Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
The splitting of the atom brought a new realization: that if war and science continue to coexist, life will not exist for much longer. What do we hear today in the news in regard to world peace? National secrets, national defense, national security, and national interests. We also hear about arms control. Who are the ones that must control their arms? Are they not the ones who build them and sell them? Let us put things into perspective; let us wake up before our leaders bring on us the agonizing death that many seers of the past talked about. War resistance does not mean rearmament; it means disarmament. That is especially what the last World War has taught humanity. Great thinkers and peace advocates in 1934, affected by fear, did not follow the path of wisdom, and they started advocating rearmament. The outcome is known.
At the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in New York last summer, it became obvious that although everyone realizes that given the present state of affairs any military conflict can very well lead to universal destruction, governments still cannot adopt an attitude of good will and understanding. Instead, they continue to pursue a policy of domination and mutual threats. With regard to recent developments in the peace process in the Middle East, Einstein had emphasized that the Jewish people, who had themselves suffered so much from discrimination and oppression, should fully appreciate the necessity of pursuing a policy of freedom, democracy and equality for the Arab minority in Israel. On January 4, 1955 he wrote: The attitude we adopt toward the Arab minority will provide the real test of our moral standards as a people. What do we see today?
Most Americans do not know that our government has been using nuclear extortion to maintain and expand global influence and control since the nuclear age began. But there is no government in the world that does not know that a nuclear threat backs up every U.S. or U.S.- led military action anywhere in the world. On more than twenty occasions, beginning with Truman’s threatened nuclear attack against the Soviet Union during the 1946 crisis over two northern Iranian provinces, U.S. presidents have prepared and/or threatened to initiate nuclear war during international crises. The most recent such case was during the 1996 Taiwan crisis when the U.S. responded to Chinese nuclear rhetoric by deploying two nuclear capable aircraft carriers in waters immediately adjacent to the Taiwan Strait. Other such nuclear threats during the Clinton administration have included North Korea, Iraq and Libya.
Many of us believed that after the cold war, the threat of nuclear war was over. But now, in the absence of another superpower, the U.S. is free to do whatever it wants with little real opposition: It sells weapons to countries involved in civil war, controls the United Nations decisions, bombs wherever it decides to, enforces sanctions and controls the lifting of them according to its own interests causing the deaths of thousands, and as the only country to ever use nuclear weapons, it tries to prevent other countries from developing them without diminishing its own. An attitude of greed like this cannot bring anything but hate from other countries and retaliation sooner or later.
But there is a new kind of colonialism much less obvious than the colonialism of the past. It enslaves weaker nations by investing capital, which makes those nations dependent on it. This is the policy of the United States today, and anyone who opposes this policy is treated as an enemy of the United States. If anyone desires to understand world events today, he cannot ignore this fact. Western corporate power today means nuclear war in the near future unless the other nations adopt appropriate measures in time to avert the danger. Efforts to urge the establishment of international peace through international law is difficult to accomplish at any time, and certainly impossible to achieve as long as corporations are in power. Corporate hunger will never be satisfied unless the people first understand who it really is that brings this corporate hunger into existence. When will we take responsibility for our actions? When will we citizens of the world come out of our hiding places? Unless we conquer our fears, “Armageddon” is inevitable! The only way to move towards enlightenment is to free our minds from the tyranny of greed. It is best achieved by adopting a simple style of living.
The ignorance of our leadership is horrifying. Plans to use missile defense as a trading bargain in negotiations with Russia is an extreme example when weapons of mass destruction can be carried in a suitcase to any place on earth, and the borders are porous and will always stay porous. Where is the wisdom of such actions? Honesty in speech, thought or action is as uncommon as ever. What good are “free” press and public debate if crucial facts pertaining to the citizens of the country are concealed by the rulers of the day? The transformation of political leaders into soulless parasites has been aided by the so-called national secrets. In the nuclear age, more than at any other time in the history of our world, national laws or family responsibilities cannot set personal moral responsibility aside. Presidential candidates are portrayed as humans like everyone else, with pictures showing them interacting with children and adults, showing that they are at the level of the people. But their finger is on the button for the annihilation of these very children and adults at their command tomorrow. That is the truth and we had better face it today in order to live tomorrow. Let those who spend their days in their comfortable offices take a leave of absence and do some manual work and watch the sunset and the birds and the trees while they support themselves with their manual labor; then perhaps when they go back to their offices to make policies, their eyes will be open.
When there are thousands of activities taking place everyday working for the end of the world and only a few people fighting to stop them, it seems logical to me that these fighters must divert their activities toward public education and nothing else. If there is a chance of saving our world, it will be accomplished by the people as a whole on earth, not by activists or by government laws. Thus I would suggest that all these scientific groups or activists working for peace must adopt immediate plans for public education rather than trying to convince the politicians for abolition or watching out if the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is followed.
Facing the greatest peril in human history, to speak of the protection of Americans or Russians or any other group of people is a crime against humanity. Let us not deceive ourselves; let us not be lost in the details; let us stop hiding. If we really want ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and the future generations to have life as it is supposed to be on earth, then we must stop feeding the corporate hunger. Take greed and fear away; give your extra to the ones who have less instead of to the corporations, and when you give don’t ask for interest and everything will be fine. But if we continue to feed the corporations with our fear and greed, then the horrible end is inevitable.
