Can Clearer Vision Rescue the Peace Movement? by Peter Bergel
Certainly we are in danger of perishing today. If not from wars and nuclear weapons, then from global warming, peak oil, economic collapse or other threats. Could vision be what rescues us?
Peace or Antiwar?
The Tao Te Ching says, “Clearing your vision, you become clear.” This advice refers to the vision that tells us what our life’s purpose is and where we ought to be heading. When we lose sight of what is really important and worthwhile in life, we are apt to go astray—eventually far enough astray to perish as a result. It is the same for the peace movement.
For the most part, the peace movement is not really a movement for peace. Rather it is a movement against war, military spending, arms sales, and nuclear weapons. While all these struggles are important, one cannot build a world of peace merely by opposing what others are doing.
What IS Peace?
So what would peace look like, were it to “break out?” Surely peace would replace an aggressive foreign policy with worldwide cooperation, eliminate stockpiles of nuclear weapons, reorient our national budget away from domination by the military and our economy away from dependence on war. This would be only the beginning. Peace would translate into sustainability and cooperation in many areas: production and use of food and energy, transportation, our relationship with our environment, conflict resolution at every level, education, recreation, business, health care, government, and justice.
Many of us know this in our hearts, yet we have not formulated this vision and collectively agreed upon it. Nor have we held up such a vision to explain to others the overall goal of whatever activism we engage in. Such a vision could connect all our movements and inspire those who are not yet part of them.
Strategy is Next
So step one is to formulate a collective vision. Step two is to “shop” that vision around to progressives seeking consensus. Step three is to use the vision to guide development of our strategy in much the same way as we would use our starting point and destination as guides to planning a road trip. It will no longer be necessary to try to recruit everyone to a single course of action; rather we will be united by our vision. Every action resulting from every strategy on every issue can promote that collective vision, so the public and decision makers alike will know that we are working for a goal far larger than whatever short-term objective each team seeks to achieve.
As we focus on—and continually emphasize—our vision, we will find ourselves selecting better, more compelling tactics—tactics that mobilize greater numbers and result in more successes. Each victory in any of our related struggles will be a victory for all of us and will bring us closer to realizing our vision of peace and sustainability.
Getting Our Hands Dirty
Oregon PeaceWorks (OPW) has embraced this challenge with enthusiasm. We have initiated projects at the local, regional and national levels to tackle it.
- Locally in Salem, OR, OPW is sponsoring the MyPeace Project. Members of the public, with an emphasis on youth, are being asked to imagine what peace would look like if it “broke out,” or alternatively to envision what peace means to them. They will then express their vision using some form of art. So far a mural, a photography project, a mime piece, music in several forms, a poetry project and a video project are underway. In October, the collective peace vision represented by all the art projects will be presented to the community through a series of public events such as concerts, film showings, exhibits and dramatic presentations.
- OPW has begun negotiations with other groups to cooperate in sponsoring peace visioning brainstorming sessions in communities all over the state. These meetings will tease forth our best, most positive, most creative peace vision elements. Each will be recorded and added to an idea database that OPW has already begun.
- OPW has established a Google Group to serve as a hub for a peace visioning think tank at the national level. This group will work on drafting a comprehensive peace vision that can be offered to progressive groups of many kinds to obtain “buy in.” If you want to participate, obtain a free Google account by signing up at google.com. Then visit http://groups.google.com/group/peace-visioning-think-tank and sign up.
OPW welcomes your participation in any of these peace visioning projects.
Peter Bergel has been the Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks, Oregon’s largest statewide peace and justice organization, since 2001. He was the founder and has been editor of The PeaceWorker news magazine since 1988. He has also been President of the Center for Energy Research since 1988. For three years he served as editor of Civilian-Based Defense, which reported on research and developments toward substituting civilians trained in nonviolence for defensive military force. He was also a founder and staff person of the American Peace Test, which brought thousands to the Nevada Test Site to offer civil resistance to nuclear weapons testing. He has been a peace activist for almost half a century, during which time he has engaged in many tactics that he no longer regards as effective. You can contact him at 503-371-8002.