Peace Movements Should be Peaceful

It seems to me that peace movements should be peaceful. When anger and hate take over the peacemaker’s quest, peacemakers succumb to the tools of the opposition, in effect, becoming their enemies. Failing to look deeper into the motivations of perceived enemies, we fall victim to the simplistic notion that the world is divided between good and evil actors, rather than to recognize that individuals and nations are each a combination of good and evil: a combination of conflicting values. Unable to peer into the hearts of others, the task is not to judge what we cannot know, but to move beyond the anger, move beyond the violence, and work to bring out the better half of our perceived adversaries. Peace begets peace, anger begets anger, war begets war.

Not that the peace movement issue is much relevant today–I’ve not seen any peace demonstrations–and what cries I’ve heard for peace, are cries to obtain peace through the total defeat of Russia. Which is not really a peace movement, it is a war movement, in peace clothing.

It is certainly difficult to remain calm, regardless of one’s position on the war; there is someone or some group that we will point to as the source of the problem: the source of our anger. But anger is not peace, it is violent; it ultimately manifests in physical violence, it perpetuates violence, and while battles might be won with violence, the cause of peace is not advanced. Sooner, or later, we repeat what we know, the pattern of more anger and more violence. Peacemakers should be peaceful.

War, in the past, might have benefited the surviving victors; but it is difficult to see beneficiaries in the current war environment. The risk of nuclear destruction, the further risk of world revolution due to the harsh economic cost of war in a world which already teeters on the brink of anarchy can bring us to a place where there are very few beneficiaries of war. We risk falling into an increasingly violent world, both internationally and domestically. Surely there is middle ground, a compromise which takes into account the needs of all nations, a place which does not assume the moral superiority of one nation or another.

The problem we have is that we have not been fed the truth by the western political and press establishments. Our minds have been stuffed with the narrative that the Russian-Ukrainian war is the result of the evil machinations of one man–Vladimir Putin, whose imperialist ambitions got the best of him. This simple explanation is easy to understand, quickly presented, does not require intellectual work, does not risk media advertising revenue, and I suspect, enables the West to more quickly heal the relationship with Russia once the “sole source”–Vladimir Putin, is removed from power. Things, however, at this point have gone so far, the Western and Eastern blocks are separating so rapidly, that even with the removal of Vladimir Putin, relations between the two blocks may never heal, which portends nuclear warfare at some point in the future.

The Putin-is-evil narrative ignores the forces which have bought us to this point: NATO’S thirty year expansion to the Russian borders, U.S. and NATO invasions and bombings of Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, some of whom are/were Russian allies or friends, all of which are in Russia’s neck of the woods; NATO and the West’s refusal to consider alternative European security arrangements after the Soviet dissolution in 1991; the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, the Color revolutions with western support in Georgia and Ukraine; these things, when combined with the peculiar characteristics of Russia which views itself as a great power with a global destiny, its messianic tradition, its resentment towards the West due to the humiliation Russia suffered during its1990s economic collapse under the advice of Western economists and politicians–a decade in which Russia lost 40% of its GDP and the life expectancy of Russian men declined by 10 years, the consequent development of strong nationalist movements within Russia–movements which forced Putin into more aggressive stances contrary to his early cooperation with the U.S.–all of the above have brought us to our current state of affairs. Reasonable people, given the facts, would be able to understand the positions of both sides to the conflict which would enable a negotiated solution. But reasonable people have not been given the facts, they have been given the Putin-is-evil narrative, so we are unable to negotiate a peaceful, lasting, resolution, based on the perceptions of all parties to the dispute.

I fear we are so busy producing and consuming mindless items of consumption that we have little time for serious consideration of the serious problem which confronts us. Without a deeper understanding of the real conflicts between Russia and the West, there is no hope of a solution. There is just the shallow “understanding” the war is due to the “evil” of one man which easily inspires anger, more violence, and ultimately, possible nuclear war. Peacemakers are the one group which ought to be able to approach the war issue in a calm, thoughtful, and constructive manner.