It is obvious that the international military force is a hostage to the corporate hunger of the West. Thus it is obvious that the international military organization is not an indispensable prerequisite to the abolition of war as it was thought to be in the past. We need to move towards unilateral disarmament, and move fast. That seems to be the only way, the way of trust. The hardest way is always the best. This international military organization was envisioned as the antidote for the rearmament of individual nations. But it did not work because violence simply begets violence. Why has the entire civilized world failed to join in a united effort to bring an end to this modern barbarism? Can it be that the world does not see that the Western corporate hunger is dragging us into global catastrophe?
Einstein in 1933 hoped for peace after the rearmament of nations, after having an international court of arbitration whose judgement could be enforced, or after establishing an international police force. But very interestingly, after the horror of WWII, Albert Einstein in 1947 declared, “For there is no secret and there is no defense; there is no possibility of control except through the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world.” This realization came only after the WWII horror. History has shown us that preparing for war has never worked for peace.
The gospel of force and repression, currently prevailing in the West, poses grave threats to the world and the independence of its inhabitants. This threat cannot successfully be combated except by moral means; it can be met only by organized civil disobedience. But we must recognize first that life is worth living even in the middle of Armageddon. Peace activists speak to peace activists. That is the real weakness of the peace movement. To espouse the ideals of pacifism, mere words get pacifists nowhere. Deeds, not words, are needed. If we accept in our hearts the risk to our careers, properties, and even our lives in working for peace, then and only then will we advance far on the road to a more peaceful world.
It is a temptation to suggest that pacifists of all countries establish an international organization and an international pacifist fund to support the active war resisters of our days. History shows though that this is not the most effective means for raising public awareness of the peril we face. Genuine pacifists know that only by personal suffering can world peace be realized. They are convinced that even if they one day find themselves against the whole world, they must never lose faith, and only then will the world take notice. Non-pacifists will then hear pacifists, and their message will reach the hearts of the non-pacifists. But by being restrained, they reach only other pacifists. Of what use is this?
What is needed is a social revolution, a nonviolent direct action of non-cooperation with the system of violence of our days. Organized action on a large scale is necessary. If only 1% of those claiming to be members of the peace movement were willing to detach themselves from the chores of everyday life and constantly protest against war, the whole world would join in. But it is easier to talk than act. Mahatma Gandhi had a number of children but he left them no mansions or business empires. We must place society and the welfare of others above our families, time is running out for the children of the earth. This is the last real test of our moral standards as people of the earth.
The desire for maintaining weapons of mass destruction and even building new ones marks a diplomatic defeat for our government in the eyes of the world. Today the U.S. is the most powerful nation on earth, as it was even in 1930. Therefore, the success against violence and war depends very much on how we Americans react to these concerns. The moral obligation of American citizens cannot be overemphasized in the struggle against militarism and war. The people of this country have not shown much interest in the great international problems, most important of all, the problem of disarmament. Dollar hunger is the basic characteristic of our government’s foreign policy. More profit is the American dream today and where does this profit come from? It comes from the so-called allies. Quality of life should not to be confused with convenience. As Mahatma Gandhi said, the world has enough for every man’s needs but not for one man’s greed. We Americans have trusted our government to do it for us. More than 50% of us would not even bother to elect it. We must realize the great responsibility we bear for world peace. If not, in the long run, it will be disastrous to the whole world.
It is apparent that the struggle against armaments and the spirit of militarism cannot be safely left in the hands of governments or the peace movement. Pacifist organizations with large memberships will not bring us closer to world peace either. The only effective way is through non-cooperation with corporations and through cooperation among ourselves. The evidence of the last disarmament conference in New York this summer of 2000 shows that the governments are either unwilling or unable to achieve real disarmament. It is the people who must express their desire for disarmament if they really want it. Our moral duty as human beings in the world is to become conscious citizens of the world.
Although I was a pacifist before my arrival in the U.S. in 1978, I had never translated these sentiments into any form of organized protest. I had taken no stand on public issues, nor had I been engaged in civic affairs or political action. My latest work experience at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory clouded with the events of Wen Ho Lee, polygraph tests, the Nuclear Ignition Facility scandal, and the Kosovo war were the last birth pains to bring me publicly into the peace movement.
That spirit which was born in ancient Greece and which later spread to the whole continent of Europe – the spirit of personal liberty and respect for the rights of the individual — is in great danger today. Few would deny that the basis of a dignified human existence is endangered by the present world situation. There are forces at work which seek to destroy freedom, tolerance and human dignity.
Modern leaders have at their disposal far greater technological means for inflicting violence, as well as psychological weapons such as TV, the internet, radio, press, schools, and the work place against which ordinary citizens are defenseless. And it is in the minds of people that the rise or fall of a nation begins. Einstein said that modern despotism does not lie in the fact that one man with virtually unlimited authority holds power, but society itself has become an instrument for enslaving the individual. How are free humans converted into slaves by the state? An enormous number of laws in civil life and militaristic rules at the work place have reduced the citizens to helpless victims without a will of their own. They demand that citizens give automatic and unquestioning obedience to their superiors if they want to keep their positions. And the tragic outcome of this modern way of life brings total loss of personal liberty and human dignity, the very ideals our country was founded on.
Our destiny as humans will be determined not by our weapons of mass destruction but by our vision. We have looked around for leaders and we have found almost none. We have dreamed for them to be compassionate, wise, courageous, and skillful. We have looked inside and we recognized the enemy. We looked inside once again and we saw our leaders. They are you and I! I say, let’s start talking about solutions and enacting them, rather than just describing the problems.
Mr. Andreas Toupadakis, Ph.D. is a Former Research Scientist of Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.