New Year’s Wish, 2006

I’m ready to give up on world peace.

It’s a sweet sentiment, it’s been dear to me for most of my life and you hear a lot about it this time of year, folks hoping for it, praying for it, wishing for it in the New Year. I’ve done all of that hoping, praying and wishing myself, and a little bit of working for it. But it’s not ever going to happen, and here’s why.

First, there are a lot of people who profit from war and the threat of war. Leaders of nations benefit because in time of war no one is likely to throw them out of office, so they get to hold on to power, or at least bolster their popularity. If it takes a war to hold on to power, that’s fine with them. They will find an enemy and promote a jingoistic fervor so that they can be President or Prime Minister or Premier or Grand Hoo Ha a bit longer. You may be thinking “No, there are real enemies. They’re not made up, and we must defend ourselves from them.” If I’m right, and I think I am, in every case someone has cooked up a false pretense for going to war, or preparing for one. If we have a real enemy, perhaps it is because we are their imagined enemy. In any case, the regular people, not running the country, have to go along because they don’t know if maybe the President knows something they don’t.

Another group that profits, literally, are arms dealers. When you’re in business you need to sell stuff, and the biggest sales have always been the guns to “defend” the country. These days the term “guns” means sophisticated weaponry like guided missiles, smart bombs and the elaborate technological infrastructure to make it all work. These are big ticket items, and most governments will pay literally any amount to get the best armament, no matter what sacrifices their people may have to make. Needless to say, this powerful and wealthy group can and will do whatever it takes to make wars inevitable. It’s good for business.

Then there are those who actually fight the wars. There are two groups here: the generals, men who have grown up thinking about war, studying war, planning for war. They have been in uniform all their adult lives, and war is their business. They don’t see diplomatic solutions – they see military ones. Some of them may simply be trying to stay “in business,” but most are just doing their jobs, and following what they think is a “proud tradition.”

The other group is the soldiers, the eighteen year old boys bursting with testosterone and eager to prove their manhood. It’s easy for the other groups – the leaders, the arms dealers and the generals – to persuade these kids to become cannon fodder: Most of them are eager to go. They don’t believe they can be hurt, they long for adventure and they are unable at their age to contemplate the brutality and futility of what they are ordered to do. If they waver in their ignorance and resolve, a patriotic speech or a good strong sermon will restore their urge to join the few.

We’ve been slaughtering, torturing and enslaving each other since the beginning of time. We’ve refined our weapons and our techniques until warmaking is nearly a science. In every war both opponents think God is on their side, that it is they who are righteous, that this is the way to solve the world’s problems.

And yet we have not solved all the problems. The same ones keep cropping up: the need for more resources, the hatred of someone else’s religion or skin color, economic crisis, the need to defend one’s past arrogant and cruel behavior. Each time, war seems to be the best option, and our leaders, in cahoots with the gun sellers and the generals are forever sending our boys to fight and kill their boys, to come home dead, or maimed or crazy and believing that they have brought justice to “the enemy.”

I’m sad to say that I don’t think the habit can be broken. It’s been going on too long. There’s an establishment that benefits, and can’t see any other way. There are eager boys who think it’s fun, who will endlessly replace the worn-out veterans. So I really am giving up. I’m going to stop worrying about it so much. I’m going to stop wishing and hoping that, in my lifetime, humanity will come to it’s senses.

And if I say another prayer, I won’t ask for anything so foolish as world peace. I’ll pray for something more realistic. Like cookies.

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17 Replies to “New Year’s Wish, 2006”

  1. Larry – I sincerly hate to say it, especially this time of year, but I may have to agree with you. Is it because with age comes cynicism, or is it reality? You reminded me of the famous Pogo comic strip quote, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

    But on a personal level, we can’t give up. We can’t throw up our hands, turn our backs and walk away. And we can always hold out hope for strong, moral leadership. Hey, it can happen…

  2. I used to worry about all of these things and get worked up at the fucked up state of the world and our part in destroying it. However, I couldn’t go on like that, as dwelling on it was drving me insane.

    I had to get back to basics and begin to keep my own side of the street clean and make small changes where I could.

    Or, as Ghandi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

  3. Hate to say it, Larry, but I don’t believe you’re giving up, not one bit. Nice try, though.

    Evolution doesn’t happen in slow, methodical, gradual steps, it happens in impossibly huge, dramatic leaps. And I’m pretty sure our evolution to a more peaceful humanity is nigh. And it all begins with cookies ; P

  4. I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. It’s all rather obvious for those who open their eyes.

    Sometimes… just sometimes…. wisdom looks like cynicism because the rosey tint of exuberance and youth begins to fade and we see the big picture.

    I think with age, you see the bigger picture and you know that all we really *can* do is be the change we wish for…. and maybe add to that the hope that we don’t just keep our mouths shut… because that’s what allows the masses to be numb and distracted.

