- What is your book about ?
- Dunno, I can’t read. Usually I burn them
DE LA PAIX
Amos Oz (1939-28/12/2018)
December 15, 2019
How can you be a pacifist in 2020?
- 1 - The fatal half-hour
“I’m no pacifist. I don’t believe in facing hate with love. You don’t fight hate with love, but with organizational ability, clear messaging, with determination and strength. You fight it in TV studios and on the battlefield. You fight it by telling the truth.” Yair Lapid, Nov. 10, 2019
These words by Yair Lapid, a candidate for political change in Israel next to Benny Gantz, were published in echo to a piece about antisemitism (An evening in France) which will be partly included here, soon.
They raise a problem we have to confront, at a time so many Muslims divide the world between “Dar al-Islam : the territory of Islam” and “Dar al-Harb : the territory of war”.
As Peace Lines, we have been involved in war zones, conflict zones, since the summer of 1993, from the Diamond Road to Sarajevo unto Gaza and Jerusalem today. The state of war, the practice of armed violence, we hate it, we denounce it with all our might, wherever we find it. Do read the writings of Jean Giono, Izzeldin Abuelaish, Jean Jaurès, Hannah Arendt, Stephan Zweig, on the matter.
Yet, we are without any illusions on our way: the peace we want, whenever it faces hateful fanatics, war dogs, must be defended by force first. We lived through this in Bosnia, where our involvement would have been short-lived without the armed shield of the United Nations Protection Force, with the English and French generals Rose and Morillon at its head. We lived through this in Algeria again, where the National Popular Algerian Army, followed by organized patriots, could put an end to the terror installed by Islamic armed groups.
In such contexts, we are no fancy pacifists, and never were.
Once the fire has spread, as it did in the woodwork of Notre-Dame de Paris in April this year, what we need is powerful emergency brigades, fully equipped, instead of wishful thinking. At Notre Dame, there was a tragically lost half-hour, between the first alarm sent by captors at 18:20, on April 15, 2019, and 18:48, the time when the firemen were finally warned.
That half-hour is what we are about, as Peace Lines.
That half-hour is the emerged tip of a protective, preventive iceberg, needed to survive.
It is on the field that we turn into captors, through the front lines of the civil war in Bosnia, or in the crowded areas of Algiers, in Palestinian “refugee camps” (how long can you remain a refugee? Ten years? Twenty years? A lifetime?). On the field, not in the comfort of an air-conditioned office, reading articles online.
The field truths, as we could see from Sarajevo and Belgrade to Jerusalem and Nablus, being almost always at the antipodes of what the mass media give us to gather, to understand.
Thus, in Bosnia, in the heart of former-Yugoslavia, it did not take long to unmask the illusion of a gentle Islamic republic in the making. Like in Kosovo, we found out that, if there was “ethnical cleansing”, in the end, it was the Serbs’ being “cleansed”, as a forsaken minority.
- 2 - A clear worldwide vision
We were opposed to the French & British intervention in Libya in 2011, as we were opposed to foreign interventions in Syria, to the French intervention in Sahel from 2013 until now. Not out of a blind love for an elusive peace, but through rational lucidity: in Libya, in Syria, in Irak, the opening of Pandora’s interventionist box set far more monsters free (the birth of the Islamic State, endless destruction, floods of refugees…) than hypothetical benefits.
If you really care to understand the schematics behind all these military interventions, you should consult with the famed Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), or with Wikipedia - their list of the world’s largest arms exporters.
The United States, still running ahead, in 2018, with 41.5% of the market shares, followed by Russia (25%) and France (7%), for the head trio. Behind: Germany (5%), Spain and South-Korea (around 4.5%). Last, China (4%), the United Kingdom (3%), Israel (close to 3%) and Italy (2.4%). Such is the updated list of the worst war profiteers worldwide.
Is there an evolution since the aftermath of World War II? Yes, some countries did leave the top ten of arms exporters from 1950 to 2017: the Czech Republic, the Netherlands. The English receded from the 3rd spot to the 8th, the Italians from the 7th to the 10th. Aren’t these political choices the reflection of a collective conscience of priorities, within each national community? Arms exports reveal the deep trends of a people, relatively to the death penalty collectively, to the spreadth of the killing techniques.
We can still argue about the need of arms for the defence of a people, a land. This is another debate. Switzerland, Poland, Brazil, Canada, Thailand, without ever joining Costa Rica (which suppressed its army in 1949) show that defensive armed forces can be organized without dealing with the business of arms.
- 3 - The personal implications of such a vision
We are no helpless pacifists, for sure. Alarmed by the climate upheaval which exposes us all to multiple catastrophes, on every continent, regardless of how rich or poor the countries are, we are aware that our world is diving into a deadly spin, every year a bit deeper. Our world. Not the next neighbours’ world.
We feel the need for ammunition, new non-lethal weapons, emergency tools.
Sometimes, our burden seems to be more than we can wear. Even to think of it.
Like an endless labour of going through an avalanche of information, sorting every bit of it.
The last person who interviewed Martin Gray, the Warsaw Ghetto survivor, in 2014, Mélanie Loisel from Quebec, confessed without any fake shame, in her preface to their dialogue:
“… I don’t know, and I am certain that I’m not the only one, I don’t know where to start, facing the challenges of our world (…) How can I put an end to all these internecine conflicts destroying human lives, families, peoples? How can I get human beings to live together without abusing each other?”
We actually live through a permanent fog of data (tv channels, social media, mass media), which obscures our understanding most of the time, which obscures the putting in perspective of what lies ahead, of what we can do, above all.
Then, we have to break these chains, this stifling, crippling routine.
To break away, leave, run away, find oneself again at last.
To leave without looking back, with a book, a pack on your back, or with bare hands.
