Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A life sentence

While nearly all people would be delighted if war were abolished, they never think to ask the question “How do we abolish war?” because they believe it is inevitable and sometimes perfectly justified, and because they share a mutual fear of one another. 
--Kent Shifferd (2011, p. 9)
War is indeed a dictator. Subjugated populations often wish for freedom even as many of them believe that subjugation is inevitable, that it may be all right with God or some other natural order of things, that a strongman is all that stands between them and chaos, and that the dictator is all that protects them from the others. As Shifferd points out, this is all part of why we have war as well. We see the imperious despotic behavior of the war machine on a daily basis.

Constructing arguments that obviate all these misapprehensions is certainly possible, isn't it? That may be tough and it may be the easy part. Disseminating and convincingly making these arguments to the civil society who can then stop any war or all wars is the really tricky part.

Che Guevara used to believe--and act on the belief--that violence could trigger mass uprising. It helped him justify a small group of insurgents launching armed insurrection in a guerrilla fashion. It seemed to work once, in Cuba, so he extrapolated from an n of one, to great and disastrous effect. Other violent insurgencies failed, some 'succeeded' only in replacing one tyrant with another (e.g. Cuba), and the Gandhian method was ignored by those who fell under the sway of Guevara's triggering event theory.

The big question for those who want to prevent war is how. How can we educate and mobilize opposition to a war and to all war? How can we first help counter the misinformation and disinformation and then what sort of work can mobilize masses to stop the war?

Are we served well by nonviolent versions of Guevara's triggering event notion? Can a relatively small number of war opponents engage in some sort of action that will launch the committed mass action that will achieve the objective?

Can we convince enough others that:
  1. War is not inevitable.
  2. War is not justified.
  3. We need not fear others.

And then trigger the mobilization of civil society to stop the war?

If we hope to achieve all that we need to recognize that those who make war own much of the media, control much of the huge corporate economy, and have a lock on many federally elected officials from all three branches of government. This is not something we can fix in a week or a month or even a year. We have to be in it to win it and in it for life, in all senses. If we are to  earn our convictions as peacemakers we have to seek our individual and collective life sentences.

Shifferd, Kent D. (2011). From war to peace: A guide to the next hundred years. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

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