    I really think evolution will happen… but it took a million years for those damn tadpoles to get thier soggy asses up onto dry land. I’m sure not gonna expect the likes of Bush to wake up any sooner. But I’m not gonna let those around me luxuriate in ignorance either!

    So I’m with you… no wish for peace on earth; I wish for personal awareness and responsibility. That has to come first. I hope I still feel that way in 5 years. 🙂

  5. Larry, I can’t argue with anything you’ve said, but there’s still a big part of me that wishes and hopes for change. There’s still a part of me that thinks even small incremental change is possible. Only when I sit back in my apathy and stop complaining, will you know that I’ve truly given up. I may always remain too naive for such a thing.

  6. Thank you Precious Few, for these thoughtful comments. You truly touch my heart. I’ll always be against violence on any scale and do the things that pacifists do, though my actions be ineffectual. And there will at least be peace in my kitchen (as long as the cookies hold out).

  7. When you think of how contentious families are, you realize that world peace is an impossible dream. But even as I acknowledge that, I don’t think we should never give it up. Even if we never attain perfection, as close as we can get is good enough.

  8. Nice rant, yeah it feels almost naive to want for things to get better…but.

    “…You can checkout any time you like,
    But you can never leave!”

    We’ll see you back here, when you are bored with apathy.

  9. I am perhaps too young for full-blown cyniscism, but I am obliged to agree with you, Larry. This past week I watched a rather unseasonal marathon of war and genocide movies — “The Pianist,” “The Thin Red Line,” and an exceptional HBO film about Rwanda called “Sometimes in April.” It’s sobering what human beings are capable of.

    As ridiculous as it would be to take the whole ugly machine on with any hope of success, isn’t it possible to make changes more locally?

    I work at a center serving predominantly low-income African Americans, and in the stairwell is a giant recruiting poster for the Marines. Every week it gets intentionally plastered over with flyers from local churches and community groups – “Learn About A Career in Health,” “Calling All Fathers – Teach Your Sons Nonviolence!”

    There are a lot of people fighting the good fight with you, and even the tiniest successes are something.

  10. G.D. – Since I can’t leave I must have hope?

    Erin – You and G.D. and the other Precious Few (above) give me more hope than I am able to give myself, and I thank you.

    Steph – …And once you see that T-shirt or hear that phrase, you can’t stop seeing the little green pellets, whirling and whirling merrily around…

  11. It occurs to me that there is never going to be World Peace per se as that is sort of looking for life without pain.

    This whole little experiment we are involved in has two sides. Love and Hate, Peace and War, Happiness and Sorrow. Just becuase we don’t particularly like some sides of some of these coins doesn’t mean that life can exist without them.

    That being said, I would like to see an end to ineffectual leadership, warmongering corporate whores and the entire Neo-Conservative movement in this country.

    I might even be willing to go to war to see that happen.

  12. I would guess that you don’t know too many soldiers or generals. Most are very hesitant to go to war regardless of how much time they’ve spent preparing or training for it. However, they’re usually the ones most aware of the fact that the lack of war does not equal peace.

  13. Anonymous Coward – Good guess on the generals. I do know too many soldiers, however, friends who have been permanently damaged by what they saw and did in the interest of peace.

    I won’t try to make the argument that there are no good people in the upper echelons of the military, but in the end it is the military that commits the violence, and the generals have never been hesitant enough to stop it.

    I agree that the lack of war doesn’t necessarily equal peace. Conversely, if we avert war only through the threat of hideous destruction of life, culture, property and environment, I don’t consider that “peace on earth.” Another reason why I’m abandoning the idea.

  14. Personally, I’m more hopeful for peace and prosperity than I’ve ever been before. While the notion of our troops safe hear at home is comforting, it’s all too often an illusion.
    Post-Vietnam was supposedly a victory for the anti-war crowd, yet, while they were celebrating our withdrawl, hundreds of thousands were being slaughtered or “disappeared” in SE Asia (including Hu Huang, the brother of one of my best friends). And Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia weren’t exactly lolliops and gingerbread before we got there either – just like Iraq was pre-2003. The UN noted that 5-6000 children were dying every month due to lack on immunizations. That’s 60,000 kids every year for over 10 years. Their health post-invasion is something to be hopeful for. The restoration of the Iraqi marshes is something to be hopeful for. Quasi-democratic elections in Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan are something to be hopeful for.
    Some of this is harder to see when we learn of the human cost we’ve had to pay to get it. But it also opens our eyes to the magnitude of sacrifice of the men and women who have fought and died for it. It’s more than “ignorance” or a blood-n-guts “patriotic speech” that drives them to do what they do. It’s a level of personal honor and courage which I can’t even begin to fathom. And I hope your veteran friends know that as well. I hope they know that there was a scared 8 year old boy in a Cambodian village whose family was saved by a group of American soldiers. And I hope they know there were thousands more just like him.

  15. I am thinking that Nature has programmed conflict into every living creature. Humanity just seems to have taken it to a new level.

    I am with Grampa and plan on making my more immediate world more peaceful.

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