Alternatives to violence and war.
Pacifism is not passivism!
We want to create a powerful narrative to get the message heard, that better and more peaceful solutions are possible.
By Tom Vilmer Paamand
This text was presented at The Peace Conference at Tvind 2015.
Our small organization is called Aldrig Mere Krig in Danish. Something like Never War Again in English. We are a Danish peace movement, but connected to "War Resisters' International". WRI has members in lots of countries. Australia, Chile, Egypt and Japan. South Korea, South Africa, Serbia and Uganda, simply around the globe. War Resisters' International works globally, but each local organisation works mostly locally.
Both organizations have kind of negative titles, rejecting war. We have been thinking about turning it around. Never War Again could become something like Peace All The Time. Which for some sounds very nice, but also very boring.
The concept of PEACE is seen as a passive and stale state. Free of conflict and tensions in life. Without technological breakthroughs. Without development and change. Like keeping everything at Status Quo. PEACE is not seen as an ongoing proces. When people thinks of a need for big changes and revolutions, they believe this requires guerrilla forces and militias of armed people.
The opposite word WAR is seen as a very active state Sharp conflicts all around, and then just "taken care of" by a lot of violence. And you can "go to war" but not actively "go in peace". You can become a "Warrior" but not a "Peaceior" Deep in the very concepts, the words are fixated in a bad way.
Already here, it goes the wrong way for a peaceful storytelling, for the winning guys from the wars has brutally defined our whole framework of understanding. It is not only in Hollywood films that we enjoys when the hero kills the very bad villain. The warlords have dominated everything in the storytelling, from religion to fairy tales. We are brought up believing conflicts are resolved through war and violence. The small farmerboy will in the end kill the evil dragon and win the princess.
We want to change that basic story. We want to be able to tell a better and stronger story. A more peaceful story, with focus on an alternative narrative. We want to create such a powerful narrative, which can convince the audience, that better and more peaceful solutions are possible.
It is not an easy task. I myself is not the master of this, but I know some of the pieces. And so do You - because most people do. It has just not been allowed to become a dominant and positive part of how the News of the World are told by Media and Politicians. This new and improved narrative will focus on some in basic very well known stuff.
Peace is much more than just the absence of war. And a society without war, a society of peace, is still full of conflicts. Conflicts are a natural part of life. Conflicts can be the beginngs of a change to something bettet. Let's have more conflicts - more fun conflicts... It's how we get through the conflicts, that makes the big difference.
To live in a peaceful society is not about avoiding and suppressing conflicts. Nor to suppress so-called opponents, but to look for solutions that can make everyone a winner. And our peace must be preserved and renewed every day. It will most certainly not be easy all the time.
Peace is a never ending learning process. This might for many sound like a very ambitious idea. To stop using all forms of violence and power fighting in our daily problem solving. But this concept to fix conflicts without violence, is not so unique.
States are often identified by the fact that they have a central power who has the monopoly on the use of force. Seen positively this excludes all ordinary citizens from legally using psycical violence. Negatively seen, it allows the state itself to use violence against all conflicts and problems.
What is often forgotten is that all countries around the world have now for a long time agreed that violence is a stupid solution. The countries has joined together in the United Nations, and has all signed to obey the Charter: "All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.".
Our very own security alliance NATO, has exactly the same peaceful words in their Treaty. Practice is a little different. Overall, the United Nations has by these words taken
the monopoly on using violence between couintries away from the individual states, but used it to enforce the Security Councils power. And the Security Council can then allow the use of violence in a conflict.
Since this presumed peaceful aggrement, there has been many wars. And there still are, some
of them done against this rule by the same members of the Security Council, who should prevent and stop wars. Words are cheap, it seems, for the logic of the United Nations actions, is simply pedagogically very bad.
It's like a father yelling to his fighting children: "Do not beat each other. Negotiation and dialogue is the best way." And then the father continues with: "And if you do not stop, you will get beaten up by me." The children learn, that violence is the most effective mean.
So, the children are fighting. And they grow up to be politicians, making the same bad decisions. Politicians has a very limited mindset. When trying to resolve conflicts, they have an equally limited toolbox. It is filled only with bombs.
Even our Danish so-called "red government", found that bombs was the only possible solution, when they suddenly wanted to "create democracy" in Libya. And right this last week, we can hear in the news how well that worked out. Or rather how bad, because that is
where many refugees are fleeing from.
I was at a meeting with the responsible Danish politicians, and asked why they never considered all the other possible steps that could be taken before the again-again decided for bombs. The moderator, who also is the head of the official Center for Military Studies, summarized my question: "Should Denmark have used bombs, or should we have done nothing at all?" - which really wasn't, what I was asking.
So we need to get through and into some very thick concrete brains before such peaceful reflection can be understood by them. One major reason for the missing knowledge of peaceful solutions is that the media first really see a Story, when there are fire, shootings and dead people. Apparently, there is no history to tell, if violence did not come. If a conflict was resolved peacefully, they do not care to tell how this happened, and that this is a positive and possible thing.
The media do not find these stories interesting, but luckily there are scientists, scholars and activists who do. The big question for them is, are there really alternatives to conflict resolution without war and bombs. And of course there is - we just hear all to little about it. Or do not remember correctly, that it was actually what happened. Because if anyone thinks about it, most will remember great conflicts that found peaceful solutions.
Nonviolent resistance was a solid part of the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. This was also a very violent conflict. But is remembered today mainly for Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu's work. They worked actively together after the change, so it became a search for reconciliation, and not for revenge. Such kind of actions helps to maintain a peace longer.
