I’d like to write a supportive column about the World Peace Forum, but I just can’t. Despite the good intentions of the organizers, the sincerity of people who signed on to it, or the undeniable need to expose the barbarity of Isramerican militarism, the forum represents a failure of philosophy and focus that will end up doing more to foster war than prevent it.
Rather than be a useful exercise in defining and articulating a coherent, rational response to oppression, the forum, bears a closer resemblance to a New Age love-in, complete with utopian ideals, empty slogans and self-affirming groupthink. Have a look at this self-description from the homepage of the forum’s website:
“The World Peace Forum 2006 is an international gathering of individuals, groups and civic governments from cities and communities to envision a living culture of peace and sustainability in our lifetimes. The success of this event depends on all of us. We can work together in the journey to peace!”
How does the idea of coming together to “envision a living culture of peace [etc.]” differ from the Natural Law Party’s idea of engendering world peace through transcendental meditation and yogic flying? It doesn’t. Each is based on the absurd premise that a solution to real-world problem can be found by turning inward and avoiding the real-world cause of the problem. In psychiatric language this mental dysfunction is called denial, and the forum’s major dysfunction is its denial of war as an integral, necessary aspect of human affairs.
War is admittedly hard to respect. It causes suffering, death and destruction, sometimes for generations. The two world wars; the occupations of Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq; and the slave-labour conditions in the Third World and U.S.-based Wal-Marts are evidence of injustices committed against human welfare. Such evidence of war gives the forum its raison d’Ãªtre, yet the forum essentially advocates retreating into one’s inner child.
During the Dark Ages, this phenomenon happened on an international scale as priests and monks throughout Europe abandoned culture and civic life to create their own artificial reality in the isolated world of the monasteries. For these clerics, the world wasn’t worth knowing about or improving, because it was violent and impermanent; the afterlife (death) was all that mattered.
In a similar vein, the forum has created an artificial reality. It ignores the world (war) and intones empty, grandiose mantras like “plan for peace,” “create a global culture of peace,” “building peace communities” and “peace-making and disarmament.” It even has acts of veneration to reinforce the collective spirit of peace, like the International Peace Walk and making multicultural peace lanterns.
Until this paragraph, I used “peace” 15 times in the context of the forum, yet I have no idea what the forum organizers mean by it. Nowhere is it defined. Politically speaking it can’t be defined because “peace” is a state of being, not a policy. It makes no more sense to speak of creating a global community of peace than to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
Truth of the matter is, the “World Peace Forum” should be called “The World Pacifist Forum,” because pacifism is a policy–”a self-defeating, submissive response to aggression that serves only to embolden the aggressor. It’s based on the flawed assumption that rational talk and negotiations can always prevent hostilities, but this is stupidity at its most dangerous.
Throughout the 1920s and ’30s, North American and European peace movements opposed armed intervention against Nazi Germany. Throughout Hitler’s annexation of the Rhineland, Austria and the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, appeasement and diplomacy was the most any government would do, figuring that Hitler also wanted peace.
The horrors of World War I so traumatized the participants that the idea of war as the continuation of politics buy other means, was officially proscribed. In short, the Western world lost its nerve and was psychological incapable of defending itself. In the new pacifist paradigm, clear signs that armed force would be necessary were rationalized into nothingness.
The League of Nations was established to give us a new rational world order wherein problems could be ironed out in a big room, and all nations would be on their best rational behaviour. World War I was called “The War to End All Wars” because the world powers were determined that the world should never again be subjected to mustard gas, trench warfare, and other manifestations of total war.
The ultimate failure of the League to prevent World War I (Act II) represents the failure of pacifism, because denying the need for armed force did not make war wither away; it made its recurrence inevitable.
This lesson is lost on the forum’s organizers, who seem more than willing to repeat the failures of the past, secure in the conceit that they can do better. Here is what the forum hopes to accomplish:
“1. Publish a World Peace Forum statement, “Building a Culture of Peace and Sustainability,” for the global community, outlining what individuals, communities, cities, groups, and nations can do locally to create a culture of peace and sustainability.
2. Create an ongoing legacy of bi-annual World Peace Forums, in cities around the world, to refine, promote, and expand the culture of peace and sustainability.
3. Encourage communities and nations to plan for peace, for example, by inaugurating Departments of Peace at city, regional, and national levels of government.
4. Celebrate and protect diversity of culture locally and globally.
5. Make war abhorrent, peace popular, and the restoration and protection of our global ecosystems a priority."
Instead of intelligent hard-nosed responses to violence we get airy-fairy, pseudo-religious claptrap. Note particularly point five–”the epitome of cognitive dissonance and utopian self-delusion.
The tragedy of the forum is that because of this morass of mindless moralism important and necessary topics will not get as much attention as they deserve. At UBC on Sunday, for example, the superb independent journalist Dahr Jamail, who has reported from occupied Iraq for eight months, will discuss the current situation in Iraq, the permanent U.S. bases and future military strategy in the region.
Milan Rai, author of War Plan Iraq, will be talking about the roots of U.S. policy in the region, and the U.S. confrontation with Iran. Later that day, four presenters will discuss the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui and its implications. These topics, are strong and compelling for one reason–”they have nothing to do with peace.
Take Iraq, for example. How can any sane person presume to talk to Iraqis about “building a culture of peace” while they live under a repressive, sadistic occupation. To speak of peace, amounts to endorsing an unjust status quo. To refuse to recognize the legitimacy of armed struggle to defend oneself amounts to enabling oppression.
Essentially this continues to be the world’s response to Palestine. Israel can bomb, bulldoze, assassinate, starve and otherwise make life unbearable for the native inhabitants of Palestine, and no nation has the balls to compel Israel to stop.
The most we’ll do is issue a pathetic tut-tut statement expressing displeasure, but our new zionist stooge of a prime minister won’t even do that. Israel knows and has known for decades that the world will do nothing, so flogging “peace” as a panacaea for the world’s troubles is perversely cruel.
Just over five years ago I wrote my first column for Media Monitors Network (MMN)–””Israeli oppression thrives because of the world’s indifference”–”and it can stand today as a condemnation of the forum and the pacifist movement. The column began with a quote by British philosopher Thomas Hobbes: "Covenants without the Sword are but Words and of no Strength to secure a Man at all.” ( Leviathan, 1651)
The column itself began:
“For those of you who believe that a rational, negotiated solution to the violence in Occupied Palestine is possible, I have news. It ain’t gonna happen. There is no ‘peace’ to negotiate, and no amount of wishful thinking, pacifist sloganeering, earnest protestations or diplomatic niceties can disguise the cruel absurdity of the ‘peace process.'”
Indulging the phony language of peace instead of speaking the honest language of war, makes indifference to oppression respectable. The Oslo negotiations were a fraud staged by Israel and the U.S. to coerce Yasser Arafat into signing away Palestine and the inalienable right of Palestinians to return to their homes and receive compensation.
Oddly, the history books record this as a time of peace, and in fact, Hamas ceased military operations during this time. Meanwhile, Israel doubled its illegal colonies in the Occupied Palestine as well as the number of illegal colonists. These historical facts get little or no play, largely because the myth of the Oslo peace is pervasive.
If a world forum is to have any value they must speak the honest language of war and do something tangible about injustice, instead of telling people to gaze at their navels and count dancing angels.