Today is a special day for us in World without Wars. It is an anniversary that we have been celebrating for many years now and charging with a special energy.
In 2007 the Indian proposal to celebrate Gandhi’s birthday as the International Day of Nonviolence was accepted by the United Nations and was immediately embraced by Humanists as a day on which to organise activities to promote this idea which is not generally well known or understood. Two years later members of World without Wars were standing by a statue of Gandhi in Wellington, New Zealand, at the start of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence – the biggest ever mobilisation of its kind.
Nonviolence as a method to resolve conflicts has been seen throughout history and even enshrined in religions such as Jainism, Sufism and the Christian Quakers. In the 20th century the most famous exponents of this methodology were Gandhi and Luther King whose Salt March and Bus Boycott, respectively, propelled nonviolence into the media spotlight and inspired the next generations of idealists.
Some of these idealists came across the work of Silo: his message, his books, his movement, and understood that nonviolence is not just a strategy for relationships with other people but also a strategy for the relationship we have with ourselves: simultaneous personal and social change. This is our theme. “Carry peace within you and carry it to others.”
There are those who retreat to the mountains in search of spiritual enlightenment and inner peace, but when they return to the cities, if there is no way to influence others and help them reduce their suffering then the violence wins. Every day is a battle to survive for billions of human beings. Violence, or more softly expressed, suffering in our relationships with our friends and family is increasing due to the increased pressure put on people to survive.
But this is absurd because our planet has the resources to allow all 7 billion of us to have good healthcare, education, food and security. Maybe many can’t believe it, instead believing that the world is over populated, or that there aren’t enough resources to support everyone, but it’s not true. These are lies coming from a “system” of power made up of the banks, the multinational companies and the military powers that control the world, above the heads of governments who have lost all appearance of being in control. These lies are used to justify their wars and their military spending.
Every country is affected by this system and every human being suffers as a result. Nearly every country spends relatively huge amounts of money on the military compared to their GDP. Reports by the Swedish institute SIPRI calculated this as 1.6 trillion US dollars in 2010. We cannot conceive of how much money this is.
What we do know is that this money (remember this is the money in only one year) can eradicate poverty, can build millions of classrooms, hundreds of thousands of hospitals, turn desert into irrigated land, build renewable energy systems to replace the poisonous and dangerous nuclear systems. What could we do with the money from two years of military spending?
No one needs to be hungry. No one needs to work 40, 60, 80 hours a week just to earn a few pennies to survive.
There is a future in which all human beings resolve conflict without violence, where we can choose what to spend our time doing, balancing the responsibilities of ensuring the wellbeing of all with the individual desire to pursue one’s own interests.
There is a future in which peace exists between nations, or where nations no longer exist and self-defined human groups cooperate and coordinate through a system of real democracy with decisions taken by those affected.
There is a future in which human beings can discover their meaning, their purpose, and live their lives according to the simple principles of humanism – treating others as we want to be treated.
This is our future. This is what inspires us in World without Wars. As the collapse of this system becomes more evident, it can be that the violence and suffering around us and inside of us increases. In these moments remember that you are not alone, you are not the only idealistic person who believes the world can be a better place.
As Silo said in 1969, “To you, my brother and sister, I cast this hope—this hope of joy, this hope of love—so that you elevate your heart and elevate your spirit, and so that you do not forget to elevate your body.”