“Too many young folks have addiction to superficial things and not enough conviction for substantial things like justice, truth, and love.”
Checking the news after two weeks without internet did not wield many surprises. The conflict between Israel and Palestine has intensified, Nigeria has seen many more deaths from the Boko Haram, Syria’s situation has become more dire than ever, and Ukraine is still trying to reclaim its territory from Russia. Oh, and someone just shot down a plane killing 300 innocent people in the process. In other words, it’s war after war after war, a never ending cycle of violence our world seems to deem necessary. Because of this, I have decided to dedicate this post to peaceful protesters, people like Gandhi and Mandela who have managed to influence our world without the use of violence.
Gene Sharp, founder of the Albert Einstein Institution (a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the study of non-violence) has influenced numerous anti-government resistances around the world in his effort to obtain political peace. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania used Sharp’s writings on “Civilian-Based Defense” during their struggle for independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and the Lithuanian defense minister declared that “he would rather have this book than the nuclear bomb.” Dozens of other movements have used his writings as well including resistant movements in Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine. His ideas were also put into place to topple the Egyptian president. With our world in the sad state of constant war it seems to be in today, peaceful disobedience instead of violent uprisings would certainly save a whole lot of innocent lives.
On August 29th 1914, 1500 women marched silently down the streets of New York waving a sole white banner engraved with a dove in a peace march which would mark the beginning of the Women’s Peace Party. Besides standing for the demilitarization of America and the democratizing of foreign policies, this group also stood for the women’s right to vote as they understood that the caring nature of women would have a direct effect on their country if only the less violent half of their population could obtain the right to be herd. Their name was then changed to the Women’s National League for a Peace and Freedom in 1919 when it became a non-profit organization “working to bring together women of different political and philosophical and religious backgrounds determined to study and make known the causes of war and work for a permanent peace.” And how right they are! Why, in a world where we have created weapons which can destroy thousands of people in an instant and where we have access to more information than our brains can comprehend have we still not found a way to ensure peace.
Jane Addams is probably my person of the year. Elected as the first president of the WLIPF in 1915 and then awarded the first noble peace prize for an American women in 1931, Addams worked her whole life for peace, women’s rights, and equality and justice for all. As a wealthy women she did not take what was the typical approach of the day while helping the poor, but rather opted for a model of social reform which has since provided the base for all modern day social work. Addams worked to end child labor and establish workers compensation, advocated for immigrants and blacks, and supported the women’s suffrage movement. She also advocated the need for research on poverty and crime in order to better help those in need. Her life work, the hull-house, began in 1889 and housed twenty-five women, though often two thousand people would visit a week. The hull-house offered a communal kitchen, night school for adults, a girls club, and music, drama, and art facilities along with dozens of other educational programs for children and adults alike in Addams successful attempt to create a safe and conducive learning environment in a multicultural immigration neighborhood. Jane Addams is an amazing example of a peace activist who has embraced the idea of equality in order to create a safer and happier planet.
Last but not least, the Christmas truce, a series of unofficial ceasefires which took place around Christmas time in 1914 during World War One along the Western Front. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day soldiers from both sides ventured into no-mans land in order to celebrate the holidays together. They shared drinks, swapped stories, and even gave gifts to the soldiers they were suppose to be shooting. A game of football supposedly commenced, and the two sides teamed up together to burry the dead. Throughout one of the most violent times in history these soldiers came together in the realization that no matter where they came from, they were all still human. These weren’t the only truces either. Throughout the war there were occasional “live and let live” agreements upon which troops would indeed let their “enemies” live, or times where both sides would agree to an unofficial ceasefires in order to collect the dead. But what makes this truce special is the shear amount of participants, thought to be 100,000 British and German soldiers, who were brought together for a few memorable days of peace until their commanders found out and ordered them to restart the war. Though these ceasefires may have been short lived, a mere two days in some areas (though in others this “truce” extended until New Years), to me it proves that us humans want peace more than we want war if greed, power, and money are taken out of the equation.
I have never understood people who think we need more guns, more wars, and more brutal killings in order to ameliorate society or prove a point. War, as we have seen by now, does not make peace. Until people begin thinking more like Gene Sharp and Jane Addams, and until people begin using peaceful protests and non-violence to settle disputes instead of war, our world will continue to be a unequal and divided place.