We just got through wishing for “peace on earth” and celebrating the birth of a new age, and now it’s Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday – another opportunity for us to think about peace, nonviolence, and doing things in a new way. On a personal note, tomorrow is also my younger son’s 44th birthday. I’d like to dedicate this post about how we can have peace on earth to him. Happy birthday, Jesse! You and your brother and the children you’ve each brought into the world are my inspiration for doing this.
Can we really have peace on earth? How?
I agree with all the folks who say that we have to start by cultivating peace within – following a spiritual path and meditating or having quiet moments of just being – open to messages from that part of our intuition that’s a spark of the divine, our connection with everything and everyone else. Then we have to do our best to be that peace in our personal lives, accepting and loving ourselves and others where we are, learning nonviolent communication, being of service to each other, etc.
But if it stops there, either our violent world won’t change noticeably, or, if it does, it will take so long that the unnecessary killing and wounding and suffering with go on much longer than it has to. I’d like to see us take the peace we’ve cultivated within and bring it into the larger world, witnessing to it with strangers and organizing to make it a global force, alongside the dark, unconscious forces of fear and greed that are hurting so many and destroying the natural world on which we depend. Not so there can be a battle, ’cause we’re nonviolent, but so folks can see and try an alternative.
What brings us peace shouldn’t put us to sleep, because it’s of a piece with what enlivens us, what’s given us life and beauty and love. It’s mellow, but it’s an active thing. I believe that that life and that love can not only take precedence over the smallness and fear that brings suffering to our individual lives, it can eventually disassemble the economic, political, cultural, and military death machine all these individual beliefs and practices have created. “All” we have to do is make it our top priority and truly bring it to bear.
We can do that individually in acts of courage that inspire others. That’s a necessary part of it. But we also need to get together – to organize and form affinity groups for both mutual support and planning actions and campaigns. Getting together multiplies our power exponentially, and history shows that when we’re steadfast in it, not even the mightiest government can stand against us. Hitler and Stalin are no more, and the American “evil empire” won’t last forever either. Another world really is possible.
It won’t be easy, and there is much to learn and practice, but we can do it, if each of us puts in his and her bit. As King and his hero Gandhi taught, we also have to stay as consistently as possible in a place of love and courage and nonviolence to make it work. And some of us have to be willing to risk everything, even our lives, for our values.
Here’s an example of what I mean: During the civil rights movement, David Hartsough, one of the founders of the Global Nonviolence Peace Force, was sitting in at a lunch counter helping to desegregate it, and a man approached him from behind. Holding a switchblade knife and with a horrible look of hatred on his face, he said, “You nigger lover – If you don’t get out of this store in two seconds, I’m going to stab this through your heart.” Hartsough looked the man in the eye, and said, “Friend, do what you believe is right, and I’ll still try and love you.” The man’s jaw and hand dropped, and he left the store. (More on Hartsough in the next day or so.)
Think about what it would take for you to take that kind of risk and devote that kind of energy to standing up for what you value.
I think many of us, including myself, have gotten inured to the increasing violence and ugliness of our society. The wars; the shootings; the increasingly ugly and violent books, TV shows, and movies. “We tried that in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s,” we say or think, “and it didn’t work…We tried it in 2003 before Bush launched the US invasion of Iraq. Millions of people demonstrated around the world, but the invasion went on as scheduled, devastating an entire country. The same in Afghanistan.” But did we launch an effective, consistent, in-it-to-the-finish campaign, putting our lives on the line? No. Most of us just marched for an hour, and hoped that, magically, our numbers on that day would deter a committed, powerful elite that had already demonstrated its indifference to a public opinion unwilling to “put its money where its mouth was.” This was an elite that had already gotten away with altering the outcome of two presidential elections and allowing (and aiding and abetting) the 9-11 attacks – more brazen even than the elite (or a small portion of it) that had JFK, Bobby, and King assassinated. Or than the one now calling the shots that I and others believe recently faked the death of Osama bin Laden (he probably died 10 years earlier of a genetic disease), among other things.
It’s going to take a lot more will and numbers and moral force than we’ve shown so far to counter this kind of entrenched and amoral power. Are we willing to accept that challenge?
Not that this is about hating the members of this elite – who are sometimes us – individual people acting or not acting as they believe they must. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Or they/we know, but can’t resist the temptation.
We can do better, especially together. We can cultivate the best in ourselves, our spark of the divine, our little light; join it with that of others; and learn from history and past and present teachers how to turn the ship around, stop the hurtling locomotive…It doesn’t have to go over the cliff (global warming) or keep running innocent people down till we’ve all been destroyed by it.
“They” can’t maintain the death machine without our participation and consent, tacit or active. We’re the ones who provide the money and the bodies for their wars, who act like everything’s fine when it isn’t. We haven’t known what to do about it, how we can break out of the current cage when there’s no convenient utopian island to step to. That perfect island will probably never exist. But we can create islands in the midst of what’s happening, and – together – each do better and more than we have.
The new age, the Great Turning as it’s been called, is trying to be born. This is its time. It requires maybe not all hands on deck to manifest, but more of us. Will we stand up and be counted? We’re God’s, the Goddess’s, Spirit’s heart, hands, and voice in this material world. It’s what we make of it: heaven, hell, or something in between. Shall we move more strongly toward heaven (peace) on earth?
Ideas on how in the days to come…