Our Most Articulate Advocate for Peace

For the last 15 years, David Swanson has made it his mission in life to put an end to war.  He has read and digested a great deal of history.  He convinces us from every side that war is a fraud.  He argues always from the mainstream narrative, never risking being labeled a ‘conspiracy theorist’.  Even when evaluated by the criteria that our leaders put forth to justify war, war fails miserably.  It is not merely that everything gained from war pales by comparison to the lives lost and shattered, the hatred engendered, the problems the next generation must absorb.  No, beyond this, there is no gain to be balanced against these horrific costs, unless you count the money accumulated by a few tycoons who have adopted patriotic postures to sell us wars in the first place.

Swanson’s books are overwhelming in their truth.  In this department, he turns ‘overkill’ on its head.

War is a Lie             War No More          War is Never Just           Curing Exceptionalism


Pay them off—it’s cheaper than war

In the 1840’s, Henry Clay of Kentucky was the most prominent and influential Senator.  Though he owned dozens of slaves himself, he was ideologically opposed to slavery, and proposed a compromise solution:  Let the U.S. government buy every slave at fair market value, and give them their freedom.  (The importation of slaves had long ago been outlawed, so this would have put an end to legal slavery in the U.S.)Image result for henry clayThe estimated cost of buying all the slaves was $1 billion dollars, an enormous sum compared to the Federal budget of that time.  On the other hand, the cost of the Civil War was $5 billion, and that doesn’t count the lives lost or the damage to the fabric of society which continued for decades, or the resentment and division that continues to rent our country 150 years later.

On the one hand, it seems utterly immoral to reward people who have purchased another human being as if he were a horse or a tractor.  On the other hand, it might have saved 600,000 human lives and avoided the trauma and embitterment that war engenders, passed from generation to generation to this day.

Upton Sinclair was a social reformer and prolific author in the early decades of the 20th Century.  This was a time before the ruling class had so firmly established “socialism” as a dirty word, among intellectuals and workers alike there was a sense that a socialist uprising in the U.S. (peaceable or violent) was a real possibility.  There were socialists and communists and anarchists and syndicalists, all promoting their various radical agendas, but what they had in common was democratic control of the corporations by working people.Image result for workers of the world uniteEight years before the beginning of the Great Depression, he wrote his most personal book, with views on everything from nutrition to parapsychology.   The last part of the book is reserved for a roadmap of the journey from capitalism to democratic socialism.  He proposed that the government should buy out the stock holdings of the powerful capitalists who controlled the economy, and reconstitute corporate boards with directors chosen to represent the employees and the public.  (Today, this model of corporate control is already a reality in Germany, and still German companies manage to remain internationally competitive.)

Sinclair regarded this transition as inevitable in the long run, because he saw the contradictions inherent in capitalism.  The simple fact is that because the aggregated workers’ salaries are only a fraction of the retail price of the goods they produce, the nation’s total output can never be sold without foreign markets and imperialist wars.  (Sinclair never considered that America’s imperialist wars might be continuing 90 years into the future, nor did he count on the effectiveness of the long-term propaganda campaign that would keep workers convinced that organizing as workers was not in their interest.)

Open Letter to my Brothers and Sisters in the Holy Land


Dear Fellow Jews –

I invite you to open your hearts to all your neighbors, to take the courageous and magnanimous first step toward peace.  You can have all the richness of the nation you have built—your science and industry, your innovation, your culture and the arts—you can have all this and more in the context of a multi-cultural Israel.  2014-07-12-IsraelPalestinePeace

If you allow our Muslim cousins full citizenship, full freedom, full participation in this desert wonder which you have created, there can be yet greater wonders for all, richer because they are shared, richer because you are not living with fear and oppression, richer because the enormous economic and psychic costs of militarism are lifted, plowed back into loving and creative endeavor.


Whirled Peas

I spent a week in Tibet last month.  I spent a day touring Buddhist monasteries, two days in Lhasa, and four days trekking in the mountains.

It was hard for me to relate to the Tibetan brand of Buddhism.  It seemed to be all about burning vats of yak butter and leaving dollar bills at the feet of fierce protector-gods that would save the supplicant from bad luck.  I saw little of mindfulness practice or vegetarianism or temperance or any of the familiar appurtenances of American Buddhism.

Black Mahakala is the fierce aspect of one of the gentlest of Buddhist Deities, the Compassionate One Avalokitesvara or Chenrezig.

