Tuesday, January 29, 2013

War is Obsolete

Some would have you believe that warfare is human nature, but I don’t buy that line. People are naturally empathic, compassionate, and collaborative. We need each other and we know it.  Soldiers must be extensively trained to ignore these natural impulses. They are equipped to kill from a distance without observing the damage they do too closely. Even then, they often end up wracked with guilt.

Certainly we have evolved to be tribal. We are naturally more trusting of those who speak our language and follow our customs.  Throughout history people have reached across tribal lines. Intermarriage across tribes has been necessary to avoid inbreeding. Human beings are more homogenous than most species. Compare our minor racial differentiations to those of dogs.

The nation state is a relatively new concept when seen from a global historical perspective. Nationalism has not been very helpful in promoting peaceful resolution of conflict. Increasingly, people feel a unity that crosses national boundaries and are skeptical about the political machinations of their own nation. Citizen diplomacy breaks barriers in this age of communication.

While most nations maintain some kind of military, only about 1/8th of them require compulsory service. A growing number only maintain minimal defensive forces. Some rely upon civilian militia for defense. Most African nations now only mobilize forces on foreign soil as part of the UN or AU, similar to European nations with NATO. Of course, these combined forces are not free from criticism.

While civil wars are still relatively common, most aggressive use of force on the international arena is associated with neocolonial efforts to maintain the flow of cheap resources.  Such wars are growing harder to justify. The recent US invasion and occupation of Iraq stands out as an example of a broadly unpopular war of domination.

The primary solution to civil wars is an accepted system for peaceful sharing of power. More than half the nations on Earth have established multiparty democracies, while most of the rest have two party systems, which may not offer much change, but at least maintain the appearance of power sharing. Most civil wars today are rooted in meddling by global powers seeking control of resources. Divide and conquer remains a strategy or the powerful.

It appears to be growing more difficult to convince youth that the military offers a worthwhile career option. There are some mercenary forces, essentially sociopaths for hire, and there are a handful of true believers struggling to maintain the tattered image of the glorious army. And there are still masses of disempowered people caught up in the momentum of the military industrial complex, rationalizing their relatively minor roles in war as the result of decisions that were out of their hands.
The handwriting is on the wall. People are aware that we share more in common with those of other cultures than the minor variations that differentiate us. People from nearly anywhere can go into a cyber café and use translation software to communicate. We can often share photographs and video to see slices of each other’s lives.

When an attack happens, we can no longer be convinced that another nation threatens us. We are not driven to destroy an enemy culture, but to understand and contain the deviant force that justifies violence. We know that retribution is unsatisfactory, however frustrated we may be with the legal system.

Two nations once torn by civil war, South Africa and Ireland, have shown us a new approach toward justice and peace. Restorative justice relies upon a process of truth and reconciliation, where victims and perpetrators determine sentencing through a mediated process, which allows the perpetrator to make amends and seek forgiveness from his victims.

As the costs of extraction and exploitation become apparent, the old colonial system is obviously inadequate. The architecture of the fading competitive paradigm crumbles away. Major lifestyle shifts aren’t easy, but the rewards are there if we keep our eyes upon the brightening horizon.

Nobody trusts global corporations or powerful centralized governments. Even those who spend their lives employed by them are merely struggling to get what they can before the house of cards blow over. Perhaps the greatest challenge of our time is to help those caught up in exploitation to release their materialistic fears and relax into the natural state of the world.

There is an exciting trend toward radical localization. People are joining together in democratic movements to demand respect for people and the natural systems upon which we depend. Through strikes and boycotts we flex our muscles. We focus our creativity upon locally controlled efforts to use resources sustainably to meet genuine local needs. We are building the future we choose.

Our children can imagine a world that holds on to the best of our communication and understanding, while falling back upon our time tested natural relationship to the planet. We can grow our own food, pedal our own bikes, and care for our neighbors. We can be responsible citizens of the world by building functional democracy from the grassroots. By honoring the good in each person, we grow our shared desire for peace.

It’s not all rosy and happy. The world is a rough and tumbled place. We make mistakes and hurt each other too often. But we are learning to make amends. We’ve discovered the deep joy of genuine service. Together we are recovering. By focusing upon our common dreams and ideals, we are emerging.