Towards an Elsewhere.
Dare get there. On foot, like the film director Werner Herzog, who walked from Munich to Paris, through the winterland, for a friend in agony. Hitch-hike, jump a train, drive a car, or get on a plane, for those who can afford it.
To unclutter one’s mind at last, to liberate oneself from voluntary servitudes and their denials.
To set one’s priorities in order again.
What do I truly need? How can I be of any help, irreplaceable?
What am I able of? What can I transform in myself? In my rapport to others, to the world?
What can I understand? Learn?
What shall I be able to give those who will come next? How?
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s love.
An article in the French Le Monde, on December 13, “France of ‘islets’ of intellectual, political and spiritual resistance” puts it thus: “To think one’s life, but to live one’s thoughts as well.” To invent “ways of life to escape from individualism, consumerism, resist fatalism.”
The ammunition, new weapons, the tools that we need, we shall find them through connecting to others – others who have already embarked on their way, and who are seeking, as well.
The first mission of Peace Lines (call them Solidarity Lines, Trust Lines, Resilience Lines…) is to collect the sort of knowledge we need to see clearly through it all.
Hence our library online, to follow up closely everything happening on our field, at the hinge between continents: Israel/Palestine. The Media Must Read section: all the news that’s fit to put into perspectives, in this unbelievable human kaleidoscope.
Equally of interest, our crystal mine, the Hope section, devoted to everything happening in a constructive, promising way, between people, regardless of any labels.
On December 14, 2019, our online library received 254 visitors, and 338 on November 30.
Meaning more than 200,000 pages opened, by more than 71,000 visitors, since its creation in early January 2014.
In the real world, the Library of the Future is being built at the headquarters of Peace Lines, somewhere East of the French capital, with over 7,000 volumes (history, philosophy, biographies, guides and maps, dictionaries, wisdoms, poetry, painters, graphic novels… films, musics…), and a formidable inventory in progress. For an upsurge, a renaissance of the Cartesian spirit, prolonged by the likes of Voltaire, Thoreau and Victor Hugo?
Greta, with her eyes wide open, granted herself a sabbatical year before entering the 10th grade. She chose her priorities, assumed her freedom. “No one is too small to make a difference”. She took the relay from Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who was 12 when she got on stage at the World Summit, in Rio, in 1992; from Naomi Klein; from Christian Mwijage in Tanzania, with EcoAct, a start-up created to recycle plastic trash; from Ella and Amy Meek (13 and 15 years old) on the same tracks; from Jean Jouzel and Pierre Larrouturou…
Jean Jouzel, co-laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, with the International Group of Experts on the Evolution of Climate, is not one of the “catastrophists”. He says that “the collapse is not imminent. I rather see us slowly parching, frying à petit feu.”
The matter advocated by Severn, Greta, Ella and Amy, Naomi, Christian, Jean and the others, is remarkably clear in its brutality:
Our house is on fire. We’re gonna fry slowly. A petit feu. Each and every one.
What do you choose to do, now, to protect us?
Soon after the Rio World Summit, we were a handful to realize that a country hitherto a “model” for its neutrality between East and West, its “non-alignment”, was burning at our doors, imploding. We were a handful of volunteers in this immediate fire zone, to stop war there. With the decisive help, let it be said again, of the Blue Helmets of the United Nations, and of 33 Nobel laureates who carried our first campaign – The Zenica, Sarajevo Call to the combatants and leaders of former-Yugoslavia.
Former-Yugoslavia, in Bosnia, was not frying à petit feu. The violence of the flames was frightful, grisly.
Peace Lines was born there, across the front lines.
Conscious that there are two sorts of peace within our reach: an external, objective peace, that of the macrocosmos, which is found in the silence of arms, the end of fighting, of the doomed ambulances. It requires a strong, collective involvement, until the final extinction of the flames. Not everybody has that type of energy.
And an internal, real, profound peace, regardless of circumstances, of the environment, at our own, microcosmic level.
Expectedly, they are connected.
Rather than “How can you be a pacifist in 2020?” the question should be:” How can we be at peace in 2020?”.
Honestly at peace with oneself, without any alibis, faux-fuyants, artifices. Without cheating yourself.
There is no mystical night, no sudden revelation in this process. A better conscience of things, of rapports, comes slowly, with jerks, ups and downs.
Some of us were favored by encounters that could not be expected, the family milieu, a profitable environment. Others, not so. The former carry a more obvious responsibility, as to what they do, what they transform, from what was proposed to them, offered, transfered.
The philosopher Kant, in his short manifesto What is Enlightenment? radically accuses human laziness, and cowardice, whenever humanity sinks into renunciation and passivity. Let’s not credit him with more confirmations than necessary, all due to the weight of social determinisms.
If children, teenagers of 12, 13, 15 and 16 are able of something else, so that this world remains breathable, we should bless their parents and teachers, but they might as well have prefered to do like the others, and play with their play-stations, their tiny networks.
Comes a time, like an eternal return, of the crossroads, of the choices.
We are not pretending that these are easy choices but, in Hölderlin’s words, where the danger grows also grows what will save you… Amos Oz, the fire watchman in the desert, departed for the stars on December 28, 2018, left us this smile : facing any disaster, there are always at least two options – either to scurry away, run your legs off, and let them burn who cannot run. Or else seize a bucket of water, pour it onto the flames. If you have no bucket, then a bottle. Without a bottle or a glass, then a teaspoon. “And yes, I know a teaspoon is little and the fire is huge, but there are millions of us and each one of us has a teaspoon.” He added that he would like to establish the Order of the Teaspoon, that those who share in the teaspoon attitude, not the runaway attitude, should walk around wearing a little teaspoon on the lapel of their jackets…
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