The lived experience of trekking was, for me, all about oxygen.  At 17,000 feet there’s just half as much of it as there is at sea level.  I never got nausea or headache symptoms, but whenever we were walking up even a mild incline, I was out of breath.  I did fast yogic breathing (kapalabhati) continuously for hours on end, just to avoid lightheadedness and disorientation.

Four days of this cleared my brain, and I came away with a sense of what is most important to me.  I had been thinking about Psi experiments in which focused attention has the power to change quantum events, change minds, heal bodies, and even alter broad social patterns.  The limited evidence that we have suggests that many minds focusing on the same intention have an outsized power—much greater than the sum of what might be accomplished by the sum of individual efforts.

This reminded me of a lifelong goal of integrating mind into the science of physics.  There is a minority of well-respected physicists who see quantum mechanics in this light.  [e.g. Henry StappDavid Bohm.]

I was also reminded of the bumper sticker from the ’70s which I have quoted in the title of this post.  I came from Tibet with a core vision for a project that we might create together.


I want to ask you to help me organize a sustained and synchronized world-wide, cross-cultural meditation for peace.  Within the political peace community, it will be publicized as a commitment to the inner work we need to do in order to be effective activists. Within the Buddhist community, it will be committing our meditation practice to an act of service. Within communities of experimental parapsychology, it will be a study about reinforcement of psychic effects with the power of numbers.  Across Jewish and Christian and Muslim communities, it will be promoted by the clergy as coordinated prayer for peace in a time of world crisis. People choose prayer or meditation or focused intention as fits their culture and beliefs, but there is enough common ground in our work to be the basis of a worldwide mental resonance.

I imagine a series of goals, progressively ambitious, each one specific enough that we can clearly say when the goal is achieved. I propose as our first goal: An end to violence between Israelis and Palestinians, with full citizenship rights and freedoms for Jewish and Islamic peoples. The recent Israeli massacres in Gaza have stirred my conscience, and as a Jew, I feel a special call to say, “I do not condone the actions of Mossad and the Israeli military.”

This is not a substitute for collective action or BDS or political protest.  When we do succeed in creating peace, these will be the outward vehicles by which it is accomplished.  Those who do not believe in miracles will have their own story about how it came about.

This is a huge project, and I intend to bring it to fruition.  I will not be its primary organizer.  Maybe there will be no primary organizer.  Writing this post is my first step in the direction of creating a reality of Intention for Peace.


Call to courage

“Our bravest agents of change put their bodies on the line in civil disobedience, and some are arrested, beaten or abused by the police.  When that happens to an older person (like me) with white hair, Americans care about that. Age can be a big advantage. It gives you a tool you can put into play.  They’re not going to kill you, mostly. They’re less likely to break your arm. So you have this advantage over young people — There’s a human instinct that says “Don’t beat up babies and don’t beat up old people.  So if someone needs to lie down in front of these bombers, if someone needs to bear witness at the meetings where obscene violence is rationalized, it’s us old people – we should do it!”

Ray McGovern is a veteran CIA officer who once gave Ronald Reagan his daily intelligence briefing, now turned whistleblower and political activist.

Evidence that Nonviolence Works

The data are clear: When people come together in acts of civil non-violence, governments are forced to change. This is true in dictatorships as well as democracies. 3.5% is enough. Every time 3.5% of a population has joined a non-violent protest movement, a government has fallen. (Sometimes they have been successful with even smaller numbers.) That’s just 12 million Americans. Those people are already in our camp, already taking action. All we need is coordination.Nonviolent movements have been twice as successful as violent wars over 100 years.

Comparison of Violent and Nonviolent Movements, 1900-2006
(Image by Erica Chenoweth)
   Permission   Details   DMCA

We know that violence is wrong, but we fear that nonviolence will always be squashed by those who are more ruthless. Chenoweth has demonstrated that, historically, this fear is groundless.

Erica Chenoweth at TEDx Boulder.
David Swanson destroys war in 2 minutes


World Travel ==> World Peace

For a long time, an increase in global interconnectedness has been paralleled with the creation of a more peaceful world. The more we interact with each other, the more we’ll care about each other, and the less we’re inclined to hurt one another.

The link between global connection and peace isn’t a perfectly straight line, but it makes sense that these adventurous travelers have an immense potential for creating good in the world just by visiting new places and building cultural bridges that increase understanding.

— Pippa Biddle article