(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?
So from this hard realization, what does hope look like? Two modern truths visit me daily. The first is the idea (and the book title by Chris Hedges) that War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.
People seek that experience that helps them feel a part of something larger than themselves, and war provides this. The propaganda machine exploits this phenomenon—Hedges states in his opening The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug. But if we are ever to evolve into a more peaceful race, our challenge is to discover and proliferate alternatives to war—other larger things that gives us meaning, ultimately at an even more profound level.
The second, a paraphrase that I’ve heard attributed to C.G. Jung, is that Laziness Is Humanity’s Most Significant Problem.
We may not readily grasp this assertion, but think about it. Take, as an example, one of today’s most pressing and vexing issues, racism. Is not racism a form of laziness, that a racist is someone who cannot summon the requisite effort to afford equal dignity and respect for a person whose appearance, culture, values, and situation in life differs from their own? Isn’t it easier to dismiss and degrade someone as the ‘other’? Is the environmental catastrophe that is now upon us not due in large part to our persistent use of harmful practices (burning fossil fuels, destroying forests, etc.) that bring easy and greedy profits that we are too lazy to cease, relinquish, and replace? And isn’t it laziness that creates a societal default to war as that ‘larger force’ that gives meaning, in lieu of seeking out an alternative communalism? Yes, war is a form of laziness, that’s what I’m saying.
This need to be a part of something larger is universal, real, and strong. And thus the seductiveness (particularly for poor people with few other options) of a military, something larger that will firstly feed and clothe and secondly intoxicate with the dramatic meanings and profound consequences of killing, getting killed, being victorious or suffering defeat.
It will take more vigorous and un-lazy efforts to create and invite a larger yet peaceful force into our society. But what are we left with when we strip war of its rationalizations and summon the courage to not fight, when we stop being lazy and we seek out alternate forces that can give us that sense of belonging to something larger? Here’s a list. Which of these could be among the best options, which of these could become widespread in a good way? Perhaps most importantly, what is not on this list and yet to be discovered? Religion, Music Festivals, Burning Man, Cults, Sufism, Socialism, Local Community, Human Rights, Environmental and Social Justice Movements, National Service, and people coming together in the face of natural disasters.
These are all viable yet weak and fragile when compared to the energy, resources, and lives dedicated to warmaking. So here is some weird hope: There are these trendy new characters running around in our economy, disrupters. Though often motivated by greed and frequently playing out a capitalist script—’I’m so fresh and innovative! Unions are such a drag. Can we get rid of these people who are in the way of my bright idea?—the disrupter trend has great potential to be a healthy development, spoilsports of games and traditions that need to be shaken up. Despite the moral conundrums that Uber, Amazon, Donald Trump and the freelance world of work that Millennials find themselves in presently, the public is ready for a different approach, and the new attitude has at least opened the door for disrupters with more of a social conscience and the excitement to create new collective meanings. I speak of the momentum of the minimum wage campaign; New Games without scores, winners or losers, that channel our natural tendencies to fight and compete into activities that are more fun than conflict-laden; Bernie Sanders’ authentically populist presidential campaign; Dan Price of Gravity Payments, who set a $70,000/year minimum salary for his employees.
And the disrupter who really has me going is Chris Borland, who after only one season as a standout inside linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, retired to protect his own health, but also because he found the game dehumanizing. Talk about disrupters. I think that this is an incredibly important story, and the facts of the game’s dangers when thrown up to the money-making behemoth that is the NFL…just raise some very challenging questions. Yes, if we say, ‘well, these guys go into the game knowing what their getting into and they are paid very well for the risks’…I can understand that, but our approval also fuels the prominence of violence in our society. Good and well for football, maybe it is a safe outlet for us fans. I get just as captivated by the primal thrill of the game as the next person, and I acknowledge all the ways in which it is such a great game—but does the cultural acceptance and approval of a game so violent also make it easier for us to accept and approve a militarized society and aggression as central to foreign policy?
Disrupters like Borland and Price are starting to get some play, and because of the multiplier effect of social media, and the positive potentials of our market economy, maybe we’ll discover ‘something larger’ and more peaceful and community-oriented on the horizon in which we can all participate. Time will tell whether such populists will be cast out from the political, economic, and/or media arenas for spoiling the mainstream game. And whether commercialism will overtake genuine grassroots community. And also whether the peaceful-ish disrupters will prevail over the fighters. That part is up to us.