eat the food we prepare, in the same way we get (often in the neck) the war we prepare for.



Now the seven obstacles.

1) We don’t know what peace is.

2) The word is empty, or negative, or filled with explosives.

3) We are blind to the seeds of war and inspiration to war all around us.

4) We don’t desire it enough.

5) We don’t really believe that peace is possible.

6) We think that we peace-lovers are a weak minority.

7) We turn to the wrong people for peace.



1) We don’t know what peace is.

Even a small child can tell you, in a simple, basic sense, what war is. Most everybody understands war.

Ask even intelligent grownups to define peace, and they will have problems. Can you define it?

If we don’t really know what peace means, how then can we work for it, find it, make it manifest?

2) The word is empty, or negative, or filled with explosives.

The word “peace” is either a nicely wrapped Christmas present that turns out to be empty, devoid of clear meaning.

Or it is mainly defined negatively, as absence. “We have peace when we don’t have war.” This could be logical if you live in a country at war, but not if you live in a country not at war.

Finally, some people talk about “balance of power” as an aspect of, or means to, peace. If every party has enough (same amount) nuclear weapons then we will have balance = peace.

Such weapon-based or war-based peace doesn’t sound particularly peaceful to us.

3) We are blind to the seeds of war and the inspiration to war all around us.

We think that only soldiers and politician are making war. At the same time we ourselves are busy doing microwar and protowar. How? Where? In our quarrels, debates (battere = hit, beat), discussions (dis= apart), war of words, “flame wars” on the Net. (All of these manifestations are a kind of ritualized “battles”.)

Mass media inspires us in this same direction, with all these competitions and contests based on elimination, reporting political debates as if they were boxing matches. Of course we see life and society as mainly a win-lose affair, however much we mouth the cliche of win-win.

4) We don’t desire it enough.

There are so many more interesting things than peace. Adventure movies, computer games, sports, Facebook, sex, hot gadgets and cool apps, Pokemon go…

Besides, it is quite logical NOT to give our energy to something that we don’t really grasp and cannot define. If peace at least had some of the excitement of sports, or politics, or even opera… But it seems to be a static, sterile phenomenon. Yes, sure, fine and high and lofty, but somehow still unable to catch our actual interest.

5) We don’t really believe that peace is possible.

Fatalism is major disease with mankind. Our scientists have not only dethroned God (and made themselves our new gods) but also informed us that we are “mere specks of dust in the Universe”. Hardly pep talk for taking our, and mankind’s, destiny into our hands.

The forces working in the opposite direction (war) seem overwhelmingly strong, our mass media constantly shows us examples of war (their logic is “good news is no news”), hordes of people around us say that voting is meaningless, “you cannot really change anything”.

Is it any wonder that one turns fatalist?

6) We think that we peace-lovers are a weak minority.

Actually we are a majority but the “hawks” and the winners of war (those who profit by it) are strong, well organized, well financed, and armed to the teeth. They project a scary image — and we let ourselves be scared.

Some like to say that man is evil, but behind war and strife stand only a small evil minority. Why don’t we send these guys and gals off to a small planet where they can act out their war games, without dragging the rest of humanity along with them?

However, for this we also need better citizens. Being a “voter” who votes every other year, maybe follows politics on TV and complains about political decisions that don’t please him is not enough. Enough to sustain status quo, and war, yes, but not enough for creating peace.

7) We turn to the wrong people for peace.

Peace work needs to be separated from politics. Peace is apolitical, utopian, win-win. Politics is win-lose, separatist, based on elimination.

Think about it. The repeatedly demonstrated talents of politicians and presidents is 1) rhetoric (including dishonesty and downright lying), 2) putting part-, party-, partisan interest (or just ego) above the common good, 3) more or less common corruption and even criminality, and 4) war (direct and indirect).

Hoping that somehow peace will flower from such a mold, such a questionable domain, is like entrusting a village of picturesque wooden houses to a pyromaniac. Wrong tool, wrong person for the job.

So who is right for it? A peace pilot, a Jedi of peace, someone who understands harmony, found in abundant measure in music.

(All this will be more fully explained in a later text. This is just a first sketch, but it is at least a step in a new, fresh direction.)

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