And everyone remembers the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Eastern Europe's militant regimes fell without much violence because the people wanted change. Although the area was heavily armed, it happened almost everywhere by peaceful means. Mass demonstrations with rattling keys, drowned out the old party leaders, when they tried to give their speeches. And the world changed.
These are just two of the best known of the peaceful uprisings. And of course such attempts are not always successful. Some of you might have seen the movie Gandhi, about the nonvilent struggle to free India. That was a tuff one. Right now, the new movie Selma can tell you a story about Martin Luther Kings attempt to change USA, when apartheid still was legal and accepted there. And in the Middle East, there was hope again, nonviolent uprisings against dictators, but those attempts failed.
Long time ago, in Chile, the newly elected President Salvador Allende was murdered, and a dictatorship took over control for many many years. Unfortunately, Chile is often this negative example, that dominates all talk of possible revolutions. And many are longing to go for the fairy tale role, as the young farmerboy ready to kill the dragon. Or to be a new "Che Guevara". But they should cool down, and instead start examining what indeed are the more effective solution.
Historically, nonviolent revolutions, are the more successful strategy. Armed revolutions are less durable, and often creates militant societies. This is quite a claim, but it is documented in a scientific study. Comparison of 323 violent and nonviolent campaigns during the last 100 years. The result is that non-violent campaigns are found to have twice the chance of achieving full or partial success, than their violent counterparts.
The study can be found in this book: "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict". Of the two authors, when they started their research, one belived, that violence would be the strongest. The other expected the opposite result. Neither expected the outcome to be so clearly in favour of nonviolence.
They compared the data related to revolutions, overthrow of sictatorships, removal of a foreign occupation and such. And to repeat: Non-violent campaigns are found to be twice as successful, as the violent ones. These studies and much more are summarized in this Danish book by Majken Jul Sørensen, who herself is both a trained peace researcher and a chronical peace activist.
The eternal question to peace activists is allways, what are the alternatives? What could have been done differentliy? Well, we all do remember some big conflicts, solved in more peaceful ways. That was a long time ago, but non-violent campaigns are happening all the time, just in a smaller scale.
Majkens book has also lots of examples of alternative solutions. They are not theoretical constructions, but detailed history of how peaceful solutions actually were performed and worked - in real life. Even in the middle of the Hell of a fullblown war, there are always people who work for peace, never resorting to violence.
So, when your politicians are itching to join a conflict, they can choose to support the violent among them, and create heavy militant solutions. Or, support those who continues trying to change the world, but without bombs.
Even in weak states, where military solutions dominates, there are always good stuff happening locally. Mon-violent conflict resolution activities in the local communities. They seldom calls it that, but it is. No one wants to live in a bad neighborhood, and people are doing something about it. Active people works every day for peace around the globe. But only very very seldom, it shows up the Media.
In a larger area of Nigeria, tensions are kept in check by an initiative, that was originally started by a Muslim imam and a Christian priest. Both used to be part of the problem, and formerly belonged to militant groups. Now they are working together, to ensure that evolving conflicts in the area are
resolved without more violence. Their people simply meets and talk, when ever unrest occurs. They finds out who is involved, and make sure to stop the violence, and mediate instead.
In Colombia, there have been civil wars and internal conflicts for years. Also, drug barons and their gunmen are dominating the areas. But even here, groups has created local Peace Societies. Villages and rural areas, which they declare to be outside the conflicts. And they succeed in doing this. Of course there have been killings, this is not just another fairy tale, but much much less, than in the areas not partipating in this.
Guatemala is also a very violent society. Local trade unionists and human rights defenders can now work more freely with foreigners voluntaring for them as Peace Watchers. They acts as unarmed bodyguards, escorting these people in their important work. And are human shields for them. The strongest "weapon" is, that they are foreigners. If they get killed, or sees the killing of the person, they are helping, this will possible give a lot of diplomatic problems, and unwanted media attention, so this protection works as an effective shield.
People die anyway sometimes. To decide to do nonviolent work, will not force your opponent to be nice to you. But it might help. And it is how we react to the violence, that makes the big difference. Us, who live in more peaceful parts of the world, has even more reasons to choose peaceful action. It requires more effort to get the media interested, when Molotov cocktails are not flying through the air.
Media like to tell a simple story, with bonfires in the streets. Sirenes and flickering blue light, and fights against the police. It often looks like the main goal is just to play war in the streets - for both parts. The real purpose is drowning in violence.
It Denmark we had a very nasty conflict, after a Youth House was torn down. One of the better days was, when a youth group decided to do it totally Gandhi-wise. They told the police and everybody, that on this designated date half a year in the future, they would move into an empty house, and use it as new Youth House. When it happend, the police had been warning, that anybody joining would be severky punished.
Police made it sound like it was an upcoming terrorist attack. Around 4.000 people joined anyway. 4.000 people wanted to try this game of nonviolence, and the organizers succeded in keeping it nonviolent. The police had bought new equipment, and trained this for months. So had the activists. We were gassed for hours, but succeded anyway to take the house, and put our flag on the top. And was thrown out again. But after this, the police had to praise the activists. And now there is a new official Youth House, in another building.
It shows, that big nonviolent actions can happen, also in little Denmark. I soon hope, that we have been able to create a new story that good. A story, people feel the need and urge to rally behind. A story about a more peacefull world. A story, that can change the way Denmark is acting and seen in the world.
And maybe, some of you would like to be part of this process?