International Day of Peace

Human tribes have been warring for at least the last several thousand years. We are descended from the tribes that were able to field the largest and most cohesive armies. That is to say, we all have war in our genes.

But as humans filled the globe and as the technologies of destruction made war ever more deadly, the human race has been gradually coming to its senses. General Sherman taught us that “war is hell”. General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history, came later in life to teach that “war is a racket.” And General Eisenhower prophesied, “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.”

Nowadays, David Swanson teaches us that every war has been founded on lies. That is to say, if our leaders or our news media were telling us the truth, it would not be possible to brainwash enough people into the insane proposition that they ought to participate in mass murder.

So, what can we do, you and I, citizens of the greatest military power in the history of the world (fact) and the world’s biggest bully (my opinion)—what can we do to promote peace? My belief is that the spiritual truth, “peace begins within you” can be misleading.  Working on ourselves to achieve inner peace is of unquestioned value, but we cannot wait until we have individually tranquil inner lives in order to begin the collective work of organizing an end to war. The few who benefit from war are exquisitely organized, working together in what we might call a conspiracy, if the word hadn’t been discredited by our own CIA. We must be organized. We must take concerted action. We must resist the temptation to wage war in the name of peace. We must be firm in our resolve, but never coercive. We must be persistent in our vision, but not necessarily patient. I think that our cause is too urgent for patience. We should demand peace, now.

Don’t neglect the capitalist connection. The major reason for our country being the world’s greatest war monger is that war is profitable for banks, for defense contractors, for fossil fuel companies. There was a sweeping movement in America of the 1920s to take the profits out of war, culminating in a bill introduced in Congress in 1935 to take the profits out of war, and it nearly succeeded in passing.  In 2007, a War Profiteering Act passed the House, but not the Senate. You can bet your bippy that if for the largest international corporations peace were more profitable than war, we’d have peace.

Get out and organize peace demonstrations. Talk to people you know and people you don’t know. Tell them you think war is insane, even as it is pushed as “normal” by almost every politician and every news pundit. And meditate on peace, pray for peace, visualize peace. Yes, there is real evidence that collective intention has power even apart from its psychological effects on the individuals involved. Go figure.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

United Nations page for International Day of Peace



The Spoils of Peace

As echoes of past conflicts start to fade,
The dissipating fog lays bare what’s planned;
Whilst treaties dance upon a blunted blade,
With bloodied fist replaced by sleight of hand.
The broken boughs pollute this new wasteland,
As mended limbs now exhume every crease
And bow and scrape to each perverse demand.
The gongs of war may well begin to cease,
But can the chings of profit broker peace?
Sam Illingworth


It was 90 years ago today

We don’t have to dream.  All we have to do is enforce the law.  War is illegal by International Law, and war is illegal by United States law, and any president who sends troops abroad, any senator or congressman who votes to authorize fighting, has reneged on his oath of office.

David Swanson tells the story in a book.  The American people had been hoodwinked into joining World War I.  No one could even explain what the fighting was about, but by 1917, U.S. banks had lent so much money to France and Great Britain that the banks couldn’t afford to let them lose.  Can we, in 2018, imagine a time when the U.S. government was more influenced by what is good for the banks than what is good for the people?  Stretch your imagination.

The cost of the war was devastating.  Idealistic men were loaded onto boats for Europe, partying and singing songs, full of patriotic enthusiasm.  They came back shell-shocked, traumatized, permanently damaged with fear in their eyes and  cynicism in their hearts.   My grandfather was one of those who left America as a happy-go-lucky high school grad, and came back a nervous, obsessive zombie—which is how I remember him 40 years later.  Of course, 100,000 of our boys didn’t come back at all, and another 700,000 Americans died in the influenza pandemic that was carried around the world with the soldiers.

Americans were divided in their opinions about many things, but fully agreed on one thing: never again, would we sign on to someone else’s war.  If attacked, we would defend American soil, but never would we send troops overseas.  Not only was the Kellogg-Briand pact ratified by the American Senate, it was an American initiative from the start.  And it was a grass roots movement, imposed on our leaders by a people united in one voice.

The story I tell in my book is one of a divided and struggling peace movement that united and grew. The Europhiles and the isolationists had to come together. The prohibitionists and the drinkers had to join hands. The outlawrists had to develop a vision of a transformed world and convince people it was possible. The case had to be made to the public with moral passion and urgency. There had to be an endless stream of flyers and pamphlets and books and meetings and petitions and lobby visits. Women’s groups and men’s groups that had sold out during World War I and those that had not had to put their shoulders to the wheel together. Those who wanted a world court and those who didn’t, those who wanted a League of Nations and those who didn’t, and those who wanted to focus on disarmament, and even some of those who wanted to focus on condemning U.S. imperialism in Latin America had to decide that outlawing war was one useful and achievable step and pour everything into it for a year or two, forego sleep, and work literally in some cases to the point of heart attack.

Happy Kellogg-Briand day!

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.